15 Top U.S. Airport Lounges You Could Visit for Free

Ready to relax before your flight? These 15 U.S. airport lounges offer ideal levels of comfort while you wait for boarding to begin.
Updated May 1, 2024
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Man reading in airport lounge

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Airport experiences can be hit or miss for a variety of reasons, whether it’s not being able to find a seat at a busy gate or paying for expensive airport food. But one way to potentially avoid the crowds and have a more enjoyable experience is to visit an airport lounge.

Many travel credit cards offer complimentary lounge access and other helpful travel benefits, including valuable rewards you can use for flights and hotel stays. These combined benefits can go a long way in paying for a dream trip debt-free so you can focus on enjoying the trip, not worrying about its cost.

Here are some of the best airport lounges from the 15 largest airports (by total passenger traffic) in the U.S., plus some of the best credit cards for lounge access.

Best Atlanta airport lounge: Delta Sky Club, Concourse F

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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has several Delta Sky Club lounges, but the one in Concourse F, which is part of the international terminal, is arguably the best of the bunch.

This lounge has loads of seating, including a mezzanine area and even an outdoor Sky Deck where you can watch planes go by. However, this may not be the most comfortable area to sit in when it’s the middle of summer. Snacks, food, and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are available and you can use one of the showers if you need to freshen up.

Best Dallas airport lounge: The Centurion Lounge

JacobLund/Adobe Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Offers More Lounge Access?

Amex Centurion Lounges are known for their exclusivity for American Express cardholders and guests, as well as their overall quality of service. The Centurion Lounge at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is no different.

This lounge has premium food and drink offerings, plus a variety of spaces to help you escape the hustle and bustle of the airport. This includes plenty of seating, a conference room, a family room, a spa area, and more. You also have access to showers and can even book a phone booth if you want some extra peace and quiet.

Best Denver airport lounge: The Centurion Lounge

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Denver doesn’t have as many airport lounge options as some other airports, but American Express recently added a Centurion Lounge for Amex cardholders to enjoy.

This new lounge is billed to fit more than 300 people, so there’s plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable. Some of the available amenities include premium food and drinks, as well as dining areas, work areas, a family room, a game room, and phone rooms. Shower suites are also available if you need them.

Best Chicago airport lounge: United Polaris Lounge

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United Polaris lounges are reserved for passengers with specific tickets from United Airlines or Star Alliance airlines, so entry is limited. But they’re well worth a visit if possible, including this one at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The Chicago Polaris Lounge has premium food, a variety of seating options, and an open bar. If you’re hungry, you can visit the buffet for self-serve options or the dining room for full-service dining. This is a unique benefit because you won’t even find a full menu for food at most lounges, let alone full-service dining. In addition, showers and daybeds are also available if you want some extra relaxation and comfort during your stay.

Best Los Angeles airport lounge: Star Alliance Business Class Lounge

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This Star Alliance lounge is accessible by travelers with certain tickets or elite status with specific airlines. If you qualify, it’s one of the best lounges to visit at LAX. The outdoor terrace here is a top attraction for enjoying the sunshine during the day or the warm fire pits at night.

And although food and drinks are common for most airport lounges, the options at this LAX Star Alliance lounge tend to be more varied than the average lounge. In the past, they’ve included a Vietnamese pho bar and other unique delights.

Best Charlotte airport lounge: The Centurion Lounge

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If you haven’t noticed yet, Centurion Lounges are some of the top lounge choices for frequent travelers. Knowing this, you might have to make a pit stop if you’re flying through Charlotte soon.

Centurion Lounges tend to have plenty of similarities, which is great when the service and amenities are high quality. The Charlotte Centurion Lounge has your premium food and drink options, as well as an open bar. Seating is plentiful and includes common dining areas or more secluded areas where you can rest, work, and eat in peace. Its designated area for children is also helpful for families.

Best Las Vegas airport lounge: The Centurion Lounge

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If you’re flying out of Las Vegas or have a connecting flight, don’t miss out on the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge. This is a well-known lounge to many American Express cardholders, so it might be crowded at times. But if you have access, it’s probably worth the visit.

The food here is typically delicious and you get a comfortable space to sit down and relax away from the busy departure gates. This lounge was recently expanded to open more space for visitors to spread out, though it can still get busy. However, with different rooms and semi-private spaces to choose from, you should be able to find a decent spot to hunker down for a while.

Best Phoenix airport lounge: Delta Sky Club

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The Delta Sky Club at Phoenix Sky Harbor International is rated as one of the best in the airport. Travelers note that it’s clean and beautiful, with a variety of seating and food options.

This lounge was opened in 2019, so it had about a year of regular use until the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s likely this played a part in keeping the lounge looking fresh and clean, though the modern styling certainly plays a role. The full-service bar and focus on healthy food offerings are welcomed by many visitors.

Best Orlando airport lounge: The Club at MCO

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Orlando has a couple of The Club lounges in different terminals, though their offerings are typically similar. This isn’t a luxurious type of lounge by any means, but it’s still quite a step up from sitting at your departure gate. This is also part of the Priority Pass lounge network, which is helpful for travelers who use credit cards with Priority Pass benefits.

The Club at MCO has typical food and beverage options, as well as a small kids room. Many families are in the area for theme park visits, so the snacks and drinks provided will likely be a hit.

Best Seattle airport lounge: Delta Sky Club

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The Delta Sky Club at SeaTac, or Seattle-Tacoma International, is a popular lounge option for eligible travelers. It features two giant levels filled with spacious seating options. Overall, the lounge can fit more than 400 people throughout its 21,000-square-foot space.

The food here is generally above average and you have access to complimentary drinks at the bar. But part of what brings the whole experience together at this Delta Sky Club is being able to view Mount Rainier in the distance through its large windows.

Best Miami airport lounge: Turkish Airlines Lounge, Concourse H

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Priority Pass members can access this Turkish Airlines Lounge in Miami for free. Do note that this is the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Concourse H, not Concourse E. The Concourse H lounge is newer and generally has better ratings than its counterpart.

This Turkish Airlines Lounge has free luggage storage and daybeds available for use. There’s also a children’s play area and a prayer room. Food, including hot food, and drinks are also available and you have the option to use the showers.

Best Houston airport lounge: United Polaris Lounge

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If you have the opportunity to visit a United Polaris Lounge, take it. This one in Houston sets high standards for other airport lounges, though that may be unsurprising given that it’s more exclusive than others.

This lounge has a buffet and an à la carte menu for food options, as well as plenty of drinks to choose from. You can stay connected with loads of charging options around and high-speed Wi-Fi for work and play. In addition, you have a few shower suites for freshening up and daybeds if you want to rest for a bit. Don’t be surprised if you find luxury amenities, such as Saks Fifth Avenue towels, around — it’s all part of the experience.

Best New York City airport lounge: The Centurion Lounge

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Another addition for The Centurion Lounge, but this time in New York City at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. This Centurion Lounge opened in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. So it’s safe to say that this location hasn’t seen as many visitors yet as other lounges that have been open for years.

But you might want to visit if you’re in the area because this 15,000-square-foot lounge with two floors is ready for you. Visitors like the delicious food options and how early it opens (5 a.m.), which is standard for most Centurion Lounges. You also get great views of the runway and access to an Equinox Body Lab room. But one of the best parts? There’s a hidden speakeasy in this lounge.

Best Fort Lauderdale airport lounge: Delta Sky Club

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This Delta Sky Club location at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International is one of the newest around, having recently opened in June 2021. It features floor-to-ceiling windows and runway views, as well as decor and design that travelers have come to expect with newer Delta Sky Clubs.

Visitors have the option for self-serve buffet food and snacks, as well as self-serve drinks. If you want to order an alcoholic beverage, feel free to use the bar services. The lounge isn’t huge by any means, but as long as guest admittance is limited, it should still serve as a welcome retreat from the busyness of the airport.

Best San Francisco airport lounge: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

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The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is a welcoming space for passing the time in comfort as you wait for your next flight. Because it’s part of the Priority Pass network, it’s available for eligible members (and sometimes their guests) at no additional cost. However, Priority Pass members typically only have access to this lounge through their Priority Pass membership during the morning hours.

If your flight times line up, visit the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse for its above-average food and drink options, as well as showers if you need them. As with most lounges, the seating options are varied and the Wi-Fi is acceptable.

Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Amex Platinum might offer the most airport lounge access of any credit card, including The Centurion Lounge and the massive Priority Pass network. However, you also get access to a few other networks, which could come in handy on your travels.

In addition, the Amex Platinum is known for its premium travel benefits, including more than $1,400 worth of annual credits. Select benefits require enrollment.

To learn more about this card, read our American Express Platinum review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel card from Chase that’s known for its Priority Pass benefit, which allows access to more than 1,300 lounges throughout the network. You also get access to restaurants and other experiences with your Priority Pass membership. This is a benefit many other credit cards, such as the Amex Platinum, don’t offer.

On top of your lounge access, enjoy $300 worth of annual travel credit, a 50% bonus on travel redemptions made through Chase, and a slew of protections and coverages, including primary car rental insurance.

To learn more about this card, read our Chase Sapphire Reserve review.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The Hilton Honors Aspire provides a complimentary Priority Pass membership, similar to the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. You get access to a wealth of airport lounges worldwide plus all the benefits of this Hilton Honors credit card. This includes complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status and helpful annual credits.

To learn more about this card, read our Hilton Honors American Express Aspire review.

United Club Infinite Card

If you’re a frequent United flier, consider the United Club Infinite. This card provides access to United Club lounges, which includes 45 locations worldwide. You and one traveling companion also get your first and second checked bags for free on United-operated flights.

Additional benefits include 25% back on United in-flight purchases and up to $100 fee reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

To learn more about this card, read our United Club Infinite Card review.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

The Delta Reserve Amex provides access to both Delta Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges. If you’re traveling through an airport with both options, you get to select whichever one sounds better. Or you can visit each one and compare.

Other benefits include a free annual companion certificate and access to complimentary upgrades on eligible flights.

To learn more about this card, read our Delta Reserve Credit Card review.

Bottom line

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Airport lounges aren’t for everyone, but they can help improve your overall airport experience when traveling. And because many travel credit cards could make it easy to get airport lounge access, you might consider one that offers this premium benefit if you frequently travel. But remember, every airport lounge is different.

Some airport lounges are better than others, and not every airport has the same types of lounges. Be sure to research the major airport in your area to see what lounges are available and then compare credit cards that align well with your options. Credit cards that offer a Priority Pass membership are often popular because the Priority Pass network is huge and includes airport lounges all over the world.

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

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