There’s no reason to panic, though this sets a strange precedent that could eventually have major implications…
In this post:
Priority Pass location limited to “paid” members
Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges. Priority Pass doesn’t operate lounges, but rather monetizes them, as the company sells memberships that offer access to all kinds of lounges.
Priority Pass sells memberships directly, though you can also get a membership through all kinds of premium credit cards. I would assume that in the United States, a vast majority of Priority Pass members get their membership through credit cards, rather than through purchased memberships, since it’s a much better value.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I wrote about how ROAM Fitness at Baltimore Airport joined Priority Pass. The terms listed on the Priority Pass website indicated the following:
Only Cardholders who have purchased a Priority Pass membership – Standard, Standard Plus or Prestige – are eligible for access to ROAM Fitness.
I initially wondered if this was a glitch or something, but I’ve confirmed that it’s not. Indeed, this Priority Pass location isn’t available to those who have a membership through a credit card, but rather only to those who outright purchase a membership.
It’s possible that other lounges have this restriction as well, though I’ve never seen it before. This sets a very strange precedent among those who have unlimited Priority Pass visits.
Everyone gets access to Priority Pass lounges, but Priority Pass experiences (restaurants, spas, etc.) now essentially have three tiers of memberships:
- Paid members have access to all lounges and experiences
- Those with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) have access to all lounges and most experiences, including Priority Pass restaurants
- Those with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) (Rates & Fees) have access to all lounges and no experiences
What’s Priority Pass’ motive for this change?
A single new Priority Pass location being excluded from the credit card program isn’t a huge deal. After all, there are 1,300+ Priority Pass locations. However, I can’t imagine the intent is to have just one location with such a restriction, since that would make no sense.
I don’t want to be pessimistic, but this is definitely something I’ll be keeping an eye on going forward. What I’m curious about is what exactly Priority Pass’ motive is with this change. Here’s my general understanding of the economics of Priority Pass when it comes to memberships issued through credit cards (and please correct me if I’m wrong):
- Lounge operators are paid a certain amount by Priority Pass per visit (I’d guess in the range of $20-25), and it doesn’t matter if the visitor is using a membership through a credit card or one purchased directly
- The credit card company is paying Priority Pass in some way that reflects the number of visits that members make; I’m not sure if it’s a fixed amount per visit, a sliding scale, or what
Priority Pass memberships issued through some credit cards offer access to lounge “experiences,” while other memberships don’t. I assume for those that don’t, it’s because the credit card company wants to cut costs associated with Priority Pass.
With that in mind, what I can’t figure out is why we’re now seeing a Priority Pass location excluded from the credit card program altogether. Why is Priority Pass willing to give someone with the Chase Sapphire Reserve a $28 credit at a Priority Pass restaurant, but not offer them access to this gym?
At least one Priority Pass location is now only open to those with a paid membership, and not anyone who acquired a membership through a credit card. I can’t help but be a bit concerned that this will spread to more locations, and I’m not sure what exactly the logic is.
What do you make of this Priority Pass development?