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Priority Pass and airport lounge access essential for business travel

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In the last six months, I’ve taken upwards of a dozen flights.

That sounds fun, until you realize how much time that requires in the hostile and utterly exhausting environment of the world’s airports.

Factor in that I’m the kind of traveler who always gets to airports early — no amount of travel experience will dispel my persistent anxiety of missing my flight — and it can be a lot of time wasted.

Thankfully, I found a way to make the endless hours I spend at the airport both productive and fun. I’m a bit late to the party, but access to airport lounges is quite possibly the most essential tool in any business travelers’ toolkit.

Airport lounges are a haven. While each one is different, all tend to have a few essential features: comfy chairs to work or relax in, speedy Wi-Fi access, televisions, a buffet of fresh food, endless coffee and alcoholic beverages, and, most importantly, a space away from the chaos of the terminal.

These days, I’m no longer caught between my anxiety over missing my flight and the fear of being stuck in an acrid airport food court hellhole for several hours. I’m just excited to see how swanky the airport lounge is.

I pop in — like a king — gather my spread of snacks and coffee (I avoid alcohol before flights as I’m prone to migraines), find a quiet corner, and set to working on my latest article. There’s something intensely pleasurable about being able to get work done when I used to waste time wandering from the newsstand to boutiques from which I have no interest in purchasing luxury products.




Qantas Lounge’s yoga studio in Perth, Australia.
Qantas

Airport lounges vary from destination to destination, so you have to be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time to figure out what’s available and where it’s located.

Some lounges, like the Blossom Lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport, have showers, a nice perk after you’ve accumulated all sorts of smells on a 14-hour flight. The Qantas Dreamliner Lounge in Perth, Australia offers yoga classes to help unwind after the inevitably long flight to Australia. Lufthansa’s lounge in Frankfurt, Germany has a cigar room with fine whiskies and cognacs for tasting. The Al Safwa first-class lounge at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar even has private bedrooms so you can sleep on a long layover.

Other lounges, like the Primeclass Lounge in Muscat International Airport in Oman, offer a spa, a cinema room, and a “game zone.” Even if you’ve finished all your work, there’s plenty to stay entertained.

You can see where I’m going with this — it’s worth it to get lounge access.

Travelers can watch the planes go by with a drink or even get a quick spa treatment at the Aspire Lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Aspire

How to access an airport lounge

There are plenty of ways to get into airport lounges, through numerous networks and classes.

First of all, most lounges sell day passes for between $25-75 a day, depending on the lounge. If you’re going this route, LoungeBuddy has deals on day passes and extensive reviews of lounges.

You can also:

Get access with Priority Pass

Priority Pass is a network of 1,200 airport lounges that members can access, as well as a number of restaurants and spa-type properties that offer credits for Priority Pass members. One caveat: Priority Pass only has access to about 6o lounges at US airports (and I hear they might not be as reliable as the international lounges). The rest are abroad.

Priority Pass sells memberships directly: $99 per year for Standard, which charges $27 per lounge visit; $249 per year for Standard Plus, which includes 10 free lounge visits; and $399 per year for Prestige, which provides unlimited lounge access. Unlike the Priority Pass offered through credit card perks, all membership levels charge for guest access.

Get access with a credit card

The most basic way to get lounge access is through perks offered by your credit card, particularly if it’s travel-focused.

American Express offers Platinum and Centurion cardholders access to its network of Centurion Lounges and Delta’s Sky Clubs, in addition to Priority Pass membership. Other American Express cardholders can get access to Centurion Lounges at $50 a pop.

I currently have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which also includes a free Priority Pass membership. While it has a hefty $450 annual fee, it’s a no-brainer if you travel even occasionally. The card has a $300 travel credit, bringing the fee down to $150. Hang at a few airport lounges before flights and you’ve got your moneys’ worth.

The Platinum Card from American Express also comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

Check your frequent-flier (and ticket) status

Some lounges are run by airlines, with access given to frequent fliers or first-class or business travelers. Others are run by third-party companies, which grant access to business or first-class travelers or members of participating clubs like Priority Pass. Others are run by the airports themselves and offer access in a similar fashion as the third-party operators. Airline-run lounges tend to sell yearly memberships for $350-550 a year and allow you to bring in family members or guests.

Some particularly exclusive lounges, like the British Airways Concorde Room in Heathrow Airport (waiter-serviced fine dining, five-star ambiance), will only give you access with a first-class ticket.

If you fly one airline frequently, it’s worth checking your frequent flier status. Elite status with an airline gets you access to the airline’s lounge network.

No matter what way you get in — I can promise, you won’t regret it. And ignore the warnings from the Wall Street Journal that lounges have become overrun by normies. They’re just trying to keep you from enjoying the best open secret in travel.

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