Airline clubs don’t let outside food in?

a close up of a sandwichRecently, a friend told me a slightly disturbing story. Her pregnant sister was sitting in an airline lounge, eating a sandwich. An employee came up to the woman and asked her to leave, as outside food is not allowed in. Now, I’m not going to get into how it grates on me that they asked a 32 week pregnant woman to either not eat or leave (although since I currently have two pregnant sisters I find it really annoying. Whatever.).  This rule is probably due to the fact that the lounge wants people to pay for its own overpriced and terrible food. But isn’t the point of belonging to a club that you have a place to go, relax, and get away from the hustle and bustle of the airport? Why would they not allow people to bring in food from airport restaurants?

Granted, I haven’t been in a ton of lounges. But the ones I have visited have either had food available for free or been very gracious about outside food. The few times I’ve purchased food in a lounge it has honestly been pretty terrible. So what’s the deal?

Readers, what do you think? Should airline clubs ban outside food? What has your experience been?


  1. I hope she complained! I haven’t been to any airport lounges where there was food for purchase.

  2. The Admirals Clubs have this restriction, but I have on many occasions brought in food from one of the airport eateries and have never been stopped. I don’t try to hide the food item, it is visible to the staff, and they have never said a word to me about it.

  3. It sounds like the facts to the story have gotten lost in the retelling. I personally have never been in any airline lounge where they have charged for food/snacks. (Star Alliance in particular….and I have been in a lot of them globally.) You’ve already paid for the snacks/beverages by either purchasing a business class/first class ticket or spent 50k+ miles on a plane. I sincerely doubt that any lounge attendent would ask a guest to leave, especially a pregnant one at that, over something so silly. Alas, we don’t have all the facts so it’s hard to determine what actually happened.

  4. I have belonged to delta skyclubs for the past 5 years, and they are really strict about letting outstide food in. They don’t sell food – I was told that the smell can be distracting to other people in the lounge.

    1) Once, I was with 3 girlfriends on a vacation, and we brought in chick-fil-a sandwiches. We were approached (very nicely) and informed that we could finish our lunch, but that they preferred outside food wasn’t brought in.

    2) Another time, my co-worker was eating a bag of M&Ms as we checked in, and they refused to let us enter until he either finished the bag or put the bag away. No joke.

    I still regularly get oatmeal from Starbucks before I enter the Skyclub, but I stick it in my carry-on bag and sneak it in. 🙂

  5. I’ll bet it was United. Their food (available for free) is awful and insubstantial, and has become more so with time. Although they have free booze, that’s not going to help a pregnant lady make it through a layover!

    The only rationale I have heard for this policy is that it reduces janitorial costs because people make a mess when eating things more substantial than yogurt-covered raisins.

  6. This rule has existed since well before there was food for sale in domestic lounges. The genesis for the rule was two fold: avoids someone sitting down and bringing smelly foods (for the benefit of other pax) and it limits the amount of things that need to be cleaned up.

    The advent of food for sale is relatively new in domestic lounges.

    Even in lounges with gratis food offerings (AA FLs, UA IFLs), their offerings are usually pretty low-smell.

  7. Yup I was turned away at a Continental club when I bought in Mcdonalds. Pretty dumb rule considering they dont serve food and all they serve are their lame cheese and crackers. AA doesn’t allow food in either but they do sell over priced food in their lounge.

  8. my 2 year old and i were kicked out of atl skyclub for eating mcnuggets. i understand, but 3 mos later i’m in the same skyclub and the nice desk ladies are assisting a mom with her french-fry toting 2 year old. they could at least be consistent.
    i completely understand, the lounges are getting less and less clubby and more and more like wallowing with the unwashed masses at the gates. if lots of people starting bringing in their subway sandwiches and making a huge mess it will undoubtably become worse.

  9. I was told a few days ago that I was prohibited from bringing my kosher food into the Continental lounge at EWR.

  10. I went on 2 mileage runs this weekend and brought food into 2 admiral clubs – nothing was said.

  11. Some lounges don’t have real food… Delta Sky Club, for example, has no hot food, sandwiches, etc, just a Delta version of Chex Mix and sometimes celery sticks.

  12. Delta SkyClub in LAX is pretty strict about not letting outside food in the lounge. Although, the new SkyClub in MIA let us bring in some McDonald’s food with no problem.

  13. I was once politely asked to put away a pastrami sandwich (strong smell) at a CO club, but otherwise allowed to eat a cookie or drink SBUX carried in.

    Most attendants are polite but you get the occasional on who lets a minimum of authority get out of hand.

  14. Smell, mess.. the solution isn’t to allow in outside food, it’s to make better food available inside the lounge.

  15. Outside smell and outside mess do not belong in the lounges, which is why I believe this rule is somewhere between very common to near-universal. Free, non-smelly, easily cleaned up food of some sort is normally available.

    I don’t think that it’s disturbing that it’s enforced at all. The implication that rules should automatically be thrown out for pregnant women does disturb me somewhat, though.

  16. considering how infrequently the United Clubs get the empty cups and left over cheese wrappers picked up off of tables, its probably a good thing that we can’t bring food in. Sad.

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