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Comparing UK lounge networks of Priority Pass, Lounge Club and LoungeKey

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If you are heading off on holiday soon, you may want to check if you can access an airport lounge at your departure airport.  If not, it might still be possible to arrange free access via a credit card or by buying a pass.

Many Head for Points readers can access airport lounges, even when flying economy, via their membership of Lounge Club, Priority Pass or LoungeKey.

Lounge Club membership comes with the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card, which is free for the first year. You receive two free passes to visit any Lounge Club lounge and further visits or further guests are charged at £15. My full review of Amex Gold is here.

Priority Pass membership comes with the American Express Platinum card. Both the main cardholder and one supplementary cardholder receive a Priority Pass, and each card admits two people for free. This means that you can get four people into a lounge for free, as many times as you want if both the main and supplementary cardholder are travelling together. There is NO LIMIT to the number of lounge visits you can make for free.  My full review of Amex Platinum is here.

LoungeKey membership comes with the £195 per year HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard and other World Elite MasterCard products. There is no separate membership card and you simply show your World Elite MasterCard at the door. However, you are meant to have registered your HSBC card via this link first – I’m not sure if this is actually necessary. No free guests are allowed but you can get a supplementary card for your HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard for a £60 annual fee and that person can then access lounges with this card.

(Holders of the free HSBC Premier MasterCard can also access lounges via LoungeKey but will be charged £15 per visit.)

As well as getting Lounge Club or Priority Pass membership via Amex, you can also buy Priority Pass membership directly. There are various membership options with different combinations of membership fee and ‘per visit’ fees – but, oddly, you cannot buy a card with the same features as the Amex Plat version, ie cardholder plus a free guest.

Heathrow No 1 Traveller lounge

There have been quite a few changes over the past 12 months in what lounges are available so I thought it was worth updating this article today.

The Lounge Club network (Amex Gold) currently comprises:

If you have a Priority Pass card, you get access to the following additional lounges:

If your Priority Pass comes via American Express Platinum, note that you can also access the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 (review here) by showing your Platinum card at the desk.

This is the full UK LoungeKey list (we think!):

Lounge Club has the least lounge coverage – potentially because the card pays less to the lounges? – whereas Priority Pass and LoungeKey have almost identical lists.  This is not hugely surprising because the same company, Collinson Latitude, runs all three programmes.

Overall all of the three cards offer impressive coverage and if you have no airline status and fly from the airports above on a regular basis you should look at ways of adding a lounge access card to your wallet.

PS.  We have not discussed DragonPass here because it is only offered to selected Barclays current account holders.  There are a few extra quirks with this.  At Heathrow, in Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, you can use the Regus Express business centre lounge in Arrivals.  More importantly, in Terminal 5, you can use the new Plaza Premium departures lounge.  At Gatwick in the South Terminal, you can use the Regus Express business centre lounge in Arrivals.

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Comments

  1. Savinder Gill says:

    As we have several holidays planned for the year, I got the Amex Platinum card for lounge access for family of 4. My teenagers were not impressed with the T5 lounge finding it crowded with limited menu. Singapore lounge’s toilet smelled terrible as there was a damp shower unit. Perth did not have a lounge and Sydney’s was crowded too. Not bothering with Seattle or Vancouver as cancelling card soon. With airports like Singapore making better transit experiences why would lounges be attractive? Dark, limited menu, crowded places with zero ambiance…

    • Although much-beloved of HFP readers, and with some that provide an excellent experience (Virgin Clubhouse et al), there are many locations where I can’t understand the attraction of lounges at all. Eat food that has sat on the side for a while (motorway-services style) and get to read a “free” paper. Frankly a better experience can be had by buying a paper in Smiths and reading it in an airside restaurant while a meal is cooked to order (from an infinitely larger choice, obviously).

      Is it really worth the £10 saving to eat a dry bacon roll and sit in a box furnished like a school canteen?

      • the real harry1 says:

        Unlimited free alcohol has its attractions 🙂

        Not that I’m a toper, you understand.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        There are some bad ones and some great ones. Not all take these cards but if you visit the Cathays Lounge in T3 or HKG then you’ll see how good they can actually be. BA Gatwick is pretty good too

        • Optimus Prime says:

          Still too early since I won’t fly out of T3 till February, but would you recommend Cathay First lounge or the Qantas one?

          Thanks.

        • Cathay in F but do both if early.

      • I don’t disagree with this – felt the same in the Aspire Plus in Manchester three weeks ago waiting for my Virgin flight!

      • Lady London says:

        Yes and you can feel exclusive.

    • Mark2 says:

      You will really miss out if you don’t visit the Centurion Lounge in Seattle.

      • Savinder Gill says:

        Centurion Lounge not an option on Priority Pass.:-(

        • @Savinder. As the holder of Amex Platinum you get access to Centurion lounges through it, mainly across the USA, including Seattle, which I think Mark2 was pointing out to you. You also get acces to Plaza Premium at LHR T5 which you can’t get on PP. If you’ve got a flight with Delta, Amex Platinum gets you access to their Sky Lounges.

    • Was it the Plaza Premium you visited? I’ve been a couple of times recently and found it pretty decent – much quieter than BA First or Club lounges and still some decent hot options (I had the beef stroganoff last week, very tasty). Haven’t tried Club Aspire though.

      • Savinder Gill says:

        We visited Aspire lounge at T5 with Priority Pass. Only option available according to app.

        • Savinder as mentioned in the comments above your platinum card gets you access to T5 Plaza premium, centurion lounges and delta lounges (when flying delta). These are not priority pass lounges but perks as a plat holder.

    • the_real_a says:

      It depends on you perspective. I travel so much that the lounge has become a commodity. I’m not looking for a “luxury” experience. I’m looking for an alternative to starbucks that has unlimited coffee/wine, good wifi, a shower and an edible lunch/dinner to tide me over until i reach my destination. With priority pass this equates to £250 ish for unlimited visits for 12 months. But then how much does a luxury experience cost at an airport? Maybe £50-100pp – which is fine for a special occasion or holiday, but when you are taking 6 flights a week it becomes unjustifiable.

      Perhaps i misread your post – but surely your teenagers would not be uncomfortable in a starbucks setting for a couple of hours?

    • In Sydney you might be better to take the 36 AUD off per person at a number of restaurants there.

  2. Dragonpass can be purchased from £68. Should be covered imho

    Should the list not say lounge club and priority pass, as currently it suggests a rather small list for priority pass.

    Would also be better if there was one list of lounges and details of which cards allowed you in.

    • MattC says:

      +1 for a sticky page with a table for each lounge and a score for each access method (plus the price) and link to a review (by Rob/Anika, edits of readers or links to other reviews).
      Rob I think this would be a heavily used resource driving traffic, and provide a constant stream of lounge articles especially interesting for those not living in London…

      • There are links to all our UK lounge reviews on a) the Favourites page (tab in the top menu) OR b) clicking ‘Airport Lounge Reviews (UK)’ under the Categories menu in the sidebar on the desktop and tablet sites.

    • MattC says:

      how do you get Dragonpass for £68?

      • the real harry1 says:

        that’s the 1-shot DragonPass membership option, giving you the right to buy more passes at something like £19 (just 1 visit included free for your $99).

        Unfortunately the higher levels of DP membership still only get the cardholder in free, ie all guests have to be paid for. Which is where the Barclays Current a/c TPP add-on can score an advantage, see above.

      • Patrick says:

        I have (free) access through Regus – although you have to buy lounge passes at around £15 I believe.

  3. the real harry1 says:

    DragonPass could appeal on several fronts. You can add it via Travel Plus Pack if you open a free-of-charge Barclays current a/c – so no annual a/c fee. It costs £15.50/ month for a minimum of 6 months – you can open and close it at will online, ie keep it going for 6 months, use the 6 lounge passes, close it for 6 months then rinse & repeat next year. Effectively you’re buying 6 passes for £15.50 each plus all the extras. All 6 passes can be used at once if you wish, ie Mum, Dad + kids can all get in together. The extras: RAC comprehensive breakdown cover including European cover. The worldwide multi-trip travel insurance covers the whole family including kids – and goes up to age 80 (many policies stop at 70).

    I think it’s pretty good value, you don’t need to do anything with the Barclays current a/c, just deposit (say) £10 to get it going then there’s no other requirement https://www.barclays.co.uk/insurance/travel-insurance/travel-plus-pack/
    I did have a 15 minute interview to open my current a/c, but that was a very simple fact-finding KYC exercise.

    And DragonPass gets you into No1 T3.

    • the real harry1 says:

      You could have a his ‘n hers version going – 6 months you, 6 months better half.

      That way you get 12 DP passes @ £15.50 each plus 12 month RAC breakdown cover & comprehensive travel insurance for all the family.

  4. MattC says:

    £15pm is pretty close to the HSBC, as are the eligibility criteria:

    – pay your main income of at least £5,000 per month into a Select Current Account (excluding transfers from other Santander accounts)
    – or keep £75,000 in any Santander investment(s), savings or current account

  5. We visited the Qantas Lounge in SYD recently which was nice but for the last half hour decided to move to the American Express Lounge as it was right by our departure gate. Big mistake. Very small and dull space and the staff were very unhelpful and rude. Hubby ordered a whisky for the road and was asked if he wanted water or ice. Neither he replied. Was told he had to have something in it – company policy would not allow them to serve a neat whisky! Duh! So they added ice which he immediately removed! Same thing for my Baileys! Never heard of that one !

    • Mark2 says:

      If you ever get to Seattle visit the Centurion Lounge. It is superb, especially the barmen.

      • Seattle is in my 2020 road trip plans! 2019 already booked. Just about to start my travel research for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Hawaii. Will take note of the Centurion Lounge.

  6. Tracey says:

    NatWest Black Rewards accoun o gives you Priority Pass. Unlimited free entry for cardholder(s) and £15 for guests

  7. Marcus Ferbrache says:

    With the HSBC Premier World elite card, guests can be brought in with the cardholder, at £15 per guest.

  8. I obtained Dragonpass via a Groupon offer open to all. The first visit worked out under £15 and additional visits were £15 now £16. I can see no reason not to cover Dragonpass here.

  9. Louie says:

    A little off topic… for the first time in 10+ years (since discovering airmiles) we’re flying economy long haul on Tuesday morning from LHR T4, as our long waitlisted Singapore flights never cleared. Given on last week’s short haul flights we failed to get into a PP lounge either way (full outbound and closed inbound), I’d like to be sure that we can get into either the SkyTeam or Plaza Premium lounge. Arriving at about 07.30 with Priority Pass cards. What do we think the chances are?

    • Should be OK. SkyTeam lounge is huge. Only No 1 ever seem to have problems.

      • Louie says:

        We went to the SkyTeam lounge. It was virtually empty. We were encouraged to go upstairs; I can’t remember the exact wording of the sign but it implied food was only available there. Not sure who planned the bathrooms though; there was a queue for the ladies as there are only three cubicles (both upstairs and down I think). If the lounge was full, I imagine there would be a long wait.

    • xcalx says:

      ” Given on last week’s short haul flights we failed to get into a PP lounge either way (full outbound and closed inbound), ”

      Good point Maybe it’s time to add “Entry not guaranteed” when covering the Plat benefit of PP

  10. James says:

    Where as ten years ago, Priority Pass etc were worth having, these days all the riff raff use these lounges. Therefore much better – and less expensive – to maintain airline status. And avoid the Geordies, Scousers, Mancunians and Scots queuing for their ‘free’ beers at 7am in the morning.

  11. As I have posted previously, the proliferation of lounges now selling access, means that priority pass holders often can’t get in. I’ve been refused access 3 out of my last 4 visits to No 1 Traveller in Birmigham because they are “full”

    • The issue is No 1 selling capacity to airlines. Let’s say Etihad launches at Brum with a 10am slot. They could build a lounge or pay No 1. But they would need probably 50 GUARANTEED slots each day between 7am and 10am, both for business and status passengers. As long as Etihad offers the same money as PP – and a lot of the spaces won’t get taken up – No 1 doesn’t care but walk-in capacity is reduced to virtually nil.

  12. xcalx says:

    ” No 1 doesn’t care”

    Neither does PP they have taken the money for the pass upfront. PP need to introduce a booking system for all lounges with fee refunded if guests turn up.

    • PP doesn’t own the lounges. If they cause trouble lounges will stop accepting it.

      • xcalx says:

        I wouldn’t call it causing trouble. Expecting lounges to accept guests who have paid PP up front for a years access.

        • the real harry1 says:

          yep but what would you rather have? – £15 PP of £35 walk up?

          you presumably need both as a business ie the security of getting the overhead paid – once secured, you go for the higher margin business and decline the lower margin stuff where possible

  13. Lounges and world cup semi… Flying out of T5 Wed night, luckily after the football finishes. BA redemption in J. Also have Amex plat. Any suggestions for watching the game? Will I be better off in a lounge and if so which one? Thanks in advance. Come on England!

    • Lady Lux says:

      Why don’t you take your iPhone and watch it in the loo? I can only presume you are a millennial snowflake who needs their hand holding for every decision they make. Here’s a suggestion for watching the game: you’ll need a TV or teleporting machine to Moscow.

  14. Steve says:

    DragonPass is still a feature of the travel bundle for the Co-op Bank Privilege and Privilege Premier accounts (no longer available to new customers), but there will be Co-op (& Barclays) who have DP.

    Pay £11 per month: it includes worldwide travel insurance (AXA), mobile phone insurance and 4 DP passes (2 each for a joint account). The DP option is the only reason I’ve kept that Co-op account.

  15. slonik says:

    If you have Lounge Key through HSBC Premier is there the option of paying to bring in guests (thinking specifically if travelling as a family, ie with kids)?

  16. Thomas J O'Brien says:

    My friend has 2 lounge passes from his Amex Gold but wont use them, can they be used by other people?

  17. Ruth4325 says:

    I have lounge club with my Amex PR Gold. I didn’t use the two passes last card anniversary year but will use them this October when flying in Y from EDI to ARN. To ask a stupid question…when we go into the lounge at Edinburgh and present the lounge club card, how do they know I have two free passes? Will I also be able to guest my two kids in for £15 each?

    I had a look at the Lounge Club website but it’s useless and doesn’t even show that you have two free passes to use in your account.

    • The lounge doesn’t know either. They swipe your card and charge it for 2 guests. For your first two visits in a card year Lounge Club absorbs the bill when it turns up, for the rest they charge your Gold card £15 per person.

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