Are Airline Lounge Day Passes Worth It?

The Wall Street Journal bought day passes for several US airline lounges and reviewed each one to see if the lounges were really worth the hefty price of admission. Here is a summary of the results:

Continental: Small, dirty, understaffed, “free” wi-fi, snacks, booze. $45 per person.

American Airlines: Spacious, filthy, gross bathrooms, ripped furniture, private shower (LAX), WiFi isn’t free, pay to eat, no free drinks, rude service. $50 for one person, $75 for two.

Delta: Complimentary snacks, free drinks, big screen tvs, fax machine, copier, computers, friendly but disorganized service. $25 per person.

United: Inconsistent quality, (SF was like a lush hotel lobby, Atlanta a “motel cafeteria”), pay wifi, pay for drinks, a few free snacks, conference rooms. $50 per person.

Maybe its just us, but none of these really seem worth the price of admission, except perhaps for Delta’s lounge. Then again, we’re not big drinkers.

Are Airline Lounges Worth The Price of Admission? [WSJ]


Edit Your Comment

  1. rbb says:

    If you are eligible to use them, the USO lounges at the major airports are the best places to relax.

  2. joeblevins says:

    Delta charges for Wi-Fi and many of the Atlanta crownrooms are just crowded. Hard to find a seat. And if it isn’t crowded, they reduce staff so that you still have to wait in line. They had no magazines either. The snacks are generally just peanut style crap.

    When I was crown room member (last year) I tended to go hang out at the Continental rooms. They had a share agreement with Delta. They allowed you to take all the magazines you wanted. The selection was pretty extensive. The snack selection was great. Cheese (couple of kinds) and crackers. Along with a few other things.

  3. Bye says:

    I can never find a place to plug in my dongle at the Minneapolis airport…

  4. s35flyer says:

    Used to be great places to get away from screaming kids, now they are allowed and its a zoo. Don’t use anymore.

  5. thepounder says:

    @rbb: I’m with you. As a government contractor, whenever I’m traveling on gov’t orders I’ll hit the USO if possible. The folks who work there are volunteers & typically nice as can be and either former military like myself, or spouses of former military. It’s nice to get a cup of free coffee that tastes good now and then.

    I’ve been in a few of the airline lounges & personally I’d rather just sit at my gate with all the other regular folk… I like watching people anyhow; you see all types at an airport.

    And who pays for WiFi anymore? That’s ludicrous.

  6. Amy Alkon says:

    With cell phone manners being what they are today, it’s nearly impossible to get away from screaming kids anywhere — including the ones who are 6’2″ and shave.

  7. silencedotcom says:

    Northwest has one of the best lounges that I’ve ever been in. A day pass costs $45, and they are usually spacious, clean, but there’s not a whole lot for other things. TVs are lacking, they don’t allow the channel to be changed from the default MSNBC or Fox News – where’s my ESPN?! They have some snacks — cheese, crackers, free soda, beer and other spirits. At least the ones I’ve been in that are in Detroit (NWA’s hub), are nice – they have 3 in that airport, all of which are pretty neat.

  8. mastermonkeyhabib says:

    Midwest Express in Milwaukee is worth is. ~$50 for 2 people, free wifi, drinks (non alcoholic), snacks and their awesome cookies. Plenty of room, large TV.

  9. yg17 says:

    @Rey: Larry Craig couldn’t find a place to plug in his dongle at the Minneapolis airport either.

  10. hwyengr says:

    I had a really long layover in SLC a couple of months ago and I was able to use Delta’s lounge. The free drinks were great (tip the bartender, and they’re even better), but I couldn’t even buy wi-fi, the credit card processing service seemed to be down. But another nice perk, I asked the receptionist at the door for an airport restaurant recommendation, and she not only told me the best place in the airport, but gave me a $10 airport employee discount card.

  11. Lewis says:

    Disclaimer: I didn’t read the article yet.

    But IMO the roundup here (and perhaps the article) misses the point of why I use the clubs whenever possible. While the sodypop is nice, the crowds are usually (but not always) smaller and the non-public bathrooms are usually a pleasure, the biggest reason I stay a club member is for reaccomodation during irregular ops.

    There’s a reason club agents are usually referred to as “angels” – would you rather be in a line 100+ people deep at the gate to reschedule your cancelled flight, or in a (always, in my experience) much smaller line with (almost always) less-harried agents helping you out?

  12. Spamboy says:

    Lufthansa has some great lounges overseas, especially depending on your status — those with higher “eliteness” will get into swankier, roomier lounges, with a fair amount of amenities (drinks, chocolate, showers, personal bath items)

  13. AndyDuncan says:

    The day passes are hardly ever worth it. If you travel a lot the yearly pass (around $400-$500 depending on your status) is barely worth it even if you fly redeyes to an airport with a lounge that has showers.

    Other than the showers, you’re paying $500 to sit with a bunch of cranky businessmen (and I mean men) and get free pretzels and water in a slightly nicer area. And you don’t have to wait in a long-ass line if they cancel your flight. That’s it.

    When airport lounges had free booze, then that was something worthwhile, not anymore. Even the food outside of the lounge at most airports is far better.

  14. bigTrue says:

    If you’re paying 25-50 dollars in a lounge, you’d think they’d have the basics set up for biz travelers: Free, fast wifi and a multitude of places to plug in your laptop/cell phone/etc and a clean bathroom with a shower available for road warriors on long layovers.

    Beyond that, a soda/coffee/Ice Tea assortment would be nice, maybe some small bags of pretzels/peanuts.

    The first two are probably the most useful, though Lewisnyc’s point about shorter lines with ‘private’ agents is probably a godsend during those times airports shut down.

  15. Nekoincardine says:

    I like Alaska Airlines’ lounges, though they’re pretty hefty on the price – $150 a year unless you’re a VERY frequent flyer.

    Dunno if they do WiFi yet, but they’ve got plenty of spots to hook into free WIRED net (which means power, aka good thing for those of us whose batteries suck), great snacks, and solid service last I checked (about six months ago).

  16. thepounder says:

    @yg17: Oh Snap.
    That sure is good late-night TV fodder though.

  17. scoopy says:

    @Rey: I can never find a place to plug in my dongle, period.

  18. TPIRman says:

    If you have an American Express platinum card, you can get into a number of airlines’ lounges — American, Continental, Delta, Northwest — for free as long as you have a ticket for that airline, even if you’re flying coach. (Of course, Amex charges membership fees, too, so it’s not worth having the card for that privilege alone.)

    By the way, the Continental spokesperson in the story isn’t lying when she says that lounges at Continental hubs are more spacious. The one in Newark is freaking enormous.

  19. Caprica Six says:

    @Rey: “I can never find a place to plug in my dongle at the Minneapolis airport…”

    wow, sounds like a personal issue there in light of Senator Craig and the bathroom incident :)

  20. not_seth_brundle says:

    I’m glad the article mentioned the early closing time of these lounges–7:00 or 8:00 in the evening. I’m most likely to want to use a lounge in the evening when I’m trying to get home from a business trip and my flight’s been delayed or canceled, but these are the same times the lounges are closed.

  21. particleboard says:

    If you’re flying on Air Canada, their lounges are quite nice. Clean, spacious, with free WiFi and drinks (including wine, beer, etc.) with food (usually enough for a large snack. Soup, cookies, crackers, some pastries). The lounge in Vancouver for US departures has a wonderful view too.

  22. crnk says:

    @Johnny: I thought EWR has 3, and god knows how many IAH has…

    I think the question asked is flawed. It isn’t about “are they worth it?” To figure out a value, you have to look at your travel patterns. For example, if I want to fly SLC-ZRH on CO, but don’t want to fly twice overnight in a row with a half day sitting around in EWR, I could fly SLC-IAH-EWR-ZRH….and use a day pass at both IAH and EWR. They are also good for long layovers.

  23. rjhiggins says:

    @yg17: Yeah, I think that was the joke he was making…

  24. philipbarrett says:

    Then there’s the Emirate’s lounge. Fully stocked liquor cabinet, self-serve espresso machines, food buffets with Mid Eastern, Indian & Western dishes. I wanted to move there permanently!

    Also, after they’ve lost your bags, BAs at Gatwick is pretty spiffy too.

  25. mgateley says:

    I am sitting in the Air Canada lounge in Toronto. Free drinks, food (soup, salad, snacks, fruit, cookies), Wi-Fi.

    It is beautiful. I got in free by virtue of my United status, but I see you can buy a one day pass for $25 if you book a “Latitude” fare. Don’t know how much for a discount ticket.

  26. SOhp101 says:

    US airline companies suck at the whole lounge idea, just like their first class/business class service and amenities. Most Asian and European airline companies easily surpass the sad level of crap that US calls service.

  27. Techguy1138 says:

    I found the delta crown club lounge in LAX to be fantastic. I wound up giving up my seat on a flight, turns out you have to pay extra for two seats to be next to each other and I was with a very nervous flier. The gate attendant got us the next direct flight wit 2 seats available and got us in to the crown club lounge, as we now had 6+ hours to wait.

    I did have to pay for it somewhere in the range of $20-30 a person.

    It was completely worth the cost. There was a steady supply of snacks and drinks. A massage chair, comfortable chairs about the lounge room, that were good enough to nap in. A business room with many,5+, computers along with free wi-fi access, showers, a putting green, helpful announce ments about flight status, friendly agents to help with questions, blankets, pillows, and a place to leave your luggage so you can wander around the terminal.

    There were many magazines and news papers but I still wound up going to the book stands to get something to read. The tv’s were also set to fox or cnn or some kind of news station to not much entertainment there.

    They also didn’t allow outside food. They were very helpful in recommending restaurants in the terminal but I couldn’t eat there.

    If I were ever to be on a flight that looked like it was going to be delayed more than an hour I would jump on the chance to wait there as opposed to the main terminal. The price is minimal compared to the hassles you can avoid.

    In short, worth the cost of entry.

  28. Pelagius says:

    Like so much else about flying in this post 9/11 world: Worth it overseas; not worth it in America.

    Even Bangkok’s crapulous old airport had a swank business lounge with unlimited free drinks and all sorts of hot food.

  29. phobs says:

    For $50 they should at least include internet access, its basically a utility. I would be one sad panda.

  30. Jesse in Japan says:

    Considering what airport Wi-Fi alone costs, if they included that in the package, it would be a much better deal. Especially Delta.

    And it would cost the airline so little to provide Wi-Fi, too.

  31. jeblis says:

    If you want to use them get a platinum (or black!) Amex. You can use Delta, American, Northwest and Continental lounges if you have a ticket on the airline. You also can bring two companions.

  32. jamar0303 says:

    Out of pure curiosity- what keeps overseas airlines from operating domestic US flights? What made it so darn hard for Virgin America to get into the market?

  33. MrEvil says:

    @jamar0303: Its the usual protectionist crap the government pulls to bail out shoddy operations like AA. I’m all for US businesses, but if they can’t even compete on the same basic level as foreign firms, they need to be pushed out of the nest as it were.

    I was happy to hear the news that Southwest airlines is starting to surpass AA as the nation’s #1 airline. Southwest doesn’t promise much, but they don’t seem to have all the problems other carriers have, and they’ve been treated like a red-headed stepchild all this time.

  34. lakai says:

    lounges that are locatated at a airline’s main hub are usually better, i.e. Delta (SLC) , Cathay Pacific (HK), China Airlines (taiwan)

  35. ktoth04 says:

    The lounge at Beijing airport was really nice… never mind that I got ripped off by STA travel and All Nippon Airways gave me the pass cuz they felt sorry for me >.> Anyway, I attempted to drink $1100 worth of jack and coke to make up for it… but failed -_-