You don’t have to buy a ticket for the pointy end to enjoy the finer things of travelling life.
Airports the world over are becoming destinations in their own right, while airlines have dramatically changed to accommodate savvy travellers.
This means it’s never been easier for flyers to get a first-class experience without forking out thousands of pounds on a premium ticket.
Justin Banon, the director of Priority Pass, shares his tips for travellers looking to enhance their trip.
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1. Look into premium lounge access
Most airports now have premium lounges available to both leisure and business passengers, offering a quiet, connected space no matter the class of ticket you’re flying with. If you’re a frequent flyer, make the most of annual programmes that give you free or discounted entry to lounges – Priority Pass membership starts from £69, for example.
Alternatively, if you want to make just one trip extra special, you can easily buy a single visit through programmes such as Lounge Pass.
2. Take advantage of free food and drink
One of the biggest perks of premium airport lounges is the selection of complimentary snacks and tipples available. When you think about the amount of money you can spend in the departure hall on a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, you can end up saving money by purchasing lounge access – and also relax knowing you’re avoiding the hustle and bustle of the main airport.
3. Plan ahead for a smooth, stress-free experience
While it may sound simple, planning ahead can take the stress out of travelling. Love the bargains of duty free? Avoid scouring the shelves and jump ahead of the queues by calling ahead to reserve the products you want.
Concerned about comfort on the plane? Make sure you pack the essentials – neck pillow, eye mask and blanket – and fully charge your phone or tablet so you have your in-flight entertainment sorted.
4. Indulge in some pre-flight relaxation
Sanctuaries for passengers to relax in ahead of their flights are popping up in more airports around the world – and they don’t cost the earth to enjoy.
At Dubai International Airport, there is an indoor oasis called Zen Gardens, with sleep pods for weary travellers, while Heathrow’s Aspire Lounge has a spa offering all kinds of express treatments for those who fancy some pre-flight pampering. Make sure you investigate what’s on offer at the airport you’re travelling to before arriving – and always check if they tie into any loyalty or lounge programmes you’re a member of. You might be surprised.
5. Don’t ignore fast-track travel bundles
Queue jumping is no longer reserved for those travelling first-class or business, or for the loyalty customers who have racked up enough frequent-flyer miles.
Some airlines now offer fast-track check-ins and speedy boarding as part of a package that includes hold luggage and seat selection options. They also generally cost the same as buying stand-alone luggage check-in, so don’t be so quick to dismiss these extra add-ons if you want to avoid the queues and waiting around.
6. Stay on top of special offers
Many airports today offer their own apps, which not only provide useful info and updates, but detail great offers available in shops, restaurants and other outlets. And if you’re signed up to a premium lounge access programme, be sure to keep a lookout for extra perks outside the lounge.
At some airports, you’re able to use your Priority Pass membership card to discount your final bill at top restaurants – for example, at Gatwick South terminal’s award-winning restaurant, Grain Store Cafe and Bar.
7. Spend those loyalty points
More and more brands are evolving their loyalty programmes so that members can earn and redeem points in smarter ways than ever before – not just on flights.
With so much choice on offer, you can tailor rewards to suit yourself. If you’re buying flights anyway, why not get a little extra bang for your buck?
Priority Pass is the world’s first and largest premium airport lounge access network, with more than 1,000 lounges in 500 cities across 130 countries. A Standard Plus membership costs £159 per year and gives you 10 free lounge visits. Subsequent visits cost £15. You can also bring a guest for £15. (PA)