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Get the best preflight experience: The 7 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge

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Airport lounges can be great places to relax before your flight.

They provide you with complimentary food and drink, a quiet, comfortable place to sit and allow you to charge up your devices to download a few TV shows or get some last-minute work done before your flight. The more upscale lounges may even have amenities such as a spa, a la carte dining and showers.

While you may think this posh airport experience is only for the travel elite, did you know you can obtain airport lounge access by holding the right credit card?

If you’ve never been in a swanky airport lounge before, here are some simple do’s and don’ts to help maximize the experience for yourself as well as respect your fellow passengers.

Related: TPG readers’ favorite airport lounges around the world

Do your homework


Depending on the airport and your ticket status (economy class, first class, business class), you may have access to more than one lounge.

Flying on a Oneworld business-class flight from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) Terminal 3?

You can access four different lounges run by different airlines that vary enormously in quality (our picks are the Cathay Pacific and Qantas lounges). Before you travel, be sure to check the following online:

  • What lounges do you have access to?
  • What is considered the best lounge of the options?
  • What is the location, opening hours and access policy of your preferred lounge(s)? You don’t want to spend a long time wandering around trying to find a lounge that ends up being closed.

Do arrive early enough to enjoy it


If you have access to a truly excellent lounge, like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow, you want to have enough time to enjoy it. It may not make sense to leave home at 4 a.m. just to have time for a cocktail before the sun rises.

But suppose you have a flight at a more civilized hour. In that case, you should plan your check-in to allow enough time to experience everything, including a glass of Champagne, a view of the runway from the roof terrace and a meal in the formal dining room.

If check-in for your flight opens three hours before departure and it will take you about 30 minutes to check in, pass through security and walk to the lounge, you would have around 90 minutes in the lounge before boarding starts (depending on the aircraft type, airline, airport and so on). This is a good amount of time to explore and make the most of the lounge.

Rushing in late with only five minutes to scarf down a sandwich and a drink isn’t the most relaxing start to a flight.

Do a full lap of the lounge on arrival


Even if you have visited a particular lounge before, the best place to sit might not be apparent when you first walk in.

The seating near the entrance or the buffet may be busy and not relaxing.

In contrast, if you do a lap of the lounge, you can not only get your bearings on where everything is (including the bathrooms, charging points and possible runway views), but you might find a much quieter and more peaceful place to relax away from other passengers who sat in the first chair they saw.

Don’t take your eye off the time


Many lounges — especially independent, third-party lounges — will not make boarding announcements. If you are indulging at the bar, time can fly by, and you might forget why you traveled to the airport in the first place — to get on a flight.

Neither the lounge nor the airline will be very sympathetic if you miss the flight because you enjoyed yourself too much. Set an alarm for boarding time on your phone before you enter the lounge.

As an added tip, I like to Google my flight number, which prompts my phone to provide me updates for things like delays and gate changes.

Related: How to avoid flight delays and cancellations

Don’t disturb the peace

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold lounge in Singapore

FaceTiming loved ones back home? Watching a funny video someone sent you? Taking an urgent business call? These are all fine to do in an airport lounge on one condition: Wear headphones.

As much as you might love the sound of that baby’s laugh or that amazing music video for the new song you can’t get out of your head, those around you in the lounge don’t care to listen. They’d prefer to enjoy some peace before their flight.

If you are taking a confidential business call that you don’t want strangers to hear (even if it’s only your side of the conversation), consider ducking into a meeting room or private space within the lounge — you never know who could be listening!

Related: The 10 best Priority Pass lounges around the world

Don’t hog more space than you need


Airport lounges are essentially public spaces you share with strangers.

While there may be a temptation to spread your luggage and coat across multiple seats to give yourself as much personal space as possible, if everyone did this, there might not be enough seating for all guests.

Bottom line: Don’t take up more space than you need.

Don’t go overboard just because it’s free


You might be tempted to eat and drink as much as possible because it’s free, which can be a bad idea. If you drink too much, you might not even be allowed on the flight, and if you eat too much, you might ruin your appetite for your inflight meal later. If you plan to go straight to sleep on the plane, you might struggle because you’re too full.

If you wouldn’t eat that much at home before bed, don’t do it in an airport lounge.

Bottom line

Lounges can make your airport experience so much more enjoyable. It’s worth looking into how you can access them with your credit card or status, or whether it’s worth paying cash to get inside.

As with any travel experience, a certain etiquette should be observed.

Follow these simple guidelines, get the most out of your lounge experience and ensure other passengers can enjoy theirs, too.