Orlando International Airport, known as MCO in airline speak, was a destination for over 50 million airline passengers in 2022. For many of those passengers, Orlando is their 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 was stagnant (or even declining) for years 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 catching up.
Terminal A & B
The Terminal A & B building at 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.
One thing to note is that if you’re at gates 1-29 and want to go to gates 30-59 without clearing TSA again, you have to take the APM on the right. I found this out the hard way and the Orlando Airport Twitter team was glad to explain why this happens.
If you are in the airside area at gates 1-29 about to take the APM, you will have to take the APM on the right side, for that one will allow you to just walk over and get the other APMs to gates 30-59. If you take the APM on the left side it will lead you outside the secure area and you will have to go through security again (if it’s in international arrivals mode). Passengers just need to read the sign on the APM on the right side, that says to take this APM “for gates 30-59”.
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, Capital One Venture X, Ritz Carlton Rewards or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards). You can purchase a day pass for the club for $50 per person. LoungeBuddy also sells day passes for $50 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.
Use: Frontier and Spirit’s international flights use 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.
Location: Near Gate 43
Access: Single-use passes are available for $59 each for those with a same-day United ticket. Otherwise, you need to be a member of the United Club to enter. People who have the United 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 a while ago and is 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.
American Airlines Admirals Club
Location: Near Gate 55
Access: Single day passes are available for $59 or 5,900 AAdvantage miles if you have a same-day ticket on American. You can also get access by having the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, but that also comes with a hefty $450 annual fee.
Use: 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 for long layovers.
Agents at the Admirals Club are tired of Priority Pass members trying to enter because they’re not a partner with Priority Pass.
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 $50 each. You can buy a day pass for yourself and two guests for $50 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 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.
The Orlando SkyClub received a refresh with a new coat of paint, furniture and carpets but the design is uniquely Floridian. This is nice, as it is quite different from other SkyClubs.
The Club MCO – Airside 4
Location: By Gate 91, Next to InMotion Store
Access: You can also access this lounge with a Priority Pass membership (available with the American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige, Ritz Carlton Rewards, Capital One Venture X or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards). You can purchase a day pass for the club for $50 per person. LoungeBuddy also sells day passes for $50 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 Delta SkyClub.
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 for working 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’s a seating area with tables located near the bar.
The lounge’s main area has grouped seating behind dividers, several tables for small groups, and individual loungers that look out the window onto the tarmac.
On the other side of the lounge, there’s a smaller food area with snacks and a coffee maker. There is also a departure board, as they don’t make any announcements in the lounge.
The lounge has a shower room, something not available in most 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 the last time we looked, a nice touch for Orlando Airport since we have the Harry Potter area of Universal Studios nearby.
If you’re flying on Avelo, 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. I’ve eaten at both, and 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.
Orlando Airport recently opened Terminal C and it currently houses JetBlue and many international carriers including British Airways, Emirates, Icelandair, Azul and Norse.
Plaza Premium Lounge
Location: The lounge is located on the 2nd floor of the Palm Court area.
Access: The Plaza Premium serves as the contract lounge for international airlines in Terminal C. Guests can also get access with an American Express Platinum or Capital One Venture X card. The lounge sells day passes on its website and you can also buy one on Loungebuddy for $60.
Use: Terminal C’s biggest tenant is JetBlue, but the lounge is geared toward international travelers. The lounge is open from 11 AM to 9 PM, so you’re out of luck if you have an early morning or late night departure.
The check-in desk is downstairs and you can reach the lounge either by using the elevator or stairs.
Once upstairs, there’s a long walkway that borders the first seating section. This is where some of the kids’ games are but there’s also a TV wall that was showing sports when I visited. The lounge was very full as Orlando was having many flight delays due to severe weather along the East Coast.
The main room of the lounge is spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the airport.
There’s also a stylish bar on the Palm Court side of the lounge.
The bar does charge for some drinks, with a price range of $3 to $10. There’s also a decent food selection with two hot dishes (chicken and pasta), premade salads, fresh fruit, and a few dessert selections. It was picked through when I visited and the staff was trying to replenish it as fast as they could.
That’s the list of the lounges at 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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