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How to gain access to the best lounges in the US
Five ways to access airport lounges.
For many travelers, airport lounges are a blissful escape within a hectic airport. They often provide delicious meals, complimentary Wi-Fi and even shower suites. While first- and business-class ticket holders get into these VIP lounges for free. access can be more challenging for the rest of us. But there are other ways to get into airport lounges for free or with a discount.
Using a credit card to get into the best airport lounges
Premium credit cards often come with complimentary lounge access, though the kind of lounges you can access depends on your card. For example, if you get 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.
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.
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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.
Other ways to access airport lounges
Getting a credit card with lounge access is one of the best ways to enter airport lounges for free or with a discount. But there are other ways you can access airport lounges, too.
1. Reach elite status
Rising in the ranks of a frequent flyer program can get you 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 can get you 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 equals Delta Gold Medallion and higher status tiers. This tier can get you free access to Delta Sky Club when traveling on a SkyTeam carrier on international flights on departures. You can also get free access on arrival airports 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 boarding pass of your American Airlines flight. Family members also get free access.
3. Enter as a guest to a traveling companion’s lounge access
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 either free of cost or at a discount.
4. Purchase a day pass or annual membership
Your final option is the obvious one — purchase a day pass or an annual membership if you often travel.
The Best Airline Lounges in the US
Use your credit card or your first- or business-class ticket to access epic airline lounges around the country. Do your research to learn whether you can put these awesome lounges on your next itinerary.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK
One of the best airline lounges in the United States, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK’s Terminal 4 offers guests the ultimate airport experience. This luxurious lounge provides guests with a variety of exclusive services:
- A complimentary made-to-order food and drinks menu of breakfast, tapas, burgers and more.
- An in-house Bumble & Bumble salon and spa offering complimentary haircuts and mini spa treatments using Dr. Hauschka products.
- Pool tables to pass time with friends or fellow guests.
Delta Sky Club at ATL
Located in Concourse B at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, this Delta Sky Club provides travelers with plenty of space and a quiet, relaxing environment. Accommodating up to 500 guests, it offers:
- An impressive wine wall and tastings, with wines selected by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.
- A newly enhanced menu designed by award-winning Chef Linton Hopkins.
American Airlines Admirals Club at SFO
Nestled within newly renovated Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport, the Admirals Club is an oasis away from the crowds of this busy airport. With floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll have an undisturbed view of the taxiways and San Francisco Bay, along with:
- Complimentary Wi-Fi and power points to catch up on work or social media.
- Food and drinks for purchase.
- Shower suites for freshening up before the next leg of your adventure.
Alaska Airlines Board Room
You might think only large airlines attach their names to the best lounges. But the Alaska Airlines’ unique Board Room at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will blow you away with:
- Complimentary food and snacks, along with its famous pancakes.
- Beverages and cocktails, serving everything from a good cup of coffee to stronger libations.
- Productivity tools that include complimentary Wi-Fi, quiet workstations and conference rooms.
Virgin America Loft at LAX
Another popular, chic airline lounge is the Virgin America Loft at LAX. Made for a more mature crowd, this lounge turns away anyone under the age of 12. It offers guests:
- A fully stocked bar in which to unwind after a long flight.
- Made-to-order food, from pizza to cheeseburgers.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi.
United Club in ORD
Chicago’s often wild weather can result in serious delays for travelers. Where better to spend your time than in the United Club lounge that offers guests:
- Complimentary food and drinks while waiting for your flight.
- Shower suites and a full set of refreshing amenities.
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.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
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