Want access to an airport lounge? Your plastic might just offer free access

Airports are a different world altogether. Hundreds of people, noise, announcements, long security lines and baggage check-ins can be a strain on the nerves. Says Abhinava Paliwal, Product Officer, American Express India: “Time spent at the airport is usually the most fretful part of any travel experience.” 

However, if you have access to an airport lounge, the wait time can be as relaxing, productive or entertaining as you like. Paliwal says, “They (travellers) can wait for their flight in a relaxed atmosphere. Special privileges at the lounge make the wait an enjoyable experience.” If you are wondering how to get into the luxurious world of airport lounges across thousands of airports in the world, read on.

What you get: The airport lounge is available for domestic as a well as international journeys. Lounges offer several mind-boggling benefits. Adil Shetty, CEO, Bankbazaar.com says, “Primarily, airport lounges offer comfort much beyond what is offered in the airport terminal itself. Lounge access gives you space to unwind and relax at the airport. This is very helpful if you are a frequent traveller or are travelling long distances.” 

What lounges offer        

  • Peace & Quiet

     
  • Free Food

     
  • Beer & Wine

     
  • Showers

     
  • Comfortable chairs

     
  • Free cocktails

     
  • WiFi

     
  • Newspaper

     
  • Sleeping Pods

     
  • Private Rooms

     
  • Kids Play area

(List is non-exhaustive- Facilities may vary from lounge to lounge)

If you’ve reached the airport painfully early or if you have long hours between connecting flights, an airport lounge access comes in handy. Foreign travel expert Mukul Lalka says, “The airport lounge has several amenities including private meeting rooms, wireless internet access, and other business services, along with free drinks, snacks, periodicals, and showers.” This simply means that once you have lounge access, you can avail any or all these for free instead of spending a bomb on them at the terminal outlets. 

Mandatory access: Lalka says, “Firstly, airport lounge access is offered by airlines to all their first class and business travellers, pretty much mandatorily. Airlines either have their own lounge at the airport or have a tie-up with some other premium lounge.” Here you won’t need to pay an entry fee, but then you probably have already shelled out enough for the tickets to cover the lounge expenses.

Credit card, debit card entry: You might not be aware, but there’s a good possibility that your debit or credit offers you a few airport lounge visit as part of the benefits. Two such cards are ICICI Bank Coral debit card and IDFC Visa signature debit card. Most travel credit cards and premium credit cards offer lounge access to both domestic and international travellers. Axis Bank Vistara Infinite credit card, HDFC Regalia Firtst credit card and American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card are examples. Paliwal says, “The American Express Global Lounge Collection offers an exclusive experience to frequent and infrequent flyers alike. American Express Platinum Card members have access to 1,100-plus airport lounges in more than 500 cities across 120 countries.” 

It’s important that you check the terms and conditions of your credit/debit card to know the details of the lounge offering. Shetty says, “Several credit cards offer airport lounges access. However, this may not be a blanket access pass. Often, depending on the card and the issuer, there may be a restriction on the number of times you can access the lounge per quarter. Once you have crossed this limit, you would need to pay the regular lounge access charges for lounge facilities.” Most lounges will take a nominal fee between Re 1 and Rs 25, which is refundable, to give you access via a debit or credit card. They swipe the card with these amounts only to ensure that the card has not expired.

Some cards even allows you to bring a guest to the lounge. This might work especially if you are traveling with a buddy or your partner who doesn’t have access to the lounge. 

Get a paid entry: Lakla says, “There are several independent lounges that offer access to travellers regardless of the airline they travel with. You can buy the acccess gor anything between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000, depending on the country and the airport.”  At Mumbai International airport, Aviserve lounge offers a pay-per-use system, under which you can get lounge access, breakfast, and shower for Rs 955. Other paid services include a sleeping pod, ironing of clothes and baggage storage, to name a few. Additionally, there are independent networks of airport lounges that give access to travellers of specific airlines as well as other travellers for a fee. Aspire, The Club and Escape and Plaza Premium fall in this category. Lalka says, “The fees for both independent lounges and lounge networks depend on the time you spend in the lounge and the facilities you use. Some offer unlimited access while others come with restricted hours.” You can get more information regarding both types of paid lounges with Loungebuddy.com, Holidayextra.com and Loungepass.com and Sleepinginairports.net to name a few.  The third kind is the premium lounge memberships. Lakla says, “There is premium lounge membership like 'priority pass', which offers membership for Rs 6,000-10,000 for a specific number of entries to any of their lounge. This works best for those who travel internationally very often. Some credit cards offer priority pass as part of their credit card offering.” 

There are a regular lounges as well as super premium lounges. Most lounges will have a separate first-class and business-class area with luxurious facilities. Lalka says, “Most lounges I have been to have been very good, others are reasonably good but there are sub-standard ones out there too.” 

If you haven't been to an airport lounge yet, perhaps this holiday season you might want to give it a shot. But do read the terms and conditions of your debit or credit card first.

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