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I visited an airport lounge for the first time and 6 things surprised me, from free facials to private suites

The author leans back in a white love seat with plants all around
Business Insider's reporter had her first luxury airport experience at the Chase Sapphire Lounge in NYC's LaGuardia Airport.Joey Hadden/Business Insider
  • I visited an airport lounge for the first time and was surprised by its luxury offerings.

  • The Chase Sapphire Lounge at LaGuardia Airport opened last month, and I got an exclusive tour.

  • Once inside the two-story lounge, I didn't even feel like I was in an airport anymore.

I hate the airport — and who doesn't?

For most, air travel comes with a reluctant attitude while waiting at crowded gates, desperate to find a seat, or otherwise settling for a spot on the ground. The lucky ones have access to limited outlets for charging devices, while the rest are forced to conserve battery life.

On a long travel day, it can be a pretty unbearable experience.

But going to the airport doesn't have to be this way, as I learned last month when I visited an airport lounge for the first time — the Chase Sapphire Lounge at NYC's LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

The credit card company has lounges in Boston, Hong Kong, and most recently, LGA and John F. Kennedy International Airport in NYC. Both opened in January 2024, according to the company's website.

Banks like Chase are paving the way for travel credit cardholders to get a relaxing, luxurious experience up to three hours before their flight with complimentary drinks, meals, and facials.

After touring the company's LGA lounge, I think it's worth visiting before a flight, thanks to six surprises that took the experience to the next level.

When I arrived, I was surprised to find that travelers don't need a Chase Sapphire card to access the lounge.

Dark and good walls with gold finishings in front of the lounge's welcome desk
The lounge's welcome desk. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The lounge in LGA's terminal B is open from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. It's free for $550-per-year Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cardholders every day of the year once they activate their Priority Pass airport lounge membership, which is free with the card.

All guests must have a boarding pass for a flight up to three hours away to access the lounge. But surprisingly, travelers don't necessarily need the credit card to enter, according to the company's website. There are two ways to get in the lounge without it.

First off, a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder can bring up to two guests for free and pay $27 per traveler after that. Secondly, travelers who hold a Priority Pass membership without the card can access the lounge for free once a year and pay $75 per visit after that.

Once inside, I felt like I wasn't even in an airport anymore.

A sitting area with bamboo-stripped walls, a gray rug, and a marble coffee table between two modern, blue, velvet chairs, and a white couch below a large white and blue hanging painting behind the table
A sitting area in the lounge.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The lounge was a complete departure from the terminal.

Modern finishes, cozy velvet funiture, and unique coffee tables were surrounded by vibrant plants that made the space even more relaxing. Framed prints by local artists decorated the walls.

And I thought lighting tied the whole space together. The windowless lounge was designed to make guests feel like they're surrounded by natural light with LEDs of varying brightness and temperatures, a Chase Sapphire representative told Business Insider.

Informative flight screens were the only reminder that I was actually at an airport.

Unlike the terminal gates I'm used to, there was no shortage of places to sit and hang out.

Inside a lounge with seveeral seating areas and hanging plants from a mezzanine.
A peek inside the lounge's first floor. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

When I visited on a Friday morning, I expected the lounge to be crowded with weekend travelers. But there was no shortage of places to sit and relax.

The two-story lounge had sitting areas upstairs and downstairs. The first level also had a bar, a restaurant, a coworking space, a family area with places to sit and play, and an arcade.

I never thought I'd be able to blast music in an airport.

A hand presses a button on a vintage marshall juke box
A vintage Jukebox in the arcade.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The arcade's volume was one of the most surprising things to me. Designed like a retro speakeasy, the hidden room was behind a soundproof curtain and housed a vintage Marshall Jukebox filled with CDs.

Since the room was soundproof, I could blast tunes as loud as a nightclub.

As I danced and played pinball while cranking to classic hits like "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior, I thought about how helpful it would be to release some energy before a flight.

And just around the corner was a quiet spa offering complimentary facials.

Inside a facial treatment room with wood floors and cabinets and a leather beige chair.
Inside a spa treatment room. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

In my three years of travel reporting, I never thought I'd receive a facial at an airport.

So, I was in awe when I found a serene spa on the first floor with meditation spaces and treatment rooms where guests can book 30-minute complimentary facials. There was a range of options made for air travelers with components that decreased inflammation and hydrated the skin.

I went with a treatment called the Illuminator, which gets rid of flare-ups and purifies skin with red and blue lights. It was as calming and effective as any facial you'd expect from a high-end spa, and I left with a glow.

I was also surprised to find private suites where travelers spend at least $2,000 for a few hours in what is essentially a luxury hotel room.

Inside a vibrant suite with a living room space on the left, a table with four chairs on the right, and a bar with a mirrored bar in the back
Inside one of the private suites.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

On the second floor of the lounge, three private suites felt like luxury hotel rooms with modern furnishings, mirrors that doubled as TVs, stocked snack and drink bars, exclusive high-end menus, and large bathrooms with amenities including plush robes and Dyson hair dryers.

But unlike the rest of the lounge's offerings, the suites cost extra and have a starting rate of $2,200.

While mesmerized by these private enclaves, it was shocking to me that guests would pay for this amenity in a lounge that's only accessible for three hours tops.

I don't see myself splurging for a suite anytime soon, but I certainly think the lounge is worth a visit for a bearable travel day — whether you hold the credit card or not.

Read the original article on Business Insider