Depending on the airport and whether the flight is domestic or international, airlines ask their customers to arrive at the airport as long as three hours before a flight’s published departure time.
Those who follow the airlines’ guidelines—which are designed for worst-case scenarios—will typically be left with plenty of time after checking in and clearing the security check point.
So while the airline is security-processing their checked bags and stocking the plane with Cokes and Planters Peanuts, travelers are left to cool their heels in the departure area adjacent to the flight’s gate, sometimes for two or more hours.
Cynics have suggested that the uncomfortable wait before the flight is the airlines’ way of training customers to endure the upcoming discomfort of the flight itself. While that’s probably not strictly true, it accurately captures the unpleasantness of the pre-flight ritual.
There is an antidote to the noise and general chaos of the boarding area: the hushed luxury of an airport lounge. There, oblivious to the hubbub just outside the lounge doors, a select few enjoy cushy seats, computer work stations, complimentary cocktails, free Internet access, and so on.
The comfort and productivity come at a price, of course. Most airlines charge around $500 for a year’s worth of access to their airport lounges. That’s a significant expense, generally justifiable only by business travelers who fly often and need to make the most of their airport down time.
Through October 19, American is lowering the financial bar slightly for would-be lounge users, reducing the normal $500 annual fee by $70, a 14-percent discount.
Deal or No Deal?
American also offers a lounge day pass, for $50. So it only makes financial sense to purchase a full year’s membership at the regular price if you anticipate using the lounge 10 or more times during a 12-month period. With the discounted price, $430, you’ll beat the day-pass cost after nine lounge visits in a year. That’s still more trips than the great majority of travelers make.
Also bear in mind that the annual fee buys you access to American’s Admirals Club lounges in 38 airports worldwide, 23 of which are domestic, and 15 of which are in overseas airports. If your travel patterns don’t mesh with American’s route network, you won’t be able to fully utilize the lounges.
For the very few travelers who fly often enough within American’s network to make the annual fee cheaper than a year’s worth of day passes, this is a no-brainer.
For most travelers, however, the offer serves as a reminder that a day pass to the airport lounge may be just the ticket.