An airport lounge is one of the few reprieves that travelers can take advantage of when at an airport.

They are designated areas within an airport where certain travelers can go to escape crowded spaces, high-priced food and drink, and excessive waiting. These travelers are given access based on their premium flight tickets, airline status levels, or for having a certain type of credit card.

But how do airport lounges make money when they typically serve complimentary food and drinks to their lounge visitors?

Let’s find out!

How Do Airport Lounges Make Money?

Anyone who’s used an airport lounge knows that they come with a few definite perks. Comfortable chairs, plenty of space, fast Wi-Fi, and sometimes even showers and massages are all available to make your time at the airport a little more bearable.

But how do airport lounges make money?

Here are 5 different ways:

  1. Membership fees
  2. Guest passes
  3. Paid Services
  4. Pre-negotiated fee contracts
  5. “Pay as you go” lounges

#1. Membership fees

First on our list of how airport lounges make money, is through membership fees. Memberships are available for those that don’t have access through other avenues, such as the right credit card or airline status.

Airport lounges know their value and understand people are willing to pay for it. Airport lounge memberships usually have an annual fee associated with different levels of membership, ranging from under $100 to about $500, depending on the company. These membership fees also come with a per-visit cost, which is just another addition to this income stream.

#2. Guest passes

Next, airport lounges can make money through guest passes. The airline, credit card, or company running the lounge will determine the guest pass policy and rate.

This is a logical addition to lounge membership fees because most members bring guests. Guest passes can range anywhere from around $30 to $50 per visit. This might be a steep cost for some, but airport lounges have thought this out carefully.

Guest passes can be very profitable because a guest is typically any non-membership holder, so this can include a traveler’s children, partner, or colleague.

#3. Offering paid services

Airport lounges also make money by offering non-complimentary services. While every lounge and membership pass is different and many of their offerings are free, there can be a variety of paid services available once you enter a lounge.

For example, many airport lounges offer spas with paid services ranging from haircuts to facials and massages. Some lounges charge for the ability to in-lounge sleep and shower.

Some lounges have daycare facilities for traveling parents, which is yet another service that comes with a fee. And then there are business-specific services like faxing, scanning, and printing documents.

#4. Pre-negotiated fee contracts

Having pre-negotiated fee contracts per lounge member is an extremely common way for airport lounges to make money, but not one many people think of. This type of lounge member simply shows their boarding pass or credit card to gain entrance free of charge.

For example, a credit card company pays an airport lounge a pre-negotiated fee each time their cardholder enters that lounge in exchange for their cardholder’s “free” entrance. Then naturally, once the cardholder has gained “free” access, the lounge stands to make more money if they decide to purchase anything during their stay.

#5. “Pay as you go” lounges

Last on our list of how airport lounges make money, is by being a “pay as you go” lounge. These are the opposite of the “invite only” lounges.

“Pay as you go” lounges are exactly that. The more customers in the lounge, the more money they make. This isn’t a lounge boasting about luxurious offerings, but instead simply the potential for more comfortable seating and elbow room than an airline gate can’t offer.


So how do airport lounges make money? In this article, we reviewed 5 different ways: through membership fees, guest passes, paid services, pre-negotiated fee contracts and “Pay as you go” lounges.

Airport lounges are a great way to make money for the airlines and the companies that operate them, as well as a way to enhance the customer experience. They offer a variety of services and amenities that are well worth the cost of membership or entrance fees for many people.

As more people travel by air each year, we can expect airport lounges to become more popular and widespread.