The value of the Sky Club (or other airline lounges)

When I first started flying regularly I thought people were crazy to pay $400 per year to have access to airport lounges. I used to go to restaurants, coffee shops, and bars at the airport before flying. Then I had the chance to go to the lounges for free or nearly free and saw the light. I now use them all the time!

I am trying to figure out how to value the visit. The quieter space and nicer bathrooms are a good perk but I need to justify the annual cost. I find I get this from the free wifi, free bar drinks, and snacks. My visit today to the Sky Club in Detroit I will use as an example:

  • 2 Jack & Coke cocktails: average $8 each with tip at airport prices
  • Snacks: $5 at airport prices
  • Canned soda: $2 at airport prices
  • Wifi: $10 for a day pass (where airports do not offer it for free)
Today's visit was an average one for me and I got $23 of value from it without wifi or $33 if you count it. In my case I don't count the wifi since I have a company 3G card and my iPhone. At an average of $23 per visit I need 20 visits to "break even" on my $450 AMEX annual fee. I can do this easily with my work and personal travels. 

This doesn't even factor in the other benefits of the AMEX Platinum card. They are:
  • $200 per calendar year in Delta fees reimbursed
  • $100 ($20 per year) for Global Entry
  • Membership rewards points that I can transfer to several airlines
  • AMEX Travel Insurance (hard to value that but VERY handy if hurt/sick abroad)
  • Priority Pass lounge access abroad
When I run the numbers for 2012 so far, which is only halfway over, I have gotten WAY more than $450 value out of the card. Including bringing my girlfriend to the lounge I have done 21 visits. Add that to the above benefits and I am nearing $1000 in recuperation. That number will rise even more over the next 6 months!