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I wonder if it's possible to relax in an airport lounge on arrival? This would be the same lounges one can relax in on departure, airside.

There's no other connecting flight waiting and I'll leave the airport later that day.

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This depends on a number of factors.

Firstly there is the physical aspect - can you physically access the lounge? Lounges are generally in the 'departure' area of the airport, which is often only accessible by departing passengers - at least for international arrivals, but even sometimes for domestic arrivals. If you can't physically access the lounge then obviously you can't use it.

Next is the rules of the lounge, and the conditions under which you are getting access - and this one varies dramatically.

Some "paid" lounges, including those under programs like the Priority Pass program, do allow access to arriving passengers - but this can vary depending on the specific lounge. For Priority Pass specifically, if a lounge only allows access for departing passengers then this is normally (but not always) stated on the Priority Pass website/app when looking up that lounge.

In most cases, when you are getting lounge access by virtue of airline status or class of service (eg, flying in business or first class) then this is NOT available on arrival, unless there is a specific arrivals lounge that you have access to (eg, the Star Alliance Arrivals Lounge at LHR).

However there are exceptions, but even they can have further conditions. eg, United Airlines allows access to it's Polaris Lounges to arriving Polaris (business class) passengers, but ONLY those that arrived on a United Airlines Polaris flight. Passengers for other Star Alliance airlines are not allowed access on arrival, even if they would have had access to that same lounge on departure.

The answer that Bernhard Döbler has linked to in the comments is another great example of this - SAS seemingly allows access only if:

  • only if you arrived on one of their flights (not a Star Alliance partner, despite those having access on departure)
  • only if you have status with their program (not Star Alliance equivalents, which again would have access on departure)
  • only if you arrived on a long-haul flight

The only way to be sure is to check with the specific lounge(s) at the arriving airport (or their operators) to confirm if they will allow access under the specific conditions you will be there under.

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    @AzorAhai The most common would be where the lounge is in a different terminal (or part of the terminal) than you arrive in, and those terminals are not connected airside. Without a departing ticket, you won't be able to access them. Some airports also have passengers arrive "landside", either for all passengers (eg, smaller airports with no connecting passengers), or at least ones that are on smaller planes and may not have passed through security on departure. – Doc Dec 30 '19 at 23:24

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