Despite the fact that a number of popular local shops and restaurants have opened up inside San Diego International Airport, we always stop at the Aspire lounge (formerly the Airspace lounge) before our flights out of Terminal 2.

We enjoy the quiet space as well as a quick snack or drink before take-off. Admittedly, we are creatures of habit with multiple lounge memberships including American Airlines Admirals Club, Priority Pass, and American Express — all of which provides entry to this San Diego Airport lounge.

This lounge has gone through three transformations in the last decade and its most recent is great if you already have these memberships but I’m not sure I would pay the day rate.

What’s New at the Aspire Lounge at San Diego Airport

The Aspire Lounge replaces the Airspace Lounge which several years ago replaced San Diego Admirals Club, as I mentioned earlier.

If you haven’t been into this lounge lately, you might be wondering how it differs from its former life as an Airspace Lounge. Here’s the deal:

  • American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders used to get a $10 credit to be put toward food and drinks. This is no longer the case. Your card grants entry and nothing else.
  • There’s no food menu. The only food on offer is at the self-serve buffet which is significantly larger than it used to be at Airspace. Guests used to be able to order a variety of cheese plates and sandwiches from the bar for an additional fee.
  • The bar menu is far more robust. You can order complimentary well cocktails and house wines. The bartender told me that any cocktail on the menu can be made with complimentary liquor instead of premium liquor.
  • The interior design received a refresh with newer signage, new upholstery on the lounge chairs, more plants, and fresh coats of paint.
  • Less relaxed, personalized service. Sure, we’ve been through a high turnover a few years but it’s not the same friendly faces and they don’t confirm boarding times or gates when you check in like they used to.

Guests flying premium classes on Japan Airlines and British Airways used to be provided a special menu complimentary. I’m not sure if that’s still the case (let me know if you’ve passed through on either lately).

What It’s Like Inside the San Diego Aspire Lounge

Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase the planes outside and flood the space with light. TVs play local news and sports. And handful also display flight times. 

High ceilings and compact white and muted grey furnishings make the space feel large, which is good because it’s not big compared to other major airport lounges.

Upon walking in, to the left is a lounge area with relatively-comfortable, compact grey lounge chairs that opens up to the dining room and bar. The self-serve buffet is in between the lounge and dining/bar area. It’s basically an open floorplan.

I love how the liquor bottles line the back wall against the windows as decor. Rest assured there are plenty of electrical outlets.

The bar inside the Aspire lounge at San Diego Airport.

Complimentary Amenities

The free WiFi is fast though not great for bulk downloading photos or heavy files. 

The self-serve drink and snack area offers a breakfast selection and then transitions to an all-day selection.

The menu below is from the Swissport website. It’s a basic continental breakfast and it has been picked over the last couple of times we went. It’s fine, but not deluxe by any means.

Breakfast

Complimentary: Available until 10:30 a.m., self serve

  • Assorted Cereals and Milk
  • Bagels with Cream Cheese / Butter / Jams
  • English Muffins
  • Oatmeal with assorted toppings
  • Fresh Fruit Apples, Oranges and Bananas
  • Yogurts
  • Muffins
  • Pastry Selection
  • Fruit Salad
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Cottage Cheese

Afternoon


Complimentary: Available after 10:30 a.m., self serve

  • Soup of the Day with saltine crackers or toppings
  • Assorted Dinner Rolls with butter and jams
  • Garden Salad with choice of dressings and toppings
  • Pasta Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Assorted Meats and Cheeses
  • Assorted Crackers
  • Chex Mix
  • Hummus
  • Crudités
  • Olives
  • Assorted Nuts
  • Fresh Fruit Apples, Oranges, and Bananas
  • Desserts Selection Brownies, Cookies, Cakes

Complimentary Drinks

Available all-day

  • Coffee
  • Tea Selection 
  • Assorted Juices
  • Soda

There is a coffee and cappuccino machine, but it was broken during my two most recent visits in a row.

The Bar

The setup of the bar area is conducive to socializing with the bartenders and even meeting a new friend or two. 

I’ve seen Airspace Lounge staff whip up some pretty impressive, well-garnished drinks for customers who are keen on the bartender’s choice. It’s a friendly area. 

Premium drinks for purchase include Manhattan, mules, Cadillac margaritas, and more fun cocktails in addition to nicer wines and some of San Diego’s best local craft beers.

The list of beverages and pricing currently on the Swissport website aligns with what I have seen on the printed menu.

They used to have food and drinks for purchase. I wish they kept the Naked Juices because there really isn’t all that much for kids other than basic juice and water.

Amenities Change for Japan Airlines and British Airways (?)

If anyone has passed through the lounge having flown on these flights recently, please leave a comment. I’d love to know what the menu is like after the renovation.

If you are on the direct British Airways flight to London and eligible to access the lounge, there use to be a separate complimentary menu for you. It was really quite nice and includes premium wine (probably beer, too, but I drank the wine). British Airways’ lounges typically provide tons and tons of complimentary food and drink so this extra perk helps to meet their worldwide standards.

British Airways offers passengers an exclusive lounge menu with excellent food options and premium wine at the San Diego Airport.
British Airways cheese plate and premium wine

Our once-daily Japan Airlines flight also had a separate menu. At the time of our most recent flight In the afternoon before the Japan Airlines flight leaves you’ll notice Japanese-speaking staff and snacks like instant noodle bowls as well as other Japanese goodies.

How to Access the Aspire Lounge at San Diego Airport

The Airspace Lounge is complimentary for American Admirals Club members and American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders. You can also access it using Priority Pass.

Travelers flying business class and those with elite status on British Airways or Japan Airlines that are flying the SAN-LHR or SAN-NRT routes may also use the lounge. 

However, anyone can also simply pay the $45 plus taxes per person walk-up fee. Military and emergency workers pay a reduced $35 plus taxes per person fee.

This is what’s included:

  • Additional $10 credit for premium menu items included with every entry
  • Unlimited, complimentary soft drinks and light snacks
  • Full bar (premium drinks are at an additional fee)
  • Complimentary use of Airspace’s shower facility
  • Semi-private conference room (Seats up to 6)
  • Complimentary printing
  • Unlimited complimentary espresso and cappuccinos
  • Unlimited complimentary Peet’s Coffees & Teas
  • Complimentary scanning
  • Complimentary WiFi
  • Power outlets at every seat
  • Assistance with delays

Admission Numbers Are Capped

Note that if the lounge is at capacity, staff members will display a sign outside and lock the door. In fact, the door was locked (no sign – I saw them put that out later) when I tried to enter despite multiple guests inside. I only got in because another guest opened the door as he was leaving. 

I don’t love this. If I have lounge memberships be it paid or from credit cards I pay hefty annual fees for, I would like to get in. 

I have Admirals Club, AMEX Business Platinum AND Priority Pass. From what I can see there is no benefit to using one over the other.

San Diego Aspire Lounge Location in Terminal 2

After you pass through security in between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines check-in desks at Terminal 2, turn left. 

You’ll see a bakery right in front of you. Head toward it and turn left.

Maybe Stop Here for Food Before the Lounge

This is a Pannikin, which is a San Diego institution for coffee and pastries. They also have pre-made and cooked-to-order breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast.

What you find here is better than what is on offer in the Aspire lounge food-wise. So, consider picking up some food here and taking it to the lounge.

If you are hungry, I might suggest stopping in to grab a sandwich or a pastry to take into the lounge.

The walkway will wind to the right. The glass door to the lounge is also on the righthand side a few paces after the bend.

If you enter Terminal 2 where the international flight check-in desks and Delta Airlines are, you can clear security there also and then walk toward gates 20-35. You’ll see the lounge on your way to the American and Alaska side of the terminal.

Staff members at the reception desks will check you in. Note that there are no boarding announcements so you’re on your own for tracking your boarding time.

Flight information is displayed on the TV screens as well though you could always ask staff members for updates.

Should You Use this San Diego Airport Lounge?

Is it worth paying for entry to this San Diego Airport lounge, if you’re not an American Airlines Admirals Club member, Priority Pass or a qualifying American Express cardholder? It depends.

If you have a long layover, plan to partake in multiple cocktails that would hit the wallet otherwise, or you value the comfort… the answer is yes. 

San Diego International Airport offers good free WiFi everywhere, so there’s no need to enter just for the WiFi. 

Terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport is also now home to many of San Diego’s famous restaurants like Phil’s BBQ, Stone Brewing, The Prado, and more. 

If you’re a foodie looking for local flavor, you may want to head elsewhere. The drinks are good, but the food really isn’t — though it will do in a pinch.

Do you use San Diego International Airport lounges?

Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the Admiral’s lounge at San Diego Int. Airport. I will now know to keep my expectations low. I have been to the BA lounge at LAX and LHR (Awesome) and New Castle (Decent). Looks like the AA Admirals lounges are a couple of notches below BA’s.

    1. The BA lounges are really nice! I think the best AA lounges are in Dallas, not surprisingly. I was at the SD one again yesterday. I was hoping that the renovation was done but apparently, not yet. We’ll see how it measures up. It will add a kitchen, I’m told, otherwise the food options are slim!

  2. Does an AA business class ticket give the flyer access to the Airspace Lounge? Are there time limits in regard to the visit?

    1. Our American flights are domestic flights so holding a first or business class ticket doesn’t qualify you for lounge entrance. You need an Admirals Club membership, an American Express Platinum or Centurion card or to pay to enter.