Get a day pass for American, United, other lounges

Get a day pass for American, United, other lounges

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With three hours to kill at Sacramento International Airport last fall, I searched online for one of those cushy lounges offering free food and drinks. 

Most lounges limit access to big-spending frequent flyers, premium credit-card holders and those who buy pricey memberships or top dollar international tickets.

But some sell day passes, giving even the basic economy crowd entry to the havens of travel happiness.

I couldn’t believe what popped up: a Groupon for $25 admission to The Escape Lounge, a small chain offering day passes at select airports. The walk-up admission price in Sacramento and most other cities: $45 per person.

You can’t walk out of most decent airport restaurants with a bill under $25 for dinner and a drink, and the lounge included unlimited food and drink, albeit appetizer-sized servings. I clicked buy.

The menu at the Escape Lounge at Sacramento International Airport includes macaroni and cheese, short ribs and other comfort food in appetizer-sized servings. Travelers can buy a day pass.

Want to treat yourself to an airport lounge on your next trip? Here’s a roundup of clubs offering day passes, plus some tips. 

The infrequent flyers’ guide to airport lounge day passes

Escape Lounges: You can book day passes for lounges in the U.S. and United Kingdom in advance on the chain’s website for $40 with at least 24 hours notice or pay $45 at the door. But the best deals, when available, are on deals site Groupon, best known for its discounts on massages, manicures and things to do. In early February, Groupon deals included $33 for the lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada and $25 for the lounge at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and the new one at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. There’s an additional discount if you buy admission for two. Just search Groupon and Escape Lounge and your airport for current offers. 

Note that travelers with American Express’ pricey Platinum Card (annual fee $550) receive complimentary admission and can bring up to two guests.

5. Escape Lounge

Priority Pass: Priority Pass is a collection of 1,300 airport lounges under a variety of names around the world, giving it much more coverage than Escape Lounges, but it’s also pricier for the infrequent flyer. Travelers purchase annual memberships starting at $99, but that level still requires a $32 entrance fee. The $299 standard plus membership includes 10 free visits, and the $429 prestige plus membership allows unlimited free visits. Groupon can save you money here, too. Recent deals include $76 toward the standard plus membership for $7. That reduces the price of the membership to $230 or the cost per lounge visit to $23. Priority Pass and other deals sites also feature discounts, so shop around. 

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