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Priority Pass – Is It Worth It?

If you’re looking to upgrade your airport experience – if you want a little more comfort, a little more convenience, and even a bit of pampering – you might be interested in checking out a Priority Pass membership. It will grant you access to airport lounges the world over.

However, it’s quite an investment. Squaring it can be a challenge – is it really worth it for the money you spend, for what you get?

Let’s have a deeper look in to this semi-exclusive lounge membership program and figure it out.

Priority Pass Snapshot

Priority Pass is a great perk that comes included with some credit cards as a premium level perk. If you don’t have one of these credit cards then you can opt to buy Priority Pass membership.

Whether it is worth you purchasing Priority Pass is dependent on how much you plan to travel and how many times you will visit airport lounges.

On a per visit basis, lounge access is generally well worth it. For frequent travelers, the top tier of PP membership can be well worth it with unlimited visits available. The more you travel, the more valuable PP becomes.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a program that gives you instant access to a really very widespread network of airport lounges around the world. In fact, it covers over 1,500 lounges in over 600 cities across 145 countries. You’ll struggle to find somewhere in any major city not catering to it.

Thus, Priority Pass offers its members the convenience and luxury of comfortable spaces to relax and unwind before their flights pretty much wherever they might find themselves traveling from.

You get to choose between three tiers of membership – Priority Pass offer Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige. These different levels all come with various benefits, including the likes of complimentary access to lounges, airport guides, Wi-Fi access, and refueling facilities, to name just a few.

As well as this, plenty of credit cards offer complimentary Priority Pass membership as a perk – both me and my wife have a pretty decent deal with the Platinum American Express card, for example, so we are able to enjoy the benefits on offer in airport lounges without any additional cost above and beyond what we pay for the Amex account.

Amex Gold (both personal and business) also come with Priority Pass – although the limit of visits does vary.

Priority Pass seems very able to cater to its members diverse needs by offering access to not just traditional airport lounges, but also to mini-suites and restaurants and the like. By expanding beyond lounges, Priority Pass makes sure that you will always be able to enjoy a unique experience with various options from which to choose.

eating and drinking when in a priority pass airport lounge

Priority Pass will also give you access to airline-operated lounges as well – BA and the like have some lovely lounges. These kinds of deals are generally reserved for business and first-class passengers, or for those holding some kind of elite status with extensive airmiles with the airline.

However, as a Priority Pass member, you get access to these same privileges. It’s actually a pretty sweet deal. Access like this can really make your airport experience something else, allowing you to indulge in the comforts and amenities usually limited to premium passengers.

To become a member of Priority Pass and activate your account, simply visit their official website. The process is quick and straightforward, and you will be able to start enjoying membership benefits straight away.

There are also third-party lounges included. These lounges are not affiliated with any specific airline and offer access to paying customers. The quality of these lounges can vary significantly. Some may match the standards of airline-operated lounges, whilst others may leave a little to be desired, though they will generally represent a bit of an upgrade to sipping endless cups of cold coffee in Starbucks in the general waiting areas.

Priority Pass gives its members access to a vast network of lounges worldwide, both airline and non-affiliated, all to differing, yet often high, standards. With its extensive reach, diverse options, and convenient membership levels, Priority Pass aims to make your airport experience and thus overall travel experience that much nicer, more luxurious and less stressful.

Whether you are a frequent flyer or someone who occasionally indulges in luxury travel, Priority Pass offers valuable benefits that can make your time at the airport more enjoyable and relaxing.

Accessing Priority Pass lounges

You can get access to Priority Pass lounges a few different ways, including via credit card benefits (as mentioned, both myself and my wife get some good perks from using various Amex cards) and direct membership.

One popular way to gain access is through credit cards that offer complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

Certain credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, provide cardholders with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

These premium travel cards offer additional benefits and perks, making them a pretty attractive option for frequent travelers.

Other credit cards, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, also come with complimentary Priority Pass Select memberships. These can even include two guests, allowing you and your partner or traveling companion a bit of refreshing luxury.

Alternatively, you can buy a Priority Pass membership directly from their official website. The annual fees for membership start at $99, and there are three options to choose from:

  1. Standard membership:this option costs $99 yearly and allows you and your guests to access Priority Pass lounges for $35 per visit.
  2. Standard Plus membership:this membership costs $329 per year, and includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits priced at $35 each (i.e. the same price as all guest visits).
  3. Prestige membership: this membership will set you back $469 yearly but offers unlimited visits for the member. However, guests accompanying the member are charged $35 per visit.

This is, of course, where it starts to fall apart. A freebie from your credit card provider is lovely. But paying a flat hundred bucks yearly for the ability to then pay $35 per visit is a bit much. Either charge per visit only or go for a perhaps slightly more robust one-off payment – $250 for unlimited visits might see more mileage, or a $25 joining fee plus a similar amount per visit.

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Paying nearly $500 per year for unlimited solo visits, with guests still having to pay, is also pretty steep!

It’s also a bit of an oddity. If you’ve got this kind of budget, and fly enough to make it worth using… well, the chances are that you’ll be flying in at least business class anyway. You’ll already have access to decent airport lounges and the like.

The flexibility is nice. It at least looks good. But really, the pricing is a little odd.

What is Priority Pass like to use?

Priority Pass is nice to use. My wife and I have used it a number of times through a few different schemes – though we’ve never signed up to a dedicated membership package – rather enjoyed it as a perk with associated rewards based credit cards.

It’s all pretty user-friendly and convenient, and it really does give you a nice start and end to your journey. I always get a little tense traveling, so to have somewhere quiet to unwind and have a cup of coffee in peace is pretty special.

Airport lounge in Menorca
The kids especially love the sweet treats in the lounges

And it’s ubiquitous enough, with enough airports covered, that you’re guaranteed utility most places – or, at least, in most major airports.

Using Priority Pass is a straightforward process. Once you have obtained your membership, either through a credit card or by purchasing a direct membership, you can access the lounges by simply presenting your Priority Pass card or digital membership card at the lounge entrance. The staff at the lounges are familiar with the program and will quickly check your membership and let you in.

And it really is a welcoming and peaceful environment (though it should be, at these prices). The lounges are designed to provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the airport, with comfortable seating, ample space, and generally pleasant decor. Most lounges offer amenities like complimentary Wi-Fi, charging stations, work areas, and some even provide shower facilities and spa services.

These will allow you to relax a little, catch up on some work, or at least freshen up a bit before your flights. You’ll usually have drinks (including alcohol) and snacks included, with some lounges offering more in the way of substantial meals. In these cases, the prices make sense – I can easily spend $35 on coffee or wine (depending on the time) and food when traveling.

I like using Priority Pass. And, after all, this is the point. It’s not about utility. It’s about making your journey more pleasant. You should feel a little looked after, a little pampered. And, by and large, you do. 

It is worth noting that most lounges do not allow you to pre-book and if the lounge is full, you will not be granted entry. Most large airports have a few lounge options but I have been in lounges in smaller airports and seen people turned away just minutes after we’ve entered. So far, I’ve not personally been turned away, but it does happen – so keep that in mind.

Is it worth it?

The airport can be a frustrating and stressful experience. As mentioned above, I always find it pretty stressful – check-in, timings, security, getting to the gate, dealing with crowds… it’s a lot.

In giving you access to airport lounges around the world, Priority Pass undercuts this all a fair amount. But, importantly, is it worth it?

Of course, there’s an element of subjectivity at work. How much do you benefit from it? Does it really make your traveling experience that much better? If so, and if you can afford it, who really cares about the price? And if you’ve got some excess cash, but not quite enough to afford or justify upgrading to business or first class, this is perhaps a good middle ground.

But let’s try to be objectivefor a moment. Let’s break it down.

Let’s say you pay five visits per year – two or three flights with decent waiting times. If you visit a lounge five times annually, you would spend $175 ($35 per visit) in addition to the $99 Standard membership fee. This equals out at $274. That’s quite a chunk of cash for five airport experiences.  Paying for food and drinks at the airport on each occasion is probably a better idea.

How about ten visits per year? Going for a Standard Plus membership with 10 free visits would cost $329. At around $33 per visit, this falls outside the typical price range for lounge visits. Therefore, it may not be financially wise to choose the Standard Plus option.

Or twenty visits per year? A Prestige membership covers all 20 visits for $469. With an average cost of $20 per visit, this is actually pretty reasonable. Anyone flying this much, and with the money (which presumably you would to travel so much), would probably go for it. In this case, and pretty much only this case (or with more visits – if you travel extensively and visit lounges 30 times or more annually, a Prestige membership would amount to less than $16 per visit, which is incredible), then Priority Pass beats sitting in Starbucks.

If your access is provided through a credit card, you need to consider this benefit when determining the membership’s value. For instance, if you visit a lounge 10 times per year and estimate each visit’s value at $20, you could consider that your credit card perk provides approximately $200 per year.

That’s none too shabby, provided their other perks are also good. It’s perhaps not a good reason to choose a card, but it may sway you, and quite rightly so. 

Also, consider the amount of time you’re likely to spend in each lounge. If you have early morning flights, you may not want to wake up earlier just to get a complimentary coffee and croissant.

Also, if you’re rushing to catch a 6:30 p.m. flight after work then you won’t have enough time to fully enjoy a lounge. The $20 per visit may not be worth it.

I personally like to get to airports nice and early (I mentioned my travel anxiety above – this diminishes it). I can easily spend a couple of hours waiting for a flight, at which time coffee and snacks in a nice, quiet place can be very welcome.

My Verdict

Really, then, a Priority Pass membership’s ability to justify itself hangs almost entirely on your travel habits and preferences. If you travel a lot without going for the expensive seats, you will likely get good use of the lounges, though you should only really consider the higher-tier Prestige membership. The other two don’t really work out to be worth it, in my opinion.

It’s probably generally a very good idea to go with a credit card contract or similar package that gives you access as a perk.

However, if you don’t travel all that much, or you know that you simply won’t ever make the most of those lounges (early morning and after-work flights, for example), then I can’t see much justification for membership.

Of course, this needn’t matter. It’s kind of a luxury, a treat-yourself moment. If you really want it, that’s its own utility – buy with your heart, by all means. It’s only when buying with your head that things can get a little troublesome.

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