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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

Does anybody ever go to the pay per use lounges available at North American airports.

I do, but for non-traditional reasons. It costs me about 30CDN to get into the Swissport lounge in Calgary and slightly more for the Plaza Premium in Toronto, the two airports I regularly find myself in. I sometimes find myself in Victoria, which lacks lounges, or in Ottawa or Montreal which I haven't really investigated.

The Calgary airport has terrible fast food. Starbucks and Tim's are available, but the doughnuts are not fresh, the coffee stagnant and the prices high. So for 30CDN (about the same price as a sandwich and a couple beers at a Kelseys or a Chilis in the airport) I go to the airport lounge. They have soft chairs, TVs, computers to use, places to plug in your smartphone, newspapers, etc. But for me (I'm a non-drinker, the complementary alcohol has no draw for me, but if I was drinking like I used to, I could easily consume 30 dollars worth of alcohol and suffer no ill effects or intoxication) the draw is the food. If it costs me 30 dollars for two hours of grazing, I look at it like this. 30 dollars for 120 minutes. So basically 15 dollars for 60 minutes. Or 1 dollar for 4 minutes. I can eat a dollars worth of food in four minutes.

I can probably eat a half dozen of the tiny sandwiches, croissants, sticky buns, cereal and toast, and if later in the day, pasta and meatballs, rubber chicken and mystery meat slices. I've had some pretty bad airport meals, but the lounges in Calgary and Toronto never disappoint. Add in free pop, juice water, sparkling and still, cream puffs, speciality coffees (they offer Keurigs) and fruit. I dare you, find a restaurant meal which gives you four small sandwiches, cherry tomatoes with celery and dip, a croissant filled with almond butter, unlimited rolls, fresh fruit a bowl of corn flakes, OJ or apple juice and toast for 30 dollars. There are hotel breakfast buffets which are worse than that for much more. Breakfast is even cheaper than 30, because no alcohol or hot food are served. At 11AM the coolers are suddenly filled with Stella, Bud and Bud Light and in Calgary, Kokanee. The tables at the buffet suddenly have magical bottles of Mission Hill, Baileys, inexpensive Scotch blends and typically some Absolut vodka.

Perhaps the best advantage is that people don't demand your life story when you sit beside them. I remember sitting down next to a lady who was from India. We exchanged polite conversation, about where we were going, where we were from, which planes had the prettiest logos (both lounges have views of the tarmac) if we had enjoyed Toronto/Calgary and what our favorite soft drink is. If they feel like chatting, I sometimes talk with people about things related to air travel. But we don't do a sales pitch. I have never had a person tell me about their workplace or what they do for a living beyond a "I'm in HR" or "I own my own business".

Sitting on those hard metal benches does have a certain nobiliy. When I'm in a lounge, when I can eat no more and am ready to relax, I will leave the lounge and proceed to the gate area, where I plop down like any other person waiting. I didn't know anything about lounges until I had friends explain the unlimited booze and the passable food.

Now, there are some places, especially abroad where it costs over 65 dollars, but they have showers.

People always complain that, "O, the lounge costs me 30 bucks and all I get is lousy food and cheap beers". To that I say, can you eat 1 dollars worth of food in four minutes? I also realize the service and food quality is better. People are constantly checking the levels in the coolers, taking away your used plates and glassware. The toilets are clean, if somebody has peed on the floor, they clean it up before you even get there. If you want to shave, they will have disposable razors, toothbrushes and shaving cream. If you didn't bring your computer, they have them for you.

It's like the argument of the 49.99 prime rib buffet. Do you fill up on salad and bread, or do you eat as much prime rib as possible. For me, texture and smell of food is secondary to chemistry. The pasta and meatballs will turn into protein and carbs and keep my internal systems working. The beer, will just make me bloated and sick, because I haven't had one in so long that the smell and taste would not agree with me.

What is a sandwich worth? Is it worth a dollar? Is it worth three dollars? Can I eat ten sandwiches over two hours? If I can do that, that's 10-30 dollars worth right there. How about twenty cream puffs. 25 cents each that's 5 dollars worth. Veggie platter? Lets say 15 cents per veggie. It all adds up very quickly that you are consuming a fair amount to get your money's worth.

Something to consider at all times, is sanitation. The trays have tongs, spoons, etc. Everything is self serve, but it's safer than going to Tim's where there are fifty people served by one person in fifteen minutes and that person might not santitize or wash their hands. When the veggies start looking skuzzy, the attendants already know this, and they are already cutting and arranging new veggies.

Being in the lounge is an adult experience. If there are kids there, you can tell the parents to calm them down. Unlike a regular cafe or restaurant, there are no kids going to "play" while their parents eat. If there are kids, they are supervised, they are quiet and they sit there with their Pepsi's and their sandwiches, pretending to be little adults.

However, there are a few unique things I've noticed. Calgary's Swissport lounge has a much better atmosphere. Toronto has a dress code. Calgary is all guys in boots, jeans, cowboy hats and great big beers. Calgary cares more that you enjoy yourself, they want you to take your eight hour stopover and have eight beer and sleep it off for four hours. They don't care if you ate all the cream puffs, because as soon as half the tub is gone, there are more showing up magically.

Toronto is more for a business traveler. The dress code is a joke, but you can spend 3 hours for 40 dollars instead of 2 for 30 dollars. The food is more substantial. You then have the situation where we're wondering if you can eat 13 dollars worth of food in an hour. Or 1.30 dollars worth of food in six minutes.

The big trick is to only eat and drink expensive things. Instead of a cheap glass of Chardonnay, you fill a water glass full of Baileys and eat it with some pasta and meatballs. Toast you can have at home, but how many of us have fifteen types of jam?

What is your opinion on, and how do you best utilize airport lounges?

I heard the international lounges are even bigger, some have better or speciality food, etc. I know in Asian lounges the pasta and meat is replaced with sushi and sashimi, and in the big American airports there is competition between lounges to provide services.

Am I being cheap when I try to calculate how much food to eat to break even or take advantage of the situation.

I know some of these places, when you go over the limit just take your CC and restart your time with a fresh CC charge. That's how people can spend all day there, tanked off Bud Lite and you get other people who have memberships and replace a hotel meal with an early trip to the airport and a free meal.

C.
 

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You may get a reply or two that says you're overthinking this, but let me get in first by saying I don't think it's possible to overthink anything and that I enjoyed every line of your post.
(Written at MCO, Orlando Airport, in the Losers Lounge , i. e. the general area, while waiting for a plane back to Maine.)
 

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Wow!!! A whole lot of thought and effort went into the crafting of the OP...I'm impressed and commend Canadian for that. However, while I have to admit to visiting a few USO lounges at airports back in the day, I have never thought of airport delays as being a lifestyle experience and I've always focused my energies on minimizing the length of such delays, rather than putting my life energy into making such delays more comfortable. As for spending additional money for the privilege of sitting in a spot in the airport claiming to be more exclusive than open seating areas, I am one known for jumping in and out of windows to extend the life of the hinges on the doors in our home, not for paying to sit in an exclusive lounge at the airport! LOL. ;)
 

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I've used the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges in both Toronto and Calgary but it sounds like the Swissport and Plaza Premium have them beat by a mile. I was travelling alone on those occasions and I just can't enjoy myself in those types of places alone. Too quiet. You can hear a pin drop in the Maple Leaf lounges. I've actually left them much earlier than needed to catch my flights and just sat in the open terminal to enjoy the ambiance.
 

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Lounges, like rewards cards or any other kind of amenity, are valuable to those who know how to use them. It's a bit like the Amex platinum card - in one camp you have the folks wasting $550/year to carry a "prestige" card, and then you have folks who really use all the tools the card provides, in which case it pays for itself many times over (the camp I try to inhabit).

I use the lounges pretty often when I travel internationally *if* I have to linger a few hours waiting for a connecting flight. While I haven't developed your calculus of snacks and drinks, depending on the lounge, they can be quite nice, and of course you can sometimes spread out to work, etc.

Or nap in relative safety, if it's quiet.

I have yet to shower in one, but for someone who's been traveling all day, I can imagine that's quite nice!

DH
 

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Airport lounges are (usually) luxurious havens of free food and drinks. If you have a business or first class ticket, entry is included.

But probably worth paying the annual fee. Some credit cards also allow access.

I was in a lounge at LAX once and didn't want to leave to get on the plane. If I was homeless I'd just buy a first class ticket and stay in the lounge! :beer:
 

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I didn't know you could pay to get into the airport lounges because I never saw any until I started traveling Business Class. This is an interesting concept. I will have to think on it.
 

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As a frequent overseas traveler in some extremely “marginal” countries, lounge service is one of the few oasis in a sea of human misery. Clean toilets are worth a premium. Food that won’t give you Delhi belly is as well. And sharing personal space with fellow fliers who bathe at least once every few days is greatly appreciated. The best lounge experience I have had is the Qatar Airlines members lounge in Doha. It is spectacular and I have actually planned connections through Doha simply to lay over in that lounge.

Cheers,

BSR
 

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I have the Amex platinum card. It's $550 per year, but they give you $200 in credits with Uber, reimburse $200 in incidental fees with your chosen airline, and get you into not only the Delta Sky Club* but also their even more luxurious Centurion Lounges.

*Sky Club access is for the cardholder only, guest passes are $25. Which they will reimburse out of your $200 airline credit allowance.

Perhaps because Delta is the one airline they're still affiliated with, the Centurion Clubs aren't usually convenient if you're flying Delta. The ones in Seattle and Las Vegas are between the Delta gates and baggage claim, but LaGuardia, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Miami would all require a long walk and going through security multiple times. Still, they're worth it if you can get to one. In the afternoons there's a hot buffet with food from local celebrity chefs and the bar is stocked with what would be top-shelf at most places.

Good food and a complimentary cocktail (or two) are valuable, as are clean restrooms, comfortable chairs, and lots of electrical outlets to charge laptops and phones.
 

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Lounges, like rewards cards or any other kind of amenity, are valuable to those who know how to use them. It's a bit like the Amex platinum card - in one camp you have the folks wasting $550/year to carry a "prestige" card, and then you have folks who really use all the tools the card provides, in which case it pays for itself many times over (the camp I try to inhabit).

I use the lounges pretty often when I travel internationally *if* I have to linger a few hours waiting for a connecting flight. While I haven't developed your calculus of snacks and drinks, depending on the lounge, they can be quite nice, and of course you can sometimes spread out to work, etc.

Or nap in relative safety, if it's quiet.

I have yet to shower in one, but for someone who's been traveling all day, I can imagine that's quite nice!

DH
I use the Amex platinum. The points are great. $200 in airline fees refunded and with the recent $15/month Uber credit ($35 in Dec.) as well as the use of Centurion lounges (we fly to NYC often and I use LaGuardia) the card works very well.
 

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Another vote for the AMEX Platinum. I have one for business and one for personal use. The benefits get you into a lounge in nearly any airport (Priority Pass) and they'll help you out of any travel problems. Even sent a doctor to my room in Vienna at no cost.
 

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A lounge membership comes in handy when something goes wrong with your flight. They can often get you another flight much easier and more quickly than from some other options. When there are serious issues at an airport, although the lounges can become crowded and noisy, they are much better than the maelstrom of hell the main terminal can be.
 

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Presently sat in the Plaza Premium Lounge at Pearson after reading this recommendation a couple days before my flight home. My credit card doesn’t have traveller’s perks but Air Miles membership got me 20% off the lounge entrance fee ($50 for 2hrs, which is the minimum, although the lounge closes 1.5hrs after I entered).

Food is the dinner version of a hotel’s continental breakfast. Atmosphere is dimmer and a bit quieter than the gates. Not sure I’d do it again as I wager I could get better food and a similar atmosphere for the same price at a restaurant downstairs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ouinon,

Has the price gone up? I seem to recall it being somewhat cheaper. I bet the price goes way up after 11AM (when liquor is suddenly available)? As I try to fly in the mornings, I have not checked prices.

As for food, I'm hesitant to eat at the fast food or bar options at the Toronto airport. At least at the lounge you can get food which is self serve. Add to that However, if you do want to save a few bucks, I am sure you could get a sandwich at the Sheraton bar which is attached to the airport (and is before security). Yes, it would probably be better and cheaper, but use my formula:

If it's 50 dollars for two hours, that's 25 dollars an hour. Which for me is still low enough. I think the Aspire lounge in Calgary might be a better deal, but considering I like to graze for the full two hours instead of eating a fast and heavy meal I would probably pay similar prices.

For me, a clean toilet, decent Western style food, plugins and quiet are worth it to me.

Can I ask, what were they serving? I seem to recall chicken, pasta and meatballs last time. I will be in Toronto in a few weeks, might take advantage of it.

C.
 

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C -

They were serving quinoa salad, the fixings for a lettuce-based salad, garlic rice, green beans & cherry tomatoes, some sort of pork, red pepper & tomato soup, vegetable florentine soup, cream puffs, a few different cookies and a little pink cake in the fridge for dessert, and the breakfast offerings of cereal & yogurt were still available. They also had an assortment of liquor, wine, beer, and pop.

I found the rice bland, the veggies undercooked, and the cookie stale, but it was around 9PM so perhaps it was better around suppertime. Good tomato soup, good whisky, good comfortable seats in the room past the dining area.

I did enjoy the quiet. There were much fewer fussing children and cussing men than I usually find at the gates (just one or two of each)!

I do appreciate the thread because I never knew paying entry was an option so it was a neat way to kill some time before our long-delayed flight.
 

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One thing to be said for the airline-affiliated lounges - there are usually reservation agents there that are able to provide quicker and better assistance than trying to get someone on the phone in the case of a major problem like a storm.
 
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