Airport lounges are still worth it.
However, these airline hub havens have come under scrutiny lately. And for good reason.
We’ll explore what is and what will be happening with airport lounges — both good and bad — while also giving you some tips on how to use the lounges in a more satisfying way.
Plus, we will show you two of our segments on lounges, one during the pandemic, and one that is showing the new travel trend that will give you more choices of lounges.
Haven During Flight Delays
Overall, our experience with airport lounges has been very good. I can recall numerous times using the lounge as my refuge from bad weather or flight delays for hours.
We flew back from Vieques while North Carolina was being hit by a snowstorm. So, we were stuck in Charlotte Airport CLT overnight. No, the lounges do not provide sleeping quarters. But they kept us fed, relaxed, and our devices powered up until 10 PM when we hit the cots with hundreds of others near the exit gates.
In addition, to being a home away from home, these lounges have also been a workspace for us. I have written or reviewed TV and video scripts for upcoming shoots, edited TV shows and segments, as well as articles we’re posting — like this one — in the seclusion of these lounges.
Centurion Lounges offer well-equipped workstations, high-speed Wi-Fi, and quiet areas. Find a comfortable spot and make use of the lounge’s business facilities.
Undercover Jetsetter disclaimer here: we primarily use the American Express Platinum Card that gives free access to the Centurion Lounges which are growing, and also to Priority Pass, which gets us to many lounges worldwide that are not directly connected to American Express. You can also get Priority Pass through Chase credit cards. Although we’ve never used Chase, many of our Jetsetters have praised the Chase Sapphire Lounges, which are also expanding. We have no endorsement deals with either of these cards.
Overall, these credit cards provide a chance to relax, have a good cocktail or the choice of good wine, a breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and a get-away from crowds rushing from gate to gate.
Despite these relaxing amenities, the ease of travel that we remember from only a few years ago is not as apparent right now.
Lounges Take A Hit Post Pandemic
As a result, airport lounges take a lot of scrutiny for overcrowding and some new restrictions in the post pandemic travel era.
For instance, American Express will no longer allow you to bring a visitor for free unless you’ve spent more than $75,000 a year on your card.
Here’s why the lounge scene has changed and become more restrictive.
Post pandemic travel surge: since the start of 2023 many people just want to go on vacation anywhere at any time. As a result, you rarely find an uncrowded airport. Demand definitely outstretched supply.
Exclusive Access: because American Express Centurion Lounges are limited to Platinum and Centurion cardholders, it creates a sense of exclusivity that everyone wants. And, going back to supply and demand, this increases demand, especially during peak travel seasons and times.
Expanding Membership: more travelers recognize the benefits of American Express Platinum and Centurion cards; the number of eligible cardholders has grown before and after the pandemic. This increase in membership naturally leads to higher footfall within the lounges.
Enhanced Services: the exceptional amenities and services provided by Centurion Lounges have garnered widespread acclaim. From gourmet dining options to spa treatments, these offerings attract travelers seeking a premium experience, contributing to the lounge’s popularity. And you just sit there and enjoy.
New Travel Era
Granted, we are in a new era of travel that has brings some good things and some bad.
The bad side: more people are traveling more often and the airline industry and the nation’s airports have not kept up with expansion.
A good example is the Charlotte CLT International. Many times, my flights to and from Charlotte are delayed as my flight sits on the runway for 30 to 60 minutes before takeoff or before getting to an open arrival gate.
Here’s the good side: major airlines are beginning to use smaller airports; and new airlines – like Avello and Breeze — are starting-up.
And, all these airlines – established and new — are creating easier flights from smaller airports.
The result: many smaller airports are getting airport lounges.
A good example we found is at Palm Beach International PBI in West Palm Beach, Florida. We recently spent time in the Escape Lounge which is also connected to the American Express Centurion Lounges. These are becoming more prevalent. You can see our segment at the bottom of this article.
Travel Tips Plus a Bonus at CLT
So, how can you use all these lounges more effectively?
Plan Ahead and Arrive Early: research the operating hours and location of the lounges in your departure airport. Aim to arrive with ample time before your flight to make the most of the lounge’s offerings and avoid unnecessary rush. Sometimes I will take a later departing flight from Charlotte so I can guarantee to get some downtime at the lounge.
Bonus tip at CLT: the Centurion Lounge is between Gates D and E. When you get to the elevator to go up to the lounge, notice to the right there is a stairway. Here’s the tip. Take the stairway. The elevator is usually crowded and takes a while. You can bypass a lot of people to get into the lounge quicker.
Access Requirements: It’s not a bad idea to check with American Express or Chase to make sure they haven’t changed any requirements for your type of credit card and if you are bringing in guests.
Beat the Crowds: consider visiting during off-peak hours or exploring alternative lounges if available. Early morning or late-night flights often offer a quieter atmosphere, allowing you to enjoy the lounge’s amenities without the hustle and bustle.
Utilize the Amenities: Centurion Lounges provide an array of other amenities such as spa services. I am always calling the American Express concierge service to ask numerous questions and to get clarifications. They are very accommodating.
Enjoy our two segments here. The first is on the Centurion Lounge at Charlotte International Airport CLT.
The second one is the Escape Lounge at Palm Beach international PBI.
Tell us your experiences in airport lounges.
John Daly and Susan Anzalone are the Co-Creators and Co-Hosts of Undercover Jetsetter, a show on travel, food, wine, mixology and, of course, golf. They show you how to jet set the world and at home. They also co-authored the book, The TV Studio In Your Hand: How to Shoot, Edit & Deliver the Easy Way on Your iPhone. Join them for tips and hacks on the road, at home, or in the kitchen. Yes, as you will see, all on the iPhone. Plus, you can travel with them or find some great travel deals they have by going to JetsetterDeals.com