Orlando International Airport, otherwise known as MCO in airline speak (Please don’t call it OIA. Well, you could. But you’d be wrong 😉 ), was a destination for over 40 million airline passengers in 2015, which makes it the 14th busiest airport in the U.S. based on total passenger traffic. For many of those passengers, Orlando is their final destination and the need for them to spend hours at the airport waiting for a connecting flight isn’t as great as at a major hub airport like Miami, Atlanta, Chicago or New York-JFK. Subsequently, the airline lounge market has been stagnant, or even declining, over the past decade because leisure travelers weren’t the bread and butter customers for lounges. These lounges were designed with the business travelers in mind, giving them a place to be productive while waiting for their next flight.
Fortunately, times have changed and many more people have lounge access thanks to credit card benefits, so the lounges at Orlando Airport are finally starting to catch up.
Orlando Airport has two TSA checkpoints; one of them will give you access to gates 1-59 and the other to gates 70-129. The gates are divided into four separate areas that you reach by a monorail system:
- Gates 1-29 and Gates 30-59 are reached through one checkpoint
- Gates 70-99 and Gates 100-129 are reached through the other checkpoint
Once through TSA security, you can take the monorail to either of the gate areas on that side of the airport. So, using the above picture as a guide, if you’re taking a flight from Gate 10, you can go to the lounge by Gate 40 but not to the one by Gate 80, which is through the other checkpoint.
This is important to know as it will make a difference in what lounges you can access. I’m not going to go in depth of how you can get access to these lounges in this article as each airline has its own rules about who can access the clubs depending on what type of ticket you have purchased. However I will list the price to buy entry and some ways you would be able to get into the club without getting access through status or as a benefit for which ticket you purchased.
The Club MCO – Airside 1
Location: In the Main Shops area of Airside 1 located adjacent to XpresSpa
Access: This is an independent lounge that contracts with LATAM and Aeromexico. You can also access this lounge with a Priority Pass membership (available with the American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige, Ritz Carlton Rewards or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards). You can purchase a day pass for the club for $40 per person.
Use: JetBlue, WestJet, Frontier and other international carriers fly from these gates so there are no other lounges in this area. Besides fast food, the other food options at Gates 1-29 are rather limited. If you have access with a Priority Pass card, you could spend time in the lounge, if they let you in. I’ve read the lounge can get crowded and they restrict Priority Pass members from entering at certain times.
Location: Near Gate 43
Access: One time passes are available for $59 each. Otherwise you need to be a member of United Club to enter. People who have the United MileagePlus Explorer card get two lounge passes per year.
Use: Access to this club is mainly to those flying on United with United Club access.
The United Club at Orlando Airport was renovated within the last five years and is now modern looking and comfortable. They offer free snacks and well drinks with premium wine and spirits available for purchase. The agents at the club are very helpful and managed to get us on an earlier flight to New York this year when many flights were delayed.
I go to this lounge because I can get in for free with my passes when I am flying United from Orlando. It’s not somewhere I’d show up early to the airport just to spend time here.
American Airlines Admirals Club
Location: Near Gate 55
Access: One time passes are available for $59 each. You can also get access by having the Citi Aadvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, but that also comes with a hefty $450 a year annual fee. You used to be able to get access by having a Citi Prestige card but that benefit is going away on July 23, 2017.
Use: This club is the newest addition to the lounges at Orlando Airport and it is, from all indications, a very nice space. It is a tad small but since American only operates flights from Orlando to their other hub airports like Miami, Charlotte, Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas, the space is mainly for frequent flyers to spend a short time before their flights and not meant to be for long layovers.
I actually didn’t even know that this club existed until we were flying American to Charlotte to attend a friend’s wedding. Since I still had access from the Citi Prestige card, I would have made a point to arrive a bit earlier just to check it out. Oh well.
Location: Atrium, next to Starbucks
Access: One time passes are available for $59 (amazing how all the airlines charge the same price for club access, isn’t it?) American Express Platinum cardholders flying on Delta flights can enter SkyClubs but guests (a limit of two) will cost $29 each. If you have an AMEX Delta credit card you can also purchase a one day pass for yourself and up to two guests for $29 each.
Use: I’ll be honest and say that I have a fondness for this Skyclub at MCO. When I first started this hobby, this was the first lounge I ever had access to. I reveled in the free Biscoff cookies and the soup with oyster crackers. Every bite of carrot or celery was a sign that I made it to the next level of travel.
Looking at this club now, I realize it hasn’t changed a bit from that day. Well except for that the well drinks have gotten cheaper in quality, the lounge is often overrun with families and children, and the decor screams of the late 1980’s. We used to get to the airport early to spend time here at the beginning of our vacations but since Delta now charges $29 to bring a guest for AMEX Platinum cardholders (I am one, Sharon is not), we usually just get on line for Starbucks and head straight to the gate.
The Club MCO – Airside 4
Location: By Gate 91, Next to InMotion Store
Access: This is an independent lounge that contracts with Emirates and Lufthansa. You can also access this lounge with a Priority Pass membership (available with the American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige, Ritz Carlton Rewards or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards). You can purchase a day pass for the club for $40 per person.
This is the second of the The Club lounges at Orlando Airport and is much like the one in Airside 1 gates. If you have a AMEX Platinum, you have access to this lounge and can bring guests, unlike at the Delta SkyClub. This lounge is also significantly newer than the SkyClub across the atrium.
Unfortunately, this lounge is also smaller and can get crowded during certain times of the day. It does serve a need as several airlines such as Norwegian, Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic, along with Delta, use gates from this terminal. Once again, I’d go here if I had extra time and was able to get in with my Priority Pass but would not shell out $40 for the privilege.
If you are flying on Southwest, Alaska or Virgin America from these gates, there’s not much in the way of lounges here. However, you are very lucky to be able to eat at Cask and Larder, which was recently named the third best airport/regional restaurant in the United States. It even beat out One Flew South in Atlanta airport, a location that many bloggers feel is the best airport restaurant around.
We’re very familiar with Cask and Larder as it was developed by the same people that run a local restaurant here called The Ravenous Pig. That restaurant barely missed making our list of places to eat in Orlando outside of the theme parks, just because we couldn’t list all of our favorite places. We have a upcoming flight back to Orlando on Southwest and I want to try eating here so much that I’m seriously considering us stopping for dinner here before heading home.
So that’s the list of the lounges in Orlando airport. They’re generally good locations to find a quiet(er) place to relax before your flight and hopefully a place to plug in your devices.
Have you been to any of the Orlando lounges? What did you think about them? Would you willingly show up early just to spend time there? Let me know in the comments or by reaching out on Facebook or Twitter.
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