Airline Lounge Memberships – Are they Worth it?
By John Stocki, Columnist
In a recent blog post on Essential Travel Tips, I scratched the surface on some of the perks that airline lounges offer travelers. Today, I want to take a deep dive into the benefits that an airline lounge membership offers as well as provide all the information necessary for you to decide whether or not an airline lounge membership is right for you. You might be surprised to find out that many lounges provide the feeling of flying first class without costing an arm and a leg.
Airline Lounge Benefits
Lounges are one of the few luxuries most travelers have to look forward to today. Their comforts can really break up the monotony of constant travel and long layovers.
Common Airline Lounge Benefits
- Snacks and/ or full meals
- Coffee, water and juices
- Alcoholic beverages
- Wifi access
- Quiet and comfortable atmosphere
- Business center with printers
- Shower facilities
But the perks don't end there. More often than not, lounge attendants are willing to go above and beyond to help make your travel more comfortable and convenient. Since they don't have to worry about boarding issues like workers at the gate, they can help you with things like adjusting legs of a flight, rebooking you in case of a cancellation, and locating lost/delayed luggage.
Attention International Travelers
Many airlines have global airline alliances that extend their lounge benefits across the globe. Delta works with KLM, Air France, and others through the SkyTeam Alliance offering 600+ lounges worldwide, American Airlines work with British Airways and others through Oneworld with 600 lounges and United works with Lufthansa and others through Star Alliance with over 1,000 worldwide.
Common U.S. Airline Lounges
Delta, American, and United Airlines are The Big Three here in the U.S. Accordingly, you'll find their lounges in virtually every major airport in the country. Yearly membership averages right around $500 for each and I've covered some of the specifics in a bit more detail below.
- $450 annually, up to two guests at $29 per person
- $695 annually, up to two guests at no additional charge
- $59 non-member daily rate
- Free and/ or discounted ($29) daily lounge access with one of the Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards
- $400-$550 annually (depending on American Airlines AAdvantage status), up to two guests at no additional charge
- $59 non-member daily rate
- Free lounge access for cardholders and guests with the AAdvantage Executive World Elite Credit Card
- $550 annually, up to two guests at no additional charge
- $59 non-member daily rate
- Free lounge access for cardholders and guests with the United MileagePlus Club Card
Business Bob's Breakeven Point
Now that I've covered annual membership fees, it's time to break down how much travel do you really need to do in order to justify purchasing an airline lounge membership? If you're the type that is willing to spend a little more for creature comforts, feel free to jump down to some of the lounge alternatives I've suggested in the next section. If you're still trying to figure out if the dollars and cents add up, I've done some simple math for you below.
Business Bob's Travel Profile
- Travels domestically once a month for work
- Has a meal and cocktail at an airport restaurant before each flight: ~$70 with tip ($35 each way)
- Needs WiFi access: $120 annually ($10 a month)
- Always grabs a coffee or bottle of water before hopping on the plane: $10 ($5 each way)
Bobs Travel Expenditure: $1080 annually or $90 per trip
Bob purchases a Delta Sky Club Membership for $450 annually or $37.50 per trip
Comparable Benefits included in Airline Lounge Membership – WiFi, cold snacks, cookies, coffee/water, and unlimited alcoholic drinks (just don't be a lush).
Additional Benefits Include – Showers, a quiet atmosphere, private work stations, conference rooms, and comfortable seating.
Bob would save over $600 every year by getting an annual membership even if he only utilizes a few of the benefits offered. So all in, it's safe to say that if you're traveling alone monthly or with a guest every other month, you'll more than recoup your membership cost.
Airline Lounge Membership Alternatives
Before you dive into purchasing your airline lounge membership, you should definitely consider the alternatives that aren't tied to specific airlines: Priority Pass, LoungeBuddy, and The Centurion Lounge by American Express to name a few.
Though, the most notable membership alternatives can be found through many of the popular credit cards available today. Many provide free, or heavily discounted, lounge access. If you're interested in looking into the most popular cards, I suggest heading over to The Points Guy. He has done a fantastic job breaking down many of the top options. In general, the fees on these cards are comparable to the lounge membership fees, and they tend to come with quite a few other perks as well.
One key thing to remember, regardless of whether you purchase a membership or upgrade your credit card to get lounge access, is that you cannot deduct the annual membership fees for either as a business expense. However, you may be able to expense a day-pass. Regardless, it's up to you to decide whether or not paying for comfort and convenience is something you're willing to spend your hard-earned money on.
If you're considering an airline lounge membership, but still on the fence, I would love to learn more about your hesitations. On the other hand, if you're a lounge member, I would love to hear more about what you find most valuable. Feel free to send me an email at [email protected] or contact me here.
***Prices discussed in this article are up to date as of October 2016
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