If you’ve been traveling long enough, airport lounges, with their comfortable chairs, relative quiet, and showers—showers!—begin to look like paradise. But traditional airport lounges have their downsides.
The biggest is cost: entry will set you back either the price of a first- or business-class ticket, a lounge membership fee, or the annual fee of a platinum credit card. For all but the most frequent travelers, that’s hard to justify. Some lounges do allow you to pay for one-off access, but that’s much easier for domestic lounges than international. And even if you have access to one airline’s lounge, you’re out of luck at the wrong airport or even the wrong terminal.
Lounge area with lit lamps and heating elements
To meet the needs of travelers who need a one-off dose of comfort wherever they’re flying—and are prepared to pay for it—the independent travel lounge has emerged. Unaffiliated with any airline, these lounges permit access for an hourly or daily fee. The concept is popular, and more lounges are being added to airports all the time, but here are some of the best.
Airspace Lounge, Terminal 5, JFK Airport
Since it’s Terminal 5’s only lounge, it’s just as well the Airspace Lounge is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fees, which start from $25. Airspace also has locations in Cleveland, Baltimore, and San Diego, and ambitious expansion plans for the rest of the country.
With a minimalist, blond-wood interior, subdued lighting, and a full bar lit by cool blue glass, it’s a very modern take on the old-school airport lounge. The free stuff includes tea, coffee, soft drinks, wifi, printing and scanning, and showers. Note that the Airspace Lounge is after security at Terminal 5, and access is only permitted with a Terminal 5 boarding pass.
No.1 Traveller, Gatwick Airport, London
If you’ve ever taken the long, long, ride from London out to West Sussex, you’ll know that what awaits you at Gatwick can be a little underwhelming. So it’s good to know that No.1 Traveller has a lounge at both Gatwick’s North and South Terminals.
The entry fee isn’t cheap at £25 (about $38 US) but comes with complimentary food and free drinks from the bar, as well as the comfortable seating and wifi you might come to expect. If you book ahead, you get access to Premium Lane Security—a perk worth paying for at any chaotically busy European airport.
The lounge in the North Terminal, where Gatwick’s longer-haul flights depart, also has showers, a spa, and a cinema. Both lounges are good places to relax, with leather couches and marble floors at the North Terminal, and runway views from both. No.1 Traveller also has lounges at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Travelers have access up to three hours before their flight.
Plaza Premium Lounge, Hong Kong International Airport
Plaza Premium has Hong Kong Airport covered, with lounges in the West and East Halls of Terminal 1, an Arrival Lounge at the check-in facility at Terminal 2, plus a shower, relaxation and spa facility and two salons.
Both lounges favor hushed, muted tones, plush lounges and carpets, as well as a range of Asian and international food, and showers. The West Hall lounge features stunning airport views, while the East offers oxygen therapy for travelers who’ve spent too long at 30,000 feet. Two-hour packages start at HKD480 (about $62 US) with cheaper shower and breakfast packages available.
Wingtips Lounge, Terminal 4, JFK International Airport
Three big advantages justify the $50 price tag on the Wingtip Lounge (formerly the Oasis Lounge): it’s a refuge from the slow-motion nightmare of JFK’s Terminal 4, there’s a self-service bar, showers, and excellent runway views which make for great planespotting. The décor is somewhat more basic than other places we’ve covered—it has a kind of mid-range hotel buffet vibe—but the service is consistently rated highly by passengers. It’s after security on the right at Terminal 4, and can be a little hard to find—not necessarily a bad thing for an airport lounge in a busy terminal.
The Club at DFW, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
The Club at DFW offers non-membership based airline lounges around the United States, and the best of them is widely thought to be the one in Dallas. At $35, it’s reasonably priced, and also offers a self-service bar, showers, snacks, wifi, TVs—all the amenities you’d expect by now. Near Gate D22, it does close relatively early, a disadvantage for night travelers and layover sufferers.
If you’re looking for a ride to the airport—and the comfort of these lounges—be sure to book a ride with us.