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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some airport lounges handle the fair distribution of food better than others (such as the CDG Air France Lounge / Terminal 2F), 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.
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.
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.
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…
I used to love airport lounges, but the experience is so much worse than it used to be. I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to but had a decent layover in CLT. The Centurion Lounge was almost entirely packed. I waited in line for 15 minutes to get a beer from the bar. I left there to try The Club, and they wouldn’t even let me in because they were full. I did use my Priority Pass for a free gaming session at Gameway, and that was nice and chill and came with a snack and drink. I’m certainly not going to arrive early or schedule a slightly longer layover to have time to enjoy the lounge anywhere, unless it is something nice and somewhat exclusive like a United Polaris lounge.
Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. “Mainstream” lounges aren’t really worth it anymore, but the high-end / exclusive establishments are better than ever. I wonder how long it’s going to be until the mainstream lounges start restricting access? Something needs to be done, because it’s really not anything special these days.
As a fellow introvert, I appreciate your take and always seek out the quietest space in an airport (rarely inside a lounge). At SAN I spent way too many mornings in the Airspace/Aspire and Delta lounges before realizing I was happier in one of the many quieter T2 non-lounge areas. [My favorite is the large food hall before the restaurants open – tons of tables, huge windows overlooking the planes and almost no people.] And in JFK T5 I could never understand complaints about JetBlue not having a lounge that would undoubtedly be jammed with Mint/Mosaic business narcissists, when there are plenty of open gates or my former favorite, the open air patio (RIP).
I totally agree! Lounge access isn’t something I strive for anymore. A perfect example of that is the Centurion Lounge at SFO. I have access to it thanks to my Amex Platinum, and I walk by it all the time on my trips through that airport, but I’ve never once had the urge to go in and check it out. I’m much more content to walk around and / or move from one quiet gate area to the next.
Very interesting! While I like lounges because of the free food and getting a (semi) intimate space to relax, I agree that overcrowding is a big issue, and, as you say, the food can sometimes be scarce & not very filling.
I don’t mind hanging out in & walking around the terminal, and while I’m always happy to get to hang out in a lounge, I only think it’s really worth it before or after a long-haul flight.
Some lounges are better than others! The Air France Lounge at CDG (Terminal 2F) is one that I recently found that is totally worth visiting due to how spacious and wide open it is. If all lounges were like that, I would have never written this article lol.
I agree, not all lounges are created equal! And despite what I said about them not being worth it in most cases, I’ll make exceptions for lounges such as the Air France one you mentioned.
I agree. Except that I find lounges attract families with strollers, toddlers, babies etc. who camp out at the bar or the sole laptop counter. Probably a post-pandemic revenge thing.
Most lounges are not worth it. Free 2-buck chuck and cheese cubes violate my wellness. Too crowded, surly staff, etc.
Some European and Middle Eastern lounges are worth it.
Yup, things have definitely changed post-pandemic (and not in a good way). I have definitely spent less time in lounges over the past 2 years.