“It’s on our website, you can’t come in, sorry”

Phoenix Admiral's Club

Phoenix Admiral’s Club

To be honest, I completely understand why they wouldn’t let me in.  It’s a rule.  Sometimes, it’s the law.  Why would someone risk employment to let some entitled teenager into an airline lounge?  Though I completely realize (and partly understand) the rationale behind refusing to allow me access to an airline lounge, I still don’t feel right about saying, “Thank you, good day” and then turning my back as I walk out of an airline lounge with my premium class ticket which should have allowed me access.  Yes, I know.  The entitlement is real.  Still, I can’t help but look back at the few times I was humiliated in front of other passengers as a lounge attendant pointed their finger toward the concourse, as they would if they were telling a dog to go out to the backyard.

Yeah, I might be 17 but can I please visit the lounge for a few minutes?  “No, sorry company policy.”


“The Centurion Lounge”

Somehow, I managed to convince my dad that I should have a credit card.  As a Christmas gift, my dad allowed me to add myself on our American Express account as an authorized user.  After a few days, I received my own American Express Platinum Card.  The main reason I wanted my own platinum card was not so I could rack up massive amounts of debt rather, I wanted the benefits that came with the platinum card; Priority Pass membership, Centurion Lounge access and airline statement credit.

Soon after I received my card, I embarked on a mileage run as part of a Christmas gift.  That mileage run came with a four-hour layover in Las Vegas, an airport with one of the first ever Centurion Lounges.  I had planned on stopping at the Centurion Lounge for the duration of my layover.  I was going to get some dinner, take a shower, relax and just enjoy my time at Las Vegas-McCarren.

Centurion Lounge at DFW

Centurion Lounge at DFW

I took Las Vegas’ inter-terminal train system from the “E” concourse over to the Centurion Lounge.  It was fairly late and I was one of the only passengers in the concourse.  Eager to review the lounge, I nearly sprinted into the Centurion Lounge with my card in hand.  I thought my Virgin America First Class ticket would also make things look a little better.  There was not a single soul in the entire lounge.  The front desk attendant was messing around on her computer when I walked into the lounge.  It was absolutely bizarre to see a Centurion Lounge not filled wall to wall with patrons.

We went through the motions and just as she was about to swipe my card she looked up at me and said,”You’re not 18?!”.  I was then promptly returned my card and boarding pass and told to leave.  The front desk attendant left her post and guarded the entrance as if I might charge the entrance.

I begged and begged, explaining that I just wanted a shower and a meal.  I said that the only reason we upgraded to the Amex Platinum card was for the perks.  She just looked at me with a blank stare.  She then called on other staff who then proceeded to look at my driver’s license and laugh when they saw my age.

Her supervisor then said that I was a massive liability and a risk.  If I came in I “could get hurt” or cause trouble.  It was because of this that I was told to leave.  As I picked up my bags off the ground, to add fuel to the fire, the lounge attendant said, “It’s on our website, you can’t come in, sorry.”

I was left visiting “The Lounge at LAS” which was a sorry excuse for a lounge.

This would also happen at the Dallas Centurion Lounge a few months later.

Again, I totally understand that it’s company policy.  Employees need to follow this policy.  It still irks me that with a $400+ annual fee and the age difference being a single year that Centurion Lounge employees are so hellbent on keeping me from accessing their lounges.

“The Flagship Lounge”

My experience at American’s Flagship Lounges have been hit or miss.  One location that always keeps me out is the LAX lounge.  The Flagship Lounge age policy makes much more sense than the Centurion Lounge policy.  This is because the Flagship Lounges offer free self-serve liquor.  I completely understand the logic of keeping me out of the Flagship Lounges.  I could very well help myself to some booze which is illegal.  Booze can legitimately lead to me being a liability to the lounge, its guests, and even myself.

When a lounge attendant refuses me access to a Flagship Lounge they always inform me and tell me why.  They don’t just give me the “it’s policy” runaround.  They always do their best to accommodate me as well, most of the time welcoming me into the Admiral’s Club and allowing me to be accompanied while I grab some food from the Flagship buffet.

Flagship Lounge at ORD

Flagship Lounge at ORD


Tips for Getting In

Now some of these tips border on illegal.  I don’t condone all of these tips either.  Still, I’ve tried most of them.

#1 Bring an Adult; Best thing to do is just bring an adult.  If an adult is over 21 (sometimes 25), they can accompany you into the lounge as a guest.  There’s also no policy that states that this adult has to be a relative–the can be anyone.  I don’t recommend this but I have asked “strangers” to act like they know me–they’ve always agreed to go along.  These “strangers” already had access to the lounges themselves–I never ask completely random people.  To reiterate, bring an adult.

#2 Look Older; Pay attention to detail when approaching the lounge.  Cover up any blemishes and acne.  Comb your hair.  Hide any childish luggage.  Look at the people going into the lounge you want into and mimic them.

#3 Dress the Part; This is the second most important tip; dress like an adult.  Adult guests don’t wear shorts, they don’t wear Nike, they don’t wear anything over the top.  I always dress like a hipster CEO who runs multiple startups–works everytime.  One major error that can be made it to wear your Sunday Best.  When I use the term Sunday Best, I mean traditional Polos or colorful dresses–adults don’t wear that.  Basically, look presentable, look like someone who the lounge staff would want to welcome into their lounge.

#4 Act the Part; This tip is the most important tip I have to offer and that’s to act the part.  I have become a worldclass used car salesman when it comes to this; I act accordingly.  If I’m flying out of JFK and visiting the Flagship Lounge, I’ll be overly polite and add some humor during check-in.  If I’m flying out of LAX and visiting the Flagship Lounge, I’ll act too cool for school.  Though, most of the time, I’m just polite, warm, and cheery.  I can’t tell you how much a smile and politeness helps when it comes into getting into airline lounges.

#5 Make Your Case; This tip can easily be misused and misunderstood.  When I say make your case I mean politely object to the lounge attendants refusal to let you in.  Explain how you just want a bite to eat, a quick shower, how you’ve been flying the entire day, how you only bought the ticket for the lounge, or just ask twice.  Don’t beg–stop when they say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t”.  Once they’ve said no a second time, leave before you end up in a holding cell.

 


Overall

Visiting an airline lounge or club is one of my favorite parts of travel.  There’s nothing like the free food, private shower suites, comfortable seating, free (and fast) wi-fi, and pleasant atmosphere.  Just like any club, there are policies.  Unfortunately for younger travelers, these policies can keep us out of these lounges and force us to spend four hours sitting on the nasty Chicago O’Hare carpet adjacent to a power outlet that works 25% of the time.

My best advice to you is to be polite and act like someone that deserves to enjoy an airline lounge.  Yeah, it’s fun to act like an adult, like a business traveler, but we need to know our place and often times, it’s not in the airline lounges.

Follow the tips above to maximize your chances of getting into an airline lounge. Oh, and this is also one key reason I call myself the “Unaccompanied Flyer”