Travel Hack: How to Get Into Airport Lounges for Free (Free Snacks, Anyone?)

Image: How to Get Into Airport Lounges for Free
Matt @PEK/Flickr

Where would you rather spend your layover: in a less-than-comfortable airport chair fighting over electrical outlets and eating a $10 bagel… or in a luxury lounge complete with complimentary snacks, cozy couches and even showers?

Easy question. But while airport lounges are fantastic, they’re also super pricy: you’d need to buy a first- or business-class ticket, an annual membership or a $50+ day pass to step inside. What’s a Penny Hoarder to do?

Talk to Strangers

Not all of them — just the ones with lounge access. Most lounges allow members or people flying first class to bring in a guest. Since most of these people will be alone or with other first-class travellers, there’s a lot of lounge access going to waste!

For the best results, dress professionally, stand near (but not directly in front of) the lounge, and ask people if they’ll do you a favor and add you as their guest. Sure, it may not work the first time, but these lounges are worth risking a little embarrassment, right? Give it a few tries and you might be surprised, Susan says.

Plan Ahead and Choose the Right Credit Card

Credit cards give you all kinds of rewards – including access to airport lounges.

If you’ve got good credit and can hit the minimum spending requirements, check out the United MileagePlus Explorer card or the Chase Ink Bold business card for free passes to airport lounges.

Buy a First- or Business-Class Ticket

Before you jump all over us for recommending this very un-frugal strategy, listen to the rest of the plan: make 100% sure this ticket is fully refundable — read the fine print! — on a flight that leaves that same day. Then cancel it from the comfort of the lounge’s leather recliner with a free drink in your hand. Kindy sneaky and maybe your last resort… but it works.

Now you get to enjoy all the luxuries at no cost to you — though Susan cautions that your refund may not come through for a few days or weeks, so make sure that works for your financial situation.

Cheap — But Not Free — Options

If all else fails, plan ahead and buy a discounted pass straight from an airline’s website or from another traveler on eBay, Craigslist or FlyerTalk.

Your Turn: Have you ever experienced the wonders of a first- or business-class lounge? Will you try one of these strategies on your next trip?

Heather van der Hoop is the editor of A writer, editor and lover of the outdoors, her work has been featured on Brazen Careerist and The Write Life. Based in Kelowna, British Columbia, she enjoys playing along with Jeopardy! and climbing rocks, mountains, and trees.