If you’re flying Business Class or have shiny frequent flyer status, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to relax in a lounge before your flight. But did you know that sometimes, there might be several venues you can choose from? Your airline might point you to one specific lounge, but by knowing the rules, you could visit one that’s even better.
Some regular travellers know the rules like the back of their hand. But if you’re still learning, it’s really not very complicated. It mainly comes down to airline alliances and bespoke partnerships. Here’s what we mean.
The importance of alliances
Speaking of global alliances, this refers to oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. Many major airlines belong to one of these alliances. And for the most part, if you’re entitled to visit the lounge of one alliance airline, you’re allowed to visit the lounges of other alliance airlines as well.
Let’s say you’re flying Qantas Business from Singapore. By default, this gets you into Singapore’s Qantas International Business Lounge in Terminal 1. But British Airways has a lounge in Singapore too, and is a oneworld Alliance member. The same is true of Qatar Airways. Qantas doesn’t actively promote this, but your Qantas Business ticket unlocks all three. You could even visit the Cathay Pacific lounge, but it’s over in Terminal 4 – which is a lot less convenient.
But how could you know that beforehand, and plan in advance? Well, the oneworld website has a fantastic search tool. Type in any airport around the world and it’ll show which oneworld airlines have lounges there. Searching for Singapore, for instance, reveals all these options and explains who qualifies for entry.
Other times, you just have to know. For instance, outside of oneworld, Qantas also maintains a separate partnership with Emirates. And that partnership covers lounge access in much the same way. With your Qantas Business boarding pass, you could visit the Emirates Lounge in Singapore too. That’s up to five lounges before the one flight. And best of all, you don’t have to choose only one lounge per day. You could use your boarding pass to visit all of them, if you were so inclined.
As always, there are plenty of exceptions – and even road warriors can get caught out from time to time. But just know that similar lounge opportunities are also available with Star Alliance and SkyTeam. Use those links to browse for options before your next flight.
Drawbacks of hunting down the best lounge
Sometimes, there’s a good reason that an airline might point you to a specific lounge, rather than the best available at that airport. It could be as simple as the better lounge only being open during certain hours, and your flight doesn’t align with those times.
It may be that the better lounge is temporarily closed for renovations, or in rarer cases, might not yet have reopened post-COVID. The airline might also know which lounge will be busy at which time of day, and make adjustments accordingly. For instance, an alliance airline might give you an invitation to a non-alliance lounge, to help alleviate crowding elsewhere. Or for that matter, to guarantee space – particularly true of busier airports.
Quite often, frequent flyers and passengers travelling in premium cabins can use the same lounge. But some airlines separate these travellers into different spaces. Lufthansa, for instance, allows frequent flyers to visit the higher-tier Senator lounges. But passengers flying Business Class without status, even on a full-fare ticket, can only use Lufthansa’s entry-level Business lounges.
British Airways also has a quirky rule. Platinum-grade frequent flyers would normally get access to an airline’s First Class lounge. But at London Heathrow, BA uses The Concorde Room for travellers actually booked in First Class. BA then has a separate lounge, cheekily named ‘Galleries First‘, for high-tier frequent flyers not flying First Class.
Tips for finding the best lounge
As much as we’d like to, we simply can’t list every rule and every exception you’ll face when hunting for the best airport lounge. The rules can get very complicated, very quickly. That’s especially true with airlines like Virgin Australia, which don’t belong to a global alliance. Instead, Virgin Australia largely has a different set of rules in place for every partner airline. This confuses many people, because what you’d get on one journey won’t necessarily be replicated on the next.
Other than knowing which airlines are in alliances, and which airlines are ‘friends’ with each other, you could try searching the Point Hacks site for reviews. When we review a flight, we’ll usually include information about the lounges you can visit courtesy of that cabin class or status – even within reviews of Economy and Premium Economy flights.
When we review specific lounges, we also go to great lengths to explain the ins and outs of the many ways you can qualify for entry. Even those exceptions you wouldn’t expect, like how a Virgin Atlantic ticket (a SkyTeam member) can get you into the Star Alliance Lounge in Los Angeles.
A little bit of curiosity and research before your trip really can pay off.
Feature image courtesy of Qantas.
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