Why actually join an airline lounge?

There's been a bit of blog chatter lately about a special Alaska Airlines is running - offering a 5,000 miles bonus - to join the Alaska Board Room (their airport lounge club).  The basic membership costs $450 for a year, though could be as low as $295 if you have high status on the carrier.

American, Delta, United and US Air all have about the same rate card for joining their clubs.

I scratch my head as to why anyone would pay this sort of money to join a single lounge.  I enjoy and value lounge access - but simply access most of these lounges with my American Express Platinum Card.  In fact, for the $450 fee on Amex Platinum, I can access the American, Delta, US Air and Alaska clubs.  The only major US carrier that I don't get lounge access to via Amex is United (though I get unpaid United access through different means).

Amex reduces the cost further through a $200 annual credit which I can use to buy gift certificates on my carrier of choice which work towards airfare, reducing the net annual fee to $250.  This $250 net fee gets you access to pretty much all US carriers' lounges except United.

Unless you are an exclusive United flyer, I struggle to see why anyone wouldn't just use Amex Platinum as their means of lounge entry.

The only slight drawbacks that I can see to my approach are:

  • American, Delta and Alaska allow you to enter their clubs if you are a proper member (versus Amex access guest), even if you are not flying on that airline.  (US Air allows Amex access even if you are not flying US Air.)  So, at an airport like SEA, where you could access any club once you are airside, actual Alaska membership could be helpful.  This wouldn't help you much at airports like LAX or JFK, however, where there are separate terminals without airside connectivity.
  • Lore has it that some lounge staff will pro-actively re-book local members in times of IROPS.  While I cannot say this never happens, this seems to be a limited and haphazardly applied benefit, at best.

If the lure of the points calls you to join the Board Room, note that Amex currently offers a 25k signup bonus on the Platinum card right now.  (I won't offer a referral link; I'm not in the credit card business at present.)


matt December 16, 2012 at 05:32 pm

AS access via amex is via priority pass, so no need to be flying them to use them either.

What a regular membership would give you is the ability to bring in a guest at no charge in that situation.

UPGRD booked us on great flights from SF to Madrid ... and we really liked having access to the lounges.

That said, I don't think we were able to spend more than about 45 minutes in any of the lounges.

So it's great to have .. but not sure ... for the amount we travel .. that it's worth spending too much money to have lounge access

Ira Serkes

Robert October 16, 2013 at 02:13 pm

I prefer the Delta Amex Reserve card. Since it gives 15k MQM miles @ 30k$ spend, plus a free companion ticket and Skyclub access. For me, 99% of my flying is Delta anyways.