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How to access the best airport lounges in the US
Find an oasis in the airport with comfy seats and other perks.
While access to airport lounges may be included for business class ticket-holders, here’s how the rest of us can unlock the complimentary refreshments, perks and serenity tucked away in a VIP airport lounge.
Using a credit card to get into the best airport lounges
Premium credit cards often come with complimentary lounge access — though the type of lounge you can access depends on your card. For example, with the The Platinum Card® from American Express, you get access to a variety of lounges, including the Centurion Lounge, the International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select lounges after you enroll.
But if you get a cobranded airline card, you’ll likely only get complimentary or discounted access to the airlines’ lounges, such as Delta Sky Club access with Delta cards, United Club access with a United card or Admirals Club access with an American Airlines card.
Consider applying for a credit card that gives you access to the lounges you visit most often.
Compare credit cards that offer lounge access
Credit cards are among the best ways to enjoy travel rewards and perks — including access to airline lounges.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Other ways to access airport lounges
If you’re not interested in opening a credit card, here’s how you can still gain entry to airport lounges.
1. Reach elite status
Reaching one of the top tiers of a frequent flyer program can unlock discounts on lounge passes or give you free access to select lounges. For example:
- MileagePlus Premier Gold and higher status. This United Airlines elite status grants free access to United Club lounges if you have a same-day boarding pass for an international flight operated by a Star Alliance member airline. You can access the lounge at departure, during connections and upon arrival.
- SkyTeam Elite Plus status. SkyTeam Elite Plus includes Delta Gold Medallion and higher status tiers with the Atlanta-based airline. This tier can get you free access to Delta Sky Club before departing with a SkyTeam carrier. You can also get free access upon arriving at an airport if you’re connecting to another SkyTeam flight.
2. Active military personnel
Active duty military members in uniform, with present leave orders or with rest and recuperation papers can get free access to some lounges, such as:
- United Club. Access United Club locations on the same day they when traveling on a United or United Express flights. All you need is military ID, your boarding pass and supporting documentation for entry. Family members also get free access.
- Admirals Club. American Airlines Admirals Club is available for US military personnel traveling in uniform on American Airlines flights. The only exception is the Airspace Lounge in San Diego (SAN) and JAL Sakura Lounge in Honolulu (HNL). All you need is military ID and your American Airlines flight boarding pass. Family members also get free access.
3. Enter as the guest of your traveling companion
If you’re traveling with a companion that has a credit card with complimentary lounge access or a lounge membership, you can often access the lounge free-of-charge or at a discount.
4. Purchase a day pass or annual membership
The Best Airline Lounges in the US
These lounges are known for offering best-in-class complimentary food and beverages, along with high-speed Wi-Fi. Here’s a guide to help you compare extra perks, locations and airport lounge reviews.
|Airports (US)||Special perks||Credit cards that grant complimentary access||Airport lounge reviews|
|Amex Centurian Lounge||12||CLT, DFW, IAH, LAS, LAX, MIA, LGA, PHL, SFO, SEA||According to first person reviews on travel blogs around the web, Centurian lounges are generally considered the best in the biz. The food and drinks are as close to gourmet as you’ll find in any airport lounge within the US, and the decor is glitzy and posh. |
That said, they’re not always easy to access. Sometimes, Centurian lounges are located outside of security, or in the international terminal.
|Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse||9||BOS, EWR, IAD, JFK, LAX, SFO|
Partner lounges: ATL, LAS, MIA, MCO, SEA
*The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Washington Dulles (IAD) and Newark (EWR) can both be accessed with a Priority Pass membership
|According to reviews on TripAdvisor, these clubhouses are known for having chic, upscale decor and a cosmopolitan vibe. The Heathrow and JFK Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses are particularly popular, as both feature sit-down table service.|
However, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse has the smallest amount of total lounges, so folks looking for widespread access may want to look elsewhere.
|Delta Sky Club||45||ATL, AUS, BOS, BNA, CVG, DCA, DEN, DFW, DTW, FLL, HNL, IND, JAX, JFK, LGA, LAX, MCO, MEM, MKE, MIA, MSP, MSY, ORD, PBI, PDX, PHL, PHX, RDU, SLC, SAN, SFO, SEA, TPA||Delta Sky Club lounges are generally beloved for their convenience and customer service. According to Reddit, guests appreciate the concierge assistance for missed or delayed flights. |
Just keep in mind that Delta lounges are notoriously exclusive. You’ll need to be a loyal Delta flyer to make one of these memberships worth it.
|Alaska Airlines Board Room||50||ANC, JFK, LAX, PDX, SEA|
*Except for Seattle and Portland locations, you can access Alaska Airlines lounges with any credit card that includes Priority Pass.
|Decor in Alaska Airlines lounges is inspired by the Northwest, with leather chairs and rustic details. If you’re a frequent flyer with this airline, you’ll likely enjoy the comfortable setting and tasty beverages, according to reviews around the web.|
|American Airlines Admirals Club||50||ATL, AUS, BOS, CLT, DCA, DEN, DFW, HNL, IAH, LAX, MIA, BNA, JFK, LGA, EWR, MCO, PIT, PHL, PHX, ORD, RDU, SFO, SNA, STL, TPA||Some Redditors praise the Admirals Club for offering a quiet space with just enough creature comforts to relax and recharge. Other travelers, however, complain about the lack of made-to-order food options. |
Admirals Club lounges are also rather exclusive. The only way to get in is with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® or elite status with American Airlines (aside from the standard ways, like purchasing a day pass, having a first-or business-class ticket, or being a military member).
|United Club||45||ATL, AUS, BOS, CLE, DFW, DEN, DCA, EWR, FLL, HNL, IAD, IAH, LAS, LAX, LGA, MSP, MSY, MCO, ORD, PHL, PHX, PDX, RDU, SAT, SAN, SFO, SEA, SNA|
*Priority Pass also inludes access to most United Club lounges
|Overall, users on reddit agree that the United Club Polaris lounge at O’Hare airport in Chicago is a true standout. Otherwise, the general consencus is that United Club membership is most beneficial to people who travel 15+ times per year. |
The ability to access newspapers and magazines is a perk, as are the staff on hand to help with delays and layovers. Frequent United flyers may benefit most from this membership.
There are many ways to access airport lounges for free or with a discount. If you’re a frequent traveler, the most cost-effective way is to use a credit card with lounge access. This way, you’ll get lounge access, along with other card perks, such as earning rewards, getting priority boarding, free checked bags and more.
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