The valuable perks of airline lounges may tempt you to splurge on an annual memberships.
But as cushy and convenient as they are, they may not be right for everyone.
In fact, there are some very good reasons not to join an airline lounge program.
Before taking the plunge, consider a few critical questions, such as how often you plan on traveling, and which airports you will be traveling to over the next year. Smartphone app LoungeBuddy can help determine specifics, such as domestic and international lounge locations, and the amenities they offer.
With so many new alternatives to annual memberships, you’ll likely find better ways to gain lounge access depending on your travel needs and budget. Below, we’ve compiled a list of five reasons why an annual airline lounge membership may not be right for you:
(We asked Loungebuddy’s Garrett Lu to help us out with this guest post)
- They don’t come cheap – Airline lounge memberships are not for the budget conscious. There is often discount pricing available to elite status members, but if you are among the hoard of unwashed masses, be prepared to pony up around $500 for a new annual membership. To make matters worse, some programs, such as Delta Sky Club, no longer include complimentary guest privileges for their basic membership.
- They can tie you down – While U.S. airline lounge programs provide access to their lounges regardless of the carrier you are flying, be aware that you still have to be able to physically access their locations within the terminals. This means that if travel plans change during the year and you are forced to start flying a different airline, you could be stuck at an airport or terminal without the program lounges you need. And certainly don’t expect airlines to refund a portion of your membership fees!
- You have elite status and travel internationally – If you are a frequent flyer with mid or top-tier elite status, and your travels are mainly international, there may be no need to purchase an airline lounge membership since you likely have access to a network of worldwide alliance lounges already. The downside, of course, is that when traveling within the U.S., lounge access is typically not granted to domestic lounges, except on select transcontinental routes in premium cabins, or if your elite status is provided by an international carrier.
- You have alternative credit cards – Many credit cards offer lounge access for a comparable annual fee, but with added perks. Take, for example, the Chase United MileagePlus Club Card. For $395, you not only receive a full United Club membership, but you also get two free checked bags as well as premier access included. Or the American Express Platinum Card, where $450 nets you a Priority Pass Select membership, Delta Sky Club access (in conjunction with same-day travel on a flight operated by Delta), and The Centurion Lounge access. It pays to shop around since airline lounge memberships are often times not the best deals in town.
- You cannot expense the cost – Business travelers can often expense one-off travel costs such as airline tickets, hotel costs, and meals. However, one thing that most business travelers can’t expense is the cost of an airline lounge membership or even the annual fee on a credit card. In these cases, it may be wiser to look for alternative (and expensable) options for lounge access, such as one-time passes.
Plenty of airlines and independent lounges offer one-time passes for $25-$75, so if you don’t plan on frequent visits, don’t bother with an airline lounge membership. Third party lounge operators like The Centurion Lounge, The Club, Plaza Premium, and Servisair are growing ever more
popular, providing travelers with a premium airport lounge experience regardless of airline or class of service.
With so many different lounge choices available, along with a veritable web of access rule intricacies, determining which lounges you have access to can be challenging. By utilizing a smartphone app like LoungeBuddy, the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Simply enter your elite statuses, lounge memberships, and the credit cards you have, andLoungeBuddy will show you the lounges you can access for free or for a one-time fee. Best of all, the app provides detailed lounge profiles with reviews, photos, and amenities, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s a business center to catch up on work, a refreshing shower, or a well-deserved cocktail.
As airlines further unbundle their services and the cost of airport amenities continue to rise, lounge access represents one of the best added values travelers can invest in these days. However, much like an unlimited data plan or an all-you-can-eat buffet, annual airline lounge memberships may not always be the most suitable option. Depending on your travel pattern, budget, and amenity preferences, an à la carte strategy of one-time passes may help you come out ahead in the end.
How do YOU get in airport lounges? Annual membership, perk included with a credit card, or one-time passes? Please leave your comments below!
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