First Class Airport Lounges at Economy Prices

I’ll let you in on a secret. You don’t have to pay for first-class airfare to enjoy first-class airport lounges.

The first-class Emirates lounge in the Dubai airport (image: Boarding Area)

First-class lounges are the Shangri La of airports. Comfortable seating, complimentary food and drinks, free Wi-Fi, plentiful charging stations, and clean restrooms are just the beginning of their benefits. Some lounges also offer showers, nap rooms, spas, and full-service restaurants.

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A nap room in the Qatar Airways Al Safwa first-class lounge in the Doha airport (image: Boarding Area)

These are amenities airlines are happy to provide for passengers paying thousands of dollars for round-trip airfare. But what happens if you’re a budget traveler with an economy ticket?

Behold Priority Pass.

With access to more than 1,000 lounges in 500 cities across 130 countries, Priority Pass unlocks access to all of the first-class benefits for travelers in every seat on the plane.

Annual memberships are $99 USD per person, and each lounge visit costs $27 USD. Frequent travelers should consider either a Standard Plus membership for $249 USD that includes 10 free visits (subsequent visits are $27 USD apiece) or a Prestige membership, which is $399 USD annually and includes unlimited lounge visits. With any membership level, guests can join you for $27 USD per person per visit.

When you consider what a typical airport restaurant meal and a drink or two plus tip will cost you, these fees start to look like a bargain.

I opted for a Standard Plus membership and brought Mike as my guest when we traveled together. We’ve had some delicious meals accompanied by Scotch and Champagne, all of which were included in the pass. Ben joined us for a couple of visits as well, and he definitely got his money’s worth in snacks and soft drinks!

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(image: No1 Lounges)

Perhaps more than the complimentary Champagne, I enjoy the lounges for their ambiance. Even when they’re filled to capacity, which sometimes happens, they are still a lovely oasis away from the hustle and bustle of air travel. (Don’t forget to check our seven tips for surviving long flights!)

Every first-class lounge has its own set of rules; some don’t allow children under a certain age, while others limit your stay to a couple of hours to help manage the crowds. Be sure to check the Priority Pass website to see which airports and lounges are included and what the restrictions are before you invest in a membership.

Also be sure to check your credit card benefits. If you have airline-affiliated cards like we do, you may already be entitled to a couple of free passes that renew annually in addition to the miles you’re earning.

However you get there, we’ll see you in the first class lounge!