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In the best of times, waiting for an airplane is never fun. The scene is loud, crowded, and full of screaming babies. In the worst of times, it can provoke temper tantrums. Were you one of the unfortunate many stuck at O’Hare Airport when it shut down during a blizzard in 1998? But it’s possible for air travel to approach enjoyable in the best of times and bearable in the worst. The key is to join an airline lounge club for a few hundred dollars a year. Almost every airline has one: United’s Red Carpet Club; American’s Admirals Club; Delta’s Crown Room Club; TWA’s Ambassador Club. Although they all have names that sound like they are designed for royalty, they provide peace and quiet more than pomp. Depending on the club, you can avail yourself of express check-in, FedEx pickups, complimentary munchies and beverages (including alcohol in some venues), check cashing service, ticket purchases, and a full array of office services, from fax machines and phones to dataports. Best of all: Many locations offer free or reasonably priced meeting rooms, complete with audiovisual equipment. If you plan ahead, you can schedule the rooms for midday meetings, shortening a normal overnight trip into a quick-in, quick-out, never-leave-the-tax-free-zone day trip. The clubs are convenient and comfortable during routine travel, but a necessity when blizzards or thunderstorms transform airports into overnight campgrounds. The staff help you find distress rate hotels, or, in a worst case, give you a fluffy pillow and a soft chair to sleep in. Monica Bay, editor in chief of Law Technology News, is a Mileage Plus addict and the daughter of a retired United Airlines pilot.

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