Priority Pass: What You Need to Know

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One of the joys of flying business class, at least in theory, is access to a luxurious lounge for some pre-flight peace, a tasty bite and an adult beverage ahead of a long plane ride. While I’d like to fly business class every time, the reality of European economy-only carriers or keeping within a budget used to rule out the lounge experience. So the appeal of a lounge pass like Priority Pass which provides access to lounges all round the world is hard to overlook. However, this article is no puff-piece about Priority Pass. I want you to know the pros AND the cons of using a lounge pass.

Click here to explore Priority Pass pricing

What is Priority Pass and Why Should Travellers Consider It?

Priority Pass is a membership programme that provides access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. Before these lounge pass programmes started, most lounges were the domain of first-class or business-class passengers only. When you use Priority Pass, your access to select lounges does not depend on the type of ticket you hold.

The idea behind Priority Pass is to “upscale” the travel experience for passengers, to provide a moment of respite from the usual hustle and bustle of the airport, free internet access, a nice bite. Most lounges offer complimentary food, drinks, internet and sometimes shower facilities. If you travel a lot, that moment of quiet in a busy travel day might just clinch the deal.

I’ve made the most of my Priority Pass membership right around the world, including decent lounges like the Aspire Lounge at Edinburgh Airport and the Shongololo Lounge in Johannesburg (see a full list of my lounge reviews here). I’m going to repeat this point again and again (from bitter experience): you need to do a little research, even with a lounge access pass, to avoid the over-subscribed or poor quality lounges.

Aspire Lounge, Edinburgh

How to Get Your Hands on a Priority Pass Membership?

The process of obtaining a Priority Pass membership is fairly straightforward, and the programme offers various tiers tailored to different travel needs and frequencies.

  1. Standard Membership: This is the entry-level tier. It comes with an annual fee, and lounge visits are charged per entry (e.g., for US residents, the per-visit charge is $35). It’s a good choice for occasional travellers.
  2. Standard Plus: members receive 10 free visits annually, after which they’re charged per visit. This is tailored for travellers who fly moderately throughout the year. This was my most recent subscription.
  3. Prestige: This is the premium tier, catering to frequent flyers. It comes with a higher annual fee but offers unlimited free lounge visits.

If you choose to explore or apply for a Priority Pass, please click on my link below. I get a very small commission if you use my link, at no additional cost to you. And remember, my reviews are ALWAYS independent, as you’ll read in the tone of all my articles!

Click here to explore Priority Pass pricing

Once you’ve selected the membership tier you require, you’ll receive a digital (and physical) membership card, ready to be used at lounges worldwide. Most lounges will accept digital Priority Pass cards so you can get access straight away.

A Glimpse into the Experience: Accessing Lounges

Once you have your lounge pass in hand or on your phone, access is easy. I recommend researching lounges in advance, establishing what your options are at your target airport. The Priority Pass app helps with this. I would also check out independent reviews of those lounges to get a sense of what it’s really like. You can start with mine, but there’s plenty of review sites via Google. Once you make your choice, navigate to the lounge after security, show your pass, and you’re in (see the FAQs for exceptions!).

Clubrooms Lounge, Birmingham

Maximising Your Membership: Expert Tips

  1. Locate Prime Lounges: Not all lounges are created equal. Research in advance to find the best ones on your route. Bear in mind, there might only be one or two lounges which take Priority Pass in the terminal you’ll be using. Not every lounge is premium.
  2. Dining Credits: Some airports offer dining credits, allowing members to dine at particular airport restaurants. I really like these if it’s a decent restaurant, as the food is made fresh rather than the lukewarm chickpea curry that’s been under a hot lamp all day. Plus there’ll be more options, especially if you have dietary restrictions.
  3. Guests: Priority Pass permits members to bring guests. Often there’s an additional fee, but if there’s a nice lounge at your airport, it’s good to share.

The Priority Pass Mobile App

Nowadays everything needs its own app and Priority Pass was an early entrant in that market. On the plus side, that maturity around tech makes the Priority Pass app easy to use, but remember to keep your objectivity by reviewing independent travel sites.

When you first launch the Priority Pass app, you should be able to find your way around pretty easily. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to the most useful links:

  1. Registration & Login: If it’s your first time using the app, start by registering using your membership details.
  2. Search: Use the prominent search bar to search by city, airport name or airport code. Results will include available lounges, places to eat where a credit is provided off your total bill, or locations with an offer (usually a % off your total bill). Choosing a specific lounge brings up useful details such as amenities, location (including helpful airport navigation tools), opening hours and some reviews.
  3. Digital Membership Card: Use the ‘Card’ image at the bottom of the app screen to bring up your digital card to be scanned at the entrance to a lounge (or where requested for other discounts or credits).

Priority Pass Dining Credits: just double check

Honestly, I was surprised the first time that I used a dining credit with Priority Pass. When you search for your airport using the app, keep an eye out for those non-lounge eateries. When I rock up at one of these, I let the staff member know that I’ll be using Priority Pass before I order, including to double check that they are still in the programme. Anything over the agreed credit amount (including tips) will need to be settled separately.

Managing Priority Pass Guest Access

  1. Stay Updated: It’s always a good idea to check the current guest fees associated with your membership tier. Very few lounges offer complementary guest entry, so expect to be charged. This information can be easily accessed on the app.
  2. Limitations: Remember, there will always be a cap on the number of guests you can bring in. And if you’re travelling at a peak time, you may not even get in, let alone guests. Read my FAQs for more.

Conclusion: is Priority Pass worth it?

If we were to trust marketing campaigns, Priority Pass would transform mundane airport experiences into exclusive moments that make travelling relaxing, luxurious and gourmet. The reality is, of course, a lot more prosaic. At their best, airport lounges are spacious, quiet and serve decent drinks and food with free internet. That’s what I hope for and most deliver. However, there are plenty of “pile em high” lounge operators who cram their lounges, serve poor quality food and have few functioning extras. Priority Pass includes all kinds of lounges. I decided long ago that it was my job to do the filtering, and decide if a particular lounge was up to scratch. On balance, that approach has worked out for me and it’s been beneficial to know I can mostly rely on a space to work quietly at a proper table before my flight. Let me know your experience below.

Priority Pass: Frequently Asked Questions

Does Priority Pass work with any airport lounge?

Absolutely not. Only certain airport lounges are affiliated with Priority Pass and you may find this changes from time to time. For example, one of my least favourite lounges, Plaza Premium London Heathrow left the programme. You need to check the app before travel to make sure your preferred lounge is covered.

If a lounge accepts Priority Pass, are you guaranteed entry?

No. There is rarely a problem, but from time to time you may have to wait if a lounge is very busy. In rare cases, you could be turned away.

Are there any restrictions with Priority Pass?

Some lounge operators have a quota on Priority Pass entrants and ask you to wait if they are over quota. Some other lounges are VERY oversubscribed at the best of times (see Clubrooms Birmingham) and you’d be better off buying a sandwich from the drugstore.

Click here to explore Priority Pass pricing

Do you have any questions not answered here? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to address them.


2 thoughts on “Priority Pass: What You Need to Know”

  1. I took out priority pass membership this summer, I travelled through 4 airports and was unable to get into a single lounge in any of them, they all had huge waiting lists (with most ETAs being after the departure of my flight). Gone are the days of quiet lounges, hassle free walking in and relaxing, Priority Pass is hugely oversubscribed and quite frankly (IMO) a waste of money. I don’t know how they can sort this out tbh, they have as many members as they do and the lounges are only of limited space.

    Reply
    • It’s a bit of a problem, Dave. I witnessed a similar issue in Birmingham UK where people had paid for access, and earlier delays meant anyone already in the lounge was resisting leaving, so it was massively oversubscribed. Priority Pass members were BEHIND the pre-paid line and had no hope. I’ve been using it off and on for maybe 10 years and it only makes sense when you travel quite a lot and from a variety of sizes of airports. Sounds like you got stiffed on your experience. I’m starting to think that there’s a thick layer of lounges which are barely worth it, but are oversubscribed. It loses any cachet it might have had, and in some cases, you’d be better off spending the equivalent money in a nice restaurant at the airport.

      Reply

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