Is a Priority Pass airport lounge membership worth it?
In this article, I wanted to share my perspective on the current value proposition of a Priority Pass membership, including discussing the basics of this network of airport lounges, how you can get a membership, and the value that I see in it.
What is Priority Pass?
Priority pass is the largest independent network of airport lounges in the world, with more than 1,300 lounges worldwide.
Think of Priority Pass as being almost like a lounge access broker. Priority Pass does not operate the lounges itself, but rather the business model is to sell lounge subscriptions to travelers (either directly or by credit card) and then pay for the lounges for admitted 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 the Priority Pass. This is because they would view Priority Pass membership as a cannibalization of their own business selling lounge memberships.
For lounges that participate in Priority Pass, individual lounges are paid for by Priority Pass each 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 to use for food and beverages at participating establishments.
How do I get a Priority Pass subscription?
You can either buy a Priority Pass membership directly or get one via a premium credit card (the latter being much better value). Let’s see the details of these two options.
Buy a Priority Pass subscription directly
Priority Pass offers three types of subscriptions that you can purchase. Which membership is right for you depends on how often you plan to visit trade shows. Priority Pass membership options include the following:
- A Standard subscription costs $99 per year; this does not include salon visits, but instead you must pay $32 per visit
- A Standard Plus subscription costs $299 per year; this includes 10 salon visits per year, then you have to pay $27 per next visit
- A Prestige subscription costs $429 per year; this includes unlimited visits to the salon
Either way, bringing a guest to a lounge will cost an additional $32 per person per visit.
As you can see, you will pay around $400 per year for a subscription that allows you to visit a salon unlimitedly. That’s a bit cheaper than the lounge subscriptions that most major US airlines sell direct, for example. However, airline lounge memberships do not give you access to Priority Pass lounges, and a Priority Pass membership does not give you access to most airline member lounges.
Get Priority Pass with a credit card
The much cheaper way to get a Priority Pass subscription is to get a premium credit card that offers this as a benefit. There are many popular cards that offer Priority Pass memberships, ranging from the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (Revision), Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (Revision), Platinum Card® from American Express (Revision ).
All of these memberships allow for unlimited visits, and best of all, you can even bring up to two guests with you for free (whereas buying a membership directly still incurs a $32 guest fee). It’s quite amazing how much more lucrative the credit card is.
As an example of why this is better value (if you are eligible for such a card), let’s look at the Capital One Venture X. The card has an annual fee of $395 (less than the cost of Prestige Priority Pass membership) and offers:
Personally, I like the $300 travel credit and 10,000 anniversary bonus miles at over $395 annual fee, and consider it like Capital One just launched five Priority Pass memberships for free. 😉
How much is a Priority Pass membership worth?
There’s no good way to develop an objective review of a Priority Pass subscription, given that it all depends on how often you use it. To state the obvious, a Priority Pass membership is worth the number of times you use participating lounges multiplied by the value you place on each visit.
What complicates things further is that it’s not just about how often you’ll use airport lounges, but rather how often you’ll specifically use Priority Pass lounges:
Even beyond that, there is so much variability in terms of the value of a particular salon visit:
- If you have a three-hour connection and can spend that time in a Priority Pass lounge, that offers real value; meanwhile, if you show up at the airport five minutes before boarding starts, it might not even be worth visiting a lounge
- There’s the question of the value you get from lounge visits for situations where you actually use Priority Pass locations; there are huge gaps in terms of the quality of airport lounges – some are hardly worth visiting, some are great and most fall somewhere in between
- Especially in the US, crowding at Priority Pass lounges can be a huge problem, with some being frustrating to the point that I’d rather sit in the terminal; all the credit cards that give us access to easy priority pass subscriptions are a double edged sword i guess
I will say that for a frequent traveler who doesn’t otherwise have access to the lounge, even just paying for a subscription outright with unlimited visits might make sense (assuming you don’t have access to credit cards offering a subscription) .
As someone with oneworld Emerald status, Star Alliance Gold status and a membership in the American Admirals Club, who generally flies first and business class, here is where I see the value with Priority Pass:
- I get good value from Priority Pass restaurants, where you get a certain dollar credit with each visit; sometimes I’d rather sit in an airport restaurant than an airport lounge
- I like some of the non-traditional lounges beyond restaurants, like Sleep ‘N Fly Doha, where you can take a nap for two to three hours, as it’s a good alternative to a crowded lounge
- Priority Pass is quite convenient in Canada and Mexico when flying with a US airline, as US airlines often don’t have airport lounges there and don’t otherwise provide contracted lounge access to passengers. premium.
- Sometimes I just appreciate the alternate lounges that Priority Pass gives me access to; for example, on a SAS business class flight from Copenhagen to Miami, I much preferred the Eventyr lounge (via Priority Pass) over the SAS lounge (which my ticket gave me access to)
If I had to put a number to it, I would say that for my personal usage habits, I estimate a Priority Pass membership at around $200 per year. At least that’s what I’d probably pay cash for a subscription. Luckily, I don’t really need to think about it, because I have multiple Priority Pass subscriptions through multiple credit cards, so it doesn’t cost me anything extra.
At the end of the line
The value of a Priority Pass membership varies greatly depending on what type of traveler you are. However, if you want a Priority Pass membership, you’ll almost always be better off getting one by credit card. Some premium cards are so valuable that you might not even have to factor the cost of Priority Pass membership into your card’s annual fee.
Personally, I value a Priority Pass subscription at around $200 per year, although everyone will undoubtedly have a different valuation depending on their usage habits.
What do you think of the value of Priority Pass and how much would you pay for a pass?