Why Have Airport Lounges Become So Crowded?

Why Have Airport Lounges Become So Crowded?

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There’s no denying that airport lounges have become a lot more crowded over the years, particularly after the pandemic. Admittedly the crowding issues are a bit uneven, and depend on the type of lounge, how you can access it, and the location. In this post I thought it would be interesting to take a bigger picture look at the issue of lounge crowding, and how we’ve gotten to this point.

Many airport lounges have a crowding issue

Back in the day, airport lounges were marketed as an oasis of calm, and as somewhere you could go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for the entrance to airport lounges to look more like nightclubs, with lines out the door.

Admittedly there are many factors that impact crowding levels:

For example, at my home airport of Miami, it’s common to see a line out the door for the Turkish Airlines Lounge in the afternoons, which belongs to Priority Pass and is also used for Star Alliance airlines.

Some Priority Pass lounges have a line out the door

Meanwhile I’ve certainly used other Priority Pass lounges across the globe — like the Eventyr Lounge Copenhagen — where I basically had the place to myself.

Some Priority Pass lounges have no crowding issues

In the United States, Delta Sky Clubs are probably most notorious for their crowding issues, to the point that the airline has two queues to even enter the lounge, with a priority entry option for select passengers. This would’ve been inconceivable a decade ago.

Why many airport lounges are so crowded

Historically, many have thought of airport lounges as being for business travelers. Even over four years after the start of the pandemic, business travel still hasn’t fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Despite that, airport lounges are busier than ever before.

The way I view it, there are a variety of factors that have contributed to this. Let me share what I think they are, roughly in the order in which they’re leading to the crowding levels.

The popularity of premium credit cards that offer lounge access have exploded over the years. A decade ago, it was mostly baby boomers who had premium credit cards. However, these cards have become much more mainstream in recent years. Not only are younger users maximizing the perks more, but they’re probably also more frequent travelers on balance.

For that matter, the value proposition of premium credit cards has improved significantly over the years. Going back a decade, the Amex Platinum Card was basically the only premium card on the market. Now we have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture X, both of which offer Priority Pass memberships, with a great overall value proposition.

You don’t have to be “rich” anymore to have a premium credit card, so airport lounge access has really been democratized, and I’d say that’s good overall.

Airport lounge access has been democratized

Airport lounge capacity hasn’t kept up with demand

The first factor to consider is that total passenger capacity around the globe has increased massively over the years, from both legacy and ultra low cost carriers. In many parts of the world, it’s just not practical to hugely expand terminals, and as a result, we’re finding more and more passengers crowded into the same terminals.

Many airlines and airport lounge operators want to greatly increase their lounge footprint, but there’s only so much available space. For that matter, keep in mind that airports are essentially shopping malls with jet bridges, and the way airports are monetized is largely through duty free stores, restaurants, etc.

The point is, most airports are built with profit maximization, rather than passenger experience, in mind.

Airport terminals can’t be expanded fast enough

Premium leisure & blended travel is all the rage

Despite the fact that business travel is still down compared to pre-pandemic, that doesn’t mean that premium cabin demand is down. Quite to the contrary, premium cabin demand has been at an all-time high in recent years. There are many things contributing to this, including that many people would rather spend more money on experiences rather than material goods.

We’re also seeing a lot more blended travel, whereby people have the flexibility to work from anywhere, or have the flexibility to combine business and leisure travel. This makes people much more likely to arrive at the airport a bit early and enjoy a lounge experience, especially if they can work from anywhere.

For many people, airport lounges act as ano ffice

Air travel is being monetized more efficiently

If given the choice of being in an empty lounge or a full lounge, I think anyone would choose an empty lounge. That’s only logical, right?

The thing is, lounges take up expensive real estate in terminals. Lounge operators — whether it’s an airline, a credit card company, or an independent airport lounge group — want to get as much of a “return” out of that as they can, and that’s logical:

  • Independent lounge operators are typically paid per visit, so of course they have an incentive to have lounges be as full as possible
  • Credit card lounges want to maximize goodwill among cardmembers to keep people engaged in the ecosystem
  • Lounges specifically for first and business class passengers are a bit different, since they’re still a cost center, though we have seen many airlines increase their premium cabin footprint over the years, without lounge capacity increasingly proportionally

The entire air travel ecosystem is monetized much better than it was one or two decades ago, and that’s why airlines are in a more stable situation. As they view it, the busier the lounges, the better.

Of course the risk is that you get to the point where lounges are so full that they detract from the experience, and people no longer want access. While I do think that’s a potential concern, I seem to be in the minority in feeling that way. After all, we continue to see lines out the doors for many lounges, so clearly people see value in this.

Air travel is being monetized more efficiently

How I approach airport lounge access & crowding

Everyone is looking for different things from an airport lounge. Some people want peace and quiet. Some want fast Wi-Fi. Some want food and drinks. Personally my lounge habits have changed quite a bit over the years.

Here’s how I generally approach the value of airport lounge access based on crowding levels:

  • For me, the single most important thing about a lounge is that it’s reasonably quiet
  • If I’m just taking a basic domestic trip in the United States, I’m not really looking to eat or drink all that much; I don’t really drink alcohol when traveling domestically, and the lounge food isn’t usually much to get excited about
  • In the United States, I do still really enjoy Capital One Lounges and Chase Sapphire Lounges, even if they are busy, as they have some features that I really appreciate, like great coffee
  • If I’m traveling internationally, there are still some amazing first and business class lounges, even if they are busy, and they’re worth visiting
I’m a sucker for cold brew on tap!

More often than not, when I’m traveling domestically, I’d rather just seek out a gate area that looks like the below, where I have relative quiet, and can connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi. I just don’t bother going out of my way to sit in a crowded lounge.

Often gate seating is better than a lounge

Bottom line

Airport lounges have become increasingly crowded in recent years, especially in the United States. This is due to a combination of factors — the increasing popularity of premium credit cards, the higher demand for premium air travel, and airport lounge capacity just not keeping up with the increase in demand.

While there are still lots of amazing lounges, personally I often skip the typical, run-of-the-mill Priority Pass lounge in the United States. I’d rather sit in a quiet gate area with Wi-Fi, lots of natural light, and with no one nearby.

Where do you stand on airport lounge crowding? Have your lounge usage patterns changed as a result of crowding?

Conversations (67)
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  1. Anthony Guest

    ITCC. It's the Credit Cards.

    Not only airport lounges but elevated hotel status. CC credit cards get you there quicker. I find many Marriott hotels over full with these status's achieved with credit cards, rather than those earned status's from staying at the hotels.

    That's life, along with all the other hotel & airline conditions imposed on us frequent travellers.

  2. iamhere Guest

    Noting new. Bloggers blow both ways. On one hand if the status is not easy enough to obtain there is a complaint and a complaint if too easy too and tips to work the system...

  3. Frog Guest

    “airport lounge access has really been democratized”…I’d say “commoditised” is a more apt term. In their bid to maximise revenue, airlines have thrown customer experience to the wind.

  4. Anthony Joseph Guest

    I've given up on airport lounges and am gong to cancel my Amex Platinum Card after 25 years because of the ridiculous Rules/Regulations and the lounge being full and I have never been able to figure out the advanced reservation system.

    I love the the now "rare" Priority Pass Restaurant benefit offered by a limited number of Premium credit cards (Hanging onto my Citicad WorldElist Prestige MC)....

    I see Priority Pass as a totally worthless...

    I've given up on airport lounges and am gong to cancel my Amex Platinum Card after 25 years because of the ridiculous Rules/Regulations and the lounge being full and I have never been able to figure out the advanced reservation system.

    I love the the now "rare" Priority Pass Restaurant benefit offered by a limited number of Premium credit cards (Hanging onto my Citicad WorldElist Prestige MC)....

    I see Priority Pass as a totally worthless benefit for North America Airports.

  5. Henry Young Guest

    I remember the days when lounge access was the only way to get WiFi. These days a majority of airports have public WiFi, sometimes served by the same infrastructure as lounge WiFi. In LHR lounges are often more crowded than the terminal branch of Pret a Manger, which has better food options anyway. I'd rather pay for a better experience than access a "free" lounge. Last time passing through Dehli - lounge full with a...

    I remember the days when lounge access was the only way to get WiFi. These days a majority of airports have public WiFi, sometimes served by the same infrastructure as lounge WiFi. In LHR lounges are often more crowded than the terminal branch of Pret a Manger, which has better food options anyway. I'd rather pay for a better experience than access a "free" lounge. Last time passing through Dehli - lounge full with a queue, terminal eating area had plenty of tables available. Oh how the tables have turned !!!

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      I'm flying through LHR in a few weeks and, for the first time in a while, I'll be in Y and was just thinking about the lounge situation. And I had the exact same thought. To a "T". I'll just snag a counter or two-top at or near Pret and work for an hour or so until my gate is displayed. Noise cancelling Air Pods go in, crowd goes away, and if LHR wifi is...

      I'm flying through LHR in a few weeks and, for the first time in a while, I'll be in Y and was just thinking about the lounge situation. And I had the exact same thought. To a "T". I'll just snag a counter or two-top at or near Pret and work for an hour or so until my gate is displayed. Noise cancelling Air Pods go in, crowd goes away, and if LHR wifi is slow, I can always tether my mobile. And, like you said, the food is likely to be better, company is paying for it anyway, and I don't have to deal with crowds or people coughing on/sneezing on/touching buffet "snacks".

  6. Jake Guest

    "Nobody is special when everyone is special" -- the ultimate endpoint of so-called "democratization".

  7. Lorwrj Guest

    I would hardly bother to use a US lounge during domestic trips. I got my Venture X and Sapphire Reserve (which I downgraded) because I fly international for a few months a year, and I get to use fabulous lounges in other countries. They are hardly crowded and far superior to the ones here.

  8. Charles Member

    "For many people, airport lounges act as ano ffice"
    This should read "an office"

  9. glenn t Diamond

    Airlines operating international flights consistently advise their passengers to get to the airport at least 3 hours before departure. Athough this is targeted at Economy passengers where the check-in queues are horrendous, many others erroneously think this applies to every cabin class, and duly turn up super-early. Then, if eligible for Priority lines one can be through in minutes, with almost 3 hours to kill. So, off to the lounge for 2 hours or so,...

    Airlines operating international flights consistently advise their passengers to get to the airport at least 3 hours before departure. Athough this is targeted at Economy passengers where the check-in queues are horrendous, many others erroneously think this applies to every cabin class, and duly turn up super-early. Then, if eligible for Priority lines one can be through in minutes, with almost 3 hours to kill. So, off to the lounge for 2 hours or so, contributing to unintentional overcrowding.
    Maybe better to be Gary Leff, who seems to arrive and runs to the gate making it just before the aircraft door is closed. (haha!)

    1. Jake Guest

      The 3 hours is mostly for the airline to have extra time to sort out the inevitable idiot who shows up without the proper documents/visas/whatever.

  10. T'Om Guest

    I am so grateful for Ben and Co. His recommendations have brought me hundreds of thousands of miles. I am most grateful that he is able to monetize the affinity links. I want Ben sticking around for a long time.

  11. Paul Guest

    On the spot paying for access to business class lounges has increased at least in Asia, which seems to be the major crowding issue in that part of the world.

  12. Chris Guest

    I don't get blaming credit cards that literally have pretty much the same annual fee as paying for a membership for the most part.

  13. Jacob Guest

    Look in the mirror to find the problem Ben. STOP advertising these credit cards that provide lounge access.

    1. Wc Guest

      Then this blog will have no source of income, close shop, then where will you freeload info from then?

    2. Jacob Guest

      I’m not the one freeloading. Ben is the one that gets all of these free first and business class tickets just so he can write a nice review to make the airlines along with credit card companies look good.

    3. Anthony Joseph Guest

      It's not freeloading from OMAAT. THe number of solicitations for credit cards is getting very tiring and so are Schlappig's pop-ups (two pop-ups for each page I open). But this is the price to pay.

      But, let's talk about "true value" in dollars/cents to all the so called "lounge access benefits" that premium credit cards offer.

      Also, what aggravates me with specialized lounges like Amex Centurion is that they don't have any accountability for compensation...

      It's not freeloading from OMAAT. THe number of solicitations for credit cards is getting very tiring and so are Schlappig's pop-ups (two pop-ups for each page I open). But this is the price to pay.

      But, let's talk about "true value" in dollars/cents to all the so called "lounge access benefits" that premium credit cards offer.

      Also, what aggravates me with specialized lounges like Amex Centurion is that they don't have any accountability for compensation if one is turned away from entering their "exclusive" lounges. Until this happens, what is the motivation for them to change their behavior on lounge capacity.

  14. Michael Guest

    Lounges are packed because of the availability of access through credit card membership

    I live in Ireland, there is not one credit card that I can avail of to gain lounge access. My access to the Aer Lingus lounge is purely by spending money flying with the Irish carrier

    It gals me to enter the lounge before noon prior to the departure of many Trans Atlantic flights to find it packed with passengers who probably...

    Lounges are packed because of the availability of access through credit card membership

    I live in Ireland, there is not one credit card that I can avail of to gain lounge access. My access to the Aer Lingus lounge is purely by spending money flying with the Irish carrier

    It gals me to enter the lounge before noon prior to the departure of many Trans Atlantic flights to find it packed with passengers who probably spend little or nothing with Aer Lingus

    It's past time to only allow lounge access to those who spend money flying with an airline and end lounge access through credit card membership

  15. netjets Guest

    As things are there's been an increasing persistent nuisance around the airport bar and coffee shop areas over the years.

    Last year when I had several long hauls including 3, 12-hour or longer flights over just about a week's time, as much time in airports as not, I was considering picking up a lounge subscription for access to showers and short term, I suppose they aren't actually capsule hotels, but these private rest facilities. But...

    As things are there's been an increasing persistent nuisance around the airport bar and coffee shop areas over the years.

    Last year when I had several long hauls including 3, 12-hour or longer flights over just about a week's time, as much time in airports as not, I was considering picking up a lounge subscription for access to showers and short term, I suppose they aren't actually capsule hotels, but these private rest facilities. But with the way the facilities are getting abused in several of the airports I visited, I just haven't.

    It's the fact that what goes on in most airports is referred to as a "watering hole attack" and that these lounges are then actually actual watering holes that are selective on the basis of means and willingness to spend money conspicuously in an airport. When I can walk into a Starbucks and not be bothered for more than 5 minutes I'll reconsider my wish for a netjets subscription.

  16. Alex Guest

    In addition to all that’s already been stated, I really think the lounge crowding issue relates to scheduling by the airlines particularly at the hubs. The legacy carriers pack all their flights into a couple of small banks of time each day, which drives up the passenger volumes and hence club overcrowding. The same overcrowded club one minute can be barren on passengers within the hour after the connections take off.

  17. yoloswag420 Guest

    I find it odd that you are all so willing to attack this blog for sharing info about credit card lounge access, when most of you are also beneficiaries of this information, whether it comes from here or another travel blog. Stop being so selfish and self-serving.

  18. David Guest

    More access via credit cards and the ranks of travelers having status is swelling.

    "As you get older, one realizes time become a more valuable commodity than the vanity of gaining lounge acces."

    That's pretty much me. NFW I'd wait in line to get into a lounge. If there's a line or it's too crowded for my liking, I'll find a nice sit-down place or grab something and find a find a quiet spot.

  19. yoloswag420 Guest

    There's a lot of valid criticism for this blog like poor fact-checking, typos, etc.

    But I don't think it's realistic to say he and other bloggers cause lounge crowding. The fact is, if banks didn't see it as a practical benefit for their customers, there wouldn't be so many cards that offer it. Nor would Amex, Chase, and Capital One be investing in physical lounge spaces. They have done the market analysis and know the...

    There's a lot of valid criticism for this blog like poor fact-checking, typos, etc.

    But I don't think it's realistic to say he and other bloggers cause lounge crowding. The fact is, if banks didn't see it as a practical benefit for their customers, there wouldn't be so many cards that offer it. Nor would Amex, Chase, and Capital One be investing in physical lounge spaces. They have done the market analysis and know the demand for it. It's really that simple.

    Even if there weren't bloggers talking about these cards, have you not all physically seen how aggressively airlines push their cobranded cards that offer lounge access?

  20. Mike Guest

    The proliferation of travel hacking post on social media has increased. Someone is posting about how they get outsized benefits on their premium travel card. One of them is the lounge benefits. Now everyone is jumping on that band wagon and posting about the awesome lounge access.

    I agree with you Ben, it's better to seek out a corner of the airport close to you gate and be productive. One can only be so productive...

    The proliferation of travel hacking post on social media has increased. Someone is posting about how they get outsized benefits on their premium travel card. One of them is the lounge benefits. Now everyone is jumping on that band wagon and posting about the awesome lounge access.

    I agree with you Ben, it's better to seek out a corner of the airport close to you gate and be productive. One can only be so productive waiting in line. As you get older, one realizes time become a more valuable commodity than the vanity of gaining lounge acces.

  21. Andrew Diamond

    My takeaway is: I should probably run a contract lounge. That would help with overall capacity and I'd apparently haul away a fortune.

    Special bonus for underserved markets like LAX and the half of SFO that forgot restaurants aren't used by almost any Priority Pass customer anymore. ;P

  22. Trudie Guest

    The BA Club lounge at LHR T 5 is always so crowded now (with so so food choices) we now don’t bother and eat at Gordon Ramsay’s which is usually a quiet retreat and spacious and like you, find a quiet gate area to sit.

  23. Mak Guest

    One can easily blame the uptake in CCs offering membership, but fundamentally it is a capacity issue. Airport infrastructure globally is creaking with capacity issues. Most major hubs are lacking for space in expansion and even when lounges go through renovation they actually tend to decrease capacity as they add gimicky spaces and furniture.

    Case in point is the KLM Crown Lounge 52 at AMS. The old lounge was a sea of armchairs and...

    One can easily blame the uptake in CCs offering membership, but fundamentally it is a capacity issue. Airport infrastructure globally is creaking with capacity issues. Most major hubs are lacking for space in expansion and even when lounges go through renovation they actually tend to decrease capacity as they add gimicky spaces and furniture.

    Case in point is the KLM Crown Lounge 52 at AMS. The old lounge was a sea of armchairs and seating and you could always find a spot. The upgrade a few years ago supposedly expanded the space but added lots of pointless furniture and spaces that are not really functional. Also at AMS the Aspire lounge was recently renovated with much excitement. A few weeks now since the opening and there are still the 30 minute waits for access during quiet periods, which grow to hour long waits in busy periods. So from a capacity experience nothing was improved with this renovation.

  24. Lee Guest

    I will stick to actual airline lounges. Credit card access lounges are an absolute last resort. It seems clear that Amex really doesn't care about the state of its lounges as long as people keep plunking down $695 a year. Unless the revenue needle moves, Amex has no motivation to change. Just keep checking the buffet for Soylent Green.

    1. Exit Row Seat Guest

      “Just keep checking the buffet for Soylent Green.”

      LOL ==;-)

  25. Lee Guest

    A couple years ago, the NY Times wrote about the democratization of airport lounges. Not a new topic. Like any other "elevated" travel experience, airport lounges are not intended for the masses and they are paid for. The current airport lounge attendance levels are the result of the current price of access, which is simply too low. I'm stating the obvious but that's what it comes down to.

    1. Jake Guest

      The outside-of-the-USA model of lounges only for business class is much better, and allows the airline to right-size the lounge.

  26. Anthony Diamond

    A lot of replies are blaming "paid membership" for clubs being crowded. I'm not sure I understand - when it comes to US airline clubs, didn't they always offer paid memberships, payable annually? That is how I thought the average lounge visitor used to get into Admirals, United, Delta, Alaska, etc clubs. Credit cards expanded access, but those kinds of lounges were never just about status.

    The fact of the matter is that club usage...

    A lot of replies are blaming "paid membership" for clubs being crowded. I'm not sure I understand - when it comes to US airline clubs, didn't they always offer paid memberships, payable annually? That is how I thought the average lounge visitor used to get into Admirals, United, Delta, Alaska, etc clubs. Credit cards expanded access, but those kinds of lounges were never just about status.

    The fact of the matter is that club usage has increased because more people have experienced lounges, and lounges themselves have improved. Centurion Lounge really was the catalyst for this. And it's a good thing. I was in the new MSP SkyClub last week. Beautiful club, people enjoying champagne, wine, etc on the SkyDeck. Mix of business travelers, leisure travelers, families. The experience is much better than just sitting at the gate, despite Lucky's preference.

    1. Lee Guest

      Anthony, you are correct regarding terminology. "Paid memberships" are those actual memberships sold by the provider. Access via credit cards are best labelled as something else.

    2. Anthony Diamond

      Yeah - even Priority Pass offers paid memberships directly.

      I think its pretty clear lounge crowding was driven by these, in rough order:

      1) Introduction of the Centurion Lounge, which led to improvement in quality across the board for competitive reasons
      2) Credit card wars, started with Chase Sapphire Reserve
      3) "Bloggers" (Lucky included) introducing lounges and such to a wider audience
      4) More people experiencing lounges, guesting in friends and family,...

      Yeah - even Priority Pass offers paid memberships directly.

      I think its pretty clear lounge crowding was driven by these, in rough order:

      1) Introduction of the Centurion Lounge, which led to improvement in quality across the board for competitive reasons
      2) Credit card wars, started with Chase Sapphire Reserve
      3) "Bloggers" (Lucky included) introducing lounges and such to a wider audience
      4) More people experiencing lounges, guesting in friends and family, further increasing awareness
      5) Increase in demand for travel and experiences from those roughly 40 and under
      6) Economic recovery, starting in the mid 2010s through basically today (with only Covid interrupting it)
      7) Finally, the increase in leisure travel as a percent of overall travel, allowing for longer use of clubs

    3. Lee Guest

      Given your experience with Amex lounges, count yourself lucky. Try the Amex lounges at LAX, SFO, JFK, etc. Even LHR. Every Amex lounge I've been in has been a crowded frat house experience. Once you've seen a guy at the buffet filling up a gym bag with food, it will give you pause. Amex lounges might have precipitated airline lounge improvement years ago but they're a different kind of animal today.

    4. AD Diamond

      Anthony,

      All those factors are true. But the root cause is simpler... You used to have to pay -- either by buying a membership or buying a business or first ticket, usually for international. From the early 90s until just a few years ago I paid for a membership in my preferred airline's club. I could go anytime I was airside and bring guests. Didn't matter what airline I was flying or even if I...

      Anthony,

      All those factors are true. But the root cause is simpler... You used to have to pay -- either by buying a membership or buying a business or first ticket, usually for international. From the early 90s until just a few years ago I paid for a membership in my preferred airline's club. I could go anytime I was airside and bring guests. Didn't matter what airline I was flying or even if I was flying. But I did plunk down several hundred dollars a year for a quiet place with --- NO FOOD and, depending on the airline either an open bar or a paid bar.

      I also refused to pay an annual fee for a credit card.

      Credit cards giving access for free (or arguably for the cost of having the card) is the fundamental shift. Now I pay for multiple premium cards and make sure that they pay for themselves. But the lounge experience, even with food, has gone downhill.

      I'd happy go back to the old days and pay for a membership and a quiet place.

    5. Anthony Joseph Guest

      Excuse YOU.... I have been turned away more than 50% of the time at SEA, SFO, DFW, MIA this year trying to get into a "Paid Membership" lounge with Amex Centurion.
      MSP is NOT a major hub anymore and I wouldn't be surprised to see Delta rmake this hub smaller in favor growth in Seattle that are more lucrative for international non-stop flights. Besides, who the heck wants to use Delta, United and American...

      Excuse YOU.... I have been turned away more than 50% of the time at SEA, SFO, DFW, MIA this year trying to get into a "Paid Membership" lounge with Amex Centurion.
      MSP is NOT a major hub anymore and I wouldn't be surprised to see Delta rmake this hub smaller in favor growth in Seattle that are more lucrative for international non-stop flights. Besides, who the heck wants to use Delta, United and American lounges. Even with "paid membership" you have to pay extra to get a decent drink or "real" food if they offer it.

  27. Julia Guest

    I'd say it's mostly from the paid membership, whether credit cards, PP, etc.

    "airport lounge access has really been democratized, and I’d say that’s good overall."

    Is it really good overall? I'd say lounges being so crowded isn't a good thing overall.

  28. George Romey Guest

    With the AA AC the wifi barely works because it can't handle volume. And the noise is unbearable between people (usually drunk) screaming in their phone to Ebb and Oliver back home that they're in the Admirals Club, children running amuck while their parents are getting polluted and/or yelling to Ebb and Oliver, and the announcements. I often go there grab something to eat and then if there's a quite gate area head there. And...

    With the AA AC the wifi barely works because it can't handle volume. And the noise is unbearable between people (usually drunk) screaming in their phone to Ebb and Oliver back home that they're in the Admirals Club, children running amuck while their parents are getting polluted and/or yelling to Ebb and Oliver, and the announcements. I often go there grab something to eat and then if there's a quite gate area head there. And don't get me started on the bathrooms. Some airports like MIA the airports are far worse than the lounges so they're a bit of a refugee. I'd go back to far less free food and no free booze in exchange for a better atmosphere but like empty middle seats those days are long gone.

  29. Ann Guest

    sucks to be a regular OPM flyer who is stuck in economy because thats all their corporate overlord pays for, and then have to suffer overcrowded lounges, which once were an oasis for the willy lomans and made them feel important.

  30. JoePro Guest

    On my last recent trip in the states, the line from The Incredibles popped into my head: "when everyone's super, no one will be".

    Departed SMF: fairly quiet at the Escape Lounge, good drinks and mediocre food. Ran out of CC Cookies.

    Connected Denver: but for a 20 minute waitlist, we could've at least snuck a peak at the Capitol One Lounge. Centurion lounge too far to get to in time.

    On the return we...

    On my last recent trip in the states, the line from The Incredibles popped into my head: "when everyone's super, no one will be".

    Departed SMF: fairly quiet at the Escape Lounge, good drinks and mediocre food. Ran out of CC Cookies.

    Connected Denver: but for a 20 minute waitlist, we could've at least snuck a peak at the Capitol One Lounge. Centurion lounge too far to get to in time.

    On the return we departed BNA: no lounge available to us.
    Connected IAD: UA Club closest, but not taking one time passes. Next up is Sapphire at Etihad lounge. Agent says one free for PP, with $75 for guest pass. We step aside. I already have my PP account up, wife takes 2 minutes to sign into hers. By this time the agent has apparently forgotten we talked, and there is now a 15 minute waitlist for PP members and signage indicating as such. She points us in the direction of the V.A lounge. We pass AF lounge, also with signage not accepting PP due to capacity.
    V.A serves a lame-o egg sandwich and some cookies.
    7 minutes later we head to our connection, passing the Sapphire Lounge again, which no longer has restrictive signage.

    IME, and as you mentioned, First Class lounges are really the place to be. But harder and harder to get on awards.

  31. NedsKid Diamond

    It’s because you and your blogger colleagues post weekly about how to get access and your source of income is signing people up for cards that provide access. So the answer is in the mirror.

    1. Lee Guest

      Yes. But, to be fair, CNN Travel has published a how-to guide on airport lounges.

  32. Gerwanese Member

    "After all, we continue to see lines out the doors for many lounges, so clearly people see value in this."
    Never underestimate the excitement people get out of getting "free" food and drinks, even if quality isn't great.

    "More often than not, when I’m traveling domestically, I’d rather just seek out a gate area that looks like the below, where I have relative quiet, and can connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi."
    Domestically, I...

    "After all, we continue to see lines out the doors for many lounges, so clearly people see value in this."
    Never underestimate the excitement people get out of getting "free" food and drinks, even if quality isn't great.

    "More often than not, when I’m traveling domestically, I’d rather just seek out a gate area that looks like the below, where I have relative quiet, and can connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi."
    Domestically, I usually don't even use airport wifi; I got mobile data anyways, so why bother about public wifi. I think it's way more relevant when travelling internationally. Depending on the country, there can be quite some benefits to lounge wifi. Several times already I've experienced pretty bad airport public wifi (trouble getting the connection running, slow speeds, regular disconnects etc.) while lounge wifi tends to be much more stable.

  33. Andy Diamond

    The reason is mainly paid membership (e.g., PriorityPass, credit cards). When airport lounges were reserved to first and business class passengers plus a few high level frequent flyers travelling in Economy on the same airline, the airlines could easily plan the capacity. But then, they outsourced lounge operation and the operators also started accepting paid visitors.

    1. asprino Guest

      And people are getting to airport earlier than before, because (a) security line getting insane and unpredictable and (b) leisure travellers tend to go airport early

  34. AaronP Guest

    On AA, when you achieve lifetime Platinum status, you get access to lounges for all overseas flights. As more people like me qualify, it adds to crowding. This perk includes Flagship dining and all One World lounges worldwide. For me, I'd rather eat dinner in the Flagship lounge, board the aircraft and take an Ambien, rather than eat a business class meal on the flight, where I basically can't move during the whole meal. I...

    On AA, when you achieve lifetime Platinum status, you get access to lounges for all overseas flights. As more people like me qualify, it adds to crowding. This perk includes Flagship dining and all One World lounges worldwide. For me, I'd rather eat dinner in the Flagship lounge, board the aircraft and take an Ambien, rather than eat a business class meal on the flight, where I basically can't move during the whole meal. I sleep as long as I can and then take the breakfast before arrival...

  35. jfhscott Guest

    One factor the talking heads continue to ignore is that entry level lounges have improved. I recall when one had to pay for even the most basic alcohol and had to settle for crappy cheese cubes for food. Even if I had a paid membership, I was not going to make the lounge a part of the airport experience - rather it was there in the event of delay or a long layover.

    Now that...

    One factor the talking heads continue to ignore is that entry level lounges have improved. I recall when one had to pay for even the most basic alcohol and had to settle for crappy cheese cubes for food. Even if I had a paid membership, I was not going to make the lounge a part of the airport experience - rather it was there in the event of delay or a long layover.

    Now that lounges have upped their game a bit, they are - for some people - worth getting to the airport early and turning offerings into lunch or a light dinner. What might have been a 15 minute visit 10 years ago is now a one hour visit. And the more nice entry level lounges get, the more people will dwell in them, making them more crowded.

  36. frrp Diamond

    Its because every credit card seems to come with status. So it then gets crappy for everyone.

  37. Endre Guest

    Well, maybe you could write a story on how bloggers like you with your affiliate links have contributed to the overcrowding of lounges in the US

    1. Mark Guest

      We humans like to point fingers and assign blame for things, but I’m guessing a lot of people learned about these benefits, not from travel bloggers, but from word of mouth, tik tok, etc. We live in the age of information and blaming bloggers is a little naive. If the lounges didn’t offer access at such a low rate compared to years ago, there would be nothing to tok or blog about.

  38. Sequelaephobe Guest

    Covid is not over. At the airport a priority is not having my trip ruined by getting sick while at the airport. A crowded lounge, often with lower ceilings, unknown ventilation standards, and no air quality monitors, is likely a worse place to avoid airborne illnesses while awaiting departure than simply finding a quiet idle gate elsewhere in the main terminal. Several times now I’ve sought a lounge, found it cheek by jowl, or with...

    Covid is not over. At the airport a priority is not having my trip ruined by getting sick while at the airport. A crowded lounge, often with lower ceilings, unknown ventilation standards, and no air quality monitors, is likely a worse place to avoid airborne illnesses while awaiting departure than simply finding a quiet idle gate elsewhere in the main terminal. Several times now I’ve sought a lounge, found it cheek by jowl, or with a queue to enter, and left to find some quiet corner elsewhere.

  39. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Because bloggers like you are peddling credit cards at record levels.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ FNT Delta Diamond — When you say “bloggers like me” do you mean me, or are you just confirming that I’m a blogger (which is accurate)? I just went back through the past 100 posts I’ve published, and not a single one is about “peddling” credit cards with lounge access. So I’m curious where you get these “record levels” from?

    2. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      You may not sell (peddle) credit cards through promotional articles and advertising as much as other bloggers, but to be clear you and your colleagues are directly responsible for lounge overcrowding to say nothing of a lot of loopholes that have been closed over the years because bloggers promoted it on the internet. There is a reason why we can’t have nice things anymore.

    3. Dt123 Gold

      It's the same thing for devaluations as well. Emirates has a predetermined number of first-class seats. When an additional 500k people start building point balances (which they learned about from travel bloggers, tiktokers, and the rest) to try and get 2 first class seats, of course emirates is going to increase award redemptions by 200% Meanwhile those bloggers and tiktokers no longer need miles to book travel, they can pay for it in cash with...

      It's the same thing for devaluations as well. Emirates has a predetermined number of first-class seats. When an additional 500k people start building point balances (which they learned about from travel bloggers, tiktokers, and the rest) to try and get 2 first class seats, of course emirates is going to increase award redemptions by 200% Meanwhile those bloggers and tiktokers no longer need miles to book travel, they can pay for it in cash with the revenue they bring in.

    4. Edvard Member

      Come on Ben, your Facebook and Twitter feed is filled with Credit Card promotions.

    5. Sean S. Guest

      The people going on and on about others discovering lounges reminds me of the old saw that only difference between a conservationist and a developer is who got there first. That is definitely true here as others who have enjoyed the loop holes, award chart sweet spots, etc now are distressed that others have found out as well.

    6. Andrew167 Gold

      Ben, you literally have a link IN THIS ARTICLE to the "4 best credit cards for Priority Pass lounge access." C'mon man - I love your work, but be honest with yourself that you have either 1) links to other articles you've written about credit cards or 2) actual referral links to credit cards in the majority of your articles.

    7. yoloswag420 Guest

      While there's A LOT you can criticize Ben for (including censoring comments), I don't think his articles affect the bottom line of how many people have lounge access via credit cards.

      All bank issuers clearly see a market for credit card lounge access. Capital One who had not been in this game until recently, made its own Venture lounges. Chase with the Sapphire lounges etc.

    8. $ is evil Guest

      OMAAT and other bloggers should operate as charities. No ads, no affiliate links. Or better yet, since we need to gatekeep travel and rewards, should outright shut down.

    9. dander Guest

      It costs time and money for good bloggers like Ben to create content. I can't blame him to make money off his hard work. If you want to start a blog with no revenue no one is stopping you from doing so.

    10. dweins New Member

      Then why are you reading this evil blog?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

FNT Delta Diamond Guest

Because bloggers like you are peddling credit cards at record levels.

6
NedsKid Diamond

It’s because you and your blogger colleagues post weekly about how to get access and your source of income is signing people up for cards that provide access. So the answer is in the mirror.

5
Endre Guest

Well, maybe you could write a story on how bloggers like you with your affiliate links have contributed to the overcrowding of lounges in the US

5
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