The Airport Lounge- The Good and Not So Good

If you travel for business, or just travel regularly, it’s nice to be able to relax in an airport lounge. Normally quiet and out of the main airport hustle, they offer a brief break from the travel grind. Most lounges offer private meeting rooms, phone, fax, wireless and Internet access, along with free food, drinks and snacks. You’ll find comfortable seating, quiet areas and quick access to airline agents who are stationed at the lounge entrance. Rest after an exhausting commute to the airport; get caught up on e-mails before your flight; and/or just plain relax with a snack and drink before your flight.

Access to airport lounges is obtained in several ways. In the U.S. and Canada, a common method to gain access is by purchasing a one-time, annual or even a lifetime membership. In Europe, lounge access can also be attained with an airline status card. Most airlines also offer free lounge access to anyone with a first or business class ticket on their day of travel. Last but not least, generic lounges are also available in many locations with daily fee, yearly fees or lifetime memberships.

The best lounge in the world is in Dubai- the Emirates Lounge in their new terminal for Business Class only. Several chefs prepare hot and cold foods and it is complete 5 star. A complete and exhaustive buffet of almost everything you can think of. They even have a Spa! The Lufthansa Lounges in Frankfurt are very good as well. The London Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 is pretty good and is for Star Alliance travellers. Comfortable with some quality food and drink. (Go upstairs to the SAS level- it’s a little better than the main level). Porter Airlines at Toronto Island is great for a small airline. WiFi, espresso, and Walker’s cookies. Among the not so good is Air Canada Terminal 1 Lounge in Toronto. Comfortable but…WiFi is spotty as provided by the airport. The food is cafeteria quality. Warmed over pasta, iceberg lettuce, olives. Their saving grace is the liquor- Guiness on tap and some decent wine. KLM has a decent lounge product- Heineken and other quality Dutch food and drink.

The good news is there is competition in airport lounges. All airlines want the regular revenue and higher yield from business and high end leisure travelers. In an airline world where product differentiation is key to “bums in seats”, a quality airline lounge product can be the tipping point for many a frequent traveler. The “lounge product” is being revised and improved constantly. If you are traveling in Business Class on a long haul flight, you can’t speak to your colleague on board (with flat beds, pod seating, etc.), so the lounge is the place to talk and do business before the flight. If you are traveling in Economy, the lounge is a great place to meet before the flight.  Where’s your favorite lounge?

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