In the golden age of air travel, the airport lounge was the reserve of the truly elite classes. A premium seat on board was your only chance of escaping the pre-departure throng of the departure terminal.
Mere mortals would have to endure the far-from-serene cavernous enclaves for up to four hours, rubbing shoulders with the rest of the working classes as children screamed, queues for questionably-fit-for-human-consumption food options lengthened, and greenhouse temperatures within the glass and steel penitentiary continued to rise.
Nowadays airports benefit from celebrity chefs, kids play areas, and air conditioning, however the experience doesn’t seem to ever get less stressful. People lose their minds at airports, and even the most sensible, courteous people risk transformation into boorish beings devoid of a vague ounce of common sense or a basic awareness of personal space.
Thankfully it doesn’t need to be like that, and over the last 10 years, the popularity of the airport lounge has seen a surge in new, innovative spaces being created for those who are in need of a little respite.
“is it worth it?”
I personally fly over 150,000 miles a year, so for me, a space where I can not only relax, but enjoy a work space and some sustenance, is a very welcome (and almost necessary) element to my travel experience.
Once you have had your voucher or pass scanned at the reception, you can expect a varied offer depending on your choice of lounge. Aspire lounge at Inverness Airport will offer fresh bacon rolls, cereal and porridge in the mornings, switching It up to sandwiches, crisps and soup, cheese & biscuits and cakes throughout the day. Hot and cold drinks are always available, as are beers, wines & spirits. Prosecco or champagne is available at an extra charge.
A selection of newspapers and magazines are always available, and they have a TV, usually showing the news, and another screen with the departures information. At £15 entry, comparing this with buying a sandwich, and a pint of beer (lest face it we are never going to just have one beer!), and all of a sudden, the cost seems like excellent value.
Other lounges such as No 1 lounge or MY Lounge in Gatwick, offer an even more enhanced experience, with the former offering a curated selection of wines, hot dishes and salads, as well as a library and business centre, and the latter offering a more casual experience with a pancake maker, sweets, nachos and chilli on the menu, and a kids play/gaming area. Some will even offer shower facilities.
There are a couple ways of gaining entry to these little slices of travel paradise.
Pay for it. You can book lounge passes through your travel agent, or buy walking up to reception. The popularity of the lounge means that it is usually best to prebook. You will usually be allowed up to three hours of unlimited food & drink in return for crossing their palm with anything from £15 to £35.
Lounge pass or credit card. My credit card gives me unlimited access to worldwide lounges for myself and a guest. Given that I visit over 100 lounges per year, this works out to be extremely good value for money.
Join your airlines loyalty programme. If you fly regularly with a particular airline, then your loyalty will be rewarded, often with enhanced lounges which are unavailable to the general (paying) public. BA, Etihad & Emirates all have world-class lounges, which you can earn access to after just a few flights, and you continue to get access for a year after.
So in a word, yes. I believe it is worth it. Compared with how much you would spend in an airport on boredom (food, drinks, duty-free, games, sunglasses, or that £200 Ted Baker top that you bought on impulse) it is an incredibly good value way of wiling away the hours before your trip.