What is an airport lounge?
An airport lounge is a separate waiting area within an airport usually offering passengers with access more comfort, complimentary snacks and services, as well as a quieter environment than can be found in the main terminal. Airport lounges can be managed by airlines, airport, or third parties.
Generally, lounges offer a more pleasant experience than can be found in the terminal because of services such as complimentary food and drink, rest/sleep areas, more comfortable furnishings, work spaces, and often times showers and restaurants.
Lounges are generally located after airport security, but can also be found outside the secured area. Allow extra time to arrive at the gate for lounges located outside security.
Who can access a lounge?
Lounge access can depend on many factors: Generally, with some exceptions including domestic travel within the U.S., access to a lounge is included with a premium cabin ticket (First, Business, and sometimes even Premium Economy). Access may also be granted to passengers with eligible frequent flyer status in a given mileage programme.
Aside from flying in premium cabins or having the right status in an airline mileage programme, there are other methods of accessing certain lounges. Some airlines offer paid day passes for purchase at booking or online check-in, while other carriers may offer access to certain co-branded airline credit card holders. Certain premium credit cards, such as American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve include membership in lounge access programmes like Priority Pass or Lounge Club. Lounge access programme membership can be purchased independently, while certain airlines, mostly US and Australian carriers, offer yearly club memberships for purchase--these types of club memberships can run well over 500 USD per year.
What are the terms of access?
Certain lounges may have specific conditions for entry, such as dress codes, minimum age requirements (usually when there is self-serve alcohol), or time limits (for example a maximum of a 3 hour stay).