Why some international lounges in Europe are before passport control

By John Walton, August 1 2013
Why some international lounges in Europe are before passport control

If you're flying around Europe, especially to the UK, make sure you know where the lounge is -- many of them are before passport control, and you might not be allowed back through to go to the lounge.

It's all because of the Schengen system, where most of continental Europe has open internal borders and flights are treated as domestic rather than international.

As a result, the business lounges are usually in the "domestic/Schengen" side of the airport, before passport control -- and even sometimes before security.

That makes sense flying between Germany and Italy, where there are no passport checks required, but it's problematic if you're heading between France and the UK, say.

If your brain is on autopilot and you pass the official border at passport control, many countries prevent you from retracing your steps back "into their country" and into the lounge.

Added to the complications if you're flying around Europe, it's fairly common for airlines to contract out their airport staff to a local third party, who sometimes don't speak English confidently enough to explain things to travellers (or, frustratingly frequently, just can't be bothered).

So double-check where the lounge is in the airport. It's often useful to ask which gate it's near, so you have a rough idea where you're heading and how long it'll take to get there.

And make sure you ask how long it should take between the lounge and your gate: since you'll have to get through passport control, you need to leave enough time for the walk, which can be a fair distance.

Do you fly frequently overseas? What's your best tip for your fellow travellers, or the hard-earned knowledge nobody ever thinks to ask about? Share your thoughts with other AusBT readers in a comment below!

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John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

John Walton, it's good to see you are back. I really like your articles, especially the Best Seats guide. This is another great article of yours!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 157

The other big consideration when flying internally within Europe is that for airports like Frankfurt & Zurich etc, many flights don't board through airbridges and involve transport from a gate lounge to the actual aircraft by bus and you just can't afford to turn up late as you will miss both the bus and the flight!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 135

Make sure to go on line and spend US$25 and get the VIP visa service when arriving in Denpasar, Bali.  It'll save you hours of holiday time, rather than standing in line  after arrival.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

Agreed great to see you back John, realised you missed us all too much?  :)

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