Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Airport Lounges

We’re not ones to throw needless money at travel expenses. We’d rather save $500 on airfare so we can spend that much more on food, wine, or shopping at our destination. Yet even though we’re not road warriors, we’ve been eyeing airport lounges more and more. We see them as a way to reduce our travel stress, in the same way that a slightly higher-priced, premium-economy ticket may be worth it. For us, in today’s travel environment, stress-free travel is far more important than saving a small amount on the ticket price.

Since we’re not elite-level fliers on any airline, we’ve been looking into the Priority Pass program, which allows access to “over 500 airport VIP lounges in 90 countries and over 275 cities.” Priority Pass has different price options, but the least expensive two options are $99 per year and $27 per visit (with an additional $27 per guest); and a $249 plan which offers 10 free visits (but still $27 per guest).

Then, we wondered how to evaluate airport lounges themselves. Of course, there are plenty of “best airport lounge” surveys in the media, but the site LoungeGuide.net offers a wiki-type review forum of more than 507 world lounges. This is exactly what is needed for Priority Pass members wondering if while at Chicago O’Hare it’s better to spring for the Northwest, Continental, Delta, or Swiss lounges. (In general, we’d be inclined to vote for a foreign carrier’s lounge, but unfortunately the LoungeGuide site hasn’t yet reviewed the Swiss lounge.) Of course, proximity to your gate and the airline you’re on may influence your lounge choice even more than lounge amenities.