Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
In 2018, I flew over 36,000 miles and there are a few benefits which make traveling more comfortable for Christina and I. I have spoken in the past about the benefits of better seats, upgrades, free baggage, and early boarding provided by our elite status but in this post I want to focus on another benefit which makes our travel more comfortable lounge access through Priority Pass. I remember that when I flew prior to having lounge access I would wait at the gate which was often crowded and struggle to find a plug that was working to charge my phone or laptop. Now I have access to lounges which can provide a respite from the chaos of the terminal and a place to recharge and gain access to refreshments.
Recently, airport lounge access has become democratized thanks to memberships provided by various premium travel credit cards. In the past when a passenger wanted to a gain access to an airport lounge the passenger had to have a lounge membership or a business/first class ticket. However, because of partnerships with credit card issuers airlines have opened up access to their lounges to a larger swath of people and getting a premium travel card is the best way to gain lounge access. All of the major U.S. airlines have credit cards that give access to their lounges. For example, Christina receives access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs through the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite card. Additionally, there are a network of independent lounges which grant access to their lounges in the U.S. and around the world through Priority Pass and these lounges are the focus of this post.
Priority Pass Membership
Members can gain access to Priority Pass lounges by signing up for a Priority Pass membership. The membership prices vary by country but for the U.S. unlimited access costs $429 but does not include complimentary guest access.
Major credit card issuers including Chase, American Express, and Citi grant Priority Pass Select memberships through their premium rewards cards which typically grant the holder of the card complimentary unlimited access to select lounges for themselves and up to two guests with a cost for any additional guests. For example, I have complimentary access through my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for myself and two guests with a fee of $27 per additional guest. Depending how often you use the lounge network Priority Pass Select membership can have significant value.
Priority Pass Network
The Priority Pass network gives members access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide. The vast majority of Priority Pass locations are located outside of the United States. The lounge locations within the United States are typically run by independent operators such as The Club at ATL at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson (ATL) or international airlines who grant access during non-peak hours such as the British Airways Galleries Lounge at Washington Dulles
Priority Pass Lounge Quality
The quality of Priority Pass lounges varies significantly. The democratization of lounges has lead to overcrowding at many lounges within the U.S. I experienced this earlier this year at the Club at ATL where the noise was worse than some gate areas at ATL and the food had been picked apart. While other domestic lounges such as the Club at PHX at Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) can offer a good break from the airport with decent cold food options. However, where Priority Pass really shines is internationally where members are granted access to lounges typically used by international business and in some cases first class passengers. While there can also be a range of quality internationally many of these lounges offer high-quality food options, complimentary alcohol, and comfortable seating like we experienced at the Joan Miró VIP lounge at Barcelona El Prat (BCN).
Priority Pass Restaurants
In response to overcrowding at U.S. Priority Pass lounges and in an attempt to expand the number of options for its U.S. based members Priority Pass added a number of restaurant options primarily at airports within the United States. While these options typically do not offer the quiet and access to power of a traditional lounge they do offer travelers and guests an opportunity to have a complimentary meal. Christina and I tried this benefit for the first time at the Corona House restaurant in the Miami International Airport (MIA) and it was a very simple process. I handed over my Priority Pass card which was scanned and then the $30 credit was deducted from the bill. More recently, we have used it at our home airport Ronald Regan Washington National (DCA) with the restaurant American Tap Room in Terminal C where we receive $28 off of our meal every time we fly. While their meals are average at best it is a nice option to have a free meal option in the airport and this benefit has saved me significant amounts of money when I travel through airports that have Priority Pass restaurants. As of August 1, 2019 access to any Priority Pass restaurants and non-lounge experiences is not available through American Express issued Priority Pass Select memberships.
Priority Pass membership is a nice benefit offered by a number of premium travel rewards cards which offers access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide. While the lounge quality can vary significantly I think it can be a very good value for U.S. traveler who: 1) frequently travel internationally, 2) have a Priority Pass restaurant in their home airport, or 3) frequent an airport with a Priority Pass restaurant.