Last week, my partner Nick and I were faced with a nearly three-hour layover at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). I had business calls to make and e-mail to check, and the throngs of travelers in the terminal were jangling my nerves. And so, for a total of $75, we bought a 24-hour pass for the two of us to the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge (we were flying American).
Once inside the lounge, I ensconced myself at a desk cubicle to get some work done. Cell phone reception (using Sprint) was a bit spotty, unfortunately, though given the fact the cubicles are far away from the windows, I wasn't surprised. I could have used the landline phone at the desk, but that would have required using a credit card, and I didn't want to bother with that. Also, the wireless Internet access is supplied by T-Mobile and requires a fee. I left my laptop off and checked e-mail on my Treo instead.
These gripes aside, the lounge made the layover far more tolerable than it would have been otherwise. So if you find yourself facing a long layover, and you aren't a member of an airline club, ask if you can buy a day pass (most will sell you a pass for about $50). And keep in mind some premium credit cards will get you free access to airline lounges. For example, American Express recently announced that Platinum and Centurion cardholders can hang out at American, Delta, Continental, and Northwest lounges for free.
Today's Wall Street Journal Cranky Consumer column reviews American, Delta, United, and Continental airport clubs. Of the four airlines, only Continental lounges offer free wireless Internet access, according to the Journal.