Airport lounges are terrific.
Not just for the free flowing drinks and grazing tables but also for things like the quiet nooks, showers, Wi-Fi, barista-made coffees and carts of freshly made juice. But if you're stuck without lounge access, you'll have to settle for finding a seat at the departure gate.
The easiest way to kick back in an airport lounge is to buy entry. Until recently, paid access was something that only really existed for non-airline lounges. The quality of which was hit and miss.
The good news is you don’t always need to be flying business class or have a Gold frequent flyer card to access lounges.
Passengers travelling on Emirates or Qantas can access the Emirates business-class lounges at Dubai for US$100. For US$200 you can even kick back in the first-class lounge. Qantas also offers non qualified frequent flyers the chance to buy a lounge access passes via email invitation.
Some airlines such as JAL allow passengers flying premium economy to access lounges. While Emirates’ Silver frequent flyer status, which is surprisingly easy to attain if you fly to Europe regularly, gives you access to its Dubai business lounges.
Credit cards are the best way to rack up frequent flyer points and get lounge access (60 per cent of frequent flyer points come from credit cards). However, they’ve recently hit a patch of severe turbulence.
From 1 July 2017, reward programs have been impacted as a result of legislative changes seeing interchange fees capped at 0.8 per cent. This means banks will make less profit from their cards and therefore have less money with which to reward card holders. As a result, earn rates have been reduced, limits have been placed on the transactions that attract points and caps imposed on the value of transactions that do earn points.
American Express-badged cards issued by banks are affected by these changes but cards issued by American Express itself aren’t and their earn rates are expected to be unchanged. Standalone loyalty cards such as Coles Flybuys and Woolworths Frequent Flyer are also unaffected.
Business travellers using American Express cards can also take advantage of the American Express lounge in international departures at Sydney Airport. The good news is you don’t need a business class ticket or high level frequent flyer membership to enter. The bad news is only some American Express-issued cards will get you through the door.
Partnering with a professional Travel Manager can also give you a leg up on lounge access through exclusive deals and offers.
If you’re really keen on getting into lounges join as many online forums as you can and keep an eye out for the latest credit card deals.
Should the worst come to the worst and no lounge access at all be forthcoming, just find a quiet seat at a café in a remote part of the airport, slip on the noise-cancelling headphones and lose yourself in a good book. And be kinder to the upgrade gods before your next flight.