I have one of those bougie credit cards that comes with airport lounge access — via Priority Pass — and I always wondered what the point was. Sure, you can get a few free snacks and a decent place to sit, but it’s not like the lounge is passing out free ice cream and rum-and-cokes to all attendees.
I had almost written off airport lounges as an “eh, if I have an extra hour to kill” convenience until I stumbled across a few Reddit comments praising one lesser-known feature of these travel sanctuaries: the agents. As in, the very customer service employees who are there to help you out with any travel issues you’re having with that carrier. And they might even be more helpful and accommodating than the other “for the masses” agents you’ll find at your carrier’s ticket counter or gate.
First, let me be clear: I have not tried this approach myself, but I’m willing to guess there are limits to even a lounge agent’s power. They are there to check you in and help you be comfortable with all aspects of your travel, but they are unlikely to bump you up to a free first class seat no matter how good your puppy-dog eyes are.
They can, however, likely assist you with your reservation-changing or getting a new flight, or even figuring out your standby situation. If something went wrong during your travels, such as terrible Wi-Fi on your previous flight or a lunch meal that was anything but delicious, they might even be able to voucher you up to remedy the situation.
As this one Redditor described:
Lounges have open bars (yay), better wifi, and decent seats & toilets. But the best advantage, by far, is that airlines keep their Ninja customer service people in the lounge. These are the folks that can you the last seat on the last flight, even if it’s in a higher class. These are the folks who can get you a hotel for the night and a voucher for a decent meal.
My wife always questioned my lounge membership, saying that we could’ve used those miles for travel. Then we took a trip to California and everything went wrong. “To the Lounge!” And everything was just fixed.
Not convinced yet? Here’s another Redditor tale of terrible travel turned terrific:
Just last week I had everything go pear shaped for a connecting flight to Madrid. The AA agent in the DCA Admirals Club seriously kept working after I had resigned myself to not getting a seat across the Atlantic in time for Christmas and basically found me the last possible seat to my destination. (seriously, transatlantics are fucking full right before Christmas). I would have never gotten that kind of service in the rest of the terminal or over the phone.
If you’re already flying fancy, an airport lounge’s customer service team might be even more interested in helping you out when you encounter travel issues:
I had a business class booking on BA from SFO to LHR a few years ago, but it had been ticketed as economy because I’d had to change my flight. The check-in assistant wouldn’t even give me the time of day when I asked about upgrading, but when I went up to the lounge they seemed to take it almost as a personal affront that a passenger with a business class booking hadn’t been upgraded and processed it immediately. They actually pressed me really hard to remember the name of the check-in agent; obviously wanted to write her up, but I honestly didn’t remember.
You might even luck out, contrary to my earlier cynicism:
[Spent] 60 bucks in Atlanta during an unplanned 6 hour layover to get into the SkyLounge, the rep found me a flight 3 hours sooner and bumped me to first class plus $US30 ($42) Amex discount and I was drinking free drinks for free.
Also, I was afforded the chance to watch the huddled masses below do the ‘chicken-little’ re-booking frantically, flailing wildly around until exhaustion cost each person all of their remaining hope. One by one they slowed and fell into slouched lines, inching miserably towards the next piece of disappointment waiting at every ticket counter. It made me wonder how far along I’d be in life if I wasn’t constantly saddled with poverty’s burdens.
Of course another free vodka cheered me right back up.
Depending on the lounge (and the airline), you might even be able to get help from these “VIP” customer service agents without going into the lounge at all — if you don’t want to pay for it or if you can’t get into the specific lounge (because it’s limited to first-class flyers, for example). As one redditor wrote:
You can even use Ninja customer service people if you aren’t a member of lounge/don’t pay - they are waiting before you enter!
The next time you’re planning to travel, hit up a site like LoungeBuddy to see what’s available at the airports you’re hitting.
Even if you can’t buy your way in, you might be able to get in as a result of your carrier status or, if you’re like me, some benefit associated with your credit card or bank. It never hurts to check — if your travel plans hit the fan, this could make it a lot easier to address the problem and get you back in the air.