Are Airport Lounges Worth it?

by Barry Choi June 29, 2016 / No Comments

For the latest on this topic, read our up-to-date blog post on credit cards with airport lounge access

I love airports. I love reading the departures board, watching planes take off, and the overall feeling knowing that I’ll soon be off and exploring another destination. For me, the journey starts as soon as I step into the terminal.

Admittedly, arriving at airports hours in advance just to check in and clear security is annoying to most travellers. But have you ever considered arriving early just to hang out at an airport lounge?

With food, drinks, fast internet, showers, and a variety of other services available, you might even be convinced to show up earlier. It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. I’d rather be relaxed, comfortable, and well fed before getting on a plane.

What you may not realize is that you don’t need to be flying first or business class to access an airport lounge, such as Plaza Premium Lounge. All travellers are welcome as long as you’re willing to pay. Rates differ by location but here’s what you’ll be paying when flying out of Toronto Pearson International Airport:

  • Two-hour lounge access – $40 + tax
  • Three-hour lounge access – $50 + tax
  • Six-hour lounge access – $70 + tax
  • Children (ages 2 to 11) – 30% off
  • Children under the age of 2 – free

In Canada, there are 12 Plaza Premium Lounge locations. There are multiple lounges in Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Edmonton International Airport, as well as one lounge in Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. Overall, the Plaza network of lounges has more than 140 locations in 35 international airports in 15 countries.

But what exactly do you get access to? It depends on the location. But at the bare minimum, you should expect hot food, pastries, desserts, drinks including alcohol, lounge chairs, Wi-Fi, internet terminals, and newspapers and magazines.

Other amenities include showers, private resting areas, spa and massage services, a concierge, baggage handling, and much more. But those are only available at certain locations so you should check the website to find out exactly what you can expect.

To be clear, some airlines have lounges that are only accessible to certain passengers flying with them. However, Plaza Premium Lounges are separate, open to all, and have many airline partners that are part of their network. Standards differ all over the world, which is why you should always do your research when considering a lounge.

If you’re a BMO World Elite MasterCard holder, you actually get free access to Plaza Premium lounges as well as four complimentary passes every year as a standard benefit. When combined with the included travel insurance, the $150 annual fee seems pretty reasonable. American Express Platinum cardholders also get complimentary access while other Amex cardholders get a 20% discount when walking in. Here’s a look at the two cards recommends:

BMO World Elite MasterCard


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  • Earn two points per dollar on all purchases
  • Limited time! Get a $300 travel credit
  • VIP Airport Lounge Access* with the included annual Priority Pass membership (valued at US$99), along with 4 complimentary passes per year (valued at US$27 each)


American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum Card


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  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Aeroplan miles after spending $1,000 in your first 3 months, if you sign up by September 30, 2016
  • Partner ticket benefit gives you a 2-for-1 short-haul flight when you redeem 15,000 Aeroplan Miles
  • Earn 1.25 points per dollar on your first $25,000 in purchase, and earn 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases thereafter
  • $499 annual fee
  • Relax in over 700 lounges worldwide with Complimentary Priority Pass Membership

Even if you don’t have any of those cards, you may still qualify for discounts. Flight Centre offers a $10 off coupon for lounges in Canada while CIBC clients automatically get 25% off. The Plaza network website also lists other current promotions available around the world.

The next time you travel, you should check out an airport lounge. Who knows, it might change your entire perspective about the airport experience.

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Flickr: TravelingOtter