Travelling on business can be a bind or a luxury. If you are a frequent international business traveller then you need some comfort to tolerate the job requirements. Those job requirements being hours of travel and being away from home. As a frequent flyer those luxuries may include airline lounge club access.
I am fortunate I know in that when I travel long distance for work I fly Business Class. This allows me more comfort on the plane, a greater chance to sleep so I am refreshed and ready for work when I get to my destination. I can also use the respective facilities at the airports. This means the respective airport lounge clubs.
Over the years I’ve tried various lounges from various airlines in a whole host of countries. I’ve seen the high standards of comfort and generosity by such as Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. I’ve also been dismayed by little comfort in places such as India.
The lounges which give me frustration more than any other are those in the mainland United States. Yes, the airport lounge clubs in the US suck.
I can often be seen routing via Atlanta flying with Delta so I will use my recent visit to the Delta Sky Club in Terminal B as a prime example of my complaints with these poor facilities.
Airlines have different rules and you have to know them to get anywhere really. In many places a Business Class ticket qualifies you for entry to an airline lounge whilst you await a flight. This is not quite the standard case in America though. US airline lounge access is more down to a club system than the price or class of travel of your ticket.
I often get chance to use the lounges when I’ve just come off an international flight and about to connect somewhere; or if I am about to fly out of the US. If I have a domestic flight with a Business Class ticket then often lounges will refuse me entry.
They would much rather allow people in who pay a crazy annual subscription to some credit card yet fly economy (“Coach” for all our American friends) than someone on a premium price ticket. You can also gain airline lounge access with some frequent use cards designated to Delta rather than fellow airlines within Skyteam.
I did once manage to overcome this rule by pure chance. Arriving at a lounge I enquired as to whether I was able to use it. The female receptionist said that I had no entitlement at all. Even with my top flight status with a Skyteam member airline KLM (enough to get into Skyteam lounges elsewhere). However, since she loved my “cute” English accent she let me in for free 🙂
I think the rather bizarre and weird rules on entry have a reason behind them. Whenever I go to airport lounge clubs in the US they always seem to be very crowded. You spend half of your free half hour just wondering around trying to find a seat.
Take the Delta lounge I recently used in Atlanta. It was such a small room it filled quickly. I, like numerous others had to stand around for a while and wait for a seat to become free. This is hardly travelling in comfort when you want a comfortable seat to rest on. Who wants to be part of overcrowded airline lounge clubs?
The seats are often so close together that there is no privacy to your place of refuge. If I want to sit and switch off for half an hour I’m constantly disturbed by the sound of loud people who just can’t keep a conversation private, either to the person next to them or on their mobile phone. Not only can my flights be disrupted by the noisy fellow travellers but so can my downtime too.
On a positive note airport lounge clubs often have free wi-fi connections. In the case of Delta I was told that I just needed to connect to the AT+T network.
Free? You’ve got to be kidding me
As part of a refreshment you’d often like a drink. Lounges around the world offer an array of drinks including those of an alcoholic nature. Okay, I am not a big drinker of alcohol and to be honest I rarely drink when travelling. Furthermore I often have car hire on the other side so will not even risk a drink.
Okay, let’s put that aside and assume that I would like a glass of merlot or a beer. When it comes to US based lounges you’ve got to pay for it. Yes, it’s free in lounges around the world but no, not in America. They virtually want paying for everything. I have a ticket which would cost many hundreds or even over a thousand dollars and you won’t let me have a complimentary drink?
Alcoholic drinks are served at a bar too so I dare say in typical American fashion the bar steward will be looking for a little tip with each order you place. As a Brit this doesn’t really fit into our culture. When we buy a drink in a pub we pay the price of the drink. The guy behind the bar gets his wage and if that is not enough he needs to take it up with his employer, not the customer.
Okay I’m not giving airlines in the US enough credit here. There is an option of free drinks. You can have iced water or a drink from the coffee vending machine. Wow, thanks Delta you really are up their with your overseas competitors for generosity.
Food, glorious food
Yes, food glorious food is not something you’ll find in a Delta lounge. This can hardly be called business class food. The range of options are at best minimalistic and for someone like me far from appetising.
There is a small and I mean small array of unhealthy options. Crackers, pretzels (I hate pretzels) and a few unhealthy snacks in jars. The airline lounge food often leaves me hungry as opposed to satisfied.
For the more healthily inclined you could have an apple. Go on, have an apple and we can all hear you crunch into that noisy piece of fruit in this overcrowded little box room. Or maybe a carrot or a stick of celery. Gosh, I can’t wait to devour that. After all I’ll have to take advantage of such a generous offering since my 3 hour flight across the country is going to be full of such a range of fulfilling culinary delights! (That is my British sarcasm for anyone who didn’t notice.)
I often wonder why I make such a fuss about querying my entitlement to lounge club access when the food options are significantly better in the main terminal, even if that does mean an unhealthy burger.
I know airlines in the US had a tough decade financially yet now they seem to charge for everything and give virtually nothing back.
A lot of Americans fly, that is a fact. Airports are busy but the facilities are sub-standard compared to their international rivals. There are many great things about being in America, it is just that airline lounges are not one of them.
I’m beginning to change my approach to these former locations of desire and envy. The US does not appear to have Business Class lounges, your ticket means nothing. You need lounge club access. Yet is it worth it? With poor seating availability in a crammed room, very poor food selection and charges for drinks I do wonder about the value of a premium price ticket. To be fair flying 1st or Business Class on a US flight is hardly a lap of luxury.
The lounges in the US take away the appeal of a premium price ticket. The airport lounge clubs are a poor comparison to their international competitors. I’m not sure that I want lounge club access anymore.