Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded? – Forbes Advisor
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Private airport lounges have an air of exclusivity and elite status, but they’re probably more accessible than you think. Priority Pass membership is a popular way to get through the door, opening up access to airports around the world. However, the quality of a lounge experience depends on many factors, especially how quiet or crowded a particular lounge is. Several key points can make or break the experience in a Priority Pass lounge.
What is a Priority Pass subscription?
There are several types of Priority Pass memberships, as well as different ways to get them.
What is Priority Pass?
Priority Pass is a membership program that provides access to airport lounges and other benefits for travelers. Founded in 1992, the program has grown to include more than 1,300 locations, the most of any airport lounge membership program. In recent years, the company has expanded into other airport services, including restaurants, bars and hotels. Priority Pass also publishes comprehensive guides to over 80 international airports with details of amenities, local transport and other services.
How does a Priority Pass subscription work?
Unlike some other airport lounges, access via Priority Pass is not dependent on the purchase of a first or business class airline ticket. Instead, an annual fee grants a “Standard”, “Standard Plus” or “Prestige” membership ($99, $299, and $429), each marketed to a specific type of traveler. Some credit cards include a separate Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which is a common way for travelers to access them. This opportunity generally applies to those eligible for US credit cards only.
While Prestige membership provides unlimited access to the member, Standard members must pay $32 per visit in addition to the annual fee. “Standard Plus” offers 10 free visits, after which an entrance fee of $32 is required for each additional visit. Select members pay no sign-up fee, although the overall cost-effectiveness depends on the annual credit card fee.
Benefits of Priority Pass Membership
Additional membership benefits include discounts on food, spa experiences and retail purchases at partner businesses, as well as car rental discounts. Restaurant discounts offer a popular way to redeem $28 dining vouchers, available at select restaurants. These benefits are included with the three main levels of Priority Pass membership, but some benefits are not included for “Select” members – it depends on the credit card through which the membership came.
What is a Priority Pass lounge?
Ideally, any Priority Pass lounge is a quieter and more comfortable option than seats at the airport gates. What else you will find in a salon will vary greatly from place to place.
What is included in a Priority Pass lounge?
In their most basic form, Priority Pass lounges offer comfy chairs, Wi-Fi, TVs, and light refreshments. The most expansive lounges – often lounges at international airports outside the United States or in major domestic cities – may include hot showers, buffets, massage chairs, day beds, work areas with computers, smoking rooms, mini-theatres and children’s play areas. We recommend researching a Priority Pass lounge online before you go to see what to expect. The company offers a subscription-based app to help you navigate options and locations at the airport. Some airports even offer several lounges.
Different living room, different experience
Access to some of the more lavish amenities may require an additional fee, though what costs more in one lounge may be free in another. Prepared meals or alcoholic beverages, to name a few notable examples, can be free, available for purchase, or non-existent, and the options vary depending on country tastes.
Hours of operation also vary by lounge and may even change from day to day depending on flight schedules at a particular airport. The size, appearance and level of luxury of salons cover a wide range.
The diversity of lounge experiences and prices is due in part to the mix of independently operated and airline-affiliated lounges that make up the Priority Pass network. Priority Pass does not own or operate any of the lounges – it manages member access but relies on third-party operators to manage locations. In many cases, a lounge will have already existed (and developed its own standards) before partnering with Priority Pass to include Priority Pass members.
Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded?
Priority Pass lounges can certainly be crowded, but they can also be nearly empty. It all depends on the airport, time of year and time of day. Whether or not the airport has several different Priority Pass lounges can also be a factor.
As you might expect, members report busy lounges on peak dates, such as the days leading up to major holidays. It depends on the airport, but ‘peak times’ for air travel often occur at the start and end of normal working hours. During the average week, Friday afternoon and early evening tend to be particularly crowded times at any airport lounge.
Members arriving at a busy hour may actually be turned away, as lounges set maximum capacity to avoid overcrowding (and again, in some places, to meet regulations designed to stem the spread of COVID-19). Technically, there is no guarantee of entry into a particular lounge, and no benefits are available to compensate for denied access. It may be possible to check the status of a lounge in advance through the Priority Pass mobile app so members at least know what to expect.
How long can you stay in a Priority Pass lounge?
Priority Pass lounges impose a nominal time limit on each visit, which varies between one and four hours. A limit of two or three hours seems to be the most common. That said, many visitors report that time limits aren’t strictly enforced, especially for solo visitors who don’t take up a lot of space or use special equipment. Visiting when the salon isn’t busy can be the biggest factor in getting extra time. In some cases, visitors who are noted by staff as exceeding the limit may be given the option of simply upgrading to a second visit to the lounge instead of being asked to leave.
Which airports have Priority Pass lounges?
While there are certainly exceptions, major international airports are the most likely to have a lounge. There are only about 40 US airports with a Priority Pass-specific lounge, so the majority of the network remains available only to international travelers; Asia-Pacific is the region with the most shows. While Priority Pass has over 1,300 individual locations, this only represents lounges at approximately 400 airports, as many airports have multiple Priority Pass locations spread across different terminals or concourses.
A complete list of Priority Pass locations can be found in this directory. The program’s website also allows visitors to search for lounges by city name, airport name or airport code.
A good experience at a Priority Pass lounge can make or save the day, especially when travel gets tough. They are perhaps most popular during long layovers and at airports with sparse equipment or noisy terminals. Even so, they are not immune to the common nuisances of the air travel experience and cannot be relied upon for guaranteed access or premium amenities. As airports continue to improve offerings and public spaces, it’s definitely worth considering carefully whether you’re traveling enough (and through the right places) to make a paid membership worthwhile.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is alcohol free in Priority Pass lounges?
Alcohol is free in some places, but elsewhere it may cost more or not be available at all. Access to alcohol is also limited by specific laws of the region or country. In some lounges, some “good” drinks are free while premium or “premium” drinks are sold separately.
Can I bring guests into a Priority Pass lounge?
Yes, you can bring guests into a Priority Pass lounge. Paid members can bring guests for an additional $32 each, regardless of membership level, as long as there is enough capacity. While some places set a limit on the number of guests per member, most do not. Members who access via credit card (like the Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card) may even be able to bring a guest (or more) for free – guest rules for these “Select” members are governed by the terms of their specific credit card, rather than the Priority Pass terms. All guest fees are automatically applied to the member’s account, rather than billed directly to the guest.
Are Priority Pass lounges worth it?
Arguably, the profitability of a “standard” Priority Pass subscription is the most questionable, since it does not include any free visits and the expenses only increase with increased use. A few visits a year for an infrequent traveler would cost close to $200. With “Standard Plus”, using the 10 free visits without paying more translates to about $30 per visit. This might seem more than worthwhile if the lounges you visit have good amenities – you could essentially break even just by having a few free drinks and snacks per visit – but less so for more basic lounges.
With a “Prestige” membership, it would take 14 visits for each to be worth $30, roughly, and the cost per visit only goes down from there.
“Select” members have access to this as a credit card benefit, although they usually cover at least some of the costs with the higher annual fee that premium travel cards typically charge.