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The Secret to a Zen Airport Layover

Maple Leaf Lounge

Photo: King Huang from Calgary, Canada

I’m lounging in a plush leather chair, sipping a Guinness, reading a magazine and feeling a bit like a fraud. You see, my plane ticket is for economy (or as I call it, steerage) but I’m hanging out in an oasis of calm in a busy airport. This trip did not get off to an auspicious start. I had to park in the far off overflow parking and a wheel fell off my suitcase meaning I had to half carry, half drag the bag until someone took pity on me. Why don’t airports have luggage cart corrals like grocery stores? The lounge was just the thing to soothe my nerves. Wine was needed.

Once you pass through the lounge doors you’re immediately buffered from the bustle of airport activity. The experience is rather calm and serene, which is in contrast with the sometimes chaotic nature of airports. The chairs are comfy. There are free drinks, snacks, newspapers, magazines and wifi. If you need a quiet place to work, there are business centres and conference rooms. Some lounges even have showers, which would be a Godsend after a red-eye flight. Hobnobbing with executives and celebrities. Yep, this is totally the way to travel. Even the toilet paper in the bathroom is nicer.

How do I get in when I only fly economy?

Executive airport lounges are not just for the high-flying executive class. Really, anyone can use these lounges, but there’s a cost. In an effort to rack up some Aeroplan points for a cheap trip to Asia later this year I signed up for the American Express Aeroplan Platinum card. High annual fee but one of its perks? Maple Leaf Lounge access whenever I fly Air Canada. If you don’t have elite status, an executive class seat or  another qualifying membership card, you can still purchase lounge access. Prices start at $30 one way and you have to buy in advance. You can also buy a yearly pass or redeem Aeroplan points for a one time visit. Other airlines will have similar plans for their lounges.

Now that I’ve experienced this more civilized way to spend an airport layover would I pay for the privilege once I cancel my credit card? Maybe. If I had a really long stopover and couldn’t leave the airport or if I needed a quiet place to work (especially if the airport didn’t have free wifi). The comfy chairs, the free food and drinks, the peace and quiet… it’s certainly nice. In most situations though I’ll probably continue to rough it with uncomfy seats, pass on the drinks and save my pennies.

Have you ever taken advantage of an executive lounge while flying? Who has the nicest one?


  1. Suzy says:

    July 29th, 2012 at 6:30 pm (#)

    I have splurged on a lounge ticket once while flying to Italy. I honestly think I was much more rested for my long flight just being away from all of the noise of the airport. I got to fly with airberlin for a press trip and we had lounge access too. If I could afford it, I would be in there all the time. I think on long haul flights it’s definitely worth the price.

  2. Agness (@Agnesstramp) says:

    October 14th, 2012 at 5:34 am (#)

    Nice post Suzy. I never paid for the business lounge, but I sometimes feel jealous when I see people having a nice rest over there. Great tips, but $30 sounds expensive.

  3. How to Fly for (Almost) Free | Suitcase and Heels | A travel blog about walking the line between budget and luxury says:

    March 5th, 2013 at 8:10 am (#)

    […] One of the best ways to earn a lot of miles fast is by signing up for credit cards. In the last year well over half of the points I accumulated were from signing up for and using credit cards. You want to be careful here but if your credit is good and you can manage your money, it’s a good option. My two favourite cards are the AmEx Gold Rewards and the BMO Air Miles World MasterCard. If you’re looking to score a lot of Aeroplan points quickly the AmEx Aeroplan Plus Platinum card is fantastic, but for a price ($499). I earned 50,000 points right away and it also got me a few perks like Maple Leaf Lounge access, but with its high annual fee I can’t justify keeping it for a second year, even if I am spoiled by the lounge access. […]

  4. Sunday Snap: Music and Drinks in Dublin | Suitcase and Heels | A travel blog about walking the line between budget and luxury says:

    March 17th, 2013 at 8:05 am (#)

    […] I learned how to pull a proper pint at the Guinness brewery. I’ve since put this skill to use in airport lounges. […]

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