August 18, 2023
Your bags are packed, you’re all checked in and the out of office is on. It’s holiday time – or is it?
Before the holiday bliss truly sets in, there’s usually a busy and expensive airport to contend with. But it doesn't have to be all seat searching and overpriced pints.
I know many people who swear by kicking off their much-deserved down time at the airport lounge – but the big question is: are they actually worth the money? Let’s find out…
Historically, airport lounges were the preserves of business class passengers or frequent flyers who racked up plenty of loyalty points. These days, many airports have opened up lounges to the rest of us, with options that aren’t affiliated with any airlines.
Many offer access for up to three hours before your flight, giving you tons of time to get the most for your money and enjoy its food, drinks and amenities.
The price of airport lounges can vary quite a bit, but they are generally around £30 - £45 per person. Normally, food and drink are included in the price, though there could be supplementary costs for things like sparkling wine.
To find out if airport lounges were really worth it, I checked out Club Aspire at Gatwick South Terminal (£32 for three hours) and compared it to prices in the terminal.
At lunchtime, the lounge had two types of curry, rice and pasta, as well as salad, bread, fruit, pastries and biscuits.
In Gatwick South Terminal, there were plenty of options for a quick bite including Pret, Itsu and Boots, where a meal deal costs £4.99. For a sit-down meal, a Nando’s 1/4 Chicken and 2 sides cost £12.25, whereas a Wetherspoons curry would set you back £13.99.
While the food options were great, it’s the drinks that are the real value get. In the lounge, there was coffee, juice, water, soft drinks, wine, beer and spirit and mixers included. Sparkling wine had a £5 extra charge per glass.
There were a few options in the terminal, but Wetherspoons was the cheapest for a sit-down alcoholic drink. Prices here ranged from £4.95 for a glass of wine to £6.10 for a pint of lager, or £9.35 for prosecco.
Wi-fi was free in both the terminal and lounge but there were a lot more charging points in the lounge. Naturally, there are lots of seats in the terminal but if you’re in a group, it can be harder to find a cluster together, especially in peak times – your best bet is usually a sit-down restaurant.
At Club Aspire, as well as your own seats (and usually, a table), there’s a quiet ‘Business Zone’ area with partitioned cubicles complete with plugs and a place to pop your laptop.
Another tiny tick in the lounge column? The lovely view of the runway, which always gets me excited for the trip ahead!
In the terminal, there’s plenty of shops and duty free if you need to grab some things before your trip, though of course you can still access these if you’re in the lounge.
We’d all like to treat ourselves to an airport lounge with the knowledge that it was actually saving money and so let’s do the maths for three different scenarios.
You’ve got an hour before your morning flight and you fancy a quick breakfast and somewhere to relax before you head to your gate.
In this scenario, DIY is going to work out better for your pocket. Of course, you may have to factor in a wait time to get into Wetherspoons in peak period so you may still prefer to pay for a lounge, particularly if you need to charge anything.
You arrive at the airport for a couple of hours to spare and fancy some food and a couple of drinks before you head to the gate.
|2 gin and tonics||Included||£12.70|
I’d side with the lounge on this one. Why? Well, I’d happily pay £1.90 extra for a guaranteed seat with a plug nearby and have that runway view! Plus, I’m sure I’d enjoy a few sweet treats to more than make up for the extra money spent…
You arrive at the airport with three whole hours before your flight, and you’re looking to fill up and enjoy a few drinks.
|3 pints of beer||Included||£18.30|
This is a no brainer for me. If you are heading to the airport super early to get into the holiday mood, the lounge is going to save you money.