We all know how uncomfortable airports can be with hard, cramped seats at the gates (if any), lots of noise and expensive food. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just dash away for an hour or two before your flight for some good food, a shower and free wifi? Well, that is what lounges are for.
‘Aren’t lounges just for people flush with cash?’ I hear you say? Well, not necessarily.
On my way to Europe last month, I was lucky enough to have lounge access in four airports in the US, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland. Have a look at them and read below as to how you can get behind those exclusive glass doors too without flying first or business class.
Los Angeles International Airport – Star Alliance Lounge
This lounge is probably the best I have ever been to. It is run by Air New Zealand on behalf of all Star Alliance airlines.
As I was flying to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, I got access to the lounge with a big buffet including a make-your-own-pho station, a full-service bar, shower suites, fast wifi and a sunny, outdoor terrace. Very impressed.
Istanbul Ataürk Airport – Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge
This lounge blew me away.
From a fresh gözleme and pasta station, Turkish sweets and barista stations throughout the lounge to self-playing pianos, a pool table and Bluetooth-enabled shower suites where you could connect your device to play music through speakers in the shower, this lounge gets two thumbs up from me.
The airport is a bit chaotic, so it was nice to retreat to the lounge for a couple of hours before my flight to Stockholm.
Stockholm Arlanda Airport – SAS Scandinavian Business Class Lounge
This lounge was the most disappointing of them all due to the fact that it was under renovation and cramped.
Having said that, the alcohol selection was big, there were a lot of bread choices (very Scandinavian) and it was a good idea to have a kids’ area in the lounge.
Geneva Airport – SWISS Senator Lounge
My favourite things from this lounge were the homemade asparagus soup, pizza, Swiss chocolate, a full bar and a wide selection of newspapers from all over the world.
So, how can I get in?
I was lucky enough to join the Greek airline Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus frequent flyer program at the right time when you only needed to fly 20,000 in one year to get Star Alliance Gold status. That is not many miles at all. Usually it is at least 50,000 with other programs. The other Star Alliance airlines got annoyed with Aegean taking all of their frequent flyer business and forced them to change the rules as of November 2015, meaning I will lose my status later this year.
The way alliances work is that you join the frequent flyer program of one, say, Qantas, and then you can earn and redeem miles on all Qantas and its partner airlines’ flights, in this case, all oneworld airlines. oneworld is one of the three main alliances, with the other two being SkyTeam and Star Alliance. Depending on where you live in the world and which airlines you use, one or two of the alliances may be more beneficial than the others for you.
If you want to get a high status in the air, this is what I suggest you do:
- Try to keep your flights with one alliance. Even if it’s more money, it will work out in the end as you will get to free flights and lounge access quicker.
- Get a credit card that allows you to earn miles through spending and with complimentary lounge access. I recommend this one for readers in the US.
- Consider buying access to lounges, whether that’s a one-off, one-year or multiple-year pass. You can also buy with miles instead of money. Examples of this include the Qantas Club and the United Club.
- When you achieve status with one airline/alliance, consider status matching with other airlines. This means that you send a copy of your gold membership card from, say, Air France, part of the SkyTeam alliance, to Singapore Airlines, part of Star Alliance, and they may try to get your business by matching your status in their program. A great information source for this is StatusMatcher. I will be trying to status match my Aegean Gold status with another airline before it expires in November 2015.
Now, let’s let Fergie and Ludacris tell us about a life of luxury in the air…