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, complementary 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.

“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? Please share in the comments below.


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