How you can get the VIP airport experience on any budget

Airport VIP Lounge Experience

Using an airport lounge can mean a luxurious start to your holiday, the opportunity to clear your emails before a long flight, or a quiet place to enjoy a meal, making it a very attractive proposition for most people. So how can you get access to airport lounges across the world and enjoy the luxury on offer on any budget?

Airport VIP Lounge Experience

One-off access

Use Avios points for one-off access – the best budget option is to collect Avios and use them to buy lounge access.

You can collect Avios points in over one thousand online stores, as well as through Tesco’s Clubcard and Amex British Airways credit card. Collecting the points as you make purchases means you could pay for access to an airport lounge without any additional cost. The price starts at 3,250 Avios and includes access to some No.1 Lounges which are highly rated.

Pay for one-off access – the best option (if you don’t collect Avios) if you are on a budget and don’t travel very frequently

There are a number of independent lounge providers that offer access depending on where you are flying from. Lounge Pass and Plaza Premium Group have the most extensive coverage, offering 540 lounges between them.  No.1 Traveller, Escape Lounges and Executive Lounges (Aspire/Swissport) primarily offer UK airport lounges. The cost to access a lounge ranges from £15-£50 and usually includes access for between 2 -4 hours. Most are all-inclusive but you might need to pay extra for Champagne or some spirits.

Traveller tip: The Holiday Extras website allows you to search by airport and covers 25 airports around the UK as well as Europe and Worldwide. If you decide you want lounge access at the last minute, Lounge Buddy is an app that offers information on lounges available and the facility to pay for access. Customers who have used the lounges submit reviews and rate the food/service/facilities so you can decide if it’s worth paying.

Frequent Traveller

Airport lounge access subscriptions – if you fly semi-regularly in economy then a subscription scheme can be great value.

Priority Pass – a pass gives you access to over 1,000 lounges globally. There are various membership options, starting at £69 per year plus £15 per lounge visit through to £259 for unlimited access.

Traveller tip: The quality of the lounges varies and they offer credit towards buying food at a café as an alternative in some airports. No.1 Traveller and Plaza Premium lounges are included, as are some airlines lounges. Make sure you check if the Priority lounge is in the terminal you are flying from, they don’t have one in every terminal and you aren’t able to access it if you aren’t flying from that terminal.

Executive Lounges by Swissport – With only 2 annual membership options, there isn’t an entry level option. Both memberships offer unlimited access for the cardholder and a guest, with one offering access to Aspire and Swissport lounges in UK, Canada, Denmark, Finland and The Netherlands for £259.99 and the other to AspirePlus, Aspire and Swissport lounges in the entire network for £399.99.

The network of lounges is considerably smaller than the priority pass but it has full coverage of UK airports and the free access for a guest is a real plus.

DragonPass – very similar to Priority Pass but based in China. Members get access to over 900 lounges across 450 airports worldwide, including some high-speed train stations. Membership options start at USD99 per year plus USG27 per visit (although your first visit is free), whilst unlimited access is USD399 per year. Co-op Privilege and Privilege Premier accounts provide customers with a Dragon Pass and four free lounge passes a year, with additional passes costing £15 (existing customers only).

Fly in a premium cabin or fly very regularly – The most common, and most expensive, way to access an airport lounge is to either travel in a premium cabin or belong to one of the higher tiers of a loyalty scheme.

If you travel in Business or First class, most airlines offer you one-off access to one of their lounges. If you travel frequently enough with an airline and belong to their loyalty programme, you will start to collect points and once you reach a certain level, one of the benefits is usually lounge access.

Even if you don’t always travel with one airline, it can really benefit you if you try and travel on airlines who all belong to one alliance (there are 3 main alliances, OneWorld, Skyteam and Star). By travelling on airlines within one alliance, you can build points which can give you benefits (including lounge access for you and guests) no matter which airline you travel on in that alliance. It can also give you a choice of lounges at certain airports so you can choose the one which has the facilities you prefer.

A great example of this is Heathrow Terminal 3 where OneWorld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders have access to the BA lounge (best for spa treatments), the newly refurbished Cathay lounge (their Asian food is amazing), the AA lounge (great service and is due an upgrade to their flagship standard next year) and the Qantas lounge (currently being refurbished). Quite the choice!

Traveller tip: We love Turning Left for Less for in-depth lounge reviews.

Traveller tip: A lot of customers can take a guest in to the lounge but are travelling on their own. Flyertalk and Insideflyer have specific threads set up to pair up ‘spare’ guest passes with people who don’t have access. It’s worth noting that airline policies on this aren’t clear and lounge access is at their discretion so if you do take advantage of a spare pass, make sure you are discreet!

Choose a credit card or bank account with lounge access as a benefit – the best option if you will also use the other benefits offered.

American Express Platinum (UK only – annual fee £450) gives the cardholder (and any supplementary cardholders) Priority Pass Prestige membership with 1 free guest allowed per trip.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (UK – annual fee £140 after 1 year free) gives the cardholder 2 free lounge passes via Lounge Club.

Barclays Travel Plus Pack – for £15.50 per month you get 6 lounges visits per year. There is a wide choice of lounges and you also get travel insurance and UK and European breakdown cover.

Traveller Tip – we would only recommend using this option if you will also use the other benefits on offer with the credit card or bank account.

Read Next: Is It Time To Cash In Your Airline Reward Points?

Do You Have A Top Travel Tip?

Travelling for work can be challenging. Share your top hacks with fellow travellers.

Like this article? Share it!