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Priority Pass

Read This Before You Invest In Priority Pass

Read This Before You Invest In Priority Pass
Adam Luehrs

Is splurging on Priority Pass worth the money? It depends on who you ask. Plenty of people have really great experiences with Priority Pass. The big benefit of a Priority Pass membership is that you don’t have to be tied to any single airline just to be able to enjoy consistent lounge access. That means you’re free to chase cheap airfare from different airlines without worrying about how you’ll get into a lounge. You just need your Priority Pass card and a same-day boarding pass from an airline! The other big benefit of Priority Pass is that it provides access to more than 1,300 lounges in nearly 150 countries around the globe. Priority Pass happens to be the largest independent lounge network on the planet. None of this means that Priority Pass is a perfect fit for everyone. Let’s take a look at the two big things to consider before you drop money on a Priority Pass membership.

Crowded Lounges

Priority Pass is in the business of signing up as many new members as possible. That’s just good business sense. However, one of the unintended consequences of a lounges-for-all mentality is that lounges are getting crowded. In fact, Priority Pass members have been turned away from some lounges during peak times due to overcrowding issues. Priority Pass members have been turned away everywhere from Seoul to Seattle. The problem got so bad that the Alaska Airlines lounges in Anchorage and Portland finally dropped out of the Priority Pass network completely this fall. Does that mean you will always be turned away? Not at all! However, you may want to do some research regarding the lounges you think you’ll visit the most as a Priority Pass member to see if overcrowding is an issue.

You Could Lose Money If You Don’t Travel Often

Priority Pass can be a lifesaver if you know what your travel itinerary looks like for the year ahead. In fact, a membership is a pretty smart investment if you’ll be self-funding your business travel in the year ahead. However, leisure travelers and infrequent travelers may want to take a breath before getting caught up in the excitement of lounge access. Let’s take a look at the cost breakdown to see if a Priority Pass membership will have you coming out on top.

The annual fee for a Standard Priority Pass Membership is just $99. That’s really not too crazy. However, you’re paying $99 just for the privilege of being able to enter a Priority Pass network lounge. Each visit is going to cost you an extra $32. Are you planning to bring a guest along? That will be another $32. This isn’t exactly the deal of a lifetime if you’ll only be flying one or two times per year. Many airport-branded lounges actually offer one-time access for between $40 and $50. That means you could pay about $100 for two visits to really nice airport lounges. What’s more, you can be sure that the lounges you’re paying to visit actually have room for you! Of course, it is getting harder to come across day passes from airlines. Delta famously essentially scrapped day access to its Sky Club locations last year, only allowing those with an individual membership and certain Amex cardholders to buy day passes.

Standard Plus Priority Pass membership is $299 per year. The nice thing about this tier is that you’re gifted 10 free visits until you have to pay $32 per visit. Prestige Priority Pass membership costs $429 per year. However, you never have to pay for a visit on top of the annual fee. You will be on the hook for $32 whenever you want to bring a guest along. Both Standard Plus and Prestige are solid options if you travel frequently enough to justify the cost. Just make sure you compare what you’ll pay per visit to what you would pay for one-time entry at your favorite airline-branded lounge.

Should You Get a Priority Pass Membership?

Only you can crunch the numbers and perks to see if Priority Pass is going to leave you in a good position. The truth is that this program offers exactly what many travelers need. Of course, the fact that you can look forward to perks like food, alcohol, hot coffee, showers, spa services, entertainment, and comfortable seating can make a Priority Pass membership seem like a refuge in the tempest that is the air-travel experience! Don’t forget that you may be able to get your credit card company to cover your Priority Pass membership. The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Ritz-Carlton™ Rewards® Card, Mastercard® Black Card™, the Mastercard® Gold Card™ and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card are just some of the cards that offer free Priority Pass memberships!

 

View Comments (11)

11 Comments

  1. flyzabit

    December 18, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Be warned that Priority Pass engages in automatic rebilling to one’s credit card 30 days before your expiration date. They claim this is consented to as part of the initial registration notices (never saw it), and it is buried in their “Conditions of Use” page. You will not receive a notice. In my case, I called about the expiration and any renewal discounts, but was told there were none. It was NOT disclosed on that call that it would auto-rebill and renew. So, upon creating a new account with discount for the next year, it was a nasty surprise to see the second billing. They have a convoluted process to notify them in writing if you wish to only use “Standard Billing” with a real expiration and non-renewal of the account. You will not receive any notice to renew in that case when it expires. If caught by this trap, they may offer to add two visits to the remainder of your subscription, but don’t expect any refunds past 30 days after the auto-rebill renewal. Buyer beware.

    I do hope that other states follow the lead of California to stop this “evergreen billing” without written notice, or require positive opt-in to it. Priority Pass claims that UK law governs their contracts, despite US (DFW) and other offices.

    Perhaps if choosing to purchase a plan one should use a fixed-amount stored value card (e.g., Visa gift card) to ensure only a one-time payment..
    ——–
    As a note: Paypal is not offered, but one should check one’s Paypal account anyway and UNCHECK any “auto-rebill” permissions for anything in the Settings, Payments, Manage Automatic Payments section. Many colleagues have found various merchant surprises there.

  2. superduner

    December 20, 2019 at 4:20 am

    I used to belong to PP, but I found that a lot of lounges are really not very good.
    It was a few years ago, so things may have changed, but Frankfurt and Changi stand out as very mediocre experiences (if I remember correctly, Changi made me pay for alcohol, as I recall.

  3. Danwriter

    December 20, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Flyzabit: Thanks.

  4. snidely

    December 20, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Ditto to above post.

  5. JMK the Wanderer

    December 20, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I was a member of Priority Pass for two years until I canceled this October. When I first joined I was pretty excited about being able to use the lounges, but the excitement quickly turned to frustration. I travel a lot, but the lounges just weren’t available in the airports I pass through. And I’m not talking about dinky airports, but ORD, DFW, PHX, PHL, SNA, DET, and LAX. Some of these airports offered lounge access, but only in the international terminal. Some only offered access to easy suites (napping pods) for one hour. Some limited access to non peak hours only (ie: nothing after 1 PM). The only access I could consistently gain was in overseas airports, and although I do travel internationally, the majority of my flights were domestic. First year I used half of my allotted ten visits. I intended to cancel but was automatically renewed (at a $50 increase from my initial price) well before actual expiry of the membership. So I figured why not, I’ll try one more year. Second year I only used two of ten. And the price was set to go up again. I sent an email to PP explaining that I didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth, but offered to renew IF they would keep the price the same and consider carrying over some of my unused credits. They wrote right back and said no dice, so I canceled.

  6. JMK the Wanderer

    December 20, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    (continued from above) Oh yeah, and at LAX, PP only offers access to the KAL lounge in the Bradley terminal. Those of you who have used LAX’s KAL lounge know what an unpleasant experience this lounge offers. If you haven’t been there, just do a quick search for reviews and you’ll find plenty of others who back up my assessment.

  7. jamar

    December 28, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    Personally, it’s worth it to me as part of my Hilton AmEx. $95/year for 10 visits comes out to $9.50/visit even *without* considering the other card benefits, and the visits on that membership can be used as a combination of personal visits and guest passes so I could, for example, do 5 visits with 1 guest each time or 3 visits with 3 guests each time and one left over for me, etc. That works. I would almost never purchase PP membership on a standalone basis; the price usually doesn’t justify what’s being offered.

    (one exception to that “not worth it” was when they had a 50% off first year promo for holders of Asia-issued Visa cards; I used a Japanese prepaid Visa card to get a regular 1 year membership for cheap and then dropped it when the second year at full price rolled around by not keeping enough money on the card for them to bill me the second year).

  8. Grog

    December 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve had some great Priority Pass lounge experiences–and a few horrible ones.

    What irks me the most is the inability to see how many lounge visits I have remaining for the current year. There’s a PP app–why isn’t the visit count shown there? Because they’re intentionally setting a trap for their customers. Jerks.

  9. Grog

    December 29, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Let me expound on my previous post:

    There’s a PP app. And you can see all of your visits listed by date, but a membership year isn’t Jan 1- Dec 31; they can begin and end throughout the year and it’s not shown on the member’s card or listed anywhere in the member’s profile or account details in the PP app.

    If you’ve contracted for 10 visits per membership year, you could very well use up your quota in the middle of a membership year and suddenly be billed for extra visits mid-year, even if you have a recurring multi-year annual membership. Priority Pass is not operating in good faith–they’re operating in full anticipation of this opportunity to gouge annual members.

  10. JTCz

    January 2, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    Checking the exact locations of the lounes is crucial. PP does cover the vast majority of airports, but not necessarily terminals and obviously, not all lounges. At many airports, the “primary” lounges are those operated under the flag of an airline or alliance for whom the airport is a hub or focus city, and PP usually contracts the “supplementary” lounge operated by the airport or specialist contractor for all other airlines and offering access to walk-in paying clients.

    Oftentimes, the “major” airline / alliance will have a separate terminal, and the “other” lounge will simply be out of reach for their passengers, or at least very inconvenient. It will often not match the quality of the “airline” lounge as well.

    Case in point is Europe and the Lufthansa Group – in Frankfurt, the “third party” lounge is simply in a different terminal, and if you are flying within Europe, chances are you will be transferring in Frankfurt from one *A airline to another, which means you are deprived of lounge access at one of the most crucial hubs. In other hubs, like Brussels, the “third party” lounge is vastly inferior to the “Lufthansa Group” / “Star Alliance” lounge.

    Given that avoiding Frankfurt and Lufthansa Group / Star Alliance would be a huge pain, not to mention inconvenience and cost, I prefer to retain my Miles & More status and occasionally pay up for walk-in lounge access (e.g. in Australia, where you can simply tack on quite excellent airline lounge access to pretty much any airfare) than pay for Priority Pass.

  11. capedr

    February 26, 2020 at 9:35 am

    LGW is one of the worst for the turn away at the lounge when they are full. OR you can pay on top to reserve your place.

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