WHILE travel is one of life's great experiences, sitting in an airport for hours can be one of life's worst.
But luckily the days where airport lounges were exclusive cliques are over, with many airports now offering entry to lounges regardless of what ticket you have - for a price.
Some airlines only give frequent flyers the benefit of waiting in elite lounges, leaving the rest of us to battle it out in the departure hall for a comfy spot. Thankfully, pay-per-use airport lounges are popping up in more airports across the world. These are open to all passengers for a small fee, and generally offer comfy seats, quick Wi-Fi, buffet food and access to hot and cold drinks.
Whether you want to start your journey relaxed or break up time on a stopover, listed below are some of Skyscanner Australia's favourite lounges across the world.
MARHABA LOUNGE (worldwide)
Marhaba is known around the world, with facilities in several of the world's top airports including Dubai, Los Angeles and Rome.
Melbourne is home to the first pay-as-you-go Marhaba Lounge in Australia, with the brand planning one in Sydney soon. Found in Tullamarine's Terminal 2, this lounge is a great way to pass your time in the airport. A four-hour stint (which includes access to Australian wine, a quiet zone and shower facilities) costs $65.
PLAZA PREMIUM LOUNGE (worldwide)
First opened in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium Lounges are now found in 17 countries. One of the main benefits you'll find on long waits is that the airport's constant announcements are turned off with staff instead giving personal notifications when your flight is calling passengers. In place of the announcements, you'll get smooth jazz, wide-screen TVs and buffet food that changes at every meal of the day.
Plaza has two locations in Australia, in the international terminals at Brisbane Airport and Sydney Airport. A third lounge is believed to be opening in Melbourne soon.
Prices depend on where in the world you are. In Hong Kong, they start at $HK400 ($A66) for two hours, with better value deals available the longer you stay.
NO1 LOUNGES (UK)
If you're travelling to the UK, you have the chance to try out No1 Lounges in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick (both terminals) and Heathrow (Terminal 3).
The price changes depending on the airport and whether you pre-book online or walk up (which is slightly more expensive), but range from $45-$70. Another benefit of booking online is that you'll get a voucher to join the VIP security queue and fast-track this wait.
Entry to these lounges includes food from the self-serve section as well as one dish cooked from a menu. Drinks from the staffed bar are also included, except champagne which incurs a small fee.
Other benefits like magazines, unlimited Wi-Fi and showers are universal, but different lounges offer different benefits. Heathrow boasts a cinema, Gatwick South has a library and panoramic runway views, Birmingham and Gatwick North have private meeting rooms.
ASPIRE LOUNGES (mainly Europe)
Aspire Lounges are available in 40 airports across the world, mainly in the UK and Europe. Like with No1 Lounges, booking online is cheaper than the walk-up price, and facilities vary from lounge to lounge.
Plush seats, complimentary food and drink plus Wi-Fi are standard across the range, but depending on where you're travelling you may also be entitled to runway views, spa options, business facilities or to free lounge time if your flight is delayed.
KING POWER LOUNGE (Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok)
Bangkok's main airport, Suvarnabhumi, is commonly used by Australians coming back from trips to Thailand and Southeast Asia and reviews of the facilities are mixed.
A little-known secret is the King Power Lounge, which is free to enter if you're a member of the duty-free chain's loyalty scheme. You can sign up in the airport for 500 baht (roughly $20), which also gives you discounts on items in the shop, or you can while away your time in the comfort of the lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks.
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