Confession: I actually hate airport lounges

Confession: I actually hate airport lounges

I’ve never admitted this publicly, but I have never been a big fan of hanging out in airport lounges. There are exceptions of course, but more often than not, I’d rather hang out in the main terminal instead. 

The majority of airline lounges I’ve visited over the years have been cramped, stuffy, and not very stimulating. I always feel like I’m sitting in the waiting room at the hospital (like you would for a colonoscopy or a root canal), and I can’t help but to think about all the things I’m missing out in the main terminal.

Disclaimer: “Hate” is maybe too strong of a word for how I really feel, but considering how often I walk right on past the entrances of really good lounges, it’s mostly accurate. 

8 really good (maybe weird) reasons why I hate airport lounges

Again, I just want to reiterate that there are some really great airline lounges out there, and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience them. 

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LHR is phenomenal, as is the Air New Zealand Lounge at SYD. I wouldn’t even be writing this post if they were all that good! Since they’re not, I fully stand by the following 8 reasons why I don’t normally hang out in airport lounges.

1. I’m heavily introverted and I prefer keeping my distance from strangers

Seating arrangements in a vast majority of airport lounges are maximized for density. More and more people have access to lounges these days thanks to credit card perks and Priority Pass (among other things). The only way to accommodate these extra people is to keep adding density.

Crowded American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK
I really like the American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK, but if it’s this crowded, I’d be happier sitting out in the main terminal at an unused gate (on a sticky vinyl seat next to the toilets with a Nickelback song playing over the loudspeaker).

There’s nothing special about free drinks, cheese cubes, and padded chairs if my introverted *** has to sit elbow to elbow with complete strangers. In all my years of travel, I’ve never been able to get over how awkward that is.

2. There is almost always much better food out in the main terminal

I know. Free food and drinks are what draws people into airport lounges, and I understand the desire to take advantage of it. I like saving money too, but only to a point.

Airport lounges with a wide variety of free high quality food are rare. Most of the time, all you’re going to get is finger foods such as cheese cubes, snack mix, and fruit. If I’ve been traveling all day, and I am in need of a substantial meal, that just isn’t going to cut it.

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge YYC food
They really outdid themselves at the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at YYC. I’m not willing to throw them completely under the bus though, since it was really kind of them to offer utensils to assist with my consumption of the cookie and granola bar.

Personally, I’d rather spend $20 on a really good (though admittedly overpriced) meal out in the terminal. Not only will the food be more satisfying, I’d be able to enjoy it in quiet solitude at an unused gate somewhere.

3. Narcissistic business travelers are annoying

You know the type. The all-important business guy (or gal) yapping on the phone about a multi-million dollar deal of some kind that needs to close today. Or else.

SANspotter frustrated in the airport lounge
The look on my face says it all. If you’re not good at reading faces, I’m basically contemplating the pros and cons of shoving a cellphone down somebody’s throat…

These are the kind of people who love having these conversations (at full volume) in public. I really can’t count the number of times that I’ve walked out of an airline lounge because of loud and obnoxious business people yelling into their phones.

It’s especially annoying when they say things like “jumping on a call” and “touching base.” How I wish I had the balls to tell them to “take it offline” or “pivot” to a text thread instead…

4. It’s usually quieter out in the main terminal

Again, I realize that there are always exceptions, but I am usually able to find a quieter place to hang out in the main terminal than in an airline lounge.

SANspotter quiet gate area DXB airport
I pretty much suck at most things in life, but I’m really good at finding the quietest spots in the airport. Here I am feeling miffed that I can actually see other people off in the distance…

If I’m really in the mood for peace and quiet (which is pretty much always), I’d rather go sit in a quiet unused corner of the airport. Most people avoid these unused areas like the plague, and would rather wait for their flight somewhere closer to their departure gate.

Even quietest airport lounges are bustling with activity from the staff and the occasional all-important business traveler “jumping on another call.” Ugh.

5. The buffet experience can be very stressful

Airport lounges with complementary food buffets are nice, but in my experience, it’s nowhere near as nice as it may seem. Basically, people are animals – and their selfish aggressiveness always shines through at feeding time.

The problem is how everybody swarms around the buffet when fresh food is brought out. If you’re hungry, you’ll have no choice but to partake in that madness. If you wait too long, all the food will be gone and you’ll be back to eating room-temperature cheese cubes and bruised apple wedges.

Delta SkyClub Terminal 4 at JFK food
Feeding time at the Delta Sky Club in Terminal 4 at JFK! Don’t even think about going in unless you’re willing to take an elbow to the ribs.

Some airport lounges handle the fair distribution of food better than others, but for the most part I find it to be an extremely annoying part of the experience.

6. I actually like walking through airports

I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder of any kind, but I know I’ve got it. It’s just really hard for me to sit still, and I like to keep moving.

Sitting in an airport lounge (for any length of time) is not my idea have a good time. I’d much prefer to be walking through the main terminal soaking everything in.

Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge at the Vienna Airport
The Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge at the Vienna Airport is nice. But nice isn’t good enough when you’re losing your mind from FOMO thinking about what’s happening out in the main terminal. Oops  – did I just tell you that I’m weird without telling you I’m weird?

Every airport is unique. The sights, the sounds, the smells…there’s just something about airports that soothes my soul. They are my happy place(s). Speaking of walking…

7. I prefer to get some exercise between flights

Yes, I do realize that some of the best airline lounges in the world feature gyms and spas. I’m not talking about those lounges when I say that sitting in an airport lounge for hours on end is an extremely unhealthy thing to do.

Air travel (on the whole) is an extremely unhealthy experience. I look for any opportunity for exercise that I can when traveling, and it usually involves walking an airport from end to end (multiple times) between flights.

I can actually hear myself getting fatter sitting in an airport lounge ingesting endless amounts of cheese cubes. I’ll always feel better about myself if I’m getting my steps in, and airport terminals of any size are great places to do that.

SANspotter sleeping in airports
Another nice thing about walking up and down airport terminals is that I can camp out like a hobo when I get tired. You can’t even pay for this kind of solitude in most lounges!

8. Airports are the best places in the world to people watch

In my experience, I find that a large percentage of the people who hang out in airport lounges tend to be hoity-toity types. You don’t normally see a wide variety of people in there.

entrance to the United Club in Terminal 7 at LAX
The entrance to the United Club in Terminal 7 at LAX. It looks nice (and it is), but…sometimes I’m just not in the mood to hang out with people who wouldn’t be caught dead waiting in the gate area for their United Express CRJ-200 flight to Fresno.

Walking through the duty-free area at airports such as JFK, LHR and DXB can be a culturally enriching experience. You’ll be surrounded by people of all types, many of whom you’d normally not have the opportunity to interact with if you holed yourself up in the lounge.

Then again, to hard-core lounge rats, avoiding “the riff raff” is the entire point. Which takes me back to issue number 3…

Comments (4)

  1. Jason B

    September 30, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 30, 2022
  2. Dave R

    October 6, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 6, 2022

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