How to get airport lounge access when flying premium economy

How to get airport lounge access when flying premium economy

Premium economy trumps ‘regular’ economy in many ways, but one aspect commonly missing from the equation is airport lounge access – a perk typically reserved for business class passengers instead.

However, you don’t have to sit out in the terminal: there are many ways to relax in the comfort of an airport lounge before your flight, even if your ticket doesn’t include the privilege.

1. Be a Platinum, Gold or Silver frequent flyer

It’s no secret that a shiny frequent flyer card can be your ticket to airport lounge access, so if your wallet already packs a Gold- or Platinum-grade frequent flyer card – such as Qantas Gold, Platinum or Platinum One or Virgin Australia Velocity Gold or Platinum – you’re all set.

If these cards are missing from your wallet but somebody you’re travelling with is armed with Gold or Platinum status, you may instead be able to visit a lounge as their guest.

But lesser-known is that many Silver frequent flyer cards provide airport lounge access too: either a certain number of annual visits, or year-round just like their Gold and Platinum counterparts.

For instance, Qantas Silver members receive one complimentary pass each year which can be exchanged for one lounge visit, either in Australian international airports or before the flight home where the overseas lounge is also operated by Qantas (such as in Auckland).

Cathay Pacific takes a more generous approach, extending unlimited airport lounge access to its Marco Polo Club Silver frequent flyers whenever travelling with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, including in airports where Cathay Pacific uses the lounges of partner airlines, such as in Sydney.

2. See if your credit card provides lounge access

Many high-end Australian credit cards come with airport lounge access too, so check if your wallet has a super-shiny card and ask your bank what might be included if you’re unsure.

For example, the American Express Platinum Charge Card offers unlimited access to the AMEX Lounge at Sydney Airport, the Plaza Premium Lounge at Brisbane Airport, and soon, the new AMEX Lounge at Melbourne Airport for you and up to two guests, among others, just by presenting the card when flying with any airline.

More affordable cards like the AMEX Qantas Premium and AMEX Qantas Ultimate instead include two complimentary Qantas lounge passes each year (like those provided to Silver frequent flyers), with the Ultimate Card covering two yearly visits to AMEX’s Australian lounges as well for added flexibility.

3. Consider Qantas Club, Priority Pass airport lounge memberships

Membership in the Qantas Club program provides access to Qantas business class lounges when jetting abroad with Qantas, so if you’ve already forked out for a membership covering your use of domestic Qantas Club lounges, the same membership covers you when heading overseas too.

Qantas Club members receive access to the new Qantas international business class lounge at Brisbane Airport

While competitor Virgin Australia also sells airport lounge memberships, these don’t provide access before longer international flights on which premium economy can be found – such as when flying from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Los Angeles, but a more flexible alternative is Priority Pass.

This independent airport lounge scheme provides access to over 1,000 lounges globally, regardless of which airline you’re travelling with. Memberships start at around $140 per year plus $35 every time you visit a lounge, with higher-priced memberships offering 10 inclusive visits per year or unlimited access.

Some credit cards even provide Priority Pass memberships of varying types at no cost, including the AMEX Platinum Charge Card, Westpac Altitude Black and the St. George Amplify Signature card, among others.

4. Book your premium economy flight with Japan Airlines or ANA

While most airlines only extend lounge access to passengers booked in business class or first class, Qantas partner Japan Airlines and Star Alliance member ANA are two exceptions to this rule, with premium economy passengers given access to the same lounges as business class flyers.

This doesn’t just include flights from Australia – such as Sydney-Tokyo and Melbourne-Tokyo with JAL and ANA’s own Sydney-Tokyo flight – it also covers flights from Japan back to Australia, or from Japan onward to other international destinations like Europe.

5. If all else fails, pay on the day

Still no lounge access? No worries! Many airport lounges allow you to pay for entry at the door.

In Sydney, the SkyTeam lounge welcomes passengers at a cost of $77 for up to two hours or $132 for up to five hours when travelling with any airline: even if the airline isn’t part of the SkyTeam alliance.

Up in Brisbane, a visit to the Plaza Premium Lounge costs $60 for two hours or $70 for up to five hours, with Melbourne’s new Marhaba Lounge selling access at $65 for up to four hours.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • kimshep


    13 Jan, 2018 09:45 am

    Another avenue not mentioned, is the ability to take up the 'paid entry' option at QF Lounges, when extended by QF via an email prior to your flight.
    No member give thanks

  • Happy Trails

    Happy Trails

    13 Jan, 2018 12:24 pm

    Diners card is useful too, though not so much in Australia.
    No member give thanks

  • romaau


    13 Jan, 2018 08:42 pm

    DragonPass allows you to pay per use as well.
    No member give thanks

  • les harvey


    14 Jan, 2018 03:37 pm

    Is there a Dragon Pass lounge in Sydney and Auckland?
    No member give thanks

  • romaau


    15 Jan, 2018 01:52 am

    Sydney = SkyTeam exclusive
    Auckland = Strata lounge

    Download the DragonPass app to see all airports and what is available
    Member who gave thanks


  • V Champion


    15 Jan, 2018 03:16 pm

    So in short, most of the time you cant get lounge access when flying P Economy - despite many thousands more for your seat over economy.
    No member give thanks

  • Alex_upgrade


    15 Jan, 2018 05:57 pm

    Fair point. This is where airlines hold back benefits in order to avoid cannibalizing demand for business. If they make PE too attractive, some may choose to trade down to PE from Business especially on day flights when sleep isn't an issue. Especially those premium leisure travellers (who don't have FF status) on their yearly holiday.

    No member give thanks


19 Mar, 2018 12:15 pm

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