As witnessing a conversation of a couple travelers inside Narita Airport today I was wondering how our readers would feel about paying a small fee to access club lounges for a few hours.
The concept isn’t new and some lounges offer access for an outright payment while others require a membership such as Priority Pass where you can also pay for individual visits.
The group of travelers at Narita was delayed for several hours during the day after their flight apparently got cancelled and they were discussing if it’s worth it to pay for the access to the Narita Travel Lounge which is operated by the airport.
There are two lounges available, one inside the security area and one outside. You can access more about this product and a detailed description of the facilities on the website here.
I picked up a flyer in the arrivals area that shows what it’s apparently like in there. The pricing is 1,200 JPY per person and doesn’t have a time limit.
The hours also seem quite extensive:
There are some services that are not included which include food as well as alcoholic beverages, however soft drinks and coffee are included with the flat rate.
Does something like this make sense? On the face of it I would say yes if all you’re after is a quiet place that offers you some work space, wifi, proper power outlets and some coffee/tea/soft drinks then this offer might work very well for the traveler.
Even though there is complimentary WiFi in many cases it doesn’t always mean that signal reliability is well and especially power ports are an issue. A coffee shop, especially the mermaid branded one runs you at least 600 JPY for a hot beverage so here again you might come out ahead quickly when the fee is 1,200 JPY for unlimited time.
I had a look at the Priority Pass website for Tokyo to see what lounges are available under the scheme at Narita Airport and if pictures are anything to go by they don’t look much better (worse, if anything) than the Narita Travel Lounge.
Since these people really looked a bit helpless I approached them and made a suggestion to just have a look at a Narita Hotel Room as they are pretty cheap and a much more comfortable option than hanging out for 7 hours in a lounge which turned out to be their flight delay.
Interestingly enough I was also confronted with this lounge predicament earlier today when flying via Busan in South Korea to Tokyo. I was on Korean Air in Economy Class and since I’m no longer Elite Plus with Skyteam I ended up ‘slumming’ it by the gates instead.
Eventually I have to pick up a new Priority Pass again (they would have had three lounge options at Busan inside the International Terminal) but instead it was Dunkin Donuts and a Sparkling water from 7-11 for me today. Have you ever seen a 7-11 inside the gate area and at street prices? I was pretty surprised and the grueling 55 minutes eventually passed.
For longer stays it might actually be worth it to invest a small amount of money to visit a lounge to get some quiet time and maybe a snack/drink in between. Having a Priority Pass or Premium Credit Card (such as Amex Platinum or Diners Club) can sometimes help you out here as well.
If you have to pay for individual visits however I’d never pay the $24 that Priority Pass charges for single visits, especially short ones. Seriously, how many soda and finger sandwiches can you have for that? Maybe it would be worth it if you’re in dire need of a shower and the lounge provides that.