Airport lounges are advertised as super-exclusive and luxurious oases that offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of a crowded airport.
But they're not always as grand as they might seem.
Many of these lounges are actually often overcrowded and place limits on free drinks.
Exclusive airport lounges, usually open only to first-class fliers or members of a credit card rewards program, are meant to serve as relaxing refuges from loud, crowded airports.
But that's not always the case.
Many airport lounges tend to be overcrowded and difficult to get into, and once you do get in, you'll find that once-gourmet dining options have been replaced with mediocre buffets or finger foods. And limitless alcoholic beverages are no longer a guarantee.
You might think of airport lounges as relaxing retreats from the hectic hustle and bustle of a typical airport.
These exclusive areas are usually only open to first-class fliers or members of a credit card rewards program.
Airlines tout them as a refuge where you can wait for your flight in peaceful solitude.
Some, like the Etihad Premium Lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport, even promise a private butler to attend to your needs.
United Airlines has its Polaris lounge, with locations at Chicago O'Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Newark, and San Francisco airports, and a lounge opening in Los Angeles later in 2018.
It's only open to United's international premium cabin travelers, and it promises luxurious amenities ...
... such as regional cuisine paired with specially curated wines and handcrafted cocktails ...
... as well as relaxation areas, rest pods, and shower facilities.
But sometimes, these lounges are more crowded than relaxing.
Or you just might be too tired to even really enjoy the lounge.
On Instagram, the food looks like a gourmet, fine dining experience.
But it might not always look like that.
And although the Polaris lounges offer the option of a refreshing sleep in their "nap pods," you might find that these pods are more like narrow cots.
And in some airport lounge nap areas, you won't necessarily have much privacy.
In some cases, you may well find yourself trying to relax next to complete strangers.
In British Airways' Concorde Rooms, where you can only go as a First Class flier, a Gold Member of the British Airways Executive Club, or an Emerald Member of a oneworld airline frequent flyer program, the food is paired with "the finest champagnes and wines from around the world."
But prepare yourself for small portions, like this serving of veggies ...
... or this tiny bowl of soup.
The Ana Lounge at Tokyo Narita Airport in Japan looks glamorous in some photos.
But in reality, it doesn't look much different from a regular airport seating area.
The Amex Centurion Lounge is only open to American Express global Platinum Card holders and Centurion Members.
It offers seasonally inspired fare, signature cocktails, premium spirits, and curated wines.
But you might have trouble finding a table to enjoy the food and drinks.
The Dallas Fort Worth Centurion lounge appears to have the same overcrowding issue.
You should count yourself lucky if you can find a seat.
Many airport lounges look beautiful and chic when they're empty, whether their design is cozy, as in the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport ...
... flooded with natural light, like the diplomatic lounge in Dubai ...
... or timeless, like the TAV primeclass Lounge at Frankfurt Airport.
The reality, though, is that space is the ultimate commodity in these lounges ...
... and it's difficult to come by ...
... and sometimes, difficult even just to get into.
One traveler posted a video to Instagram of a long queue they said they waited in for 30 minutes to get into the Plaza Premium Lounge in Hong Kong.
If you can even manage to get in, you might find the crowded lounges to be even less relaxing than the rest of the airport.
If you're looking to avoid throngs of people, you may want to reconsider.
Once a perk for business travelers and high earners, airport lounges have become accessible to many more people thanks to credit card rewards.
Priority Pass provides its members with access to a global network of independently operated airport lounges — or, at least, it's supposed to.
In reality, though, that's not always the case. One traveler found that no airport lounges in Narita International Airport in Tokyo were partnered with Priority Pass ...
... while another had the same issue in the Alaska lounge at LAX.
"The least relaxing business lounge ever," one Flickr user captioned a photo of the business lounge at the airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, where nearly every seat seemed to be taken.
Some airport lounges resemble a high school library more than a glamorous oasis of calm in the middle of an airport.
Airport lounges used to offer full gourmet meals.
And, while it's not impossible to find yourself with a fresh meal in a lounge ...
... or a nice, varied spread to choose from, as in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport ...
... many lounges these days only offer finger foods and limited buffets.
And some of the food options can be somewhat less than appetizing.
Similarly, the prospect of free alcohol is a major draw for some people, whether that's a couple of ice cold beers after a Punta Cana vacation ...
... a fancy pink cocktail in the Coral Executive Lounge in Bangkok's Don Mueang airport ...
... or the selection of on-tap liquors in Amsterdam's Aspire Lounge.
Those with long layovers may find themselves sorely disappointed though, as free alcoholic drinks are usually not limitless.
Many lounges have a limit to how many drinks each visitor can have.
In some places, such as the Business Lounge at Minsk National Airport, local wine is free but you have to pay for all imported and sparkling wines, according to one traveler.
So if you're hoping to get bottomless free booze at an airport lounge, think again.