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Can Airport Lounge Access Be Budget-Friendly?

airport lounge
Airport lounge. Photo courtesy of MIKI Yoshihito.

While I’ve been lucky enough to experience the first class lounge before when actually flying first class, I always assumed you needed to shell out thousands of dollars to be able to enjoy a delicious buffet, free booze, complimentary WiFi, showers, comfortable couches, magazines and snacks (and sometimes even massages!); however, I was proven wrong during a recent trip to India where I had a 5-hour layover in Kuwait International Airport. Somehow, the entire airport was void of WiFi — except for the lounges.

I checked everywhere — including international chains like Starbucks and Chili’s — but couldn’t find a connection anywhere. I’d finished my book, my phone was dead and I’d eaten on the plane, meaning there weren’t too many ways I could think of to entertain myself for so long. As I had a lot of work to get done, I decided it would be worth the $100+ to pay for lounge access. It would make the time go faster, I’d have a drink and I could work on my blog.

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Enjoying the airport lounge when traveling doesn't have to cost a fortune. Here's how.

“I’m flying economy on Kuwait Airways, but was wondering if I could pay a fee to use the lounge?” I asked the perfectly primped girl at the desk.

“Sure. In US Dollars it comes to about $40.”

I gasped. “Unlimited?!”

She nodded, confused by my shock.

While $40 might seem like a decent chunk of change, if you think about how much airlines change for inflight WiFi or how much you’d pay for dinner and a drink in an airport you’re getting a great deal. For five hours of food, booze, comfort and connection I was paying about $8 an hour. A steal.

My discovery was confirmed once again in New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport when, once again, I had a long layover. Heading to the Air India Lounge I inquired about the price for domestic passenger access.

“We have a deal of $20 USD for two hours of lounge access.”

Seriously? That’s how much I pay at JFK for an expired chocolate milk and decaying Chef Salad.

I can’t guarantee every lounge will be budget-friendly; however, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you have a long layover. For those who think they would use the airport lounge regularly, investing in Priority Pass is a smart idea. While there are different package options, the most basic level allows you to pay $99 per year for membership. From there, you’ll pay $27 per time to use the lounge. Priority Pass is accepted at over 600 airports around the world, so you most likely won’t have a problem using the pass each time you fly.

For more budget travel tips, click here.

Have you discovered any great budget-friendly lounges during your travels or use Priority Pass?

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About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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  1. Fred @ Tortuga Backpacks on at 5:01 pm

    Hey Jess, I haven’t tried it yet, but LoungeBuddy may also help: Looks promising depending on the prices for US airlines. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid long layovers lately but hope to try the app soon.

    • jess2716 on at 6:22 pm

      @Fred: Oh! I haven’t heard of that one either. Looks really awesome though!

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