Travelers have a wide range of options when it comes to the airport clubs, whose lounges can offer some peace from often chaotic, warehouse-like airport terminals. Snacks and drinks are available for the taking, seating tends to be more comfortable and there's free Wi-Fi and lots of power outlets.
But whether it is worth it for the cost depends on how you are getting access and whether you are paying extra for it. Airport lounges are run by either airlines or a handful of private operators. While some are restricted to top-tier flyers, most allow travelers a variety of ways to get in:
* Membership through airlines or airline alliances: For instance, if you achieve gold status in the Star Alliance, (which includes United Airlines , Air Canada and Lufthansa) you are permitted access to more than 1,000 lounges worldwide as long as you fly on a member airline. Otherwise, you will pay about $300 to $700 a year, plus initiation fees (air miles can be used).
* A day pass: Prices are typically about $50, but advance-purchase deals for some can cut that in half.
* Route-specific: Some travelers are given entry to an airline's lounges along the route they are flying if they fly internationally on a first-class or business-class airline ticket or on certain transcontinental flights.
* Membership through cards: Fewer credit cards offer the perk now. Among those that still do: the American Express Platinum Card, through which you receive a complimentary membership to Delta's Sky Club network when flying on that airline, and you can apply for a free membership in the independent Priority Pass lounge network (worth $399) as part of the card's $450 annual fee. Also, Citi Executive/AAdvantage card holders get a membership worth $500 in American's Admirals Club included as part of their $450 annual fee.
What you get:At the estimated 2,000 lounges worldwide at more than 500 airports, services and amenities vary.For food, U.S. clubs will typically offer basic snacks like carrots, pretzels and apples, with a bit more in the mornings like pastries and yogurt, according to Tyler Dikman, founder of LoungeBuddy, an app with data on nearly 1,800 airport lounges. Beer and wine will be free, but travelers usually have to pay extra for top-shelf liquor domestically. Nearly half of lounges will have showers, he adds.
For the infrequent traveler or someone stuck waiting a long time for a connection, buying a day pass to a lounge could be a big benefit, particularly if you have work to do. Road warriors report that paying about $500 a year is money well spent to regroup when it is inconvenient to check into a hotel.