These Day Pass-Friendly Airport Lounges Make Flight Delays a Breeze

Make the most of that lengthy layover.

It may not be the Emirates First Class experience, but it’s still better than searching for a seat in the terminal. | Photo by Felipe Ribon, courtesy of Air France
It may not be the Emirates First Class experience, but it’s still better than searching for a seat in the terminal. | Photo by Felipe Ribon, courtesy of Air France

Airport lounge access is similar to signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry—after the first time you use it, you’ll wonder how you ever survived a trip to the airport without it. While some are reserved only for those privileged few flying business or first (or who have made it their mission to earn and maintain airline status), there are great lounges in major airports around the globe that you can gain entry to simply by purchasing a day pass—and some don’t even require you to be flying a certain airline.

Even if you’re at an airport with a decent chain of airport bars—and let us tell you, those airports are few and far between—nothing beats a guaranteed seat (or even couch, if you’re lucky), Wi-Fi that actually works, and unlimited drinks to enjoy in the comfort of the transportation world’s equivalent of a VIP room: the airport lounge.

And considering bad weather and staffing shortages have made flight cancellations and delays way, way worse than anything we’ve seen pre-pandemic, having a place where you can waste away the extra hours when your plane is late is worth the small fee you’ll be shelling out in exchange. It’s true that some of the lounges that could easily rival a five-star hotel are just as exclusive as one (meaning, unless you’ve got the golden first or business class ticket, you’re not gettin’ in), but you can still sit back and make the most of your layover in style with a day pass at one of these top lounges—some of which include a sauna and Master Somm-curated wine list.

DFW Airport

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
What’s great about the Dallas-Fort Worth airport is that American Airlines has an Admirals Club in every terminal, but that doesn’t mean they’re all designed equal. Terminal D is, hands down, one of the best (meaning food options don’t look like a high school cafeteria tray). The buffet will be filled with all the standards (cheeses, snack mixes, fruit, cookies), but the coffee and tea options (La Colombe and Tealeaves) make this a much better option than what’s in the terminal food court cafe.
Cost: $59 (or 5,900 AAdvantage miles)
Getting In: Every terminal has a lounge, but it’s worth heading to the one near gate D24 in Terminal D.

Paris Aéroport - Charles de Gaulle (CDG)

Paris
Air France has perhaps some of the best in-flight perks of any international airline, including well-curated French wine lists and menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs (if you’re flying la première or business, that is). But the airline has done quite a bit on the ground as well. And while it’s not quite as glitzy as the first class La Première Lounge (menu by Alain Ducasse, anyone?), Air France’s business lounge in Paris has a lot going on. There is a Clairins spa complete with private saunas (if you can book them). The food is prepared in an open kitchen setting and is meant to mimic a French brasserie, and the cocktails are created by the head bartender of Paris’s Hotel Lancaster.
Cost: €60 ($61) if you're on a long-haul flight and sign up as a member of Air France’s Flying Blue
Getting In: The lounge is in Terminal 2E, and it’s open every day except Wednesday (which is bizarre, we know).

LukeandKarla.Travel/Shutterstock

New York, NY
Delta isn’t the flashiest airline—the coolest thing about flying on a Delta plane is probably the Biscoff cookies. But Delta’s lounge at New York’s JFK airport comes with a roof deck, and that just might make flying Delta worth it. The outdoor space is the big draw, but the Sky Club also has a full bar with a number of beers on draft, a wine list curated by Andrea Robinson (one of only 34 women to hold the title of master sommelier) and bartenders mixing up fresh cocktails. Note that while a single visit pass is no longer an option, if you already have one, you can use it through its expiration date.
Cost: Free for Delta One or SkyTeam Premium Cabin passengers, SkyTeam Elite Plus, Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card Members, and Delta Sky Club Lifetime Members; $39 for Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card Members.
Getting In: Head to Terminal 4 (Concourse B, near Gate 31) and settle in up to three hours before your flight departs (if you’re connecting, you can stop in anytime before your next flight).

Alaska Airlines

Seattle, Washington
Fans of Virgin America’s mood lighting and earworm of a safety video were probably unhappy when Alaska subsumed the hip airline. But the flagship lounge in Alaska Airlines’s home city might change their minds. The lounge is on its way to doubling in size (and should be finished this summer), and while the food is pretty standard (except for Alaska’s famous pancake machine), the complimentary drinks are not. Like Alaska flights, the lounge features drinks local to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest—including beer, liquor, and Seattle success story Starbucks. There is also a wine list with full bottles available for $20.
Cost: If you’ve got elite status (Alaska MVP Gold, Gold 75K, or Gold 100K), memberships start at $350, which may sound like a lot, but this gets you in to 90-plus partner lounges, all Alaska Lounges, and entry for two friends—no matter which airline they’re traveling on. No status? It’s $450 for the annual membership, or you can buy a $60 day pass at the lounges in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York (JFK).
Getting In: Make your way to Concourse C, and check into the lounge on the mezzanine level, next to Gate C-16. The lounge opens at 6 a.m., so even if you’re off on an early flight, you can still get a Bloody Mary before hopping on board.

Sorbis/Shutterstock

Singapore
The late Anthony Bourdain said that the Singapore airport had the best food of any airport in the world and that carries over into the accessible lounges. The SATS lounge doesn’t require you to fly any particular airline, which is helpful for easy access. The drinks are standard beer and wine, but the food (even though it’s a self-serve buffet) evokes a Singapore night market with its noodles and steamed dumplings. The booths in the lounge also offer a bit of privacy, which you don’t get in a lot of standard lounges.
Cost: SGD 75.06 ($54) for five hours
Getting In: Unlike most lounges, this one is open 24/7. All you have to do is head up to Level 3 in Departure/Transit Lounge West in Terminal 3.

Québec City
This Québec City lounge (by Gate 29) is a general admission lounge—it’s not affiliated with or sponsored by a specific airline, but it does carry all-inclusive favorite Club Med’s brand—but it’s a step up from most of these types of lounges you’ll find around the world. It’s certainly cozier thanks to a large fireplace, but the drinks are better, too. Typically it’s just the same two or three macro lagers (not naming names here) and some underwhelming wines. But in QC, they stock some local beverages, including a couple of Montreal beers and ice cider. The spirits aren’t bad, either, with bottles like Beefeater gin, Grey Goose vodka, and Havana Club rum.
Cost: CA$45 ($35)
Getting In: You’ll need to show a boarding pass for a flight that day, and you can only stay a max four hours. Only downside is doors shut at 6 p.m., so you’ll need to get in by 4:30 p.m. at the latest.

Other ways to get in the door

One loophole around lounge access is with memberships like Priority Pass, whose network spans 1,300 lounges around the world (think everywhere from New Orleans to Tokyo). The downside is that you’ll have to pay an annual fee, plus per visit if you go for the lower-tier membership option. If you can’t commit (don’t worry, no judgment here), LoungeBuddy is essentially an Airbnb-type app that gets you into lounges like the lauded Lufthansa ones without having to upgrade your ticket or reach a certain status.

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Noah Kaufman is a Thrillist contributor.