The Unspoken Rules of Drinking in an Airport Lounge

Mark Yocca / Supercall
Mark Yocca / Supercall

Airport lounges are the best. They allow weary travelers to get away from the hustle and bustle without actually leaving the terminal. They offer free drinks and snacks so you don’t have to overspend on mediocre airport restaurants, and some even have gyms and showers for when you’re experiencing a delayed flight or long layover. But this doesn’t mean they are a free-for-all where travelers can get rowdy and out of control just for the sake of it. Here, the seven unspoken rules of drinking in an airport lounge. Whether you’re new to the scene or are a seasoned lounger who could use a manners refresher, heed these guidelines to make it the best possible experience for everyone involved.

Don’t Show Up in PJs

We get that you should be comfortable when you travel, and we’re the first people to roll into the airport in baggy jeans and sneakers for a long flight. But this is a classy place, and sweatpants and flip flops will make you look like your don’t belong. If your flight is seriously delayed and you’re looking to nap, change inside the lounge—that’s why they are there.

Use an Indoor Voice

Lounges are fun, especially if you get to experience them with friends. But that doesn’t mean you can just start shouting across the room or celebrating like it’s 1999. Remember to use an indoor voice so the other lounge guests can work, rest or simply enjoy a moment of silence before they have to endure that screaming baby on the plane for three hours.

Always Tip Your Bartender—Well

A free drink does not mean free service. If anything, you should be tipping your bartender more than you usually would, even if they’re simply pouring a dram or a beer. Kindness goes a long way with the lounge staff, and they’ll remember your generosity when you come up for a second drink or need to make a special request. This is especially helpful if you’re a frequent flier and enjoy the lounge often. Whether the drinks are free or not, don’t be the stingy person who stiffs the bartender.

Don’t Grab Snacks With Your Bare Hands

If you’re going for a snack like nuts or charcuterie, don’t reach into the bowl with your bare hands. The spoons and tongs are there for a reason.

Only Take What You Can Drink

We know that it’s tempting to sample everything you can when the drinks are free. But just like you should only take what you can eat at a buffet, exercise restraint when you’re drinking as well. Some lounges are self-serve, but that’s not an excuse for you to go buck wild and leave 10 half-full drinks behind. Only take what you can drink and leave something for the other thirsty people.

Don’t Drink Too Much

This should be a given, but the airport lounge is no place to get turnt. You’re here to relax and unwind before a flight, as is everyone else around you. Someone who is swerving and slurring their words makes for a very unrelaxing environment, and you don’t want to be the perpetrator. It could get you kicked out of the lounge for good, and then you’ll have to wait with everybody else in the cheap seats. Plus, flying is already seriously dehydrating, so drinking too much before boarding can leave you feeling sick when you deplane.

Don’t Try to Sneak Drinks Out of the Lounge

If you followed the previous rule, then chances are you’ll follow this one, too. No matter how bold you’re feeling after a few drinks, never try to sneak drinks out of the lounge. Most airports don’t allow people to drink in the terminal unless it’s in a designated area (aka a restaurant, bar or lounge), so don’t be that person who’s swerving around the gates with a drink in hand.