You know the feeling. You get to the airport early and have to wait over 2 hours for the gate to be called, so you spend the whole time wandering around, sitting on uncomfortable chairs and having maybe one too many drinks.
It’s all too common, and it’s not the nicest experience before jetting off for some relaxation. But, what if I said you could spend that time in a lounge with all the food and drink you wanted - and it might actually save you money? If you don’t believe me, I’ve done the sums.
What’s the average spend at an airport?
According to a survey conducted by travel insurance firm Columbus Direct, before even boarding a flight, the average passenger spends £52 on food, drink, snacks and entertainment such as books and magazines.
That may seem high, but when you add everything up - you can quickly see why.
If you wanted a sit-down Full English breakfast at an airport restaurant, it’ll cost you a pretty penny. Wetherspoons at Gatwick airport and Giraffe at airports nationwide are both charging over £10 for your breakfast grub. Adding a pre-flight beer or wine into the mix will cost another £4. So just to sit down for breakfast starts your total at £14. Popping down to Boots and grabbing a meal deal for the flight (up to £4.99), along with some sweets, crisps and snacks (£5) and maybe a magazine on top (£3) - there’s another £13 spent. Just those few things and you’re already £27 out of pocket.
Choosing to have more than one drink or a tea or coffee from Starbucks in-between and you’re looking at between £30-£40 while you’re waiting for your plane. But is this really the best way to spend your money (and time)? You probably know what my answer will be - but read on anyway!
What do airport lounges offer?
If you fly in business, first class or are a frequent flyer of an airline, you usually get access to a super-exclusive airline lounge which nobody else can access. There are, however, airport lounges which passengers can pay to enter at almost all major airports.
These may not be as swanky with cocktails and caviar, but they’re a nice escape with free food, drinks, snacks, a comfy chair and plenty of places to charge your phone, while away from the hustle and bustle.
You can eat as much food as you like - most of them are buffet style, so you can help yourself. Drinks are free including alcohol (though some do charge extra for champagne and cocktails, so check first). To top it off, some have extras such as games rooms, magazines and showers for you to enjoy.
In short, you could go to one of the lounges, have a breakfast buffet, with a few drinks, take some snacks with you for the flight and even take a magazine or two. Everything that you would’ve done out in the terminal, but in a much nicer environment without the stresses of the terminal. Like most things, you can get a nicer lounge for a higher price, but even the cheapest lounges do everything you need (and you can eat and drink to your heart's content).
A typical airport lounge pass would include the following:
- Unlimited buffet-style food
- Unlimited drinks - choice of soft and alcoholic drinks
- Selection of snacks
- Comfortable seating
- Plug point access
- Some lounges offer shower and games room facilities
According to a survey conducted by travel insurance firm Columbus Direct, the average passenger spends £52 on food, drink, snacks and entertainment while waiting to board their flight.
How much does an airport lounge cost?
The cheapest airport lounges for major airports in the UK start at £21.50 for adults and £18.49 for children. Prices vary depending on the airport, and even different terminals can mean different prices. For the bulk of the UK airports that I’ve looked at, they compare well to normal spending in the terminal although prices have increased.
Airport lounge prices in major UK airports
|UK Airport||Lounge||Adult price||Child price|
|Belfast George Best||Aspire Lounge||£22.99||£18.49|
|Bristol International||Aspire Lounge||£34.99||£18.99|
|East Midlands||The Escape Lounge||£26.99||£19.99|
|Edinburgh International||Aspire Lounge||£34.99||£18.99|
|Glasgow International||Upper Deck Lounge||£27.00||£19.00|
|Leeds Bradford||The Yorkshire Lounge||£30.00||£20.00|
|Liverpool John Lennon||Aspire Lounge||£31.99||£18.49|
|London Gatwick (North)||The Gateway Lounge||£28.99||£20.00|
|London Gatwick (South)||Club Aspire Lounge||£29.50||£18.49|
|London Heathrow (T3)||Club Aspire Lounge||£35.00||£20.00|
|London Heathrow (T5)||Club Aspire Lounge||£40.00||£40.00|
|London Luton||Aspire Lounge||£31.99||£18.49|
|London Stansted||The Escape Lounge||£29.99||£22.50|
|Manchester International (T1)||The Escape Lounge||£28.99||£18.99|
|Manchester International (T2)||The Escape Lounge||£30.99||£22.99|
|Manchester International (T3)||The Escape Lounge||£29.99||£19.49|
Depending on your spending at the airport, these prices can work out around the same (or cheaper) than grabbing breakfast, a few drinks and snacks at the airport. Although it is worth comparing lounge prices to how much you are planning to spend at the airport as the costs can soon add up if you are a family of four.
If you decide when you get to the airport that you would like to enjoy a lounge, you can also try your luck to see if there are any spaces on the day, although booking in advance is recommended. In some lounges, children under the age of 2 also get complimentary access which is worth considering and can save you money compared to airport spending.
If you’re travelling internationally, you can book lounges in advance too - so you can pay in pounds and know you’ll be well-fed when you’re waiting for your flight home.
What type of airport lounge passes are available and where can you buy them?
There are two types of airport lounge passes available and they are:
One-time passes - Passes should be bought in advance as prices invariably increase and are much more expensive if you buy at the door. Additionally, lounges might get busy, so purchasing in advance secures your spot. Passes can be bought from websites such as Lounge Pass and Lounge Buddy; always ensure you shop around for the best deal.
Annual membership lounge access packages - If you travel more frequently, you can get an annual membership to lounges worldwide. There are various packages available and we break down 3 of the packages below.
What annual membership lounge access packages are available?
Leading online lounge access site Priority Pass, which covers 1,300 lounges, offers 3 different annual membership packages in order to help frequent travellers save money. We summarise the packages below:
Standard package: £69 - Access to all lounges worldwide for £24 for you and guests.
Standard plus package: £229 - 10 free lounge passes for you, and £24 thereafter. £24 for guests at all times.
Prestige package: £419 - Free unlimited access to lounges. £24 for guests. Can be worthwhile for frequent travellers.
With the average pre-flight airport spend totalling more than £50, paying to access an airport lounge can, in many cases end up saving you money. It is worth mentioning however that some bank accounts and credit cards offer free lounge passes when you sign up, so make sure you do some research beforehand to ensure you’re getting the best deal and don’t be swayed just by the sign-up bonuses.
So the next time you’re travelling abroad, instead of hanging around with the crowds, consider sneaking away for some peace.