How to get Free Airport Lounge Access…
When I was growing up, I was forever being told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Many years later, the ironic thing is that I’m writing this article about how to obtain free airport lounge access in the UK whilst eating my free lunch at Gatwick’s No 1 airport lounge.
Let’s face it, there are more and more people travelling and the airport is becoming a rather unpleasant place! The number of passengers at Gatwick has increased from 31.4 million in 2010 to 45.5 million in 2017 and as such it’s no surprise that more and more passengers are opting to fork out to tuck themselves away in an airport lounge. You might be surprised to know that most people who use lounges don’t actually pay – they just know how to work the system and gain lounge access for free! Read on to find out the many tips and tricks of the trade…
Completely Free Airport Lounge Passes
These days you don’t need to be flying in First or Business Class to gain access to a lounge but don’t think it’ll be Champagne and caviar (that said I have recently returned from a British Airways First-Class Flight which cost less than an economy flight – read my review here).
With fierce competition between credit card companies, the benefits offered to cardholders can be extravagant to say the least. There’s currently one free card which offers airport lounge passes on top of a number of other benefits. This is what makes the American Express Gold Card one of the most popular in the UK market at the moment!
The card offers two free lounge passes with Lounge Club for anyone who signs up to the card. With access to over 450 airport lounges you’ll nearly always be able to access a free airport lounge when travelling. Once you’ve used your two free passes further visits using the Lounge Club card are charged at £15 per person.
The card also comes with two further (and more valuable) perks. These include 20,000 reward points once you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months (this can be increased to 22,000 points by using this link) as well as free international travel insurance. Not bad for a card which costs nothing for the first 12 months. After 12 months the annual fee increases to £140 pa, however there’s nothing stopping you cancelling the card before 12 months and then signing back up after 6 months (the minimum amount of time) to receive a further 22,000 points sign-up bonus!
Free Airport Lounge Access with Elite Status
I’m in a lucky position that I travel with work and have worked my way through the various tiers of British Airways Executive Club status relatively quickly. Similar to credit cards, strong competition between airlines has resulted in great rewards for frequent flyers through elite status.
For those based in the UK, the most suitable frequent-flyer programme is likely to be the British Airways Executive Club. Once you reach Silver status, you’ll be able to gain free airport lounge access to any British Airways operated lounge even if you’re not travelling in Business or First.
The British Airways operated lounges tend to be a little more luxurious – the fanciest of which is the Concorde Lounge in Heathrow T5 (reviewed here). Unfortunately Concorde Lounge passes are only given to the most frequent flyers. Those with Silver status can access Galleries Lounges and Gold cardholders are able to access First-Class lounges for free.
Free Airport Lounge Access with a Catch!
Now there are a number of premium cards which offer unlimited free lounge passes. Once upon a time the thought of paying for a credit card sent shivers down my spine. That was until I was able to calculate the value of the benefits of the card and whether these perks more than offset the cost of the card.
Let’s look at the BA Premium American Express (reviewed here) which does not offer free lounge access but does come with a large number of other benefits as well as a hefty £200 pa fee! Now you’ll gain 25,000 Avios points (26,000 if you use this referral link) when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months. You can read how I value Avios here however the worse case scenario for these points would be 0.55p per Avios point with a more likely value of 1p per point. This means the sign-up bonus is worth between £137.50 and £250 – potentially enough to offset the £200 pa fee already. Now the most valuable benefit of this card is the 2-4-1 voucher made available when you spend £10,000 in a calendar year. I used this when Hannah and I flew First Class to Sao Paulo saving a grand total of 140,000 Avios points! Again, even at 0.55p per point, this perk is worth a staggering £770 – more than offsetting that annual fee…
So what premium cards offer free airport access?
With a whopping annual fee of £450, the Amex Platinum Card is one of the most expensive credit cards in the UK. That said it also offers some rather amazing perks – read my review to find out exactly what these are. In terms of free airport lounge access, you’ll receive a Priority Pass card which will enable you and a guest to access over 1,200 lounges worldwide. You’ll also be able to access the Plaza Premium Lounge at Heathrow’s T5 by showing your Platinum card as well as Amex’s Centurion Lounge network in the US. You can also increase the sign-up bonus from 30,000 points to 35,000 points by using this link.
To stray from airport lounges for a moment, I’d highlight at this stage that holders of the card can also access Eurostar Lounges!
Barclays Travel Plus Pack
Whilst not a credit card, the Barclays Travel Plus Pack is available to anyone with a Barclays current account and offers the following benefits for £18 per month:
- Worldwide multi-trip travel insurance
- RAC breakdown cover in UK and Europe
- 6 Free airport lounge visits per year (these can be swapped for free spa treatments at available airport spas)
Go Forth and Claim Your Free Airport Lounge Access
Tom Hanks’ award-winning performance in The Terminal made out that spending time in an airport terminal can be a pleasurable experience. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. With more and more people travelling you’d be crazy to miss out on the opportunities to access airport lounges for free.
One of the easiest ways to access a UK airport lounge for free would be through the American Express Gold Card. You’ll also receive 20,000 reward points which are convertible to 20,000 Avios points and free travel insurance making this an excellent card for those planning a holiday in 2019. Don’t forget you can use this link to increase the number of points you earn to 22,000.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. If you’ve found this interesting you may also want to read our recent review of British Airways First Class where we provide a step-by-step guide as to how you could redeem a First-Class flight for less than the price of an economy ticket. Happy travelling.