Beginning back, another life ago, in my years of business travel, I have used the airline lounges in the U.S., as well as many foreign countries. Back in those days, the 80’s, it was a quiet place to work. We did not have smart phones, as we often waited in line to use the pay phones with our company credit cards. Laptops were not quite available, so I just wrote memos and letters, to be typed later by a secretary, or even by me.
My how things have changed! We evolved from shared computer stations and internet rooms, to laptops, and now tablets and smart phones. So, it is much noisier, mostly with people talking, too loudly, I might add. Whatever happened to phone etiquette?
Some lounges have “quiet” rooms, where cellphones and noise are prohibited. While it sounds good on the surface, the rules are rarely enforced. But it is better than not having a quiet room at all. Some trains on the east coast also have “quiet” cars.
The bare bones lounges, like United’s Red Carpet Room, now called United Club, offer coffee, soft drinks, water, cold snacks, cereal, and maybe some fruit. Alcoholic beverages are optional, for a fee, of course. And free newspapers and magazines.
When I graduated to the foreign airlines, like Singapore, or Air New Zealand, I found a completely different world. Beer, wine, and liquor are free, hot and cold dishes are constantly available, and changing. It is fun to sit and wait for the next surprise food item. But certainly fresh sushi, freshly prepared bowls of noodles, stir fry, and hot rice are welcome by me and others.
Even better, hot showers and grooming tools are most welcome on a longer layover. And it seems the range of newspapers, magazines, and books are a step up from domestic lounges. So, I always opt for a foreign airline’s lounge over a domestic airline lounge.
Through the years, I have found lounges that rank somewhere between United’s bare bones, and Singapore’s ultra wonderful. Some of the worst ones have been in Rangoon, Addis Ababa, and Bogota.
Aside from the food and beverage offerings, the comfort and quiet of the lounge is most important to me. I like to find a quiet corner, away from noise, TV’s, airline personnel, and children. If I can find that special little place, I can forego the nicer food and drink offerings. After all, I am trying to get away from the hustle and noise of the terminals.
Bottom line, all it probably translates to is having to spent too much time at airports. I regard it as part of the experience, so why not opt for better conditions?
Now the best question, do I pay extra for this? Yes and no. If I fly Business or First, whether by using mileage upgrades, or paying cash, I am paying for it. Do I “buy” an airline lounge membership? No longer, since I do not travel on business, nor as frequently as some of you believe.
There are a number of ways to score “free” lounge access. One, is by having a credit card that includes lounge access as part of its annual fee. Two, is to simply ask the gate attendant if your flight is delayed or cancelled. Three, is to be my or someone’s guest and flight companion. Four, just sneak in.