Priority Pass offers members access to more than 1,400 airport lounges worldwide. As a member you may sometimes have access to airline-operated lounges that are generally only granted to business and first class passengers (or airline status holders).
For example, the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Dulles International Airport (IAD) is open to Turkish Airlines premium and status passengers as well as Priority Pass members. As you would expect, airline operated lounges are usually of a high standard.
However, many Priority Pass lounges are operated by third parties. These companies do not operate flights, but offer lounge access to anyone willing to pay. Therefore, the quality of these lounges can vary greatly as they may not be as motivated to keep customers loyal to their brand. So, is it worth it?
Related: The 7 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge
How to access Prior Pass lounges
There are several credit cards that come with a free Priority Pass Select membership.
These don’t just include premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve And The Platinum Card® from American Express (registration required) but also hotel credit cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (registration required) and the Capital One Venture
Related: 10 Credit Cards That Offer Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access
You can purchase Priority Pass memberships directly from the site, with annual fees starting at $99. Here’s an overview of the membership options:
- Standard membership: $99 per year; including visits at $35 each for the member and any guests
- Standard Plus membership: $329 per year; includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits at $35 each (same price as all guest visits)
- Prestige Membership: $469 per year; includes all visits for the member, although guests pay $35 per visit
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Is a Priority Pass membership worth it?
Whether you pay for your membership directly or include it in the cost of an annual credit card fee if the membership is part of the card offer, how much is it worth?
In a normal year, I regularly use my Priority Pass membership and have seen some truly amazing Priority Pass lounges – and some truly terrible ones.
The value you get from your membership depends on the number of lounge visits you are likely to make per year.
Most of these lounges offer access to anyone without access/a Priority Pass membership; the cost is usually around $30 to $50. The lounges vary largely in quality, but I estimate the value of each visit I’ve had on average to be about $15 to $25 per visit.
So let’s look at the value of a paid membership based on a few different personal circumstances.
- Five visits per year: You pay $175 ($35 per visit) for the five visits and then $99 for your standard membership of $274 per year. I don’t consider the membership to be worth about $275 for five visits. You could spend that money on food and drinks at the airport every time you visit.
- Ten visits per year: You pay $329 for the Standard Plus membership with your 10 free visits. At around $33 per visit, it probably wouldn’t make sense to invest in a Standard Plus membership, as this is out of the range of where I would value each lounge visit.
- Twenty visits per year: With a Prestige membership you get all 20 visits for $469. Each visit costs about $20, which is about where I price the visits.
- More than 30 visits per year: This is where a Prestige membership becomes worthwhile. Each of your 30 visits will cost you less than $16 because all visits are included in the annual fee. I can easily get $16 worth of each visit. If you bring the same guest every time, it makes sense for him or her to have a Prestige membership, rather than paying $35 as a guest each time.
If you get access via your credit card, you must include this in the annual fee. If you visit a lounge 10 times a year and allocate $20 per visit, you can expect to receive $200 in value from the credit card benefit each year.
There are some other factors to consider when estimating the value of Priority Pass lounge visits.
Firstly, you are not guaranteed access to a lounge. Today, many travelers have access to lounges, and the lounges sometimes reach capacity. Some lounges are even only available to Priority Pass members during certain hours. Before your next trip, be sure to check the Priority Pass website for available locations and their opening hours – and don’t be shocked if some lounges are temporarily full during peak times.
If you’re concerned about lounge capacity, some lounges allow you to reserve a space in advance online for a small fee of less than $10 per person. If this is offered, it will be through the lounge’s own website, and not through the general Priority Pass website.
Also consider how much time you are likely to spend in each lounge. If you book flights at 6am it’s unlikely you’ll want to get up early for a free coffee and croissant. Likewise, if you’re rushing from work to catch a 6:30 PM flight and don’t have time to enjoy a lounge, you probably won’t get the $20 value for each visit.
In general, you get the value when you can spend at least an hour in the lounge (perhaps due to a long connection) and consume a decent amount of free food and drinks.
Unless you travel very regularly, you probably won’t get $469 in lounge access with a Priority Pass Prestige membership. If this is one of the many benefits of a premium credit card, you don’t have to travel as regularly to get your money’s worth.
Set your expectations accordingly. Most Priority Pass lounges are not as glamorous as you might expect, and you may have difficulty gaining access or finding a seat given the large number of people traveling at the moment.
Try estimating how many visits you’ll make each year and how long you’ll spend there to decide whether paying for a membership or applying for a premium credit card is worth it.
Let’s say you’re considering the value of a Priority Pass membership as part of paying the annual fee for a credit card that offers this benefit, or you’re thinking about purchasing a membership outright. To calculate the value of the lounge, try to estimate how many times you are likely to visit the lounge per year and how long you will spend in each lounge.
You can join the Priority Pass program here.