[OPINION: The views expressed by Investopedia columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.]

One of the nicest perks of flying a lot is the use of exclusive, airport VIP lounges. But you can’t just knock on the door to get in.

Ways to Gain Lounge Access

Some of ways to gain access to the good life (and this can vary from airline to airline):

  • Buy a membership, which can start at about $550 for an individual (the cost at American Airlines). 
  • Amass enough miles or points so that membership is complimentary (United, for example).
  • Gain entry with a credit card that includes this perk – though the annual card fee can be costly  (See also: The Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounges). 
  • Fly first or business class on certain airlines on select routes, such as Delta (See also: The Best Time to Buy First Class Airline Tickets).
  • Buy a day pass, which can run around $60 where available. 

Best Reason to Use the VIP Lounge

As wonderful as lounge perks can be, the best uses of these special travel oases is when things go wrong such as a delayed or cancelled flight. The reason: Each lounge comes with a dedicated airport rep who can help unsnarl your difficulty and get you on your way again quickly. If you’re not in the lounge, chances are you’re one of hundreds in line to see the poor overworked gate agent and you could be waiting a long, long time. (See also: Is Airport Lounge Access Worth the Additional Charge?)

Best VIP Lounges to Use

But, say, there’s nothing wrong with your flight. Here’s what still makes some lounges extra-special. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some of these lounges on my own while others are recommendations from friends and colleagues, and a few are descriptions from the airlines themselves. Some of the brighter VIP offerings, in alphabetical order.

British Airways: Look for Elemis Travel Spas in the airline’s Heathrow and JFK lounges. Services in New York include a treatment to rid yourself of red eyes and a massage called Upper Body Heat Wave. A lot of the services at Heathrow focus on grooming including "power shaves" and manicures, complete with nail polish. They even have so-called brow experts standing by for “instant eyebrow lift and shape.” 

Delta Air Lines: A huge new Atlanta lounge was just opened (with seating for 500), complete with a great view of the runways since the club is actually suspended over the tarmac. Locally sourced foods and craft beer are featured along with pairs of high-backed seats named hush pods, which seem to be perfect for what the airline intriguingly calls “intimate talks.” 

Emirates: The first time I entered one of these lounges, I shook my head and said, "Unbelievable." There are more than 30 of them around the world and, if my experience is any indication, they are beautiful and very comfortable with amenities like gourmet food and on-site showers. If you’re flying first or business class on one of Emirates’ huge A380 aircraft, you can also take advantage of its club-in-the-air featuring a bartender and premium drinks. 

JAL: One of my employees raved about the Japan Airlines lounge in Narita, calling the interior design fabulous and adding that the incredible assortment of delicious dishes at the buffet in the was “the best I’ve ever seen.” Lots of people on Yelp agree, and the JAL Original Beef Curry comes in for special mention. 

Singapore: If you like dim sum, pasta and natural light, you’ll like Singapore’s lounge in its hometown airport at Changi. The lounges come in four different tiers of service, including a reception area for first class passengers which the airline describes in suitably florid language: “Just like the service in a top-class hotel, our Passenger Relations Officer will greet you when you arrive, and a porter will unload your baggage and assist you through to our elegant First Class Check-in facility.” And yes, the food is said to be great no matter what tier you’re in.

Virgin Atlantic: Here’s what a globe-trotting journalist loves about this airline’s club in Heathrow. “They have free massages, you can get your hair cut, food is fabulous, you can get lattes and cappuccinos,” she gushed. She’s been to many airline clubs over the years but London’s Virgin Atlantic remains a favorite. As she put it, “I mean, free haircuts?” A person could get used to that.

Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare


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