How much does it cost for a one-off airport lounge visit?

Would you pony up $30 to get into a Qantas airport lounge, from the modest domestic Qantas Clubs to the airline's highly-rated digs at Hong Kong and Singapore?

What about $135 for a stay at Emirates' business class lounge at busting Dubai Airport, or as much as $270 to give yourself a five-star stopover at the airline's flagship first class lounge?

Those are the going rates to pay your way into these airport lounges.

It's an appealing option for travellers who are stuck down the back of the bus in economy or lack that shiny frequent flyer card.

After all, the lack of lounge access is particularly noticeable when you're accustomed to enjoying time behind those frosted glass doors rather than making do in a crowded public terminal.

Lounge loophole

Qantas doesn't directly sell one-off access to its lounges – travellers typically need to have joined the Qantas Club or hold Gold or Platinum status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme.

But many credit cards include a few 'complimentary lounge invitations' which provide one passenger flying on Qantas or Jetstar with entry into a domestic Qantas Club lounge or any of Qantas' international business lounges.

Those passes often find their way online at online auction house eBay and classifieds website Gumtree, where they're typically sold for $30 to $40.

(Note that Qantas is working to prevent this by shifting its lounge passes from paper slips to digital passes.)


Gulf glamour

By comparison, each of the Gulf trio of airlines – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – are now letting economy travellers buy one-off access to their airport lounges.

Emirates charges $135 to get through the door of its business class lounges at Dubai, with $270 for the primo first class lounge. If you're flying in business class, a spot in the first class lounge drops to $135.

Virgin Australia partner Etihad Airways also pegs walk-up access entry into its amazing Abu Dhabi first class lounge at $270, which we'd rate as much better value than Emirates because the Etihad lounge is more like an upscale boutique hotel with a wet shave service, hair and nail salon and more.

You can also buy your way into Etihad's business class lounges, not just at Abu Dhabi but around the world – including Sydney and Melbourne – at prices ranging from $75 to $100.

Likewise, Qatar Airways' opulent Al Mourjan business class lounge at Doha's Hamad Airport comes with a $165 price tag if you're flying in economy class with Qatar.

Is it worth it?

All of which begs the question: are these lounges worth upwards of $100 to visit?

The best of these business class lounges will tick all the boxes for a weary traveller in transit, including showers, extensive buffets and in some cases a la carte menus plus well-stocked bars.

(The Emirates business class lounge at Dubai's Concourse B goes a step better with a Moët & Chandon champagne bar, which also serves a selection of canapés created to complement each champagne – it's definitely the kind of place where you could end up missing your flight!)

And while you can of course buy a meal in any airport, there's something to be said about having plenty of choice and being able to graze the selection rather than limit yourself to a single dish off the menu.

Topping this off, most of these flagship business class lounges offer ample seating and plenty of AC sockets for charging up your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

None of these elements is worth $100 on its own. But roll them all together and as long as you've got three to four hours (or more) between flights, I rate this as a steal of a deal compared to camping out in the terminal's public area.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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How much do you value airport lounge access on business trips?