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11 ways to get cheap or free airport lounge access

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Want to make your next airport experience more comfortable? You can, with our tips on how to get cheap or free airport lounge access.

woman holding airplane tickets and a suitcase

Credit: ViDI Studio, Blan-k – Shutterstock

Airports can be one of the most stressful parts of a holiday – busy queues, overpriced sandwiches and uncomfortable seats. But it doesn't have to be like that!

Going to an airport lounge can be the perfect way to make your airport experience much more relaxing, and it doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, it can work out cheaper than a meal with a pint at the airport.

With our ways to get cheap (or even free) airport lounge access, you can start your holiday without any stress. So, get ready to book those cheap flights and have a relaxing start to your next trip abroad.

Are airport lounges worth it?

Airport lounges can definitely be worth it, but it depends on your budget, which airport lounge you're planning to book and your preferences.

Airport lounges typically offer free drinks (including alcohol), food, magazines and newspapers. The seats are often much more comfortable than elsewhere in the airport, and it gives you a quieter place to relax before your holiday.

If you can score a cheap (or free) airport lounge pass, it can potentially work out as cost-effective.

Remember that grabbing a bite to eat at the airport before your flight can sometimes be just as expensive as a cheap airport lounge ticket.

However, not all airport lounges are the same. It's worth doing a bit of research before parting with your cash. On websites like Airline Quality and Tripadvisor, you can read reviews of the airport lounges at your preferred airport to see if they live up to the hype.

Reducing the number of flights you take is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. It's worth checking if there is an alternative way to travel – or you can consider offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight.

How to get free or cheap airport lounge access

Here is how to get airport lounge access at a discount or for free:

  1. Buy an airport lounge day pass


    Credit: HAKINMHAN – Shutterstock

    One of the easiest ways to get cheap airport lounge access is by buying a day pass. It's the most affordable way to get in if you don't travel often.

    Some passes can be as cheap as £20. As food and drinks at the airport tend to be pretty pricey, getting a one-day airport lounge pass can work out as cheaper in the end.

    If you see a good deal, take some time to work out whether you will save money by getting it. For example, you might find it worthwhile if you have a long layover, or if you're planning to get a meal with a drink before your flight.

    While you can buy a day pass through an airport's website, also check third-party websites as they often have better deals:

  2. Travel with someone who has lounge access

    Travelling with a friend who's got airport lounge access through their credit card, bank account or airport lounge membership? You may be in luck!

    Depending on the terms and conditions, airport lounge members can sometimes take a friend or family member in for free (or at a discounted rate).

    You can save quite a bit of money here if you travel with the same person regularly. If you always travel with your partner, for example, only one of you would need to get the airport lounge membership. And you'll still be able to enjoy the airport lounge luxuries together.

    Before your next trip, check out our list of the best travel accessories.
  3. Get free airport lounge access with your bank account

    Some bank accounts come with special perks, and access to airport lounges can be one of them. Usually, these types of bank accounts come with a monthly fee, so keep that in mind.

    At the time of writing, Barclays Travel Plus Pack and NatWest Reward Black come with this perk.

    Barclays' option costs £18 per month, and you can use it to get into airport lounges six times per year. The account also comes with a ton of other travel perks, including travel insurance and breakdown cover in the UK and Europe.

    NatWest Reward Black gives you access to over 1,100 different airport lounges. However, most students won't be eligible for this account. To open one, you need to be earning over £100,000 (or have £120,000 joint income), have £100,000 saved/invested or have a £500,000+ mortgage with NatWest.

    However, don't just choose a bank account because it gives you free airport lounge access. Especially with the extra fees you'll be paying, it could be cheaper to buy individual passes instead.

    There are other bank accounts designed specifically for students that may be a better fit.

  4. Check deal sites for discounted airport lounge passes

    We love a good deal, especially if that gets us into airport lounges for less. Before buying a one-day airport lounge pass or a membership, check daily deals sites like Wowcher and Groupon for any discounts.

    Especially when it's getting closer to the holiday season, these sites often have some discounts available. At the time of writing, Wowcher offered a 50% discount on a Priority Pass membership for £5.

  5. Ask for access if your flight has been delayed

    airplane landing at sunset

    Credit: Nieuwland Photography – Shutterstock

    A delayed flight is never fun. But getting free access to the airport lounge can help soften the blow.

    If you're an O2 Priority member, you can receive a voucher which gives you (and up to three of your friends) free access to the airport lounge if your flight is delayed by 60 minutes or more.

    There are other companies that offer similar benefits. For example, if you're a Premium or Metal Revolut user, the same offer is available for flights delayed by an hour or longer.

    But even if you're not with O2 Priority or Revolut, there is still a chance a delayed flight could get you free airport lounge access. Especially if your flight is delayed substantially, you can simply ask a member of staff. While they don't have to give it to you, the worst they can say is no!

    Find out if you're eligible for flight delay compensation.
  6. Get a discount through frequent flyer programmes

    If you're an international student and fly regularly between your home country and the UK, it could be worth signing up for a frequent flyer programme. Frequent flyer programmes are similar to loyalty cards, but they're tied to a specific airline.

    Every time you travel with that airline, you earn 'points' or 'miles'. Sometimes, you can exchange your points for discounted or free flights, gift cards, merchandise and more.

    It's also possible to move up certain tiers in the programme depending on how many points you've collected. The higher your tier, the more freebies and bonuses you can get.

    Since certain airlines have their own airport lounges (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, for example), they can offer free airport lounge access to their frequent flyer programme members.

    While you probably need to have collected quite a few points to reach this tier, the programmes are usually free to sign up for.

    If you sign up for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, you can also get a discount on some No1 Lounges. You need to book it through Virgin Atlantic and use your frequent flyer number. It shouldn't cost you points – in fact, you could earn points by booking the discounted airport lounge this way!

  7. Get cashback on airport lounge passes

    Before buying or booking anything online, it's worth checking if there is any cashback available.

    If you're unfamiliar with cashback, here is how it works: if you go through a reputable cashback site before booking/buying something online, you can get a percentage of the price back. That's essentially free money!

    At the time of writing, TopCashback offers 3.67% cashback on No1Lounges.

    We have a full guide that explains how cashback works for more information.

  8. Ask for free lounge access for a special occasion

    hand holding airplane tickets

    Credit: Anastassiya Bezhekeneva – Shutterstock

    Going on a special trip, like a birthday or anniversary? You could ask the airport staff for a complimentary airport lounge pass at check-in.

    Obviously, they're under no obligation to give it to you, but if you're nice and explain why this trip is so special, they may say yes. Make sure you read our tips on how to haggle beforehand.

  9. Get free airport lounge access with a credit card

    Some credit cards come with special perks, including access to airport lounges.

    However, keep in mind that credit cards that have perks like this often come with an annual fee. If you're only planning to use it for the free airport lounge access, it's probably not worth signing up. It will likely work out cheaper (and less risky) to buy day passes instead.

    These credit cards often allow you to earn points on purchases throughout the year, which can then be traded in for rewards.

    On top of the free airport lounge access, there are many other perks that come with a membership. But, make sure you do the maths to see if it's worth it for you before signing up. These credit cards aren't cheap!

    Here are a couple of examples:

    • American Express Gold Card – This credit card comes with four free Priority Pass airport lounge visits. It costs £160 per year (£0 during your first year).
    • American Express Platinum Card – At a hefty price tag of £575 per year, you can get unlimited access to airport lounges along with a ton of other travel perks (including travel insurance).
    Before deciding if a credit card is the right choice for you, read our guide to the best credit cards for students. Make sure you're aware of all the risks.
  10. Buy a third-party airport lounge pass membership

    Again, this tip only really works if you travel by plane frequently. Third-party airport lounge memberships give you unlimited access to 1,000+ lounges worldwide. These memberships often come with extra perks such as special hotel deals, airport dining discounts and more.

    However, they have a price tag that matches the luxury of unlimited lounge access. It's only really worth it if you travel by plane often, such as if you're an international student.

    These are two examples:

    • Priority PassAccess to over 1,300 airport lounges across the globe. Memberships cost £229 per year for 10 free visits (£24 per visit afterwards) or £419 per year for unlimited access.
    • Dragon Pass – Access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. A membership costs £168/year for eight free visits (£24 per visit afterwards) or £379 per year for unlimited access.
  11. Buy a first-class/business-class flight

    You usually get free access to the airport lounge if you have a first-class or business-class ticket. But, looking at the prices of these types of tickets, it's unlikely to be the most cost-effective option.

    If you're a deal-savvy traveller (like Chelsea Dickenson, who took 10 holidays in a year for half the average Brit's annual vacation spend – including a business-class flight!) it could potentially work out.

    But, when comparing prices, factor in the cost of a regular airport lounge stay and decide whether it's worth it.

Looking for more money hacks for your travels? Check out our tips on how to save money on your next holiday.

Nele van Hout

WRITTEN BY Nele van Hout

Nele van Hout, content editor at Save the Student, is a freelance writer and travel expert. She runs her own travel blog and is passionate about making money online. Nele has appeared in British Airways Magazine, Love to Visit, FOCUS Magazine and more.
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