That Feeling When You First Experience an Airport Lounge

I first started using airport lounges regularly in 2002. I status matched over to Mexicana Frecuenta and my Frecuenta Gold status got me into United lounges. But my occasional use of lounges started much earlier.

The first time I was in an airport lounge must have been around 1983 or 1984. I remember that because the Boeing 757 had just entered service, and outside the lounge I remember distinguishing between a 757 and a 767. I was 9. My grandmother brought me with her to the airport and we waited for my grandfather to arrive off a flight. I remember drinking ginger ale and eating bar snacks.

I wasn’t in a lounge again until 1991. I had visited my family in Sydney and I was flying American Airlines (the last time they flew to Sydney, via Honolulu on a DC-10). It was the cheapest itinerary, and I flew Sydney – Honolulu – Dallas – Fresno with a 6 hour connection at DFW. So my uncle gave me an American Airlines lounge pass. I remember using the photocopier.

American served Sydney once even before I flew that DC-10 in the early 90’s

Sydney has been one of my most frequent international destinations. The first time I ever flew business class there, though, was in 2000. It was a United award ticket (and I chose United rather than Air New Zealand because back before Star Alliance awards if you used United miles for Air New Zealand business you could only fly in coach domestically, and I started with a Washington Dulles – Los Angeles transcon). Back then United had recliner seats in business and just a handful of looping entertainment channels.

I met friends for dinner on the outbound (it might have been at Encounter in the Theme Building) so didn’t use the lounge. I was given a lounge pass for the Red Carpet Club on the return when I checked in. And I didn’t know that my business class ticket would also get me lounge access on arrival at LAX. So I snuck in even though my boarding pass had me there legitimately.

I definitely remember what it was like to have lounge access for the first time. Sure those United lounges were basic, but there were beverages, it was less crowded than the rest of the terminal (usually), and the bathrooms were clean(er).

So I can relate to this guy, in a Delta SkyClub… and then back inside the terminal amongst the masses.

Just wait until he flies internationally in premium cabins and has a taste of better world lounges. Indeed, Delta’s clubs are well-provisioned compared to United’s and American’s basic clubs, but aren’t as nice as those competing domestic carriers’ international business lounges.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. My first lounge experience was the CO Pres Club in Houston when it was in its original location in terminal C just pass security to the right (and an elevator up). This was the only lounge in IAH.

    At that time the Pres Club had just switched from by invitation only to open to all who paid. I think this was the late 1980s. The lounge was exclusive and most people were dressed in coat and tie.

    First premium travel was CO to MEL in DC10 First (60″ pitch – manual recline). J was like the domestic F brown leather. Get experience though. Pub flight from LAX-HNL – with bar and bar stool and bar seating (assigned). A Tiki lounge in HNLfor tropical drinks.

    CO always had flowers in premium cabin on the buffet counter and even in the restrooms. Later flew QF F many times on the 747. QF had wonderful dedicate F lounge for F only. Everyone escorted to the flight. F at that time was four rows of 2×2 in the nose. Then later change to 14 seats lie flat with aisle access. Just seemed classier in those days. Even though there are really nice lounges (most foreign carriers).

  2. Cool stories bro’s. Hope you enjoyed posting b/c no one cares about your first time lounge experience…

  3. Today’s experience would be … “Gee, it’s even more crowded in here than at the gate!” or “That table used to have food on it, before the buffalo stampede came through.” or “If we lean against this wall and create a little corral with our bags, we can rotate waiting in line 10 minutes to each get a Coke.”

    I like lounges because they get more people out of the concourse.

  4. Most lounges the the USA are no better than waiting at the gate. They charge for everything except “Gold Fish.” Most are overcrowded as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *