When he has time to reach out the airport Early on, Anne Marie Mitchell, a communications professor from Chicago, would treat herself to airport lounges for a few hours using a free pass with her airline credit card or paying a day-use fee.
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“You get access to a bar, nice clean bathrooms, snacks and it’s not crowded,” she said. “It makes the journey more enjoyable.”
Airline lounges, bastions of civility in airport terminals that are now often filled with exasperated travelers, have long fallen behind frequent-flyer elites, advanced-class ticket holders and those with expensive credit cards, due to flight delays and cancellations.
Now, leisure travelers are leading the recovery The airline industry As business traffic slows, some clubs have made it easier to claim some advance allowances for relatively rare flights, while others – including the Delta Sky Club, which adopted a new rule that no user can enter the club three hours before their scheduled time. Flight – dealing with growing pains.
The Expanding World of Clubs
Historically, legacy carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines in the United States operate lounges for passengers flying first and business class, as well as frequent flyers who qualify for membership. Their offerings sometimes include standard clubs (such as United on United Club) and more exclusive ones (United Polaris) for forward-class flyers on long-haul international flights.
Another category of clubs welcomes members who fly any career. This includes Priority Pass, which provides access to more than 1,300 lounges in more than 600 cities (subscription plans include 10 visits for $299 a year).
In this case, a lounge can be a real one Airline clubs, such as the Plumeria Lounge from Hawaiian Airlines that Priority Pass members can access in Honolulu; Public airport restaurants that offer meal credits, such as Stephanie’s Restaurant at Boston Logan International Airport; Other club brands, such as Minute Suites, which are private rooms, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; Or airport amenities like Be Relax Spa at Los Angeles International Airport, where members get credit for chair massages.
Increasingly, lounge users are not airline devotees, but holders of expensive credit cards.
“Bundling lounge access with premium credit cards has become popular,” said Gary Leff, who writes the airline blog View From The Wing. “It’s a way to sell cards and retain members.”
American Express Platinum cardholders have more access Airline lounges, as well as the company’s own Centurion Lounges, which are found in 13 U.S. cities — with new ones coming to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Washington’s Reagan National in 2023 — for a total of more than 1,400 lounges worldwide. The card costs $695 annually, with up to $400 in credits on hotel and airline expenses, among other perks.
Now other banks are getting into the lounge game, including Capital One, which opened its first lounge — complete with stationary cycling rooms, showers and craft cocktails — in November in Dallas-Fort Worth, with follow-ups planned for Denver and Washington Dulles in 2023. . Entry is restricted to owners of Bank’s Venture X card, which costs $395 annually, and their guests; Card benefits include up to $300 in credits toward travel purchases.
JPMorgan Chase has announced that it will open its own brand, the Chase Sapphire Lounge, by the club, in six global locations, including Boston, Phoenix and New York’s LaGuardia Airport, starting next year and available to holders of its Chase Sapphire Reserve Card ($550 per year). benefits, including $300 in credit on travel purchases and Priority Pass memberships).
What price conscience?
In this time of airline mayhem, many passengers are willing to buy themselves from airport hell by sitting on the floor to get closer to an electrical outlet available only in the concourse, a salvation offered by pay-per-use clubs.
Plaza Premium Group, which owns restaurants, lounges and hotels in more than 70 global airports, recently introduced its PPL Pass Americas, which costs $59 for two visits within a year to most lounges in North, Central and South America. The pass gets you into stand-alone Plaza Premium lounges and airline lounges operated for Virgin Atlantic, Avianca and Air France. There are six eligible lounges in the United States, with a new location in Orlando, Florida, expected to open later this year.
“The first and business top-tier premium frequent flyer is well looked after,” said Jonathan Song, director of global business development for the company. “The remaining 85% are economy class and are airline agnostic, which is where we see the growth of low-cost. the luxury. People want to enjoy VIP services first and in business, but don’t want to spend that amount for a ticket.”
Now affiliated with American Express, Escape Lounge, also known as Centurion Studios, has 14 locations, including Minneapolis and Sacramento, Calif., that offer pay-per-use plans for $40 per visit, and $45 if booked online 24 hours in advance. Door (Platinum cardholders have complimentary entry). Access offers standard amenities including free Internet access, food and beverages, and new locations are expected later this year at airports in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio.
Another option, the club has 16 locations in the United States, including New Orleans and Seattle, and two in London. It sells no memberships and operates strictly on a per-use basis at $45 per visit (free to Priority Pass holders).
For one-stop shopping, the website and app sell Lounge Body the airport Lounge passes starting at $25. For example, among lounges with similar features at London Heathrow — such as Wi-Fi and free food and drink — the site offers $39 passes to the Plaza Premium Lounge and $74 to the Lufthansa Business Lounge. In Barbados, a pass costs $27.
United offers Day Passes for $59 to United Clubs on its app. An annual membership for frequent flyer members costs $650 or 85,000 miles. American Airlines also sells one-day passes to its Admirals Clubs for $59 or 5,900 miles. Delta does not offer paid access.
Given the high prices of airport concessions — a vendor at LaGuardia was recently slammed for selling a $27 beer — hungry travelers may find the admission worthwhile.
“On a one-off basis, with a longer connection, you can make the math work for you, depending on how much you spend otherwise,” Leff said. “You can eat and drink your money back, and maybe it’s less crowded and you have a power port to plug in.”
Beyond the complimentary gin and tonics, passengers in a booking jam may value paying fees in airline lounges to receive immediate airline assistance.
“If your the flight Canceled and wait two hours to talk to someone, pay the $50 club fee and you get access to agents who are the most experienced and can do amazing things to get you where you need to be,” said Brian Kelly, founder of the website The Points Guy, which offers loyalty Includes prizes.
There are no rooms in the club
Depending on when you fly, buying your way in these days may also be out of the question as pass holders are held back due to capacity congestion.
“The Centurion Lounges are like going to TGI Fridays. You check in and they buzz you when there’s an open space,” Kelly said. “As we’ve seen with travel this summer, people are less likely to go and have missed out on premium experiences over the past few years, so when they’re traveling, they’re splurging.”
The problem of overcrowding is not new, but some new reasons, including lack of staff at the airport, have made it worse.
“Many good lounges were crowded before Epidemic“Leif said. “Now because of the uncertainty of the security lines people are arriving earlier and then there is more time to kill them.”
“Now there are queues even outside the lounge, which I have never faced before.COVID travel era,” Haris Stavridis, owner of a public relations agency in London, wrote in an email. “Lounges are supposed to be your safe haven, but now they’re becoming problematic.”
Some clubs are addressing the increase, including Delta Sky Clubs with its new three-hour rule. Although it is nearly doubling the size of its San Francisco Centurion lounge and tripling its club footprint in Seattle this year, American Express will begin charging cardholders next year (adults, $50) unless the user spends at least $75,000 annually. card.
Clubs may be victims of their own success, but accessing them can still be the cheapest upgrade-per-perk you can get when you fly today.
“Everybody now has Amex or miles or some kind of privilege when they make a purchase,” said Patrick Rollo of Providence, Rhode Island, who travels frequently for his job in real estate. “So, everyone’s going to the lounge.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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