A Traveler’s Guide To Priority Pass 2021
Have you ever found yourself stuck at the airport? If you travel by plane on even a semi-regular basis, the answer is probably “yes! ” From being stuck for a layover or flight delay to simply arriving for your flight too early, having to wait around the airport can be a drag. Those seats at the terminal typically aren’t very comfortable (or conducive to napping), and getting access to a wall outlet so you can charge your phone or tablet could be out of the question. Meanwhile, even grabbing a bite to eat or relaxing with a drink may be difficult if the airport is busy.
Did you know that many airports have exclusive lounges where weary travelers can relax, recharge, store their luggage or carry-on luggage and even enjoy a delicious meal while they wait for their flights? The criteria to access these lounges can vary; some airline-specific lounges may offer access to first-class passengers or those who have redeemed loyalty program points, whereas others may charge per visit.
Not all airport lounges are airport-specific, however. General lounges run by a program known as Priority Pass exist in many major United States and global airports, and a single membership is all you need to gain access to every single one. If you’re tired of dreading your time at the airport, you might want to consider treating yourself to a Priority Pass membership.
As you can probably imagine, though, these memberships don’t come cheap—so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the specific benefits and restrictions before you make your purchase. From there, you can make an informed decision regarding whether a Priority Pass membership is right for you or whether you may want to enroll in a travel credit card that offers Priority Pass Select as a benefit.
What is Priority Pass?
Specifically, Priority Pass is an exclusive program that offers access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across the globe. Lounges can be found at more than 620 airports in 140+ countries, so regardless of where you may be traveling, there’s a good chance you’ll have access to a Priority Pass lounge. Some airports even have multiple lounges across different terminals so members don’t need to walk a long distance to enjoy their benefits.
What many travelers like about Priority Pass is that its lounges are not specific to any single airline, so regardless of which airline they’re flying or which type of fare/class they’ve purchased, they can enjoy access to these lounges and their many perks/amenities.
Priority Pass Lounge Locations and Amenities
Take some time to review a list of Priority Pass lounge locations and explore the many benefits and amenities offered.
Airport Lounge Locations
While there are approximately 1,220 Priority Pass airport lounges in more than 140 countries at the time of this publication, they are primarily located within United States airports. Specifically, the following United States airports have at least one Priority Pass lounge (and many boast multiple locations):
Baltimore Washington International (BWI)
Colorado Springs (COS)
Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)
Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Las Vegas (LAS)
Los Angeles (LAX)
New York-JFK (JFK)
New York-LaGuardia (LGA)
Orlando International (MCO)
San Francisco (SFO)
San Jose (SJC)
San Juan (SJU)
St. Louis (STL)
Priority Pass is constantly growing and frequently adds new lounges; for a full list of lounges or to find an airport lounge based on airport/location, check out the Priority Pass website directly.
Specific amenities can vary from one airport lounge to the next. However, there are some general amenities that you will find in most Priority Pass lounges. These include:
- free Wi-Fi access and flight trackers
- dedicated quiet spaces with comfortable seating
- plenty of power outlets for charging devices
- free magazines and newspapers
- complimentary drinks (including alcohol) and snacks
Some select lounges even have access to conference rooms, which can come in handy if you’re traveling for work and need to regroup before your flight. Some lounges also have more luxurious amenities, including showers, beds, and even spas that can make your time at the airport even more enjoyable than you could have imagined!
Priority Pass members also receive discounts at many restaurants, hotels, and even rental car companies—so the money spent on membership could pay off in travel savings alone. Most restaurant discounts are for airport locations only, but when you consider how costly airport food can be, this can be a nice perk. And of course, most lounges offer free snacks and drinks as well.
Priority Pass vs. Priority Pass Select: What’s the Difference?
Perhaps the biggest point of confusion when it comes to Priority Pass is that there is a similar program available known as Priority Pass Select. Despite the similar names, there are some notable differences between these two programs that you should be aware of before you make a decision.
Priority Pass is the company that offers memberships to their airport lounges. There are a number of different membership options available (more on that below).
Priority Pass Select
Priority Pass Select, on the other hand, refers to Priority Pass memberships that are included with some travel credit cards. Rather than purchasing your membership directly through Priority Pass, it is a part of your credit card perks. You still gain access to all the same airport lounges and benefits as you would with a traditional Priority Pass membership, but it’s important to understand that your benefits may not extend to anybody else. Typically, they are limited to the cardholder. This means you’ll need to pay an applicable guest fee if you’ll be traveling with any guests who want to join you in a Priority Pass lounge.
There are a number of credit cards that currently include Priority Pass Select as part of their cardholder benefits. Some of these include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Keep in mind that all of these credit cards do have substantial annual fees; for example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card carries a $450 annual fee. However, when you compare the annual fee to the cost of a Priority Pass membership and factor in additional cardholder benefits, it could very well be worth the cost (and then some!).
Is a Priority Pass Membership Right For You?
Now that you have a better idea of what Priority Pass is and what membership entails, you may be debating whether a membership is right for you. While there are a lot of personal factors that you should take into consideration when deciding, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you.
A Membership Might Be Right For You If…
If you do a fair amount of traveling and spend a lot of time at the airport as a result, then a Priority Pass membership may be worth your money. The main thing to keep in mind when deciding whether a membership is right for you is that while there are more than 1,200 lounges worldwide, not all airports have Priority Pass lounges. You’ll want to check the full list on the Priority Pass website to see which lounges would be most frequented by you based on your home airport and where you tend to travel.
If you have access to Priority Pass lounges at your home airport, there’s a good chance you’ll use your membership frequently. The same applies if the majority of the traveling you do is outside of the United States, as many of these lounges are located at international airports.
Priority Pass memberships also tend to be best for those who don’t often fly business- or first-class, as these classes often entitle you to lounge access through your specific airline. If you usually fly business- or first-class through an airline that operates their own airport lounge, then you might not use your Priority Pass enough to make membership costs worth it.
And of course, if you already have a travel credit card that comes with a Priority Pass Select membership as a perk, you won’t need to purchase a Priority Pass membership. If you’re not sure whether your credit card offers this benefit, be sure to check before you shell out your hard-earned money to buy a membership outright!
If you’re ready to buy a Priority Pass membership, there are a few different plan options available, so you’ll want to explore these and determine which is best for your needs. The three main plans are Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige.
With a Standard Plan, you’ll pay $99 per year just to become a member, followed by a $32 fee each time you visit an airport lounge. With a Standard Plus membership, you’ll pay $249 per year with 10 free lounge visits included. After your 10 free initial visits, you’ll pay $32 for each time you want to access a Priority Pass lounge. The Prestige option costs $429 annually and includes unlimited visits to all Priority Pass lounges.
It is also worth noting that while it is not openly advertised on the Priority Pass website, there are family and partner plans available that can save you from paying the $32 guest fee for each lounge visit. The best way to find out more about these plans and to purchase one for yourself is to contact Priority Pass customer service directly.
Finally, if you’re looking to save on a Priority Pass membership, the company is currently offering special promotional pricing for their 25th anniversary. Depending on the membership type you select, you could save up to 25% during this promotion.
Enrolling in Priority Pass Select With Your Credit Card
If you have a travel credit card that already includes Priority Pass Select as a perk, that’s great news! However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to show up at a Priority Pass airport lounge and attempt to gain access with your credit card alone. What many credit card companies fail to advertise is that you actually need to enroll and activate your membership in order to begin using your credit card for lounge access.
The specific enrollment process can vary depending on the credit card you have, but you should have received a membership guide with your credit card that will walk you through the steps you’ll need to follow. You can also contact your credit card company’s customer service line for more information. In some cases, you may even be able to complete your enrollment online. Once you enroll, you should receive your actual Priority Pass membership card in the mail within a couple of weeks.
Enrollment is so important because Priority Pass is quite strict about making sure your identity can be verified before allowing you access to a lounge. This prevents credit card holders from simply ordering extra credit cards and passing them off to family members or friends to gain lounge access during their travels. Requiring enrollment ensures that only the registered cardholder on-file can utilize the benefits and that any additional guests must pay applicable guest access fees (usually $32 per person).
Tips For Making the Most of Your Membership
Whether you’ll be purchasing a Priority Pass membership outright or will be taking advantage of a Priority Pass Select membership included with your credit card, there are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind that will help you make the most of your membership!
Use the Priority Pass App
A free Priority Pass app is available for Android, Apple, and Blackberry phones. The main benefit of downloading this app is that it allows you to load a digital membership card, so you’ll always have access to your membership even if you don’t have a physical card. When you’re traveling, this app can also come in handy because it includes features that allow you to find Priority Pass lounges near you.
The app also gives you the ability to rate individual lounges (and view other members’ ratings) as well as to see which lounges you’ve visited in the past. Using the Priority Pass app also makes it easy to find information you may need on-the-go, such as specific lounge hours and lists of amenities for each lounge.
Always Carry Your Card
While the Priorty Pass app does have a digital membership card feature, it’s always a good idea to carry your physical membership card any time you travel to avoid problems. While most lounges are now equipped to verify and scan digital membership cards, this may not be the case at every single location. With this in mind, it’s best to keep your physical membership card on you and to use the digital card on your app for backup.
In addition to having your actual membership card on you at all times, it’s also wise to keep some form of identification (such as a driver’s license or passport) with you so you can verify your identity if asked. Since you’ll be using your membership exclusively at airport lounges, there’s a good chance you’ll already have some form of I.D. on you anyway, as it will be required to board your plane.
Prepare For Guest Fees
Most Priority Pass lounges allow members to bring guests into lounges with them, provided that they pay any applicable fees. Keep in mind, however, that some lounges may not permit guests and others may have limits on the number of guests you can bring. In most cases, you should expect to pay $32 per guest per visit. This fee will automatically be charged to the credit card that is on-file with your Priority Pass membership.
If you have a Priority Pass Select membership, be sure to research guest fees ahead of time, as these can sometimes vary. Some credit cards actually include access for up to two guests as part of your Priority Pass Select membership.
Get a Referral Bonus
If you have friends or family members who are interested in buying their own Priority Pass membership, take advantage of the referral program offered by Priority Pass. By getting new members to sign up through your unique referral link, you can enjoy added perks such as free guest visits—and the person who is signing up will receive 10% off their membership. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, and there is no limit to the number of new members you can refer.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of the Priority Pass referral program, be sure to visit their website to get your referral link. New members must sign up through your link in order to reap the benefits.
Save on Other Travel Purchases
In addition to all the lounge-specific perks and amenities offered with a Priority Pass membership, you can enjoy some outside savings as well. For example, while you can always grab some free drinks and snacks inside a Priority Pass airport lounge, you can also use your membership to save money at many airport restaurants.
This can come in handy if you’re at an airport outside of a lounge’s operating hours and want to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant that’s open (fortunately, many Priority Pass lounges are open 24 hours, but this is not always the case). In this situation, you may be able to use your membership card to enjoy a discount on your meal.
In addition to discounts on airport dining, your Priority Pass membership also comes with savings on hotel stays, rental cars and luggage purchases. Specifically, Priority Pass has partnered with the IHG hotel chain to provide savings on hotel bookings; just be sure to book your reservation through your online Priority Pass portal to take advantage of these savings.
The same applies if you need to book a rental car through Avis; you can enjoy a number of benefits when you book through Priority Pass, such as highest priority for vehicle availability and free additional drivers at no added cost.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
We’ve covered the basics of Priority Pass memberships and what they entail, as well as the many membership options available. However, there are a few “odds and ends” worth mentioning that you may want to be aware of before you enroll.
For starters, there are some restrictions in place at most lounges, though these can vary greatly from one lounge to the next. Because some lounges are independently owned and some are owned by Priority Pass themselves, it makes sense that their policies will not be 100% consistent. For example, some lounges may have a limit of two free alcoholic beverages per person, per visit. Others may not impose any limits on free alcoholic beverages. Other lounges may have limits on how many hours you can spend inside the lounge during each visit, but most don’t.
Ultimately, the best way to stay on top of specific policies and restrictions as they vary from lounge to lounge is to use the Priority Pass app. This will provide you with the most up-to-date and applicable information for the lounge nearest you.
The Bottom Line on Priority Pass Membership
Overall, a Priority Pass membership can be a great choice for those who travel on a regular basis and want to make the most of their time at the airport or comfort those who have a fear of flying. Having access to Priority Pass lounges can give you the ability to relax (or even nap!) during a layover away from the hustle and bustle of the gate. Furthermore, you’ll be able to enjoy added perks like free beverages and snacks, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi and more.
Before you purchase a Priority Pass membership, be sure to check with your travel credit card to see if you may already have access to Priority Pass Select. If so, follow the steps required to enroll and you can receive your membership card in a week or two. Or, if you’ve been thinking about opening up a travel credit card and are also interested in a Priority Pass membership, this would be a great time to check out a travel card that includes Priority Pass Select!