Orlando International Airport, known as MCO in airline speak, was a destination for over 50 million airline passengers in 2019, making it the 10th busiest airport in the U.S. based on total passenger traffic. For many of those passengers, Orlando is their final destination. The need 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 had been stagnant (or even declining) over the past decade because leisure travelers aren’t the bread and butter customers for lounges. These lounges were designed with business travelers in mind, giving them a place to be productive while waiting for their next flight.
Times have changed and more people have lounge access thanks to credit card benefits, so lounges at MCO are finally starting to catch up.
MCO 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.
Note: Access between gates 1-29 and 30-59 may occasionally be blocked. This means you will have to re-clear security to get to the other set of gates. You’ll know this is happening if you pass by signs before boarding the monorail that says “Once passing this point, you need to exit” or “No re-entry permitted.” I’ve previously asked Orlando Airport if this is permanent and received this reply via Twitter:
During int'l flight arrivals at gates 1-29, it's possible that you will have to pass through security again. This is a precaution that is to prevent ability for nonscreened int'l arrivals from accessing secure areas. Thanks for understanding & sorry for the inconvenience.
— Orlando International Airport (@MCO) November 21, 2017
This is important to know as it’ll make a difference in what lounges you can access. I’m not going to go in-depth about how you can get access to these lounges in this article as each airline has its own rules about who can access 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, adjacent to XpresSpa
Access: This is an independent lounge that contracts with 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 $45 per person. LoungeBuddy also sells day passes for $45 and remember that if you have an AMEX Green Card, you get up to $100 a year credit for LoungeBuddy purchases.
This lounge isn’t very large but does its best with the space it has. To the right of the entry area is the bar and then the buffet.
On the other side of the lounge, there’s seating against the wall with plenty of outlets and other tables along the wall that look out onto the tarmac (these were always in use, so I didn’t want to take pictures of people sitting there).
This lounge does offer shower rooms. You have to ask the agent at the front desk to unlock the room and they’ll make sure you’re stocked with towels. The shower room was perfectly adequate when I checked it out during our last trip.
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, but I’ve never had a problem entering myself.
United Club (Currently closed, due to COVID)
Location: Near Gate 43
Access: One time passes are available for $59 each. Otherwise, you need to be a member of the 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 for 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 club agents are very helpful and managed to get us on an earlier flight to New York when many flights were delayed.
I no longer have the United MileagePlus credit card so we don’t get passes to the lounge anymore, which isn’t a big problem now that we aren’t flying on United anymore, either.
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.
Use: This club is the newest addition to the lounges at Orlando Airport and is, from all indications, a very nice space. It’s a tad small but since American only operates flights from Orlando to their other hub airports such as 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 don’t have Admirals Club access so I still have never seen this club for myself. I did try to get in the last time I was flying American, by asking the desk agent if I could go in for a second or two, just to take a few pictures for my travel blog, but was shut down cold. Oh, well.
Location: Atrium, next to Starbucks
Access: Day passes for SkyClubs are only available to passengers with certain credit cards. American Express Platinum and Delta Reserve cardholders flying on Delta flights can enter SkyClubs for free, but guests (a maximum of two) will cost $39 each. You can still buy a day pass for yourself and two guests for $39 each if you’re flying on a Delta flight and have an AMEX Delta Platinum card.
Use: I’ll be honest and say that I have a fondness for the Skyclub at MCO. When I first started this hobby, it 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 that the well drinks have gotten cheaper in quality, the lounge is often overrun with families and children, and the decor screams of the mid-1980s. We used to get to the airport early to spend time here at the beginning of our vacations but since I didn’t renew my American Express Platinum card I don’t have any way to access the club. I doubt that I’d pay $39 each anyway because of the other option available in the terminal.
The Club MCO – Airside 4
Location: By Gate 91, Next to InMotion Store
Access: This is an independent lounge that contracts with British Airways, 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 $45 per person. LoungeBuddy also sells day passes for $45 and remember that if you have an AMEX Green Card, you get up to $100 a year credit for LoungeBuddy purchases.
This is the second of The Club lounges at Orlando International Airport and is much like the one in Airside 1 gates. If you have an AMEX Platinum, you have access to this lounge by using Priority Pass and can bring guests, unlike at the Delta SkyClub. This lounge is also significantly newer than the SkyClub across the atrium.
I was shocked about how nice this lounge is. It’s bright, has multiple seating areas with plenty of seats, and decent food options with an open bar. Directly behind the check-in desk, there’s a bunch of office seating with plenty of outlets. The area isn’t very private but would be suitable to work on a laptop.
Off to the right is the food. It’s a large area with a small bar with finger foods and the more substantial foods behind it, against the wall.
They even have a pancake maker (just like in the Alaska lounges)
There was a seating area with tables located near the bar.
The lounge’s main area had grouped seating behind dividers, several tables for small groups, and individual loungers that looked out the window onto the tarmac.
On the other side of the lounge, there was a smaller food area with snacks and a coffee maker. There was also a departure board, as they don’t make any announcements in the lounge.
The lounge has a shower room, something not available in other lounges at MCO. I didn’t bother them to open it up for me to take pictures, sorry.
They even have a kids room with books and video games. They had Lego Harry Potter set up, a nice touch for Orlando Airport since we have the Harry Potter area of Universal Studios nearby.
I would gladly spend time in this lounge instead of the Delta SkyClub. Since I can bring a guest in with me to The Club at MCO for free, this is my lounge of choice. It really did blow me away and was far more than I was expecting.
If you’re flying on Southwest or Alaska from these gates, there’s not much in the way of lounges. However, you’re able to eat at Cask and Larder, which was named the third best airport/regional restaurant in the United States a while back. It even beat out One Flew South in Atlanta airport, which many bloggers feel is the best airport restaurant. Now that I’ve eaten at both, I can’t say that one is better than the other. I liked the meals at both places. Cask and Larder is more casual, while One Flew South is fancier (and more expensive, as well).
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 favorite places to eat in Orlando outside of the theme parks, just because we couldn’t list all of our favorite places.
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.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary