Emirates have announced that economy class passengers now have paid access to their first class and business class lounges. The cost is $100 for access to the business lounges and another $200 for access to the first lounges. The price point is relatively high which reflects Emirates feeling that access is worth this much. It begs the question, does paid access dilute the experience for other passengers?

Paid Access or Earned Access?

One of the most desirable aspects of climbing the levels in a frequent flyer programme is the lounge access. People actively go to the airport a little early in order to treat themselves to a nice relaxing lounge experience. This is a reward for all the money spent or miles flown with their chosen airline. Providing paid access could prevent someone from chasing a higher status. Why bother chasing a higher level in a programme for lounge access when you can just buy it?

Quite a few airlines offer paid access to lounges. American Airlines offer an annual membership to the Admirals Club for US$550 or you can buy day passes for $50. Qantas offer membership to the Qantas Club for AU$510 per year but there is no option for a paid day pass. Other airlines such as Aer Lingus offer lounge access a certain fee per visit. It would be interesting to see how much revenue is made from these offerings.

Busy Lounges

In my experience, the Qantas and American Airlines lounges are generally very busy – they’re certainly no sanctuary of peace and quiet. American Airlines even go so far as being the only oneworld alliance carrier that does not allow their own high tier frequent flyers lounge access on domestic itineraries. This essentially forces people to pay!

These airlines all have one thing in common. Paid access is for the business lounge or equivalent only. The exclusivity of the first class lounges (and above!) is usually sacrosanct – access is earned by flying first class or being the highest tier in a frequent flyer programme. Emirates is really doing something different here by offering access to their first class lounge, even if it is at a steep price. On the flipside, many other airlines such as British Airways offer no paid lounge option at all.

Overall Thoughts

My view would be that lounge access should be restricted to frequent flyers only. I can understand offering paid access for a price to the business class lounge from a revenue perspective but certainly not a first class lounge.

What do you think of paid lounge access? I’d be curious as to your thoughts as some people do complain of overcrowded lounges, noise from other guests and all sorts of things. Others must love the chance to pay so they can enjoy the lounge experience. Thanks for reading and please leave your comments and questions below.

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Featured image of the Emirates Business lounge via the Emirates Media Kit.