Opinion: Are Paid Airport Lounges Worth It?

As many passengers begin taking to the skies once again, one part of the airport experience will return: lounges. While lounges are open to those holding loyalty status or membership, many offer paid access as well. So is it worth paying for lounge access?

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Airport lounges can be a great way to spend some time away from crowds before your flight. Photo: British Airways

What do lounges offer?

Airport lounges usually two main benefits, a calm(er) environment to relax or get some work done and access to included food and drinks. With fewer people around, lounges can make the airport experience far more luxurious, for not much more. Moreover, there is usually buffet-style access to food or even select hot meals for passengers.

However, offerings vary widely across lounges. While Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha is one of the best in the world (and costs $95), most Priority Pass lounges don’t offer too many amenities and can become crowded at times.

Al Mourjan Lounge Doha
Airlines have scaled back lounge amenities due to the pandemic. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying

It is important to note that the pandemic has made lounge amenities much fewer than before. Several lounges have removed hot food options, drinks, and more due to cost-cutting or health concerns. So before purchasing access, it’s good to quickly do your research or ask at the front desk.

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How long?

Perhaps the most important metric to decide whether a paid lounge is worth it would be how long you have before your flight. A long layover or those arriving at the airport super early (usually 3-4 hours) might justify spending anywhere from $20-$50 for lounge access. On stopovers longer than 4 hours, it’s best to find a comfortable place to rest and pay for the lounge access.

Emirates Business Lounge Dubai
Airlines have begun opening up their business class lounges to all travelers to boost revenues. Photo: Emirates

A second consideration would be a quick calculation of how much you plan on spending at the airport. Food outlets at airports tend to be quite pricey due to higher rental costs, making a sit-down meal or alcohol comparable to restaurants outside. So if you are planning on having a drink or ordering more than just a burger, lounge access might be the way to go.

The final, and most important consideration, would be the price. If you’re able to gain access to a business/first class lounge at a discounted price, as many airlines offer economy travelers, it might be the way to go. However, paying $50-$60 for a one-time pass at domestic lounges might not make sense.

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Is it worth it now?

As many travelers begin flying for the first time in over a year, lounges are a fun way to enjoy your return to the skies. However, airlines and operators have considerably scaled back service too, making the experience far less luxurious than a while ago. If you decide to pay for a lounge, make sure you’ll get your money’s worth!

Have you ever paid for lounge access? Was your experience worth it? Let us know this and your favorite paid lounge in the comments below!

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