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The Austin-Bergstrom Airport (AUS) features a cool little experience for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders–the Chase Sapphire Terrace. Not quite a full-on airport lounge, the Terrace is still a unique and fun place to spend time before your departure. Recently, I had about an hour-long layover at AUS and decided to venture over to the Terrace for the very first time. Let’s take a look inside and explore the amenities on offer.
Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS Location and Hours
The Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Here lies the first potential problem–if you’ve got an early morning departure, you won’t be able to grab a quick coffee and snack here.
But perhaps more importantly–this lounge features mostly outdoor seating on a terrace overlooking the tarmac. That seems nice in theory… until you remember that this is Austin, Texas. A big chunk of the open hours tend to be when the Austin sun is at its brightest, so it’ll be difficult to utilize the outdoor space during the hot summer months.
In terms of location, the Terrace is tucked away at one end of the main Barbara Jordan Terminal, near Gate 1. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most convenient for those with flights boarding at the higher gate numbers (i.e., Gates 20 and above), since you’ll have to walk quite a long way to get to the Terrace.
Once you’re there, make your way up to the mezzanine level to find the entrance.
Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS Access and Entry Requirements
Access requirements for the Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS are very straightforward. First, you’ll be asked to present your boarding pass; you won’t be allowed to enter the lounge until up to three hours before your scheduled flight departure.
Next, you’ll have to present your Chase Sapphire Reserve® (or J.P. Morgan Reserve) card. This will get you and a maximum of two guests into the lounge. Unlike other Chase Sapphire Lounges (i.e. the ones in Boston and Hong Kong), it’s not the Priority Pass Select card that gets you in. Here, you’ll actually need to show your Sapphire Reserve card for access.
Because this space is exclusive to Sapphire Reserve card members, you won’t be able to access the lounge with any other lounge program or credit card. You also cannot pay for access.
Chase Sapphire Terrace Layout and Amenities
The Chase Sapphire Terrace is about 5,000 square feet in total. A big chunk of that is outdoor. Immediately after entering the lounge, you’re greeted by a small indoor area, which covers about 1,000 square feet.
The indoor area only has enough seating to accommodate about 10 people maximum. Here is where you’ll find two Farmer’s Fridge vending machines, as well as a drink bar. There’s also just a single unisex bathroom which can be a problem if the lounge gets crowded.
The standout feature of the Sapphire Terrace is, well, the outdoor terrace. This is a large, 4,000-square-foot space that contains picnic-style tables and lawn chairs. The terrace overlooks the tarmac, making it a haven for avid plane-watchers.
Chase’s intention for the Terrace is for guests to come in, get their food and drink from the indoor stations then find a seat outside to enjoy their items. The outdoor area is meant to be more of a social space rather than a place to catch up on work. With planes buzzing in the background, it’s pretty difficult to take calls anyway. This vibe is also reflected in some of the lawn games available such as cornhole.
Overall, the outdoor space is fun and beautiful, but is it the most practical? Average temperatures during the day in Austin are too high during at least five months of the year (May through September). Without large cooling fans during the summer months, it’s hard to imagine anyone choosing to brave the heat for more than a few minutes. A similar problem occurs during winter when it’s often too cold without heaters.
I visited the lounge on a Wednesday afternoon in mid-November, so luckily, there were no weather concerns. It was a very comfortable day outside, and as a result, the terrace was brimming with people. I was still able to find a seat, but I can see overcrowding being a potential issue.
This is where credit should be given to Chase for choosing a grab-and-go model for their food and drink. Even when it gets hot and crowded, you can enter the lounge, grab some food and drink, and enjoy it elsewhere in the terminal.
Food and Beverage at Chase Sapphire Terrace
As previously mentioned, food and beverage at the Chase Sapphire Terrace is entirely grab-and-go. Let’s start with the drink bar, which is handled by lounge staff. When I went, there were a few non-alcoholic drinks available to choose from.
I grabbed a sparkling water for the road. There was also an alcoholic drinks menu, which featured some local Austin beers, ciders and wine. The staff won’t let you take alcoholic drinks to go, so be sure to finish them in the lounge.
If you want packaged snacks such as Cheez-Its or pretzels, the drink bar is also where you order them.
For more food options, head over to the two vending machines located near the entrance to the outdoor terrace. Choices include healthy, pre-packaged salads, wraps and desserts by Farmer’s Fridge. Though it’s a vending machine, everything here is free–simply place your order and watch the machine go to work delivering your items.
I chose three items from the vending machine. Rather than take them to the outdoor lounge, I decided to stuff them into my backpack and enjoy them on my flight in true grab-and-go style.
First up was the apple pecan salad. It came with a healthy serving of spinach, feta cheese, sweet potatoes, carrots and quinoa. The candied pecans came in separate packaging, along with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Even though the packaging was probably as cleverly done as possible, this still wasn’t the easiest thing to assemble and eat on a small airplane tray table. As a result, I found myself eating the ingredients layer by layer, rather than as a well-mixed salad. Still, it was healthy and refreshing to enjoy this on a domestic flight that offered no real food options.
Next, I tried the pesto pasta bowl. It came with a few grape tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and spinach leaves. I’m typically a big fan of all things pesto, so this definitely did hit the spot for me, despite being a bit on the saltier side. Also, there wasn’t any additional sauce or other ingredients to mix in, so this was much easier to eat on a plane compared to the salad.
Finally, I picked up a Greek yogurt as dessert. This one had blueberries, brined apples and granola mixed in. It definitely would’ve been better had I eaten it straight out of the fridge, but it was still cold and decently fresh after about an hour.
Overall, I was glad the Sapphire Terrace offers such healthy food options and I was quite happy with my selections–all the ingredients tasted fresh and high-quality. It was also fun to take them on my flight with me and enjoy them at 35,000 feet.
Unique Features of Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS
Since the Chase Sapphire Terrace isn’t a full-on lounge, you won’t find any additional amenities here. That means that, unlike the Sapphire Lounge at Boston-Logan, for instance, there aren’t any shower rooms or family rooms.
The most unique feature of this lounge is definitely the outdoor terrace space. This makes the Terrace an absolute delight to visit in the spring and fall months, but it’s usually too hot during summer and too cold during winter. Overall, this feels like a mistake by Chase. Many have already voiced criticisms about Chase’s lack of consideration for Austin’s desert climate. It’s really a shame since it’s rare for lounges to have a space for travelers to observe an airport terminal from the outside.
Deciding to implement such a concept in Austin is a dubious move by Chase in the first place. However, there are definitely ways Chase could go about trying to mitigate the problem: installing large outdoor fans would be a good first step. As the lounge continues to service more and more Sapphire Reserve patrons, the ball is in Chase’s court to continue to figure out ways to improve the experience for everyone.
How Much Time Would You Spend at Sapphire Terrace?
Personally, I think the ideal Sapphire Terrace visit length is about one hour. It’s a great space to grab some quick bites, relax and plane-watch, but the lack of hot food options and indoor seating can easily cut a visit short. The absence of other amenities doesn’t help.
If the weather happens to be comfortable, you could make an argument for staying a full three hours at the lounge. However, the Delta Sky Club next door is probably a better venue for longer stays–there’s more indoor seating and hot Tex-Mex food options available. This isn’t really a knock on the Sapphire Terrace, which really was built to be more of a grab-and-go style lounge. In fact, if you were really in a rush, I wouldn’t blame you if you just made a beeline for the vending machines and then left immediately.
Final Thoughts on the Chase Sapphire Lounge at Austin-Bergstrom Airport
The Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS is one of the more unique domestic lounge experiences for sure. However, while the outdoor terrace space offers a brilliant view of the tarmac, this happens to simultaneously be the lounge’s biggest selling point and biggest weakness. It’s not the most practical place to stay during the summer or winter months.
I’d argue that you don’t have to stay a long time to get value out of this lounge because Chase seemingly designed it to be more of an “in-and-out” experience anyway. The food options, while minimal, are self-serve and come prepackaged in a way that you can easily eat them in the main terminal, or even on your next flight.
Overall, I enjoyed the concept of the Sapphire Terrace, as well as my experience here. However, it isn’t a lounge that I’m dying to revisit again, at least in its current iteration. I’ll be on the lookout for Chase’s updates on this lounge, just in case my travels bring me back to Austin again in the future.
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Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.