Topic of the Week: Pay Per Use Lounges


JetBlue announced that Airspace will open a pay-per-use lounge in Terminal 5 at JFK in May. The private lounge will have plenty of freebies on the inside, but you have to pay $20 or more each time you want to use it. Do you like this model? Is it better or worse than a traditional lounge model?

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35 comments on “Topic of the Week: Pay Per Use Lounges

  1. It is worth pointing out there are companies like Priority Pass to whom you pay a membership fee and then have access to lounges all over the world (cost of visits varies by membership level).

  2. This is weird to me. But there are two very different sides of me when I travel.

    I’m on the verge of Gold on Delta, flying a ton out of JFK and LGA for business. When I’m on business, I want the lounges to be quiet, so I can get work done. I don’t want kids running around, I don’t want people speaking loudly on cell phones. For those clubs, the day pass from any airline should be $100. Make the customer really want the peace and quiet. (I get this doesn’t help airlines generate more revenue, but I’m looking at the customer POV.)

    For leisure, I use whatever’s cheapest: Delta or jetBlue. As much as I’d prefer to keep the miles on Delta, the in-flight experience and the range of destination options from JFK make jetBlue hard to ignore. That said, T5 is one of the best terminals around. Certainly around the NY area.

    So, to get to the original question, I wonder who’d use the lounge for 20 bucks. Families don’t need to, and I’d bet business travelers would pay more to avoid the sometimes noisy gate areas.

    Seems like an odd place for a test. Oh, and I don’t have a problem with pay per use lounges – more an issue with lounges that are always filled to the brim with noisy people. Make them more exclusive.

    1. I think it works well for b6. There are a lot of customers who are not frequent travelers, but want a premium experience, and may want peace and quiet. Since b6 does not have a lot of business customers, the pay per use model works well.

      Im thinking grandma and grandpa flying JFK-Florida 6 times per year will use it and pay the $20. They like B6 over DL, but also like the premium, quieter space and personal service

      Additionally, as international pax connect in/out of b6 / T5 either on jetblue or an interline, this opens up a nice option that is not too expensive.

  3. It’s just another example of airlines splitting out their service into a la carte pricing.

    If you want the really cheap fare and are happy to stand in the departure lounge because the bences are all full, you can have it. If you need the lounge for an hour before flying it’s available to you at a relatively modest cost while still sticking with airline X.

    If a lounge is regularly full, then the lounge management are likely to raise the entry price so as to increase profits

    1. Congestion pricing is actually a great idea! In DC (actually, northern Virginia) we have new HOT lanes (express lanes where the toll increases based on the traffic volume on the non-toll portion of the freeway). Charge more for the club when the regular terminal is crowded!

      Again, this presumes they can keep the club product worth paying for by not overcrowding it. Also congestion pricing would probably force this into a “pay at the site only” model as I don’t think they could jive the flexibility require for congestion pricing with the selling this as an add-on to the online check in process online. Perhaps the two could be married at the airport check in kiosks?

  4. Meh. I have pay-per-use access to some lounges with my Diners Club card, but have never actually taken advantage of it. That doesn’t mean I won’t, but I haven’t found a compelling reason to yet. And don’t forget, many airlines, including AA, already offer pay-per-use access through a lounge “day pass”, though they charge $50 a pop. I would probably only feel compelled to pay, whether it’s $20 or $50, if there’s some special reason, such as a major delay that’s going to strand me in the airport for several hours, an urgent business matter where I need to have some quiet space with Internet to concentrate, etc.

    In other words, to me, it would be a nice option to have, but would I pay to use a lounge on every flight? No. I also think some of the other posters bring up a good point that too low a price point might lead to overcrowding. The LH business class lounge in FRA is a case in point – it is often loaded to the brim as it is, so I wouldn’t suggest opening it up for pay-per-use.

  5. Makes sense to me. Airlines let you to pay to upgrade your seat on the plane, why not let you pay to upgrade your seat in the airport? I always felt airlines like DL and US should do this with their existing clubs. They would simply need to develop metrics around how many people can be in the lounge, ratio of day passes to total people, etc. for different times of day to make sure it doesn’t become overcrowded and, therefore, remains useful to those who have purchased annual memberships.

    I think $25-30 per visit is the sweet spot. I would pay that anytime I had more than an hour or two to kill but $50 or more is ridiculous. Plenty of people want something like this (hence priority pass which is still a membership and far more cumbersome than simple pay as you go clubs) but, as it stands now, the business model for joining a major airline clubs (and I’ve done so for DL, AA, UA and US at various times) only makes sense if you are slavishly “devoted” to that one airline.

    1. Forgot to mention… adding this to both the online check-in and the kiosk check-in (again, in the same fashion as seat upgrades and baggage check in) would only drive more revenue, presuming the airline is responsible for not overcrowding it and having a facility worth paying for in the first place.

  6. I think a good number of passengers using the lounge would be those connecting from international flights at JFK. JetBlue has started codesharing and selling tickets with many international carriers such as B6, EI, EK, LH, and even long-haul AA flights, and on those international flights lounge access is a given in business or first class, and often depending on status as well.

    I know that much of the time I wouldn’t bother paying for it, especially if I were starting at JFK, but if I had a 6 hour connection and from a flight from (say) DXB, a lounge would certainly be very welcome.

    Whether they can keep it clean and quiet is another matter, but it shouldn’t be too hard if they put the effort into it and allowed enough space in the terminal.

  7. If you were going to have a very long wait, it could be worth the cost to sit in a club. But for $20 a lot of people may be willing to pay for it even for a short period, and at a low cost a lot of people may do it.

    The question is how big is the club and how many can be in there at once?

  8. Pay per use is great, but I find it a bit odd that you get a single entry price regardless of time spent at the lounge.

    1. That’s a good idea. 5 to 10 bucks an hour with a decent chair, watchable TV, an outlet, and/or juice and cookies and I’m in almost every time. I’d probably buy a sandwich and a drink too.

  9. I have seen more and more indie business center clubs around the country. Mainly they are in second tier, medium sized airports, that can not justify airline branded club and WN is the dominant carrier. The demand is there….I agree that the price point and amenities will make or break….but I find the pricing at JFK odd.
    Now that LCC’s are players in major airports, this service model makes sense. Maybe they want to avoid ‘giving the house away’ to people with a status system. The flip side is you run off the people who need it and are willing to pay a fair market price for it.

  10. I don’t know about Jetblue’s terminal..But I would definitely pay for lounge access on mega long haul flights. I paid to use the lounge at DXB’s T3 when I had a seven hour layover. That $20 fee is a good deal though. I had to shell out $45 at DXB!

  11. Sounds like a great idea to me. Not sure it will work for the airlines since they will have to maintain the club even if no one arrives. Might work for Jet Blue at JFK or the major hubs for other airlines

  12. As a leisure traveler I like this, because we could use it on a long wait between planes. We donm’t have any loyalty to any one airline; so this is perfect for us.
    Not to mention that LGB is nearby

    1. Just FYI – loyalty/elite status usually doesn’t help with club access on domestic flights. You either have to buy an annual membership or pay for a day pass, regardless of your status or lack thereof on the airline. Elite status only gets you in the lounge before or after international flights.

      1. True with club access but status provides significant discounts for club membership, even free for the super Platinum elite types. I think even 10 years ago, a “street” membership to the DL Crown Room was $499 per year, with Silvers at $399, Golds at $299 (or $249) and Platinums were free.

        That always struck me as odd considering the higher tiers were likely the most frequent users. Therefore, price was actually inversely proportional to usage, i.e., those that used it most paid the least (or nothing at all). Under that model, club membership seemed like more of a status perk than an actual revenue stream, even to the point they jacked up the price to make it mostly prohibitive to the general public to make it look like an even bigger perk to their best customers.

        Clearly the airline club revenue model is one that was due for an overhaul! Good for B6 and let’s see where this goes…

        1. Interesting – didn’t realize that was the case over at DL. I was Platinum on AA for a few years, and the discount on a club membership was pretty poor; I think you could pay $649 instead of $699, or something like that. Though they would always send me a complimentary day pass every 6 months or so to entice me to try one and sign up for a year…

          1. That is interesting, Mean. I would have guessed the airlines had similar pricing strategies for their clubs (like they do for everything else) but obviously that is not the case.

  13. Well the article said $20.00 or more. But I think around $30.00 is good for me. I like the fact that it is something that is there only if you want it. If I get to the airport and have an hour or less until boarding I wouldn’t want to waste money on a lounge that I was only using for less than an hour. During delays however is a different story. I hope (this makes me sound very snooty ? honest I?m not) I hope it is a little more than $20.00. The last thing I want is some 19 year old arguing that he should be served a beer in the lounge because he shelled out $20.00.

    I also think people on Jetblue are very budget conscious. Whenever I get up to walk around I see people sharing earphones that only cost $2.00. While I am concerned about it being overcrowded; I sincerely doubt it will be that over-crowded.

    On a side note: Gone are the days of when B6 and WN where primarily leisure carriers and fun. I still love their products but it seems that they all are now catering to business people.

  14. Well if you use a club less than 20 times a year its great. Most airlines charge $50 for a day use fee. But if one is not around, its nice to have access to something. But I want it to be quiet. Some of those Delta Sky Clubs have turned in a kid’s free for all. A few times I have gone back out into the concourse for some peace and quiet. Sad but true.

  15. Virgin America has a pay-per-use club at LAX called LOFT. It costs $40 but there is free booze, food and WiFi. I don’t think children under 12 are allowed.

  16. I use the AA Admirals Club passes quite a bit. If there are two of us traveling, each way and with a layover, $99 for a month pass for one person (plus two guests) is a great deal. Without layovers, for vacation, it equals $25 per person each way. I would WAY rather sit in the lounge with a view of the airplanes, no noise, comfortable chairs and free booze. Two large beers at the bar in the terminal is almost that amount anyway. And the free WIFI is even better.

    Plus with AA, they have agents there to help with any problems that may occur – flight cancellations, delays, etc.

  17. Frankly, I think it’s a great idea! It’s nice to have an option when you need to work in a quiet place, have refreshments and snacks at a reasonable cost. I fly more than one carrier as routing and reduced time in the air is important to my schedule so this concept works for me.

  18. I wonder how much this has to do with B6 increasing connecting traffic?

    I remember one time in 2007 when I was flying CMH->JFK->SEA and I had two options, a three hour lay over or a thirteen hour layover. I took the thirteen hour layover and used Manhattan as my lounge. Then I almost missed my flight at T6.

  19. Airspace has a lounge at BWI and I’ve used it twice. The first time I paid and the second time via the Amex Plat. Personally that one isn’t worth paying for due to its small size and marginal amenities. Larger, nicer lounges are worth some money. When things are chaotic a lounge can be nice and relaxing but often you can find a place in the terminal where you can sit and relax (it may not be at your gate but somewhere else).

  20. I like it! I’d use it during long connections, but only if they have more comfortable chairs than the ones in the picture. It didn’t look inviting to take a nap or kick back.

  21. I think there is value to this model. Despite having a United Club membership and connecting in YVR to a business class flight on CX I ended up paying to use the Plaza Premium lounge on my way to HKG. The Plaza Premium lounge wasn’t the nicest lounge ever, but it worked out for me. Here’s why:

    – I arrived early and had a long connection, and the CX lounge wasn’t opening for a few hours.
    – Nap room. No bed, but I was able to get a good power-nap on a comfortable enough recliner.
    – Shower. Not the LH First Class terminal by any means, but I really wanted a shower before my long flight to HKG.
    – Price. It was only $15 with a coupon I happened to find.

    The lounge itself was about on-par with a United Club in terms of condition of furniture, but there was actual food. I had eggs and bacon and there were some Chinese options, too. Following my snack, a nap, and a shower, I visited the CX lounge for lunch.

    Had there been an Airspace with a shower in YVR’s transborder area I would have given it a shot on the way back. My United Club membership would have given me access to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, but only with an Air Canada ticket. The transborder Plaza Premium lounge doesn’t have a shower, so I decided to clear customs and visit the attached Fairmont’s health club for a shower.

    This worked out for me, but had there been an Airspace in the transborder area I would have given it a shot!

  22. I’ve used paid lounges before. If I’m going to spend a two to three hours of wait time in an airport – and there is free (decent bandwidth) wifi, drinks and snacks – then it’s less than you could spend at a concession. Of course, if there is no free beer, then I can’t see the point.

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