There's a Qantas special right now which slices $385 of the cost of Qantas Club membership -- but you still have to pay $470 for the privilege. How can you decide if that investment is worth it?
OzBargain points out that until between 11 and 13 November, signing up for a one-year membership for the Qantas Club costs $470. That's made up of a standard joining fee of $370, and a discounted one-year membership of $100, rather than the usual $485. The offer applies to any new member (while the original poster received an email, any quote for an Australian resident via the Qantas site produces the same pricing right now).
Saving $385 makes a big difference, but the $470 price tag reminds us that airport lounge membership is not especially cheap. As we pointed out recently, unlike the US there are essentially no affordable options for making a one-off visit, so you'll pay big money. These are the standard prices for a new one-year membership from the three domestic airlines that offer lounges.
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Note that the prices reflect range to a fair extent: Qantas has 24 domestic lounges (with both Qantas Club and business lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra); Virgin has 9; Rex has just three.
If you're an extremely regular flyer and achieve Gold status with Qantas or Virgin, you'll score free access to the lounge and won't need to worry about this. But where do you draw the line if you haven't quite reached that mark?
In part, it depends on the resources you want. Airport lounges offer easy access to free Wi-Fi and power outlets for your gadgets. However, free Wi-Fi is also an option at many domestic airports. Power outlet access is also easier than it used to be, though at busy times you'll struggle to find an outlet.
Lounges also offer free food and drink. Frequency of flight is the main issue here. If you only fly six times a year, then even paying airport prices and spending $20 on each trip, you'll come out considerably ahead.
Access to showers can be a handy bonus, and one that's not easy to replicate within the airport itself most of the time. That said, for a one-off requirement, a room in an airport hotel will be a lot cheaper than the lounge fee.
One other consideration? If you travel regularly for work and pay for your own lounge membership, you may be able to claim it as an expense in your tax return (check with your accountant).
Ultimately, it's an individual decision. If you can afford lounge access, it can make travelling much more pleasant -- you won't be called to board until your flight is due, you're away from the hubbub of the main airport, and you have free food, drink and Wi-Fi at your disposal. But if your main local airport doesn't have a lounge or you travel only a handful of times a year, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman still feels a slight sense of shock when he's at an airport with no lounge options. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.