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An airport lounge is a hospitality facility operated at many airports. Airport lounges offer, for selected passengers, comforts beyond those afforded in the airport terminal itself, such as more comfortable seating, quieter environments, and often better access to customer service representatives. Other accommodations may include private meeting rooms, telephones, wireless internet access and other business services, along with provisions to enhance passenger comfort, such as free drinks and snacks.
Types of lounges
Most major carriers have one or more lounges in their hubs and focus cities as well as in the major airports they serve. The major US airlines—American (Admirals Club), Delta (SkyClub) and United (United Club)—operate dozens of lounges, while smaller airlines like Alaska Airlines (Board Room) tend to only operate a handful of lounges in their hub and focus cities.
Airlines outside of North America and Australia generally do not sell lounge membership, instead reserving lounge access exclusively for very frequent flyers and passengers in premium cabins. However, if one has a lounge membership in an airline in one of the three major airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance), they may have access to the lounges of the other members of that alliance. For example, Qantas Club membership provides access to the Admirals Club lounges due to a reciprocal arrangement with American Airlines; a member of the United Club can access lounges of Air Canada and Air New Zealand, as can all Star Alliance members.
It is however not uncommon for non-alliance members to agree individually to allow usage of each other's lounges. Although Alaska Airlines operates just five Board Rooms, its members have access to American Airlines Admirals Club (and vice versa). Board Room members cannot, however, access the lounges of other Oneworld members, such as British Airways or Japan Airlines.
Private companies, such as Plaza Premium Lounge and Swissport, also operate generic pay-per-use lounges. In contrast to airline lounges, these facilities are open to any traveller traversing the airport, regardless of class of ticket or airline, subject to payment of a fee. Most only offer day passes, but some also offer yearly and lifetime memberships.[not in citation given]
First class airline lounges
For many airlines, a first class lounge will also be offered to international first class and top-tier passengers. First class lounges are usually more exclusive and will feature extra amenities over business class that are more in line with the European/Asian concept of an airport lounge. In the few cases where an amenity is offered only in the business class lounge, first class passengers are permitted to use the business lounge if they wish. In any case, anyone with first class lounge access almost automatically has access to the business class lounge—such as if a traveling companion is not in first class and cannot be brought into the first class lounge as a guest—though lounge agents may get confused when passengers choose to use a lesser amenity than that to which they are entitled. In most cases, airlines will offer first class passengers a free pass to their standard airport club. Some airlines offer "arrival lounges" for passengers to shower, rest, and eat after a long-haul international flight.
Access to lounges
Access to airport lounges may be obtained in several ways. In Australia, Canada, and the United States, a common method to gain access is by purchasing an annual or a lifetime membership, while in Asia and Europe this is usually impossible. Membership fees are sometimes discounted for elite members of an airline's frequent flyer program, and may often be paid using miles. Certain high-end credit cards associated with an airline, such as the Delta Reserve Credit Card and the United MilagePlus Club card, include membership to the lounges for as long as one owns the card.
Lounge access can also be attained with an airline status card, which is common in Europe. The top frequent-flyer levels often offer access to any of an airline's lounges or partner airlines' lounges, when traveling in any class of travel on any of the partner airlines (usually it is required for the cardholder to be booked on one of the carrier's flights within the next 24 hours). Most airlines also usually offer free lounge access to anyone in their premium cabins (first class or business class) on their days of travel; in North America this is usually only usually only available to passengers on intercontinental or transcontinental flights.
Independent programs such as Priority Pass offer access to selected airline lounges for an annual fee, while Go Simply, Holiday Extras and LoungePass offer prebookable access without need for membership. Premium credit and charge cards such as Diners Club International, American Express Platinum and Centurion Card charge cards offer lounge programs for members. Some banks like HSBC and ABN Amro offer lounge access for premium clients. American Express also offers access to lounges belonging to Priority Pass and is expanding its own line of lounges.
Besides offering more comfortable seating, lounges usually provide complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and light snacks such as fruit, cheese, soup, pastries and breakfast items. In the United States and Canada, nearly all domestic lounges offer an open bar for domestic beer, house wine and well liquor, with premium beverages such as imported beer, top-shelf liquor, high end wines and champagne available for purchase. In US states where open bars are prohibited by law, non-premium beverages may be sold at a token rate (e.g. $1 per drink).
Other amenities typically include flight information monitors, televisions, newspapers, and magazines, plus business centers with desks, internet workstations, telephones, photocopiers and fax services. Complimentary wireless Internet access for patrons is also common.
In Asia, Europe and the Middle East, lounges (especially those for first class passengers) can be quite luxurious, offering an extensive premium open bar, full hot and cold buffet meals, cigar rooms, spa and massage services, fitness centers, private cabanas, nap suites and showers.
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