2/26/18

#MileageMonday: Airport Lounges



Who’s ready for another edition of #MileageMonday? I hope you all had a fantastic Monday (I know mine was productive) & are ready to kick some ass this week. As we continue this Monday series, we start to get into some of the more fun topics of travel hacking, including USING all the benefits you get from these cards! I know paying annual fees is not fun…but I can promise you that these perks far outweigh the fees.

We’ve laid the groundwork by explaining some of the must-have credit cards you need in your wallet + shown you the path to meet minimum spends on these cards. You’ve got your cards in hand & now it’s time for the good stuff, guys. Ever been curious as to how I’m always sipping on a free cocktail at the airport while I wait for my next flight? If you’ve been in a semi-major airport, you may have walked by one of these before (courtesy of my latest airport stay in Atlanta):



These are just a sampling of the airport lounges available in the Atlanta airport; in fact, there are 14 airport lounges scattered throughout various terminals in ATL, all with different requirements for entry & offerings inside the lounge. Let’s get into what an airport lounge typically offers.

Airport Lounges: A Brief Overview

When I go to any airport, one of the first things I’ll check on my phone is airport lounge availability. Airport lounges instantly make any airport better by providing their customers a selection of free food (ranging from light snacks to full-course meals) & beverages…yes, including booze! In addition to the food & beverages, lounges typically offer these amenities:
  •     Free Newspapers/Reading Materials for your flight
  •        Private Shower Facilities
  •        Private Work Space, Faster Wifi & Printing Availability
  •        Dedicated Customer Service Representatives
  •        Entertainment Center-Nice TVs, Flight Updates, etc.

These are just a few of the perks I typically expect of an airport lounge. I’ve been in some crazy lounges-in Minnesota, I went to the PGA lounge with a full putting green and golf simulators, ALL FREE. Los Angeles has an outdoor lounge complete with cornhole sets, giant Jenga & a fire pit. There’s a ton to explore out there and we’re just scratching the surface!

Who Has Airport Lounges?

 Most of the airports I’ve visited have some form of an airport lounge. While my home airport in Columbus currently lacks airport lounge access, here are a few of the big names in the lounge space:
  •          Delta Sky Club
  •         United Club
  •          American Airlines Admirals Club
  •          AMEX Centurion Lounge
  •          Priority Pass Lounges-Over 1000+ lounges worldwide

      A quick way to check if an airport in your itinerary has airport lounge access is to download the app Loungebuddy. This easy-to-use platform allows you to enter in the various perks/access you may accrue from travel & credit cards while cross-referencing any airport, pulling up the lounges you have access to. The app even breaks down where each airport lounge resides in the airport, making sure you have ample time to relax in the lounge during your layover or before a flight.


For those of us that fly a specific airline consistently, let’s break down your options for the “brand-name” lounges.
  • Delta Sky Clubs
    •    AMEX Platinum/Delta Reserve cardholders when flying Delta-operated routes
    •    Discounted access for Delta Gold/Platinum cardholders ($29)
    •    Delta Gold or higher status when flying Delta/Sky Team international routes
    •    Flying first class on any Delta/Sky Team-operated flight
    •    Yearly Membership-$450
  • American Airlines Admirals Clubs
    •    Admirals Club Membership-$450 for the year
    •    Flying First/Business Class on transcontinental/international AA-operated flights
    •    Being a Citi AAdvantage Executive cardholder/authorized user ($450 annual fee)
    •    Having platinum or higher status with AA & flying an international route
    •    Pay for one-day access ($50)

  •         United Club
    •    United Polaris first/business class on domestic/international routes
    •    International first/business class on Star Alliance flights
    •    United Club membership ($450)
    •    Day Pass ($50 or one-day voucher given by Chase United MileagePlus Explorer CC)

Lounge access is typically provided by each airline as a perk of having some form of elite status with the airline. Fear not, though-you can still gain access to these lounges without being “elite” on an airline. I currently do not have status with any major airline & yet I find myself having access to nearly any lounge in the airport, all thanks to some of my credit card perks. Here’s how you can join me for a brew in the airport lounge…

Gaining Access to the Airport Lounge

Airport lounge access can be gained in a variety of different ways. I’d argue the easiest way to get access is by signing up for one of the many credit cards that provides access to these lounges. As I’ve mentioned in our previous Chase premium cards post, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of these cards that offers lounge access through a Priority Pass membership.

While a Priority Pass membership won’t give you access to any of those name-brand lounges I mentioned above (United, Delta, American Airlines), it WILL give you access to lounges like Air France, Alaska Airlines, The Club, Hawaiian Airlines, etc. There is a MASSIVE network of Priority Pass lounges, lots of which tend to be nicer than the aforementioned brand name lounges. Kayleigh & I visited two of those lounges on our recent Hawaii trip and found ourselves pleasantly surprised with the offerings. Here are a few pics I snapped of the lounges:

 


While these all may seem out-of-reach for the average person, that’s not us. By strategically signing up for credit cards, we can gain access to the bulk of these clubs & ensure we are not sitting at some random airport bar waiting for our next flight. Here’s my current list of credit cards I am gaining airport lounge access from:
  • Chase Ritz Carlton CC 
    • $450 annual fee, can be waived first year if you lower credit limit to <$1800
    • Unlimited Priority Pass Access for me and travelling companions
    • $300 annual travel credit
  • AMEX Ameriprise Platinum CC 
    • $550 annual fee, waived for first-year cardholder
    • AMEX Centurion Lounge & Delta Sky Club  (when flying Delta) access 
    • 10 Priority Pass lounge visits/year 
    • $200 annual travel credit
So if I play my cards right, I’m covered on Delta flights, AMEX Centurion Lounges, all Priority Pass lounges + $500 annually to spend on travel, including airport lounges. While I probably wouldn’t use the credit on a lounge, it doesn’t hurt to know that if I’m in a pinch I can use the credit on a whim to ensure my pre-flight relaxation is covered. The best part? This is just ONE of the many perks these credit cards have to offer.

Recap

In the past, I would tend to dread my upcoming airport experiences because I knew I’d have to sit in a cramped chair with a bunch of smelly travelers. Airport lounges have changed that experience for me-now I’m an airport snob! Whle I anxiously await the day they announce an airport lounge for my local CMH, I know that *almost* anywhere else I fly will have respite.

I’ve shown you just how easy it is to get access to these lounges & start turning your airport experience around. Go try it out-you won’t be able to travel the same ever again!

With that, I think we’ve reached the close of this week’s #MileageMonday. Feel free to ask questions about this post or anything else related to the travel sector-I’m here to help you reach your travel goals!

Cheers,

Ty Henze

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