VIP Airport Lounges: How to Get In
Airport lounges are quietly upping the exclusivity
quotient. T+L learns how to gain entry to these VIP areas.
Imagine arriving at the airport for a domestic flight,
first-class ticket in hand, only to find that you aren’t welcome in the
airline’s lounge. It’s a rude shock, especially if you used 15,000
frequent-flyer miles plus a $75 co-pay to upgrade from coach.
A domestic first-class flyer on many airlines may discover
he has no more pre-flight perks than the backpacker in row 48 who got a
discount economy ticket from a back-alley bucket shop. The only difference is
that the backpacker doesn’t expect to be treated well by the airlines.
Front-of-the-cabin customers usually hope for better.
That’s exactly what happened to me before a recent flight
from Newark to Phoenix.
To say I was disappointed does injustice to my blighted hope. I had been
looking forward to a nice glass of chilled Sancerre blanc, a complimentary copy
of the New York Times, free Wi-Fi, and a little something to nibble on—maybe
some Beluga caviar on organic toast points—while I basked in the comfort of a
cushy leather armchair. Instead I found myself sipping a Styrofoam cup of weak
coffee on a hard bench at the dismal McDonald’s stand in Terminal C. Bummer.
Had I been better prepared, I might have considered one of
several alternative ways to get into the executive lounge. I could have bought
a membership, or even a day pass. I could have chosen to go to Phnom Penh
instead of Phoenix (international business- and first-class passengers almost always
get lounge access.) As I later discovered, there are numerous ways to get
first-class treatment at the airport even if you’re not a first-class
In my case, relaxing in the lounge wasn’t crucial. But
sometimes access to one of those sought-after sanctuaries is almost a
necessity—especially if you have a long transit wait on an international
flight, or if you must check out of your hotel at noon but have work to do for
the next 10 or 12 hours until your red-eye departs.
So if you don’t otherwise qualify for lounge access, consider
one of the many optional ways to elicit the magic words, open sesame.