Is A Priority Pass Airport Lounge Membership Worth It?

Is A Priority Pass Airport Lounge Membership Worth It?

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In this post I wanted to share my take on the current value proposition of a Priority Pass membership, including discussing the basics of what this airport lounge network is, how you can get a membership, and how much value I view there as being.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent network of airport lounges, with over 1,300 lounges around the world.

Think of Priority Pass as almost being like a lounge access broker. Priority Pass doesn’t operate lounges itself, but rather the business model is to sell lounge memberships to travelers (either directly or through credit cards), and then in turn pay lounges for admitting members.

It goes without saying that not all airport lounges participate in Priority Pass. For example, in the United States, no American Admirals Clubs, Delta Sky Clubs, or United Clubs, participate in Priority Pass. That’s because they’d view joining Priority Pass as cannibalizing their own business of selling lounge memberships.

For the lounges that do participate in Priority Pass, the individual lounges are being paid by Priority Pass every time a member visits one of their partner lounges. The business model is similar for Priority Pass restaurants, where members are given a certain dollar amount credit to use toward food & drinks at participating locations.

Eventyr Lounge Copenhagen, a Priority Pass location

How do you get a Priority Pass membership?

You can either purchase a Priority Pass membership directly, or get one through a premium credit card (with the latter being a much better value). Let’s take a look at the details of those two options.

Buy a Priority Pass membership directly

Priority Pass has three types of memberships you can purchase. Which membership makes most sense for you depends on how often you plan on visiting lounges. The Priority Pass membership options include the following:

  • A Standard membership costs $99 per year; this doesn’t include any lounge visits, but rather you have to pay $32 per visit
  • A Standard Plus membership costs $299 per year; this includes 10 lounge visits per year, and then you have to pay $27 per subsequent visit
  • A Prestige membership costs $429 per year; this includes unlimited lounge visits

In all cases, taking a guest into a lounge will cost an extra $32 per person per visit.

Priority Pass membership cost

As you can see, you’ll be paying around $400 per year for a membership that gets you unlimited lounge visits. This is a bit cheaper than the lounge memberships that most of the major US airlines sell directly, for example. However, airline lounge memberships don’t get you access to Priority Pass lounges, and a Priority Pass membership doesn’t get you access to most airline membership lounges.

Get Priority Pass with a credit card

The much more economical way to get a Priority Pass membership is to pick up a premium credit card that offers this as a perk. There are plenty of popular cards that offer Priority Pass memberships, ranging from the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review), to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), to The Platinum Card® from American Express (review).

All of these memberships allow unlimited visits, and best of all, you can even bring up to two guests with you for free (while buying a membership directly still comes with a $32 guest fee). It’s kind of astonishing how much more lucrative the credit card route is.

As an example of why this is a better value (if you’re eligible for such a card), let’s take a look at the Capital One Venture X. The card has a $395 annual fee (less than the Prestige Priority Pass membership cost) and offers:

Personally I value the $300 travel credit and 10,000 anniversary bonus miles at more than the $395 annual fee, and view it as Capital One just throwing in five Priority Pass memberships for free. 😉

Oman Air Lounge Salalah, a Priority Pass location

How much is a Priority Pass membership worth?

There’s no good way to develop an objective valuation of a Priority Pass membership, given that it’s entirely dependent on how often you use it. To state the obvious, a Priority Pass membership is worth how many times you use participating lounges, multiplied by how much you value each visit.

What complicates things further is that it’s not just a question of how often you’d use airport lounges, but rather how often you’d specifically use Priority Pass lounges:

Even beyond that, there’s so much variability in terms of the value of a particular lounge visit:

  • If you have a three hour connection and you can spend that time in a Priority Pass lounge, that provides real value; meanwhile if you show up at the airport five minutes before boarding starts, there might not even be a point in visiting a lounge
  • There’s the question of how much value you get from lounge visits for those situations where you actually use Priority Pass locations; there’s huge variance in terms of the quality of airport lounges — some are hardly worth visiting, some are awesome, and most are somewhere in between
  • Especially in the United States, Priority Pass lounge crowding can be a huge issue, with some being frustratingly full to the point that I’d rather sit in the terminal; all the credit cards that give us access to easy Priority Pass memberships are a double-edged sword, I suppose

I will say that for a frequent traveler who doesn’t otherwise have lounge access, even outright paying for a membership with unlimited visits could make sense (assuming you don’t have access to credit cards that offer a membership).

As someone with oneworld Emerald status, Star Alliance Gold status, and an American Admirals Club membership, who typically in flies first & business class, here’s where I see value with Priority Pass:

  • I get a fair bit of value from Priority Pass restaurants, where you get a certain dollar credit with each visit; sometimes I prefer sitting in an airport restaurant rather than an airport lounge
  • I like some of the non-traditional lounges beyond the restaurants, like Sleep ‘N Fly Doha, where you can get a nap pod for two to three hours, as it’s a nice alternative to a crowded lounge
  • Priority Pass comes in handy a fair bit in Canada and Mexico when flying a US airline, since US airlines often don’t have lounges at airports there, and don’t otherwise provide contract lounge access to premium passengers
  • Sometimes I just appreciate the alternative lounges that Priority Pass gives me access to; for example, when flying SAS business class from Copenhagen to Miami, I far preferred the Eventyr Lounge (through Priority Pass) compared to the SAS Lounge (which my ticket got me access to)
Sleep ‘N Fly Doha, a Priority Pass location

If I had to put a number to it, I’d say that for my personal usage patterns, I value a Priority Pass membership at around $200 per year. At least that’s what I’d probably pay in cash for a membership. Fortunately I don’t actually have to put much thought into that, since I have multiple Priority Pass memberships through several credit cards, so it costs me nothing extra.

Bottom line

The value of a Priority Pass membership will vary significantly depending on the type of traveler you are. If you do want a Priority Pass membership, however, you’re almost always going to be better off getting one through a credit card. There are some premium cards that are so valuable that you might not even have to account for the cost of the Priority Pass membership with your card annual fee.

Personally I value a Priority Pass membership at ~$200 per year, though everyone will no doubt have a different valuation based on their usage patterns.

What’s your take on the value of Priority Pass, and how much would you pay for a membership?

Conversations (37)
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  1. MP Guest

    Wouldn’t pay for it.
    No lounges in Philadelphia same as LAX. The PP app is really unhelpful when trying to locate something. Came free with my VentureX card so I signed up for it but would never pay for this.

  2. A.Azuha Guest

    Just had a 9-hour transit in BKK and thanks to my Priority Pass (acquired through Amex Plat), got to do lounge-hopping in 4 different lounges; Turkish, Air France, Oman, Miracle (ranked from the best).

    Rather ironically did not try the JAL Lounge that came with my Biz ticket to HND...

  3. Scott Guest

    I think the real issue is that these clubs often stop allowing access for priority club members. They are overcrowded and this is a common problem now. So buying a membership that doesn’t always allow entry isn’t useful.

    1. VladG Member

      Absolutely true. Happened to me at DOH when I needed it most.

  4. Loki Guest

    1300 include Russian lounges, priority pass has lounges even at the train stations in Russia. So how many now?

  5. Rav Guest

    Silly boys & girls! Nothing is for "free". Yes, your being duped.

  6. Jason Brandt Lewis Guest

    Ben, not everyone had top-level elite status with multiple alliances. Indeed, not all of us travel with one of the major alliances. I've been an Alaska elite for years (only recently becoming a oneworld elite, too). Alaska's lounges are great (especially after their refresh!), but the network is small. Getting a PP Priority membership via a credit card has given me access to lounges (clearly some better than others) outside the US and in airports...

    Ben, not everyone had top-level elite status with multiple alliances. Indeed, not all of us travel with one of the major alliances. I've been an Alaska elite for years (only recently becoming a oneworld elite, too). Alaska's lounges are great (especially after their refresh!), but the network is small. Getting a PP Priority membership via a credit card has given me access to lounges (clearly some better than others) outside the US and in airports like LAS where AS doesn't operate a lounge. (Would I pay $429/year for it? Hell, no! But will I use it? Absolutely.)

  7. John Guest

    I've had the best results using PP internationally with mixed results in the US. Worst experience was at a club in O'Hare airport where the desk person told me they were "full up" on PP customers when I could see right past her and view the half empty club.

  8. GSBEWR Guest

    Lucky: just one small correction: if you have a United Club membership (either through buying a membership or by one of the high-end credit cards), then you have access to the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges, as both are part of Star Alliance. American and Delta don't have such partners in Canada.

  9. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Hi Lucky!

    I finally applied for the Citi Aadvantage Executive card today (exactly 24 months and 1 day after getting the Citi Aadvantage Platinum card) through your referral link too! I hope it works and credits back to you! It had me sign in to my existing Citi Account on one fo the pages, anyways, just asking sure you knew hoe appreciated you are for sharing your knowledge and information with the community!

  10. Matthew Guest

    Of course its worth it especially since its free. EVERYONE WHO TRAELS SHOULD HAVE AN AMEX PLATINUM!!!!! PRIORITY PASS AND CLEAR ARE FREE!!!!!!

    1. John Guest

      It is not that obvious, it depends in which country you get it, only the USA cards are cheap.
      Where I live, a an Amex platinum is 900 usd / year. It offers 0.5 miles per US dollar spent on 5 airlines, and a 100 usd credit on one airline. So it's only worth it if you value the extra insurance (for car rentals) and the convenience of being able to pay any amount of money in a single transaction.

    2. A.Azuha Guest

      Mine is $1100 annually (Japan)

  11. Flieger Guest

    PP membership is nice to have but I wouldnt pay money for it. 2 out of 3 times you cant get in the lounge because the place is already at capacity. If you can get in, the place is usually packed, the buffet (low end anyways) is usually robbed and if it isnt it hasnt been robbed for all the right reasons.

  12. david Guest

    My home airport is LAX and it is the 5th or 6th busiest airport in the world by some accounts. It has no priority pass lounges or restaurants. A pretty big hole in their network if you ask me. Admittedly there is a spa but I'm not sure what it offers.

  13. Eskimo Guest

    Technically, this post is combining 2 separate products.
    The paid, "Priority Pass" and the credit card provided "Select".

    Many many years ago, the paid version got United Club access too. Right now, I don't think there is any difference between the paid or the select version of Priority Pass. However both still exists separately.

  14. Rafa Guest

    As a value added to CSR PP membership is perfect. With 1300 locations I can get a snack, drink and a place to relax.
    No complaints at all. Would I pay extra $300 for it? Probably not.

  15. Doug Guest

    The PP memberships(Chase and CapitalOne) that allow access to the PP affiliated restaurants is the most useful, the AMEX PP membership has limited additional value. I have used the PP membership twice in the last month to great benefit. The first time was in seattle getting access to a PP lounge that was not full, rather than having to wait 30 minutes just to get my name on the waiting list for the Centurion lounge....

    The PP memberships(Chase and CapitalOne) that allow access to the PP affiliated restaurants is the most useful, the AMEX PP membership has limited additional value. I have used the PP membership twice in the last month to great benefit. The first time was in seattle getting access to a PP lounge that was not full, rather than having to wait 30 minutes just to get my name on the waiting list for the Centurion lounge. Sometimes a slightly lower quality lounge with space is worth a lot more than a better lounge without space. Last night my wife and I were able to grab a nice sushi dinner, wine and cookie at the Caper market at PDX.

  16. John Guest

    So far, PP hasn't really worked well for me. I don't fly enough to get airline status, so it seems like PP would be a good fit. But most of the time, either the lounge/restaurant isn't open when my flight is. Or it's in a different terminal than I'm flying out of and at that particular airport it's just not reasonable to visit it.

    1. Gabo New Member

      Note that some airports will allow you to go through security to the terminal that has a PP lounge or restaurant. I can attest that at least TPA does.

  17. Starbucks Man Guest

    PP can be so hit or miss in the U.S. that it's difficult to place a value on the membership, especially with the apparent increase of marginal restaurants living off PP reimbursements (SweetWater Mountain in DEN, Stephanies in BOS, Chef Geoff's in IAD, etc.). The Club lounges all seem pretty naff - are there exceptions?

    Many lounges don't have spots for me to practically work - I'd rather have basically a coworking space.

  18. echino Gold

    No PP lounges in LAX? Or am I just missing something?

    1. Dave Guest

      Yeah. My home airports are LAX and John Wayne and no lounges at either of them.

    2. Leigh Gold

      Yes, LAX is a significant gap in the PP network. As each terminal except Tom Bradley (the international terminal) has a primary major tenant airline with their own lounge(s), they probably never will have any lounge offering at my home airport.

  19. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Don’t some credit card PP memberships come with restaurant access and some don’t? Ore they all the same?

  20. trump rules Guest

    Out of the 5 best infinite cards venture x us bank ,ritz Carlton are best . I think 200- 300 is about right on cash value . But points wise getting 1 cpm cash is better than points .

  21. NoWorkAndAllTravel Guest

    Why do people complain about crowds? Do travel bloggers and readers form a select group of negative mass?

    As for Priority Pass, it has helped me on a number of occasions, be it to grab a bite, use wifi without swiping passport info, or print out some ridiculous pandemic document. The lounges are mostly uninviting in the U.S., but I've had some practical experiences elsewhere.

  22. George Romey Guest

    I looked at it and just wasn't worth it. I have an American AC membership with one of the major reasons rebooking assistance. PP would only come in handy where I had a flight out of non AA hub and no AC after say 1PM when I would need to vacate the hotel room by 11 or 12. But this doesn't happen more than once a month, if that. Also, all my flying is domestic and from what I can see the lounges that are contracted for just aren't worth it.

  23. Reno Joe Guest

    Perhaps a different question is: under what circumstances would a person not otherwise have access to any lounge and *need* Priority Pass. Of course, everyone's situation is different. My wife and I do a heck of a lot of flying and I can't remember the last time we had to use Priority Pass for lounge access. Between tier status, cabin class, and co-branded airline credit cards, there's only the occasional time that a lounge has...

    Perhaps a different question is: under what circumstances would a person not otherwise have access to any lounge and *need* Priority Pass. Of course, everyone's situation is different. My wife and I do a heck of a lot of flying and I can't remember the last time we had to use Priority Pass for lounge access. Between tier status, cabin class, and co-branded airline credit cards, there's only the occasional time that a lounge has not been available . . . and the back-up is the handy dandy Amex Platinum Card.

    By the way, regarding the co-branded airline credit cards, primary cardholders ought to look up ALL of the independent lounges outside the U.S. to which one has access. Often the same lounges that Priority Pass does. And, in spite of their annual fee, co-branded lounge access credit cards are a bargain. Read their terms and conditions and learn why.

    1. MoJoe Diamond

      I'd say the majority (probably 80%-90%) of travelers can benefit from Priority Pass. These include travelers who fly 3 or 4 times a year and don't earn enough miles for airline status (and whose home airport doesn't have a Centurion or Capital One lounge). Having an airline co-branded card like the United Explorer Visa gets you two free United lounge passes per year, but those only cover one leg of one flight. And at airports...

      I'd say the majority (probably 80%-90%) of travelers can benefit from Priority Pass. These include travelers who fly 3 or 4 times a year and don't earn enough miles for airline status (and whose home airport doesn't have a Centurion or Capital One lounge). Having an airline co-branded card like the United Explorer Visa gets you two free United lounge passes per year, but those only cover one leg of one flight. And at airports like DCA and IAD, there are Priority Pass restaurants that let you order a full/decent meal.

      Priority Pass lounges are usually decent/OK and are easily attainable (via a premium CC) for the masses. PP lounges are likely to be crowded if they are any good, so PP is suited for average Joe main cabin travelers, not for elite flyers.

    2. Without a lounge to sit in Guest

      That frequency of 3-4 times a year really assumes that you'll be visiting airports with a PP establishment (lounge/restaurant/etc). In my case, neither my home airport nor the destination I frequent the most has anything PP. That journey is about half my flying, so I need to consider the rest of my travels to make that calculation

  24. Gabe Guest

    The overcrowding situation is bound to get worse than pre-pandemic due to new cards like Venture X offering additional access and lounges having recently closed or dropped off from participating in the program. In 2019 I was already often denied entry in MIA, IAH and ORD due to a crowded lounge.

  25. Steve Diamond

    Honest question is there a single reader that doesnt have a PP included on a card? I have to assume there are more readers with at least 2 PP memberships than there are readers with 0.

    1. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

      Some readers aren’t American Steve

    2. Sam Guest

      I'm a reader and I don't have PP on my credit card. (A Brit living in Korea).

    3. Denise Guest

      Found this thread while researching whether a CC with PP would be helpful for our upcoming travel to Australia and Thailand. We have long layovers in Sydney and Seoul, and am trying to see if the lounge overcrowding is preventing PP passholders from admission as much as it is at US lounges - specifically at Rex lounge at T2 SYD & SPC or Matina lounges at T2 ICN. Do you have recent experience with either of the ICN PP lounges?

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Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

Some readers aren’t American Steve

3
Scott Guest

I think the real issue is that these clubs often stop allowing access for priority club members. They are overcrowded and this is a common problem now. So buying a membership that doesn’t always allow entry isn’t useful.

1
Loki Guest

1300 include Russian lounges, priority pass has lounges even at the train stations in Russia. So how many now?

1
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