How to Eat for Free in Airport Lounges

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Ah, the First Class Lounge; that shangri-la of tiny sandwiches, premium liquor, and showers that I’m not even that afraid to use. If I had access, I’d go every day. It would be my country club, my sanctuary, my really upscale Starbucks. The problem is, lounge access costs major dollars in the form of memberships or premium-class tickets. Unless you figure out a way to beat the system…


That’s exactly what one very enterprising guy did in China. For over three hundred days, this dude went to the Xi’an Airport (XIY) in central China’s Shaanxi Province and used his refundable first class China Eastern Airlines ticket to check into the VIP lounge and then, when he was finished, he simply changed his departure date to the following day. The next day, he went back and did the same exact thing. When the airline caught wind of his ploy, he simply cashed in his ticket for the refund. Genius. Pure genius.


Would this work in the US? Maybe. With parking, security, and other hassles, it may not be worth it. That said, if you’re near the AMEX Centurion Lounge or one of the AA Flagship lounges, it doesn’t hurt to try.


Follow these steps:


  1. Purchase a refundable first class ticket (you’ve got thousands of dollars to tie up, right?)
  2. Go to the lounge and load up on the good stuff.
  3. On your way out, hit the ticket counter and change your flight for the next time you want to come in.
  4. Rinse and repeat until you get booted.
  5. Refund your ticket.


Is it ethical? Nope. Is it ingenious? Yep. So the question becomes, would you rather be enterprising and full or ethical and hungry? As a mileage hound, I think I know which one you’re choosing.


h/t Sploid/Gizmodo via



Attribution Some rights reserved by ToastyKen




  1. I find this story super hilarious. I think I live far enough from an airport that this wouldn’t be worthwhile (even if it were ethical, which as you point out, it really is not).

    I equate this somewhat to just showing up at a complimentary breakfast offering hotel in the morning and just pretending you belong there and eating 🙂

    • I’ve had friends who used to regularly visit a local luxury hotel to use their pool without being guests of the hotel. I never went (it screamed “wrong” to me), but I’m sure your complimentary breakfast idea has been tried over and over again. It’s wedding crashing without the wedding. I’m sure the staff would wise up after a week or so — hotels keep much better track of their guests than airport lounges.

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