Cheap Airport Lounge Access to All: An Oxymoron?

You have thought about wanting to escape the crowds at the airport while waiting at the gate for your flight to depart — but for whatever reason, you just cannot see yourself parting with several hundred dollars for an annual membership offered by your preferred frequent flier loyalty program for access to their airport lounges. You might even think that shorter membership durations and day pass options may still not be worth it to you.

A view of the tarmac from the Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Photograph by FlyerTalk member danpass. Click on the photograph for reviews of the Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport written by danpass and other FlyerTalk members.

A company called Airspace Lounge is hoping to change that by revolutionizing the airport lounge business. Their first location at Baltimore-Washington International Airport opened in May of 2011 — which was formerly a United Airlines Red Carpet Club lounge — where the Airspace Lounge opens at least 40 minutes before the first flight departure at Concourse D until 30 minutes before the last flight departure at Concource D departure, 365 days per year.
In fact, FlyerTalk member SleeStack1 posted the following review of that particular Airspace Lounge last week:

“Stopped by the other day on a Delta flight. It was nice to have an option of ANY kind of lounge to spend some time in. Was happy for the complimentary AmEx Plat entry. Didn’t try the food, but had a drink before my flight.
“Its a wee smallish and has fewer perks than some carrier lounges…but then its nicer than a collection of legacy lounges too.
“I’ll likely drop back a few times over the next several months.”

For a minimum of $20.00 per person per day for a day pass — no long-term membership is required — you get to enjoy the following included amenities at no extra charge:

  • A choice of one food offering from their menu of their “extensive complimentary food and beverage offering available throughout the day” — such as a sandwich or one free alcoholic beverage from their bar
  • A wrap is one of the food offerings at the Airspace Lounge — as well as soft drinks and an amenity kit. Click on the photograph for reviews of the Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport written by danpass and other FlyerTalk members.

  • Soft drinks, coffee and tea
  • Access to wireless Internet service
  • Use of laptop computers
  • A dedicated work area
  • Electrical power outlets at every seat
  • Comfortable seating and workspace areas in a “relaxing atmosphere”
  • Separate restrooms and showers

However, when the Airspace Lounge becomes more crowded, the entry fee to the Airspace Lounge may become more costly — similar to the concept of the pricing of variable toll lanes on highways where the toll increases as traffic becomes slower and more dense during peak times such as rush hour. The maximum price could more than double at peak times.
If you are already a member of the Lounge Access Program of American Express, entry to the Airspace Lounge is complimentary for you if you have a personal, business or corporate American Express Platinum Card, your immediate family, or up to two guests — including all amenities.
Airspace Lounge is expected to open a second location adjacent to the Concourse A and B gates at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport sometime within the next month or so — if it has not already opened by the time you read this article — and a third location near Gate 24 of Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is to be opened for business sometime in May of 2013, to be operated by Swissport.
Plans are to open an Airspace Lounge in as many as 40 locations at airports throughout the United States, as lounge access at domestic airports is perceived to be diminishing.
There are several questions and thoughts I have about this concept, as I have never been in an Airspace Lounge:

  • Is there a limit as to how long you may visit a particular Airspace Lounge?

    The Airspace Lounge was apparently quiet and not crowded — perfect for getting some work done? Click on the photograph for reviews of the Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport written by danpass and other FlyerTalk members.

  • Are all Airspace Lounge locations consistent in the facilities and amenities offered, or do they vary by location?
  • Would people actually be willing to pay more to use an Airspace Lounge if it indeed gets more crowded? Does that not defeat the purpose in the first place?
  • Furthermore, is cheap airport lounge access for all an oxymoron? In other words, is exclusivity the whole idea behind the concept of airport lounge access — to get away from the crowds?

For $20.00 or less, I can get a decent meal at an airport restaurant — also open to everyone — and probably eat better. More airports are offering free access to wireless Internet service — although the reliability of that service can vary due to a number of factors. For these reasons and more, I have never purchased a membership to an airport lounge.

The Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport seems to be equipped with rather spartan-looking tables and chairs. Click on the photograph for reviews of the Airspace Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Airport written by danpass and other FlyerTalk members.

However, I must admit that $20.00 sounds reasonable for the amenities offered — but it depends on the amount of amenities, as well as the quality of the experience overall. The roast beef sandwich, for example, was considered inedible by more than one FlyerTalk member. Reviews are mixed amongst FlyerTalk members who participate in the American Express Membership Rewards loyalty program; while several FlyerTalk members seem to be in favor of this concept upon learning of it and would consider trying it — although FlyerTalk member FlyAO2 would rather patronize a Minute Suites than an Airspace Lounge.
If the photographs above are any indication of the Airspace Lounge experience, I might simply think twice about patronizing one, as they do not seem to depict anything special — but I do intend to keep an open mind if the opportunity arises.
If you have been in an Airspace Lounge, please impart your experience in the Comments below. If you have not been to an Airspace Lounge, would you try it? Please share your reasons why or why not…

12 thoughts on “Cheap Airport Lounge Access to All: An Oxymoron?”

  1. sbm12 says:

    The Airspace lounge at CLE lounge is already open and has been for a few weeks now.
    Beyond that people pay to get in to lounges all the time for a variety of reasons. And many of them are crowded, too. This is a less expensive way to make it happen in the few locations they have. Hardly a revolutionary concept at any level.

  2. Brian Cohen says:

    I agree with you that this is not a new concept and that there are a variety of reasons as to why people would use airport lounges — no matter how crowded. I am just not one of those people, I suppose.
    By the way, the link you left to your weblog does not seem to work, so here is the link.
    Thank you, Seth. I appreciate the clarification about the Airspace Lounge at the airport in Cleveland having been opened. The link to the official Internet web site of Airspace Lounge has little more information than they have a “new website coming soon.”

  3. braffy says:

    I stopped by the Airspace lounge in BWI twice a few weeks ago. I have an Amex Plat so it was free. Overall, it was just OK. 1 complementary food OR drink item seems stingy. The free drinks/snacks were practically nonexistent. The staff were friendly enough, but the space and the amenities are really nothing special. That said, it beats waiting in the terminal!

  4. geminidreams says:

    I have used my Diners Club card for years to get in lounges all over the world and some with as good or better quality than business class lounges of the home carriers.

  5. DLLAX says:

    I visited the CLE Airspace Lounge last week and my immediate reaction was WOW. I was thinking of starting a thread about it in the Delta forum as this is right on top of the Delta gates there.
    It’s $20 for a lounge that looks better than 95% of Skyclubs and you get real food included, outlets seemingly everywhere you look, and excellent coffee too .
    Have you had cheese at a United Club or a Skyclub, does it look anything like what Airspace serves? Airspace serves excellent cheese and a lot of it, not disgusting packets like just about any other lounge. Seriously, how could anyone not be thrilled with this *included* in a $20 rate? It’s what I had there.
    Sandwiches look pretty good too I must say:
    And, again, the lounge itself was very nice:
    I like what Amex has done at Vegas with their lounge, but this is far more accessible/reasonable with plenty of style at a far more reasonable price. It was well attended when I was there….and the satisfaction was oddly noticeable with other people asking the manager where more of these might open. This is one of the better developments I have seen for frequent flyers in quite a while.

  6. DrivingRain says:

    I am fairly frequent user of Airspace…and I think it’s great. Great lounges, great employees; perhaps the only in the entire industry who genuinely appreciate their customers.
    Reflecting on the point above about the Centurion lounge in Vegas w/more coming and Airspace Lounge in BWI, CLE, JFK T5 soon and more Airspace’s coming apparently….I think Amex deserves a ton of credit here.
    They’ve got these super-clubs like that in LAS which is sort of a showpiece and very limited access and then they have this affiliation with Airspace Lounge. Airspace is miles ahead of the typical domestic airline lounge in how it looks, its use of high-end glassware/silverware, and of course Airspace is way ahead of the others on its complimentary food offering too. So, anyway, thanks Amex for continuing to take a leadership position here. If I had to choose b/t more Airspace’s or more Centurion’s…as a Centurion card holder it’s an obvious choice for me. But for the vast majority of people, I’d say they dont care…just give us more of both of these please.

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