That long awaited vacation is finally here. You made it to the airport on time, despite the fact that your toddler insisted that she needed to poop after you had strapped her into her seat (no, it turns out that she did not). You’re feeling the burn from dragging that stroller and car seat that together weigh about eighteen tons to the counter and you’ve checked them in. You’ve stood in a snaking line for an eternity attempting to persuade your whiny toddler that no, she cannot drink water right this minute. You’ve removed your shoes, been poked at and swabbed because you’re carrying milk for the flight. Frazzled and more than a little sweaty you emerge from security, and take a deep breath. There is a little window of time here, a brief period before boarding and scrambling for overhead bin space and then flying with your knees altogether too close to your nose to be truly comfortable. What I am used to doing is spending this time refilling water bottles, lining up for loo access, hoping for a seat at the gate, and maybe, depending on the time of day, going unwillingly to the overpriced airport restaurants for a bite to eat.
There is a different way. There is an oasis where you can spend the precious interlude before boarding. It is called an airport lounge. Until recently I assumed that airport lounges were the domain of the rich. They were an alternate universe into which business and first class travelers disappeared to get away from the teeming, sweating, smelling masses. Then I discovered the wonderful world of churning and, as I wrote about in a previous post, I got my grubby paws on not one, but two Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. Amongst the many, many benefits of this wonderful card, nestles this one particular gem:
Complimentary Airport Lounge Access
“You and your authorized users can access 900+ VIP airport lounges worldwide with Priority Pass Select and enjoy lounge amenities such as WIFI, free snacks, beverages and more when you activate your membership.”
You activate your membership by logging into your account, and clicking on a button. A short while later this card will make an appearance in your mailbox:
The type of membership that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card bestows upon you allows you and all your travel companions to access the lounge free of cost. I’m going to describe for you our first airport lounge experience, a side effect of churning credit cards for points and miles.
We recently holidayed in New Orleans, and we flew out of SJC (San Jose, CA). SJC is home to a Priority Pass lounge called, quite simply, The Club. Our flight was delayed by nearly two hours, a fact that they notified us of only after we were enroute to the airport, and so, post security checks we decided to saunter down to The Club and invite some swankiness into our lives.
The Club is located between Terminals A and B of SJC, and on the second floor. It was a short walk from our gate. At the check in desk our priority pass card was swiped and our boarding passes checked by a very friendly receptionist and then we (three adults, my mother was traveling with us, and one toddler) were let loose into the lounge.
The lounge lived up to my lofty expectations. There were two large seating areas, filled with comfy seats and sofas. One seating area overlooked the tarmac (and thus afforded Toddler BITA much entertainment as she watched the planes take off and land), and the other afforded a view of the city in the distance.
As you can see the lounge was sparsely populated. It is a good thing that Toddler BITA knows about using her ‘quiet voice’, otherwise I might have been too embarrassed to hang around here for long.
A buffet lunch was laid out. It wasn’t the most impressive lunch spread, but it was adequate. Raw vegetables and a dip, pita bread with hummus, two kinds of pasta, chips, a variety of yoghurt and bars, three varieties of popcorn and instant noodles. There were four varieties of fresh squeezed juice and a coffee bar.
The lounge has a full service bar. I had a couple of glasses of wine, Mr. BITA had a Manhattan followed by a beer, and my mum had a gin and tonic. I would estimate that everything we ate and drank (5 drinks!) at the lounge would have cost us about $100 at normal airport prices.
The bathrooms were clean and large, and there were no lines. We could have had showers if we had been so inclined. The reading material, oddly enough, was mostly in Japanese.
I mentioned in this post that the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) has a hefty $450 annual fee. $300 of this is offset by a an annual travel credit. How much is the Priority Pass membership worth? A standard membership costs $99/year and you have to pay an additional $27/person every time you visit a lounge. A standard plus membership costs $249/year and affords you 10 free visits a year (but you need to pay for guests). The Prestige membership costs $399/year for unlimited free visits, but guests still cost extra. So, depending on how often you fly, this CSR perk could be worth a lot, allowing you free lounge access for your entire posse.
And I’ve never in my life before boarded a plane in such a good mood!