For the business traveler, Frequent Flyer programs are much more than just First Class upgrades and ticket rewards. The largest perk by far in the Frequent Flyer game is the airline lounges located in most major airports.
While definitely a convenient respite from the bustle encountered at most airports, most are also fully equipped business centers ready to become your satellite office and turn that layover into constructive work time.
Meet Me at the Airport
While club lounges provide quiet areas to place business calls and work on projects, many hold private conference rooms.
Airport conference centers are convenient meeting locations, and use is not limited to traveling club members. Flying into an airport and using the on-site facilities can potentially reduce commuting travel time and costs and facilitate in/out trips, eliminating the need for an overnight stay.
Airline conference rooms usually require advance reservations and/or rental fees. Non-flying conference attendees may access the lounges for scheduled meetings, but arrangements must be made to obtain passes and/or escorts to get non-ticketed individuals through airport security. Additional business equipment, such as flip charts and overhead projectors; and services, such as conference calls and catering, may be available with conference room rental at an additional charge. Be sure to discuss your particular needs with the individual airline when making reservations.
As with all good things, there are usually caveats.
Some benefits come with stipulations, and all benefits are subject to change at the discretion of the individual airline.
If you are flying on one airline but are a member of another’s club program, inquire with both your airline of travel and your airline of membership to ensure that you will have access to a lounge. If you are flying with a spouse, family member or colleague who is not a club member, make sure that guest privileges are available.
Confirm that the lounge is available for your intended use. Rules for use of the lounges vary by airline. For example, Delta only allows business meetings and job interviews to take place in rented conference rooms, not in general public areas.
On a Personal Note
With business club memberships, personalized concierge services are available at most airports. Business club attendants can facilitate everything from ticketing and seat assignment to helping you find hotel accommodations and restaurants in unfamiliar cities. In many of the busiest airports, business club members may find private security lines available to facilitate boarding.
Families traveling with members are generally welcome in the lounges. American’s Admirals Club and Continental’s Presidents Club have family rooms available at several locations.
Amenities at the various lounges are similar. Most have complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, internet access, copiers, and fax machines. Many have food and alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Current newspapers and periodicals are usually on hand.
Delta Airlines, as the Official Airline of the PGA Tour, offers a unique perk. Putting greens have been installed at Sky Club locations in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Orlando, Salt Lake City, Washington DC (National), and West Palm Beach. No clubs? No problem. Members will find top-of-the-line Nike Golf equipment available for their use.
The Bottom Line
Initial club fees range from $300 annually to $4,200 for a lifetime membership in Continental’s Presidents Club. Rates are often dependent on the level attained with an airline’s Frequent Flyer membership program. Renewals may be discounted. Most programs allow for reduced priced spousal memberships, which can also include spousal equivalents and domestic partners.
American, Delta, and United allow members to pay fees with accumulated miles.
Try It Before You Buy It
Many airlines offer first class passengers a pass to their club lounges. If not readily offered one, ask – especially if your flight is delayed. In addition, one-day passes may be available for purchase, and the cost is usually credited against a full membership price if purchased within a specified time after the one-day use. They run from $30 for Alaskan Airlines to $50 for entrance to American Airlines Admirals Club or Delta’s Sky Club. Delta also offers a 30-day pass for $90, and US Airways offers a 90-day pass for $120.
Where are They?
If you are flying into a hub city on a major airline, you can be assured that there is a lounge available. Many smaller airports are now housing club lounges as well, so check before you fly. Alaska Airlines has six lounges but provides access to 51 other locations through its affiliate program. Continental’s President Club operates 25 facilities but passengers can enter any of 159 other clubs through its partnerships with other airlines. Delta’s Sky Club consists of 58 lounges, with affiliate access to another 55.
Sources: All information was compiled from airline websites (Fall ’09) and deemed to be accurate at the time of publication but is not guaranteed.