The 7 dos and don’ts in an airport lounge

Dec 24, 2020

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Airport lounges can be a great way to relax before your flight — there’s usually food and drink available, a quiet, comfortable place to sit and you can charge up your devices or maybe get some last-minute work done before your flight. Some really good lounges may also have amenities like a spa or a la carte dining.

If you’ve never been in a swanky airport lounge before, here are simple dos and don’ts to help you maximise your experience.

Note though that due to COVID-19 rules some lounges may not be open at the moment, so do check before you go to avoid disappointment.

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1. Do your homework in advance

Depending on the airport you are flying from and the ticket or status you hold, you may have access to more than one lounge. Flying on a British Airways Club Europe flight from Heathrow Terminal 3? Did you know you have access to four different lounges run by four different airlines that vary enormously in quality? (Note that Heathrow Terminal 3 remains closed at this time.) Before you travel, check the following online in advance:

  • Which lounges you have access to.
  • Which is considered the best lounge of the options.
  • The location, opening hours and access policy of your preferred lounge(s) — you don’t want to spend ages wandering around trying to find a lounge that ends up being closed anyway.

Related: Which airlines serve the best champagne in first class lounges?

(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

2. Do arrive early enough to enjoy it

If you have access to a truly excellent lounge, like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow, you want to have enough time to enjoy it. It may not make sense to leave home at 4 a.m. just to have enough time for a cocktail before the sun has even risen, but if you have a flight at a more civilised hour, you should plan your check-in to allow enough time to experience everything. If check-in for your flight opens three hours before departure and it will take you about 30 minutes to check in, pass through security and walk to the lounge, this would then give you around 90 minutes there before boarding may start (depending on the aircraft type, airline, airport, etc). This is a good amount of time to explore the lounge and make the most of it.

Rushing in late with only five minutes to scoff down a sandwich and a drink isn’t going to be the most relaxing start to a flight.

Related: How early should you arrive at the airport before your flight if you have lounge access?

3. Do a full lap of the lounge on arrival

Even if you have visited a particular lounge before, the best place to sit might not be apparent when you first walk in. The seating near the entrance or the buffet may be busy and not so relaxing, whereas if you do a lap of the lounge you can not only get your bearings on where everything is (including things like bathrooms, charging points and possible runway views) but you might find a much quieter and more peaceful place to sit further back because other passengers just plonked themselves down in the first chair they saw.

However, new COVID rules do mean now that passengers get table service only and everyone is spread apart to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The above refers to during “normal times.”

CALIFORNIA, USA:Refreshed British Airways lounge at San Francisco international airport on 03 July 2019 (Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)
(Photo by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

4. Don’t take your eye off the time

Many lounges — especially independent, third-party lounges — will not make any boarding announcements in the lounge. If you are enjoying yourself, time can really fly by and you might forget about the reason you travelled to the airport in the first place — to get on a flight. Neither the lounge nor the airline will be very sympathetic if you miss the flight because you were having too much fun. Set an alarm for boarding time on your phone before you enter the lounge if need be.

As well as keeping my eye on the time, I like to Google my flight number, which means my phone will then provide updates for things like delays and gate allocations or changes.

Related: Missing my flight home for Christmas: TPG travel mistake story

5. Don’t disturb the peace

FaceTiming loved ones back home? Watching a funny video someone sent you with a crying face emoji? Taking an urgent business call? These are all fine to do in an airport lounge on one condition.

Wear headphones.

As much as you might love the sound of that baby’s laugh or a new song you can’t get out of your head with the amazing music video, those around you in the lounge want to enjoy the peace and quiet before their flight and they do not want to hear it.

And if you are taking a confidential business call that you don’t want strangers to hear (even if it’s only your side of the conversation), consider ducking into a meeting room or private space within the lounge — you never know who could be listening!

Related: The best Priority Pass lounges at Heathrow

(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)

6. Don’t miss out on a shower slot

A simple shower and change of clothes can make a world of difference in between long-haul flights and plenty of lounges have shower facilities for this purpose. But they can get really busy around 7 a.m. as hordes of travellers come off overnight flights and only have a few hours before their connecting flight. If you are planning to have a shower in an airport lounge, especially during the morning rush, it’s best to enquire about this as soon as you arrive in the lounge as there could be quite a wait for a slot.

You don’t want to ask towards the end of your lounge stay only to find out there’s an hour wait and you don’t have time to have one. Again, check if this facility is still available with new COVID rules.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

7. Don’t go overboard just because it’s free

There may be a temptation to eat and drink as much as you possibly can just because it is free. This can be a bad idea though — if you drink too much you might not even be allowed on the flight and if you eat too much you might ruin your appetite for what may be a great meal later. Or if you are planning to go straight to sleep on the plane you might struggle because you’re too full.

If you wouldn’t eat that much at home before bed, what is the benefit of doing so in an airport lounge?

Bottom line

Lounges can make your airport experience so much more enjoyable. It’s worth looking into how you can access them with your credit card, status or even whether it’s worth paying for access upfront. But as with any travel experience, there is certain etiquette that should be observed. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll get the most out of your lounge experience.

Featured image by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy

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