March 5, 2024

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From credit cards to memberships, these are the best ways for gaining airport lounge access

3 min read

United Polaris lounges, for instance, only allow fliers with tickets in its long-haul business class cabin to enter the rarefied spaces, which are at six US airports and are some of the slickest lounges around. Other ultra-exclusive lounges include British Airways’ Concorde Room, Air France’s La Premiere, Cathay Pacific’s The Pier, which all limit access to first-class passengers or the very top-tier status members.

But you don’t necessarily need to splash out on the most expensive seats to enjoy a lounge: A growing number of airlines are offering access to passengers in their premium economy cabins. The perk helps further distinguish this popular fare class from the regular economy class. Scandinavian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and LATAM all bestow complimentary lounge access to premium economy passengers across their networks of lounges. Be sure to check with your airline that you’ll have lounge access on your route before you book a premium economy ticket, as some carriers limit premium economy passengers to specific locations.

Premium credit cards

Holding the right travel credit card is a savvy way of ensuring you’ll have entry to a wide scope of airport lounges. Lounge access is now a standard – and beloved – perk on most premium reward cards, so much so that a growing number of credit card companies are launching their own concepts to entice card members.

One of the best credit card options to secure airport lounge access is The Platinum Card from American Express (which carries a £650 annual fee). This card will grant you complimentary access to coveted Centurion Lounges around the world. These high-end spaces offer travellers a glamorous respite from chaotic terminals, with many offering amenities like shower suites, spas, and tranquillity areas for relaxing or napping.

There are currently 13 of these swanky lounges in the US and 14 locations in airports abroad, though the network is rapidly expanding, with new Centurions slated to open in busy hubs like Atlanta and Washington DC (DCA) in the coming months. AmEx also recently announced that a Centurion location will be opening in New Jersey’s Newark Airport Terminal A in 2026, complete with a jazz-era cocktail bar and a piano lounge with live music.

Centurion loyalists love the spaces for their focus on an upscale atmosphere and delectable food and craft cocktails that are inspired by the local cuisine. In fact, there are so many fans of the lounges that overcrowding has been a problem. To rectify the issue, AmEx tightened up the guest policy in Centurion lounges back in February 2023: Guests are now charged $50 per visit (kids two and under are $30, with proof of age); previously, cardholders were allowed to bring in two friends or family members for free. The only way to avoid those guest fees is to spend at least $75,000 on your card annually.

Platinum cardholders also have access to Delta Sky Clubs and thousands of other airport lounges through Priority Pass Select (enrollment required, terms apply).

The bar inside London Heathrow's Centurion Lounge

The bar inside London Heathrow’s Centurion Lounge

Helen Abraham 

Buy a Priority Pass membership

If a premium travel card isn’t an option, consider buying a lounge membership directly with Priority Pass, which opens the door to more than 1,400 airport lounges worldwide that you can access through Priority Pass’s mobile app. In the US, most participating lounges are independently operated. A handful of top business-class airline lounges participate at select airports.

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