The airport lounge ain’t what it used to be

In the Wingtips Lounge at JFK International Airport
In the Wingtips Lounge at JFK International Airport

By Eileen Ogintz

I’m sitting in a leather chair nursing a glass of complimentary wine deciding whether I’d like a complimentary sandwich, salad or some cookies as I wait for my KLM flight to Amsterdam at JFK –away from the scrum.

I’m not flying business class. I’m not a high roller. But I have access to the Wingtips lounge in Terminal Four —and more than 1,000 airport lounges in 500 cities around the world.

Welcome to PriorityPass.com land. I paid a $74 annual membership fee for the privilege and there is a $27 fee each for my family for lounge access. But if you need to work—as I’m doing right now, albeit with a glass of wine — have a young child, as does the woman a few seats away, or have a long layover, as we will in Amsterdam at 6 a.m., that can be a small price to pay. You could easily spend more the entrance fee on food and a drink at an airport restaurant.

That’s why Priority Pass says it has millions of members. “For frequent travelers, this means that when they are on short haul economy flights or when they can’t fly with their preferred airline, they are still able to rely on Priority Pass to access the comfort of a lounge,” said a Priority Pass spokesman.

And for those frequent travelers like me who travel different airlines and rarely fly business class with its perk of lounge access, this gives me a much needed respite while waiting for a long-haul flight—especially when airlines are advising passengers to get to airports extra early because of summer crowds and in the case of JFK, construction that is causing traffic snarls.

There is free wifi, soup, sandwiches, salads, snack, and all varieties of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks as well as an espresso/cappuccino maker. The lounges, of course, are different around the world, some better than others.

I downloaded the Priority Pass app, which stores my “digital” membership and makes it easy to search for a lounge I can use in the airport and the terminal where I am.

“Lounges are becoming more in demand as travellers look to take advantage of the airport experience,” with 53 per cent of travellers surveyed by Priority Pass saying they enjoy the time they spend in the airport, even arriving early, said a Priority Pass spokesman. He said this is part of a renewed focus on passenger experience by everyone from airport designers to retailers to restaurateurs. At the same time, he said, a big emphasis has been put on “creating sanctuaries” for passengers in advance of their flights.   In the Emirates lounge in Dubai, for example, there is a champagne bar and spa. BA lounges also offer spa facilities and more.

Priority Pass doesn’t limit the number of guests you can bring, though you typically have to pay the fee for each one. (Check to see the rules at each lounge.)

Unfortunately, as of yet, there isn’t a family pass.

Can I resist the cookies?

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