Airport Lounge Access

December 2, 2019
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Image of travelers at an airport. Airport Lounge Program

Airport Lounges are all the rage among frequent travelers and nomads of all sorts. They provide an opportunity to lay back and relax on those tiresome and long layovers, and they’ll completely change the way you experience travel once you try them.

There are a number of airport lounge clubs that you can sign up to in order to gain access to the most exclusive establishments in airports all around the world. Big names like Priority Pass and Dragon Pass stand out from the rest, but there are plenty of other options to choose from. In this post you’ll learn everything you need to know about the top airport lounge programs in the world, and how you can take full advantage of the confort and perks they provide.

Here is your one stop guide to what are the pros and cons of the available airport lounge programs. It’s a simple summary of what you need to know to decide which program better suits your lifestyle.

In this article, you will find 

What Is It About Airport Lounges?

We can’t stress enough why airport lounges are no longer a luxury commodity but a necessity during your flight travel plan. Simply put – you would enjoy your layovers and pre-departure time a lot more with the addition of an airport lounge facility at your disposal.

Imagine this – sipping on your favorite beverage on your personal massage chair in a quiet environment with high speed Wi-Fi available for you to get up to speed on your social/news media update.

At certain lounges, you can even get shower facilities along with the provision of soap, shampoo and towels. It’s no longer an exclusive benefit where airport lounges are only available to first class ticket holders. Today, it’s pretty much available to any departing flight ticket holder with the right credit card or membership plan. 

Read on to find out about how to become eligible and gain access to the best airport lounges in the world.

How Do I Gain Access to Airport Lounges?

As mentioned above, airport lounges used to be an exclusive benefit that came with purchasing a first-class ticket. Today, however, things have changed. There are three major ways to walk into a lounge:

  1. Buy a membership plan if the program allows you to. It could be an annual, monthly or even daily membership
  2. Get a credit card that comes with a complimentary airport lounge program membership or a discounted membership at your preferred airport lounge program. 
  3. Find out which airport lounges are available at your departing or stopover airport and purchase a walk-in airport lounge pass

We will elaborate more on the different membership plans available below. 

Types of Airport Lounge Programs Available

To make it easier for travellers, many different airport lounges have joined under a common banner in the form of airport lounge programs or lounge clubs. This gives you, as a traveler, the possibility to access lounges at different airports with one single membership plan. 

What makes each lounge program special?

We have done a deep analysis on the top lounge programs and provide here our review score for each. Individual scores go from 0 to 20 points, which makes the total score go from 0 to 100. Here is a summary of the top airport lounge programs available:


Priority PassDragon PassLoungeKeyMaple Leaf ClubPlaza Premium Lounge
Global Lounge Coverage202020168
Canadian Lounge Coverage2020201814
Hours & Amenities911101212
Food & Drink161617819
Value for Money20882014
TOTAL8575757467

Read on below for details on the lounge program scoring

Priority Pass 

Priority Pass Airport Lounge program logo
Scoring CriteriaPriority Pass Score
Global Lounge Coverage20
Canadian Lounge Coverage20
Hours & Amenities9
Food & Drink16
Value for Money20
TOTAL85

Global Lounge Coverage: Priority Pass

Priority Pass comes with more than 1,200 lounges globally across 7 continents. It is known to be one of the biggest in the world, with the highest number of available airport lounges under its wing. You can find the list of available lunges here.

Even so, it is still key to check if your preferred airport lounge is a part of Priority Pass before jumping the gun and immediately getting your pass membership.

Canadian Lounge Coverage: Priority Pass

From the Priority Pass program, there are 21 lounges available across 7 Canada airports:

  • Calgary International Airport – 3
  • Edmonton International Airport – 2
  • Montreal International Airport – 1
  • Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport – 1
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport – 8
  • Vancouver International Airport – 5
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport – 1

Food & Drinks: Priority Pass

The food selection has been said, by user reviews, to be ‘good’, as hot food is available at most establishments. At selected airports such as YWG, complimentary beer and wine beverages are also available for consumption.

Hours & Amenities: Priority Pass

On average, Priority Pass lounges in Canada are open 18 hours per day. In the following table, you will find the amenities available at the Canadian airport lounges in the Priority Pass program.

In the table, every numerator (the number at the top) represents how many of the PP lounges in that airport offer each amenity, and the denominator (the number at the bottom) represents the total number of PP lounges in that airport. For example, in Toronto Pearson (YYZ), 3 out of 6 Priority Pass lounges offer showers, and 2 out of six offer Printers & Copiers.

Canadian Airports with Priority Pass LoungesShowersPrinters & Copiers
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)3/62/6
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)3/50/5
Calgary International Airport (YYC)2/31/3
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)0/11/1
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)0/20/2

Value: Priority Pass

Annual membership options:

  1.  $99 USD for the Standard plan (occasional) – $32 USD per member visit and $32 USD per guest visit
  2. $200 USD for the Standard Plus plan (regular) – 10 FREE visits, then $32 USD per member visit. $32 USD per guest visit
  3. $429 USD for the Prestige plan (frequent) – unlimited FREE member visits and $32 USD per guest visit

Membership Options: Priority Pass

  1. Get yourself an American Express Platinum card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex and enjoy complimentary Priority Pass membership as long as you have your card active. 
  2. Get the Scotia Gold Amex for a 35% discounted Priority Pass membership.

Final Thoughts: Priority Pass

The wide range of airport coverage and unlimited access in may Amex credit card options makes this airport lounge program a winner and favourite pick in many traveller’s checklist. This would be your best bet. If you don’t already have one, get yourself an Amex Platinum card today with optimised benefits along with complimentary unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges.

Dragon Pass

Dragon Pass Airport Lounge program logo
Scoring CriteriaDragon Pass Score
Global Lounge Coverage20
Canadian Lounge Coverage20
Hours & Amenities11
Food & Drink16
Value for Money8
TOTAL75

Global Lounge Coverage: Dragon Pass

Dragon Pass comes with 970 lounges globally across 115 countries. It draws the second largest number of lounges available within the program after Priority Pass.

You can check the listing of Dragon Pass lounges here and Priority Pass lounges here to compare.

Canadian Lounge Coverage: Dragon Pass

From the Dragon Pass program, there are 20 lounges available across 7 Canadian airports:

  • Calgary International Airport – 2
  • Edmonton International Airport – 2
  • Montreal International Airport – 1
  • Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport – 1
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport – 8
  • Vancouver International Airport – 5
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport – 1

Food & Drinks: Dragon Pass

Similar to Priority Pass on the lounges available, the food selection has also been said to be ‘good’ in user reviews. At selected airports such as YWG, complimentary beer and wine beverages are also available for consumption.

Hours & Amenities: Dragon Pass

On average, DragonPass lounges in Canada are open 18 hours per day. At the Canadian airports below, you will find the amenities available at the lounges in the Dragon Pass program.

Canadian Airports with Dragon Pass LoungesShowersPrinters & Copiers
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)3/62/6
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)3/50
Calgary International Airport (YYC)2/20/2
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)0/11/1
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)0/20/2

Value: Dragon Pass

Annual membership options:

  1. $99 USD for the Standard plan (occasional) – 1 FREE visit, then $31 USD per member visit and $31 USD per guest visit
  2. $219 USD for the Preferential plan (regular) – 8 FREE visits, then $31 USD per member visit. $31 USD per guest visit
  3. $399 USD for the Prestige plan (frequent) – unlimited FREE member visits and $31 USD per guest visit.

Membership Options: Dragon Pass

There is a 50% discounted membership plan for Visa cardholders issued in Asia Pacific, but unfortunately not for holders of Canadian Visa cards like the RBC Avion Visa.

Otherwise, there aren’t any credit cards available that can provide complimentary unlimited access to DragonPass program.

Final Thoughts: Dragon Pass

Dragon Pass is an alternative to the Priority Pass program. It does have slightly less airport lounge coverage compared to Priority Pass, but it’s not always the most coverage that matters. With Dragon Pass, you’ll also get access to world class lounges.

The Standard and Prestige plans in the Dragon Pass program are less expensive options to the corresponding membership plans in the Priority Pass program. So if you’re an infrequent traveler, or a very frequent traveler, Dragon Pass may be a better option. However, for regular travelers, Priority Pass’ Standard Plus plan offers much better value since it’s cheaper, it gives you 10 free visits instead of 8, and it offers better airport coverage.

Either way, it is still important to make sure your preferred airport has a Dragon Pass (or Priority Pass) lounge before signing up to a membership plan.

Lounge Key

Lounge Key ariport lounge program logo
Scoring CriteriaLoungeKey Scoring
Global Lounge Coverage20
Canadian Lounge Coverage20
Hours & Amenities10
Food & Drink17
Value for Money8
TOTAL75

Global Lounge Coverage: LoungeKey

Lounge Key gives you access to 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, so it’s definitely in the same league as Priority Pass and Dragon Pass.

Canada Lounge Coverage: LoungeKey

From the LoungeKey program, there are 21 lounges available across 7 Canada airports:

  • Calgary International Airport – 3
  • Edmonton International Airport – 2
  • Montreal International Airport – 1
  • Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport – 1 
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport – 8
  • Vancouver International Airport – 5
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport – 1

Food & Drinks: LoungeKey

Similar to Priority Pass & Dragon Pass, the food selection has been said to be ‘good’ in user reviews, as hot food is available. Again, at selected airports, you will also get complimentary beer and wine beverages.

Hours & Amenities: LoungeKey

On average, LoungeKey lounges in Canada are open 18 hours per day. In the table below, you will find the amenities available at the LoungeKey lounges in Canadian airports.

Canadian Airports with LoungeKey LoungesShowersPrinters & Copiers
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)3/62/6
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)3/50
Calgary International Airport (YYC)2/21/2
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)0/10/1
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)0/20/2

Value: LoungeKey

There are no passes that you can purchase aside from complimentary access with select credit cards.

Membership Options: LoungeKey

  1. You can gain complimentary access to these airport lounges through select Mastercard products from BMO, RBC, HSBC, or Rogers. However, it’s also key to know that the lounges in this program are a subset of the Priority Pass as well.
  2. Considering that LoungeKey is part of Priority Pass, you might as well get yourself an American Express Platinum card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex and enjoy complimentary Priority Pass membership as long as you have your card active. 
  3. Get the Scotia Gold Amex for a 35% discounted Priority Pass membership.

Final Thoughts: LoungeKey

An interesting fact about LoungeKey, is that most of the lounges are already part of the Priority Pass program, so that signing up to the latter gives you access to the former. LoungeKey can be seen as a way to give Mastercard cardholders a similar level of lounge access compared to Amex premium cardholders.

The only downside to this is that it takes time to gain access solely to the LoungeKey lounges, due to credit card application times, since signing up to a Mastercard from BMO, HSBC, etc., is the only way to become a member.

Maple Leaf Club

Maple Leaf Club airport lounge program logo
Scoring CriteriaMaple Leaf Club Scoring
Global Lounge Coverage16
Canadian Lounge Coverage18
Hours & Amenities12
Food & Drink8
Value for Money20
TOTAL74

Global Lounge Coverage: Maple Leaf Club

The Maple Leaf Club is an independent lounge program which allows access to 230 lounges globally including Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges.

Canada Lounge Coverage: Maple Leaf Club

From the Maple Leaf Club program, there are 18 lounges available across 11 Canada airports, making it one of Canada’s widest reaching lounge club:

  • Calgary International Airport – 1
  • Edmonton International Airport – 1
  • Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport – 1
  • Montreal International Airport – 3
  • Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport – 1
  • Regina International Airport – 1
  • Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport – 1
  • St Johns International Airport – 1
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport – 4
  • Vancouver International Airport – 3
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport – 1

Food & Drinks: Maple Leaf Club

Many user reviews on food in Maple Leaf lounges have rated it as unsatisfactory, and in some cases even bad. However, it is great that complimentary alcoholic beverages are available at most Maple Leaf Lounges.

Hours & Amenities: Maple Leaf Club

On average, Maple Leaf Club lounges in Canada are open 19 hours per day. In the table below, you will find the amenities offered at the Maple Leaf Club lounges available in Canadian airports.

Canadian Airports with Maple Leaf Club LoungesShowersPrinters & Copiers
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)3/33/3
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)2/33/3
Calgary International Airport (YYC)0/11/1
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)1/33/3
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)0/11/1

Value: Maple Leaf Club

The Maple Leaf Club offers three annual membership plans for either one or two people:

  • Canada – $350 for individual and $550 for partner (1+1) membership
    • Access to Canada lounges only
  • North America – $495 for individual and $730 for partner (1+1) membership
    • Access to Canada, US & Europe lounges only
  • Worldwide – $665 for individual and $970 for partner (1+1) membership
    • Access to all 230 lounges worldwide

Membership Options: Maple Leaf Club

Get the AeroplanPlus Platinum American Express Card or AeroplanPlus Reserve American Express Card for complimentary unlimited access to the Maple Leaf Club lounges.

Final Thoughts: Maple Leaf Club

For Canadians travelers who would expect lounge access at every Canadian airport, this would be the best option to opt for. However, you will need to manage your expectations on the less than average food options and flavours.

Plaza Premium Lounge

Plaza Premium Lounge Airport Lounge program logo

Awarded the StarTrax World Airline Awards for 3 consecutive years (2017-2019) as the top independent airport lounge in the world.

Scoring CriteriaPlaza Premium Lounge Scoring
Global Lounge Coverage8
Canadian Lounge Coverage14
Hours & Amenities12
Food & Drink19
Value for Money14
TOTAL67

Global Lounge Coverage: Plaza Premium Lounge

There are 120 lounges in the Plaza Premium Lounge program across 30 airports globally.

Canada Lounge Coverage: Plaza Premium Lounge

From the Plaza Premium Lounge program, there are 14 lounges available across 4 Canada airports:

  • Edmonton International Airport – 2
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport – 7
  • Vancouver International Airport – 4
  • Winnipeg Richardson International Airport – 1

Food & Drinks: Plaza Premium Lounge

Similarly to the Priority Pass, Dragon Pass and LoungeKey, the food selection has been said to be ‘good’, according to user reviews. At selected airports, such as YWG, complimentary beer and wine beverages are available for consumption.

Hours & Amenities: Plaza Premium Lounge

On average, Plaza Premium lounges in Canada are open 18 hours per day. In the table below, you will find the amenities offered at the Plaza Premium lounges available in Canadian airports.

Canadian Airports with Plaza Premium LoungesShowersPrinters & Copiers
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)3/62/6
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)2/40/4
Edmonton International Airport (YEG)0/20/2
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)0/10/1

Value: Plaza Premium Lounge

Plaza Premium Lounges are also a part of the Priority Pass program, but in this case, you can purchase daily passes without having to sign up to an annual plan. There are three daily pass options:

  • $40 for 2 hours
  • $50 for 3 hours
  • $70 for 4 hours

Membership Options: Plaza Premium Lounge

  1. Get yourself an American Express Platinum Card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex which comes with the complimentary Priority Pass membership perk which partners with Plaza Premium Lounges in the list of airport lounges covered.
  2. Get the Scotia Gold Amex for a 35% discounted Priority Pass membership. 

Final Thoughts: Plaza Premium Lounge

The program is rather limited and its lounges do not have very diverse styles. The biggest upside is the possibility to purchase a one-day pass, which means you can decide to visit one of these lounges even if you hadn’t planned to ahead of time.

The other silver lining is that you can get complimentary access to this program thanks to the Priority Pass membership that comes with many Amex cards.

The Centurion Lounge

The Centurion Lounge airport lounge logo

Exclusivity at its finest! An elite lounge program which allows unlimited access to Amex Centurion ‘Black’ Card and Amex Platinum Cardholders only. 

Pros

  • Excellent atmosphere of peace and quiet guaranteed 
  • Networking opportunities with other Amex Black/Platinum cardholders
  • Premium service guarantee by lounge staff – Assist in current travel itinerary, book future travel, address card inquiries, make restaurant reservations and handle other requests
  • Complimentary alcoholic beverages 

Cons

  • Low number of lounges available – 9 lounges (only in American airports and Hong Kong) 

Our Recommendation:

Get your Amex Platinum to enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion Lounge along with Priority Pass lounge coverage as well. It’s also a great kickstart to earn your way to the Amex Centurion Card as well, since it’s an invitation only card. 

International American Express Lounges

The International American Express Lounges are comprised of 10 lounges within South America, Asia and Australia.

Pros

  • Networking opportunities with other Amex Black/Platinum Cardholders
  • Complimentary alcoholic beverages 

Cons

  • Low number of lounges in the program

Our Recommendation:

Enjoy unlimited access to the lounges with the American Express Platinum Card, AeroplanPlus Platinum Card, or the AeroplanPlus Reserve Card.

Delta Sky Club Airport Lounges

The Delta Sky Club has 250 lounges with flexible annual membership plans you can opt to pay for in 12-monthly installments.

For annual membership, 

$545/year or $50/month for individual membership

$845/year or $75/month for executive membership

The following cards can enjoy complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club lounges. All you have to do is show your card and you are good to enter. 

  • Amex Centurion ‘Black’ Card
  • Amex Platinum 
  • Amex Business Platinum, 
  • Amex Corporate Platinum
  • Delta Reserve Amex

Pros

  • Flexible payment plan for annual membership
  • Available at 250 locations

Cons

  • Reduced lounge access (no longer have access to Air France, KLM Crown or Virgin Australia lounges)
  • Single Pass discontinued. Admittance is only by membership payments or Delta or Amex Centurion/Platinum card holders

Our Recommendation:

You can enjoy complimentary unlimited access to the lounges by being a cardholder of American Express Platinum card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex

Escape Lounges

Gain access to 17 world-class lounges across the US and the UK. You can click here for more details on this lounge service

Pros

  • Flexible entry with daily memberships at $40-45 
  • Complimentary access for American Express Cardholders in the US and partnering chains in the UK; DragonPass, Diners Club, Holiday Extras, Lounge Pass, Lounge Club, Lounge Key and Priority Pass
  • Allows access to the lounge for flight ticket holder of any class

Cons

  • Low number of lounges available = only 17 lounges within US and UK
  • Some of the facilities available are ultra basic

Our Recommendation

You can enjoy complimentary unlimited access to the lounges by being a cardholder of American Express Platinum card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex

Airspace Lounges

Probably one of the cheapest lounges you will find. You can click here for more details on the Airspace lounge service and amenities

Pros

  • Low cost single day pass at $20 per visit
  • Complimentary access for Amex Centurion and Platinum card holders

Cons

  • Only 2 lounges available in the program

Our Recommendation

You can enjoy complimentary unlimited access to the lounges by being a cardholder of American Express Platinum card / AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex / AeroplanPlus Reserve Amex

The Bottom Line Of Airport Lounges

If you are an avid traveller with a minimum of a few flights every year, your best choice is to get yourself an American Express Platinum card. It does come with a $699 annual fee, but it comes with a complimentary Priority Pass membership which covers more than 1200 airport lounges across all 7 continents. This includes Plaza Premium Lounges, Lounge Key, Lounge Club, Delta Sky Club, Airspace Lounges and Escape Lounges. Additionally, you also gain exclusive access to The Centurion Lounge. A less expensive option would be the American Express AIR MILES Reserve credit card, which includes four complimentary Priority Pass lounge visits per year, along with other great travel perks for less than half the Platinum’s annual fee. 

However, if you are not a frequent traveller and go for the occasional impromptu trips, then it would make better sense to get single pass entries as and when you travel.