Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (2023)

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

Airports are portals to the world, but the airport experience isn’t always the most luxurious or pleasant—as anyone who’s traveled in the last decade can attest. One potential oasis amongst all the hustle and bustle are airport lounges, which offer upscale benefits and a place to relax away from the chaos of the airport. But are airport lounges worth the cost? Read on to see if lounge benefits are a good fit for you.

Find The Best Airline Credit Cards Of 2023

Learn More

What Are Airport Lounges?

Airport lounges are exclusive locations within airports where travelers can access benefits such as free food, Wi-Fi, and in some cases even showers. Airport lounges fall into three categories.

Airline Lounges

These are lounges like the American Airlines Admirals Club, United Club, Delta SkyClub or Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. These lounges are associated with a specific airline and access is primarily afforded to people flying on said airline, or people who hold a premium co-branded airline card.

Some airlines sell club memberships while other airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, only offer access to their premium-cabin flyers and top-tier elite program members. Often, access is provided to alliance members as well. For example, American Airlines provides reciprocal membership to the American Flagship First lounges to Oneworld Emeralds.

Credit Card Operated Lounges

These lounges are operated by a credit issuer, rather than an airline. American Express Centurion lounges are the most well-known in this category and operate under the American Express name. Cardmembers with The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, automatically gain access.

Capital One is another option, with a lounge currently operating in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), and new lounges planned in Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Denver International Airport (DEN).

  • Chase has also announced its interest in its own lounges, in partnership with Airport Dimensions, with six in the U.S. and one in Hong Kong. That said, there’s no concrete schedule for those openings—lounges in Boston and Phoenix are, as of now, are set to open in early 2023 and a San Diego location will open in late 2023.

Third-Party Lounges

These are lounges independent of any airline or credit issuer. These are usually accessible via membership through programs like Priority Pass or by paying for daily access. Many third-party owned lounges contract with airlines that may not have their own lounge at a particular airport, so that they can provide access to their premium passengers.

The Average Lounge Experience

Many lounges are nothing to write home about. You’ll often find beverages and light snacks, free Wi-Fi, a place to sit and clean bathrooms. Sometimes there will even be places to get some work done or do some plane spotting. But while lounges provide added luxury, they can sometimes be crowded and may even have wait times to enter.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (1)

Primeclass Lounge, JFK Terminal 1

That said, sometimes you’ll get lucky enough to find a Priority Pass lounge, like the Primeclass Lounge in JFK’s Terminal 1, which is reasonably quiet. But be warned, this is a fairly uncommon occurrence as most lounges these days are packed to capacity.

“Over-the-Top” Lounge Highlights

Airlines are the most invested in creating a luxurious lounge experience for their premium customers. For example, United Airlines introduced the Polaris lounge in 2016, which includes plentiful seating, work areas, showers, a buffet, bar and a sit down, a la carte dining experience.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (2)

Polaris Lounge Entrance at Washington-Dulles.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (3)

United Polaris Lounge Seating at IAD.

Star Alliance member Lufthansa has long been known for super premium lounge experiences at its two hubs in Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC). The Lufthansa First-Class Terminal is a lounge that is in a separate building, with a full bar, plenty of seating, a sit down a la carte dining experience, showers (and bathtubs) and even a cigar lounge. Lufthansa first-class lounges are exclusively for HON (Lufthansa’s top-tier elites) and first-class passengers.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (4)

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Bar

(Video) Why Airport Lounges Are Worth It

How To Access Airport Lounges

One of the most popular ways to get airport lounge access is through Priority Pass. Priority Pass is a common perk on many premium travel cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, to name a few.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: members have access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges (but not Priority Pass restaurants), as well as a subset of other lounges as negotiated with various operators. These include Delta Sky Clubs, Escape Lounges and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse locations (New York’s JFK, Newark, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles).
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: provides Priority Pass lounge access (including restaurants) along with a small set of not-yet-open Chase-branded lounges.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: provides Priority Pass lounge access (but no Priority Pass Restaurants), as well as access to its own Capital One lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth, with more lounges planned for Washington-Dulles and Denver.

Chase and Citi offer co-branded premium credit cards that provide access to the United Club (United Club℠ Infinite Card) and American Admirals Club (Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®*).

Finally, most airlines offer passengers flying in premium cabins access to their lounge, or their contracted lounge if they don’t have a lounge in that particular airport. Some airlines also provide elite frequent flyer program members access depending on the airline and route that they are flying.

For example, Star Alliance Gold members—such as that obtained from Lufthansa status for example—can access United Clubs when they are flying on a Star Alliance member operated flight departing from the same airport. If you have Star Alliance Gold status through United, you would only have access if you were flying on an international flight.

Similarly AAdvantage and Mileage Plan members Platinum (AA) and MVP Gold (Alaska) and up have access to the Flagship First Lounge if they are flying between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle East, New Zealand or a subset of South American countries.

Featured Partner Offers

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase Bank USA, NA's Website

Welcome Bonus

60,000 bonus points

Annual Fee


(Video) Everything You Need To Know About Airport Lounges... Are They Really Worth It?

Credit Score


Regular APR

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now →

Apply Now

On Capital One's Website

Welcome Bonus

75,000 miles

Annual Fee


(Video) 10 ways you can get into the Airport Lounge in 2023

Credit Score


Regular APR

21.24% - 28.24% (Variable)

Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.

Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase Bank USA, NA's Website

Welcome Bonus

60,000 bonus points

Annual Fee


(Video) Best Cards with Airport Lounge Access 2023 (pt. 1) | Are Airport Lounges Worth It? | CSR, Venture X

Credit Score

Excellent, Good

Regular APR

20.49% - 27.49% Variable

Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The Cost of Lounge Access

Not all lounges offer guest passes or annual membership.

As we’ve mentioned above, you can gain access to lounges with a variety of credit cards, such as the Capital One Venture X, which provides a Priority Pass membership. But what if you were to obtain a Priority Pass membership directly? Priority Pass offers a $99 annual fee membership where members pay $35 per visit, as well as $35 per guest. Additionally Priority Pass offers two higher levels, a Standard Plus, for a $329 annual fee which provides 10 free visits, then $35 per visit and $35 per guest, and the Prestige membership plan for a $469 annual fee which includes all member visits and still has a $35 per guest visit fee.

Airlines sell club memberships as well:

  • Delta Air Lines offers 2 SkyClub membership levels, Executive for $1,495 annually, which allows unlimited club access for the member and up to two guests per visit. The Individual Membership is $695 annually and allows members to bring up to two guests for an additional fee.
  • United Airlines offers an annual membership for $650 annually, and allows the member, as well as up to two guests, or one adult and dependent children up to 21.
  • American Airlines offers Admirals Club individual memberships for $650 per year for members with no status, with discounts if you do hold status, and household memberships starting at $1,250 with no status.

It’s important to note that for each of these airline lounge memberships, there’s a corresponding co-branded credit card that provides airline lounge for less, inclusive of the annual fee. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®* has an annual fee of $450, a savings of as much as $200 as compared to buying an American Admirals Club membership.

Some airlines do offer one day passes for $35-$50. That may be the only worthwhile option when it comes to paying for access to a lounge, as it is clearly a poor value proposition to purchase lounge memberships directly from the provider unless you fly regularly. The best value is to incorporate your lounge requirements into your credit card choices, for example, if you fly United, then the United Club card may make more sense to have in your wallet, rather than purchasing a United Club membership outright.

A Cautionary Caveat

Since the pandemic and the ensuing “revenge travel,” lounges have often been overpopulated. It’s not uncommon to see a sign for a Priority Pass partner lounge restricting how many Priority Pass cardholders can enter or waiting lists for Centurion Lounges. Worse yet can be excessively long lines, as have commonly been shared on social media, for example to enter Delta SkyClubs.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (8)

Air France/KLM Lounge IAD (which is also a Priority Pass Lounge) restricting access.

Are Airport Lounges Worth It?

As with many travel preferences, whether or not airport lounges are worth it will depend on your personal priorities and travel habits. The ability to enjoy a drink, snack or even meal, Wi-Fi, clean restrooms and have a place to sit away from the hustle and bustle of the airport terminal is always enjoyable. Some lounges, such as the super premium Lufthansa First Class Lounge or the United Polaris Lounge are definitely amazing experiences to visit, if you can find a way to get in.

Perhaps though, the larger question is whether airport lounges are worthwhile when faced with long wait times such as for the American Express Centurion Lounges or Delta SkyClubs. If you have lounge access but no lounge will let you in, do you really have access at all?

That said, there are often plenty of lounge options—the American Express Platinum card alone provides access to Lufthansa lounges when flying Lufthansa, Delta lounges when flying Delta, American Express Centurion Lounges and if you enroll for the included Priority Pass membership, a plethora more options.

While it’s possible you’ll encounter setbacks, the numbers favor fairly positive lounge experiences, except in those airports that have very limited options.

Find the Best Travel Credit Cards For 2023

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.

Learn More

(Video) Are airport lounges worth it? | Charlie & Hannah ☕

Bottom Line

Airport lounges are generally worth the effort to get in, whether as provided by your airline ticket, credit card or elite status. The benefits are truly there, from the basics like Wi-Fi, clean restrooms, beverages and a place to sit, to sit down meals and premium beverages.

Is it worthwhile to wait hours to access a lounge? No. Is it worthwhile to go to the airport hours early, just to experience the lounge? Depends. Stale crackers and cheap wine aren’t worth the trek, but it’s almost always worthwhile to get to the Lufthansa First Class Lounge (or Terminal) early enough to enjoy a nice meal, sip a premium beverage and maybe even partake of the cigar lounge.


1. Amex Platinum THE Best Airport Lounge Card Ever?! | Are Airport Lounges Worth It? (pt. 2)
(Ask Sebby)
2. Is Lounge Access worth buying?
3. How to Use PRIORITY PASS (Beginner’s Guide)
(Mark Reese // Credit & Finance)
4. Are AIRPORT LOUNGES Worth It? Testing the Business Lounge from Lufthansa at Amsterdam Airport
(Very unOfficial Travel Guides)
5. 5 Times You Should Pay for an Airport Lounge
(Wolters World)
6. How to Get Access to Airport Lounges
(Top Flight Family)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 03/02/2023

Views: 6605

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.