Is it worth it to join an airline lounge?

a group of wine glasses on a trayIs it worth it to join an airline lounge? Reader T wonders….

I’ve been traveling for work every other week for about six months, and this should continue for the foreseeable future. I just got an offer to join the American Airlines Admirals Club. It seems like a lot of money but I can see the appeal. Is it worth it?

Great question! Here are my thoughts, in list form:

Reasons to join:

  • Calm, quiet oasis
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Wi-fi, computers
  • Helpful agents in case of flight disruption
  • Can get as benefit of a credit card

Reasons against joining:

  • Don’t fly very often
  • Don’t have long waits or layovers
  • Don’t try to fly earlier frequently

I don’t have a membership, nor have I ever had one. Most of my travel has relatively short connections, plus my home airport is pretty fast security-wise. Internationally I’m always happy to go to the lounge, but access comes automatically via my status or ticket. Finally, I really love good wine and that is not always available in the lounge. I’m generally pretty happy sitting in Vino Volo, drinking a glass or three of cab (pictured) and working.

These days I travel for work once or twice a month. However! If I had a lot of longer connections or traveled almost every week (like I used to) then I would really consider investing in a credit card that comes with a membership. There are definite benefits for people who spend enormous amounts of time in airports.

In my experience people who have lounge memberships are very happy with them. If you are a frequent flier or you often have lengthy layovers then I would recommend getting a day pass to check one out. It might be the best thing ever for you!

Readers, what do you think Reader T should do? Do you have airline lounge membership?


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  1. I fly 3 to 4 times a year with my wife and 2 young children. We tend to err on longer connections to allow time for potty breaks, food, drink, etc. and I will confess I find the Club membership almost invaluable. I had access via the Citi Prestige card and decided to eat the cost of the AA Executive Card to ensure continued access.

    Here are the reasons I find it worth the money:
    “Free” Drinks/Snacks
    Children’s play area (though not everywhere)
    Power and WiFi for iPads
    AAngels at the Desk: if you’re affected by IRROPS this alone can make it worth the price.

    To be fair: I reduce the cost of my membership by around $100, a year on average as I submit food/drink cash expenses for the FMV of the drinks and snacks when traveling on business.

  2. I travel roughly 10x a year for leisure and almost always on AA. I have access via the Citi AA Executive card. It’s $450/year and comes with Admirals Club access. I also made my mom & bf an authorized user which allows them into the clubs also for no extra charge. Right now they have a bonus of 75,000AA points as well which makes the first year at least a no brainer.

    I love being able to leave work and head to the airport, have a beer, some food, and relax before the flight. For a 2x month business flyer it’s a no brainer.

  3. I think there’s a few more questions that would need to be asked and answered to figure out the best course of action:
    -Is this traveler based at an airport with an AC? If there’s no other lounge options with PP/etc it might not be a bad idea depending on the condition of the AC.
    -Do they routinely travel through certain hubs that don’t have other lounge options? (e.x. ORD) An AC membership might be worth it if traveling through ORD twice every other week.
    -What do they want to get out of the AC experience? Like you mentioned, there are probably quiet options in the terminal with way higher quality food and bev options than the AC.

    At any rate, if they’re still thinking it’s a good idea after answering those questions, I’d ultimately recommend they apply for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard, since the rate would then drop to $450 and they could add on trusted adult family members for no extra charge so they could also have access. They could also earn extra miles by hitting the spend bonus threshold, which would negate the annual fee for some time, and they would have a Global Entry credit to use as well.

    At $450/year, if they are flying every other week (about 25 times per year) and visiting once on both dep and return, their average cost per visit is $9. I would say in that scenario, $9 a visit is worth it for free beer/(cheap) wine/(bad) spirits and some lackluster snacks. I feel like at that price, it would end up being more expensive to go to a restaurant and grab a drink while working.

  4. Its worth being part of an airport lounge scheme for the planned ( I have 5 hour mid flights stop in Dubai coming up next week) and the unexpected ( a recent 3 hour delay at Belfast.)
    I am an Economy business traveller, and use the Lounge Key scheme , operated in the UK by Mastercard. It has served me well. I dont travel as frequently as you, but often its long haul and with 15 plus hours journey time its a valuable additional resource. Its something to look forward to on connections after a red-eye flight and its reassuring too , lifting you out of e.g the cultural differences of being a solo woman traveller in the Middle East , Africa or India , and elsewhere from the hurly burly of Duty Free or other travellers stretched out asleep along benches.
    The lounges often offer a shower and hair dryer ( some are gratis) which is great for a private opportunity to freshen-up when you have a longer break on long haul.
    They are also an oasis with food , newspapers ( its relaxing to read hard copy) , TV , chargers etc … that you might need for a calm onward journey. I cant comment on the wine, but the food is usually tolerable, if required, its airport fare and not fine dining. So e.g Chennai is an acceptable breakfast after leaving a hotel before its served, and without having to rely on a picnic box of food. If you drink there is generally wine and spirits available. Champagne usually costs extra!
    The overall cost covers the essentials and is equable with business expenses.

  5. If traveling frequently, you might be able to get a membership with mileage. I did this once. I also paid for a membership once and have purchased a day pass. All options are highly recommended if you fly a lot through crowded connecting airports. As was mentioned elsewhere, when there are flight cancelations or delays, the lounge staff are most helpful in asisting you to sort things out.

    Get a day pass, and check it out to be sure it’s for you.

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