How to scam your way into a business lounge when flying economy

Airport lounges are a haven for the busy business traveller, but you can't always rely on them rolling out the red carpet.

For starters, you might be flying in economy or premium economy rather than business class – even on international flights. Such cost-cutting privations have become increasingly common in the post-GFC era when companies tightened the travel budget belt.

Of course, that's when frequent flyer status comes into its own. Even a poor soul stuck in Qantas economy all the way to Singapore, Hong Kong or – gulp – London can still start their journey in style at the Qantas first class lounge provided there's a Qantas Platinum frequent flyer card in their passport wallet.

But what happens when both of those planets misalign: when you're flying in premium economy or economy on an airline with which you hold no status?

No status, no worries

It's not uncommon, especially when your schedule calls for trips to many Asian cities which are not served by the major airlines.

That's when you need some form of airline-independent lounge access in your back pocket so that you're not struck out in the terminal with the rest of the hoi polloi.

These lounges don't have to be as swish as an airline's regular business class lounge; they just need to tick a few boxes for the business traveller.

Those include a decent selection of food and drink, comfortable seating, plenty of AC sockets for your laptop and ideally some quieter nooks where you can work.

Express access

In the international terminals of Sydney and Melbourne airports, the American Express lounges are your Plan B.


Both have a very pleasing spread of food and drink, including barista-pulled coffee and wine bars. In fact, some travellers I know prefer these to the Qantas business class lounges: they're quieter (except during peak periods) and feel more 'exclusive', as access is restricted to holders of selected American Express cards, and of course it doesn't matter which airline you're flying on.

Melbourne and Brisbane also have Plaza Premium lounges, which offer free entry to selected American Express cards as well as paid entry starting at around $60 per person.

Plaza Premium is the world's largest independent lounge operator, with over 160 lounges in some 40 airports around the world and a particularly heavy presence in Asia, which makes it an ideal part of the business traveller's status-free strategy.

Priorities straight

Another component of this is membership in the Priority Pass program. A Priority Pass card which unlocks access to some 1200 independent lounges around the world, including but by no means limited to Plaza Premium lounges.

Priority Pass membership starts at US$99 per year with a cost of US$32 per lounge visit, with a US$299 package including ten lounge visits and a US$429 plan with unlimited lounging.

However, that unlimited plan is included as one of the many travel-friendly perks of the American Express Platinum charge card – a card which also gets you into Amex lounges around the world.

As you can see, alongside your shiny frequent flyer membership card a few other well-chosen cards can make all the difference to your business travel experience.

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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What hacks have you used to get into your lounge of choice? Share your experience in the comments section below.