I was first indoctrinated into the joys of the airport lounge by a well-seasoned union official I travelled with every few weeks, over the course of about six months, negotiating a new enterprise agreement. It was a whole new world of status credit accumulation and judging people by the colour of their bag tag. The lounge was an airline branded haven of carefully grouped chairs and tables and free food and booze, far from the travelling hordes seated next to each other in awkward rows at the departure gates.
The irony of fighting for a fair pay deal for the people while at the same time distancing myself from the people, however, was not lost on me. Indeed, it was not lost on any of the travelling union officials I met up with in the lounge, who all greeted each other as ‘comrade’ with more than just a hint of mirth.
Now that my travel is mainly for pleasure and nowhere near as frequent, I’ve maintained my lounge membership. I look forward to the time spent relaxing in the lounge before a holiday almost as much as the holiday itself. It is a journey to another world, one without obligation or chores, help yourself to endless food and drinks, dishes and glasses are cleared away for you. The toilets are clean and have nice hand soap. There are magazines. I figure that some people have a season ticket to the cricket. I have lounge membership and I would argue that the enjoyment I get from using it is probably equal to that of any cricket fan.
I’m aware of more frequent travellers than me who are not as enamoured with the lounge as I am – either through overexposure or as status credit accumulation has opened the door to a higher class of lounge. For me, I still get a thrill every time I show the receptionist my boarding pass and gesture benevolently at my guest as we are granted entry. Much like salted caramel, once you’ve tasted it, you can’t go back to plain, comrade.