Even without "status" you can enjoy airline clubs when you travel

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You probably already know that one of the benefits of obtaining elite status in a global airline alliance is gaining entrance to those posh airport lounges, enjoying comfy chairs, free Champagne, snacks, and other perks. But did you know that Star Alliance is the only one of the three global airline alliances to extend comprehensive access to international business class lounges of alliance-member airlines if you're a paid member of Air Canadas Maple Leaf Lounge, Uniteds Red Carpet Club, and US Airways Club members, when flying internationally? No matter what class of service you are flying or your elite status, flash your club membership card (yes, you must physically carry the card) and you gain access to alliance member business class lounges across the globe.

So lets say youre a paid member of the US Airways Club and youre flying in economy class internationally on a Star Alliance airline, such as Lufthansa. Flash your membership card and a boarding pass for a flight that day, and you and a guest can enjoy Lufthansas business class lounge.

This benefit is often underused since most people think that Star Alliance Gold status or travel in a premium cabin is required to gain club room access in the above scenario.

Use of any Star member business class lounge is eligible, but not all lounge agents are fully aware of this benefit. One guest is permitted, and travel need not be on the airline of the lounge you are using. It only must be a member of the Star Alliance and for travel on that same day.

Since club membership is something that people pay for in North America (unlike overseas where it is awarded solely on status or class of service), this perk can sometimes be misunderstood. The fees for joining an airline lounge can range between $300 to $600 annually, but knowing about this international travel benefit can certainly sweeten the pot. Many carriers allow elite members to receive a discount for their annual membership, and special prices for spousal memberships are another great option. For information on pricing for each airline lounge program, visit Air Canada, United, US Airways

For more details about Star Alliances free lounge access for paid club members of Air Canada, United and US Airways (and a complete list of Star Alliance member airlines), click here. It is best to carry a printout of the rules in case an untrained agent gives you pushback.

The SkyTeam alliance offers this benefit on more limited scale, giving Delta SkyClub members access to alliance and partner lounges scattered around the system. A full list can be found here, but be sure to check Delta SkyClub Member on the right-hand column. Some interesting lounge access options include many Virgin Australia, Alaska Airlines, and contract partner lounges so be sure to study the list.

The oneworld alliance offers a similar program although travelers must present a same-day boarding pass on the lounge carrier airline. Admirals Club members traveling overseas have access to most Qantas Clubs and several Alaska Airlines, Finnair, Japan Air Lines, and Cathay Pacific lounges. The full list can be found here.

Even customers who have purchased 90-day memberships (perfect for non-revenue or military customers who travel infrequently) can take advantage of many of these lounges overseas. It is best to visit the lounge program's websites to verify if a temporary membership card will be valid.

Another little known fact: members with Star Alliance Gold status earned on non-North American carriers but who are flying on North American-based airlines, such as United, get access to any North American lounge of Air Canada, United, and US Airways even when traveling domestically in the U.S. since they are considered an international traveler. Thats because their airline program affiliation is from overseas. For example, holding Star Alliance Gold status on Aegean or Turkish Airlines (two airlines with notoriously easy thresholds for status) gives U.S. travelers access to Star Alliance partner lounges in the U.S. Even if traveling domestically, since the card holder is part of a foreign airline's program, the trip is deemed international granting access to North American carrier lounges. (Read our article on how to get fast and easy Star Alliance Gold status).

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