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Priority Pass and Lounge Club drop No1 Lounges

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No1 Lounges, the UK’s leading independent airport lounge group, began its phased reopening yesterday. The flagship site in London Gatwick’s North Terminal was welcoming guests for the first time in months.

Anyone who tried to enter with a Priority Pass, Lounge Club or LoungeKey card was in for a surprise – they weren’t getting in.

No1 Lounges not taking Priority Pass

No1 is in dispute with Collinson, which runs all three products, in a row over money and pre-booking.

How much does Priority Pass pay a lounge?

I have never met an airport lounge operator which was happy with the amount of money it received from Priority Pass.

I was once told that it is around £12 – £15 per visit, although that feels a little high. Rate increases are rare, allegedly. Lounges apparently saw virtually no increase in their payments when Collinson hiked the guest fee charged to users from £15 to £20 a couple of years ago.

To be crystal clear, I am not criticising Collinson here. It is their job to negotiate as good a deal as it can get. If it was to pay substantially more to lounges, it is unlikely that American Express, HSBC, Santander etc could afford to give out lounge passes as they do now.

Lounges are free to take Collinson’s money or not. However, for lounges which do not have contracts with airlines to take their premium passengers or do not have a good sales operation, lounge club cards can account for 80% of visitors.

Pre-booking is part of the issue

For a number of years, No1 has allowed Priority Pass and other lounge card holders to reserve a slot in advance via this page of their website.

For a fee of £6, you are guaranteed access when you turn up. As well as increasing No1’s revenue from your visit, it also reduces queueing at the entrance.

No1 wanted to move to a ‘100% pre-booking’ model for its lounges. This would virtually eliminate queues, beneficial in a world of coronavirus, whilst also raising additional revenue for No1 via the £6 fee. Collinson was not prepared to accept this.

No1 Lounges not accepting Priority Pass

How does an airport lounge make money?

In terms of revenue, I would expect it looks like this:

Most profitable guests – lounge passes sold directly to passengers

Followed by – lounge passes sold by partners such as tour operators to clients

Followed by – airlines which take space for their premium passengers where they do not have their own lounge

Followed at the end by – Priority Pass and similar lounge club cards

It isn’t quite that simple though. Airport lounges have a high fixed cost for rent and staffing and (but we’ll come back to this) a relatively low marginal cost.

If the fixed costs are covered by direct sales and airline contracts, the money from Collinson should still be profitable if it covers marginal costs, ie the food and drink consumed. This assumes that Collinson guests are not displacing someone who would have paid more.

How has coronavirus changed the market?

This next part is pure speculation from me. No1 Lounges generally ran at very high capacity and getting in with a Priority Pass was a bit of a gamble at the best of times.

Covid restrictions are likely to have led to a cut in capacity. More importantly, it has led to the closure of buffets and the launch of table service. This is likely to have pushed up costs.

I am guessing that No1 believes that it can hit its revised capacity levels purely from direct lounge pass sales, partner sales (including via links on sites like HfP) and airline contracts.

It is still willing to accept some lounge card holders, but wants to move to 100% pre-booking. This will let it manage capacity, reduce queues and raise additional revenue via the reservation fee. Collinson does not appear willing to work with No1 to achieve this.

No1 Lounge not accepting Priority Pass

What does No1 Lounges have to say?

I spoke to John Upton, CEO of No1 Lounges, yesterday. He told me:

“We operate some of the best lounges in the world, and especially at Gatwick, so we are naturally disappointed for all of their [Collinson] customers to be honest.   It’s sad, after 10+ years, that we’re no longer part of their programme.   With COVID-19 the whole world’s changed and we are making great progress with a large number of our partners to agree smart and sustainable solutions that meet the needs of both our customers and our respective businesses.  My team remains in dialogue with Priority Pass [which includes Lounge Club and LoungeKey] so let’s see what happens next.   Other leading card programmes, e.g. DragonPass, remain very much welcome.”

I also asked Priority Pass for a statement. They said:

“As the world’s largest airport lounge network, Priority Pass has hundreds of partnerships around the world, which ensure we can offer members over 1300 lounges and airport experiences globally. We work with all our partners to build mutually beneficial relationships and support one another during the travel recovery. For example, earlier this year we rolled out the world’s first global Airport Lounge Standards guide, created by our medical experts, to help our partners reopen with the highest possible safety standards. We’ve also rolled out contactless lounge entry and are supporting our lounge partners with a solution that will enable them to introduce a digital food and beverage ordering solution.

While we constantly work with our partners to find solutions, we also prioritise our members’ experiences. During a time of such uncertainty – particularly around travel – we want to ensure our members have the confidence to travel, and to know that should something change – a trip cancelled or delayed – they have flexibility in how they use Priority Pass. Therefore, while we appreciate there are some advantages of being able to pre-book, a pre-book policy which is mandatory and at additional cost to the member is not in keeping with the Priority Pass global customer experience. We are disappointed that we have not been able to find a resolution with No.1 Lounges at this time, but are open to further discussions to find a workable solution.

Finally, we are confident this will have minimal impact for our members, as we offer alternative lounge options in all airport terminals where a No.1 Lounge is located.”

Will Priority Pass break ties with other UK lounges?

It seems unlikely, if only because No1 was the only lounge group encouraging pre-booking.

There is no risk of Club Aspire lounges losing access to Priority Pass and Lounge Club as Collinson is a shareholder in that business. Standard ‘Aspire’ branded lounges are not part-owned by Collinson but it would still be very odd if they pulled out.

I have seen no indication from Plaza Premium that they are reconsidering their links to Collinson. That said, Collinson is not working with Plaza Premium at their excellent lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5, preferring to funnel cardholders to the Club Aspire lounge instead. Plaza Premium has a direct deal with American Express Platinum to accept cardholders into lounges, which does work in Terminal 5.

What would be interesting would be if American Express or another key Collinson partner in the UK switched to DragonPass so that their customers could regain access to No1 Lounges. When NatWest swapped over to DragonPass last year, it made a selling point of now being able to provide access to the Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 5 lounge. It remains to be seen if the No1 brand is strong enough to drive such change.

The No1 Lounges website is here if you want to book Gatwick North access for cash, now that your Priority Pass or Lounge Club card won’t work …..

Comments (125)

  • Novice says:

    Although I don’t travel on business, I have always believed that there should be better rules in terms of who is allowed into the Lounges. I know a lot of ppl won’t agree but they should actually ask what you plan to do in the lounge and maybe also ask your profession. Solo travellers would be okay too because we just put our beats headphones in and get on with keeping ourselves to ourselves.

    After travelling to 5/7 continents and trying all sorts of lounges, I believe there should be a limit on alcohol as this seems to be the cause of all bad behaviour. That would then stop the loud, obnoxious, tracksuit-wearing (I don’t mean the expensive type) hooligans and mates-on-holidays, bride/groom parties sort from frequenting the lounges.

    Having said that, honestly some of the best lounge experiences I’ve had have been in Asia. Maybe, because all ppl were affluent or business ppl busy working or they don’t have the culture that believes a holiday means drinking yourself to an early grave and nobody was taking selfies in the best lounges because that’s the first clue that someone doesn’t travel much unless it is an influencer I guess.

    • Genghis says:

      Ridiculous! The only way to do it is to price out the riff raff.

      • Genghis says:

        Even then, you still get twats regardless

        • Novice says:

          I understand that there would be disagreement but I think if you pay for Biz/First then you shouldn’t be expected to pay for a lounge too. Unless it is priced in the ticket but then really already you pay a lot with cash (8/10 my flights are cash flights) so then they should tell Economy ppl to pay then status ppl wouldn’t be happy who are flying economy. The only way around it is to not allow groups in or have a dress code or go down the route I was proposing. If they asked professions or had some kind of limit to alcohol then honestly the experience would improve. I’m aware a lot of readers on here are fond of drinking but there’s always a time and place for everything. UK allowance of heavy drinking before boarding flights is really an accident waiting to happen.

          • Novice says:

            Also, yes there would still be twats around but less twats. So more peaceful. When I was younger and had never been in a lounge as a grown-up (when your a kid you don’t notice these things or remember) then I had been excited thinking lounge will mean space, quietness, peace, good food and luxury interior. Imagine my shock when I actually got in the first time I actually remember and saw no space to sit, stains on tables/chairs, rubbish food, no peace. My parents stayed but I left to go to one of the Coffee shops near the lounge which was way better and had good food too.

          • Lady London says:

            So tell me… was that lounge you mentioned the BA Galleries Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5? I think I recognise the description.

          • sayling says:

            Two issues I see with your proposal:
            1) What professions would be classed as acceptable (housewives/stay at home Dad’s in or out?)?
            2) What about retired people?

          • Novice says:

            Retired ppl don’t act crazy in lounges usually. All the old ppl I have ever seen have possibly been the most civilized ppl in the lounge. And, I do see flaws in my proposal. If somebody can come up with a way to keep parties/groups/ alcohol abusers away from the lounges, then the lounge experience can improve. Until then no matter what they try the lounge experience will be awful in UK. Because ppl who go for the booze are willing to pay the price if they think they’ll be able to drink the prices’ worth.

            Maybe it would be better for the airports to actually have one designated area/lounge where ppl can go and get bottomless booze.

          • Anna says:

            You’d like me then, I’m middle-aged, retired (though got a few things in the pipeline which you’d probably approve of), and I can only manage 2 glasses of anything these days. I’m far more likely to nod off than be loud! I make apoint of trying to be an exemplary guest/passenger because the people serving me have stressful, not particularly well-paid jobs. I have also spent three decades in a career dealing with the twats of the world and wouldn’t wish it on anyone!

          • Mikeact says:

            You’ve obviously come across my wife and self…

          • Peter North says:

            I’m a retired accountant who doesn’t drink, and doesn’t wear tracksuits , I do however own several Harris tweed jackets, and read the telegraph which given your criteria, I guess I would be acceptable. I do take the p!ss out of those that make ridiculous statements though.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            I love that you double down.

            You even seem to acknowledge that the problem is alcohol but still manage to centre your concern on people’s professions as a measure of their what, right to use a lounge or yardstick as to the suitability to generally be around much better people like you?

            Just out of interest, did you feel at all embarrassed when clapping?

        • Harry T says:

          The problem is that most of the human race are not tolerable for long periods of time. Plenty of rich people with good jobs are just as irritating.

        • Harry T says:

          Agreed!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Exactly some of the biggest twats I’ve ever come across in a lounge have work a suit, nice watch etc.

          Lots of “tracksuit” comments in here and I’m genuinely yet to see see this Crowd in the lounges I visit. Is it the airports I use or the route I don’t fly?

          • Anna says:

            I rarely notice what anyone is wearing. Someone in a tracksuit could be a nuclear scientist or brain surgeon who likes travelling in comfort. On my fight to NYC in F last year, the guy in front of me (in 1A so I assume he was a BA regular) was wearing very plain jogging bottoms and a plain white T-shirt. I noticed because he got up and did yoga in the aisle for a bit! The guy in 1K took off his suit after take off and spent the flight working on his laptop in his vest and shorts! Neither of them looked like they were particularly enjoying themselves lol.

          • Anna says:

            *Flight. Ha.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            You’ll probably catch me in joggers and a hoody if it’s cold enough and my “profession” would pass whatever test is being proposed.

            But I’ll probably down quite a few drinks especially if proper cocktails are on offer and leave without making a tit of myself (most of the time 😉)

          • Harry T says:

            I judge people by their behaviour, not their attire. An oaf in a suit is still an oaf.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            Honestly, I half wonder whether that’s actually someone pretending to be Novice. From thanking Rob for deleting offensive posts to basically demanding abuse from everyone in 24hrs seems unlikely.

            Or just perhaps it’s just true people can always surprise..

    • Anthony Edwards says:

      This has got to be a wind up!

      “What profession are you?” Would that even be legal?

      • Lady London says:

        I’d probably just say “call girl”.

        • ChrisC says:

          How would they verify that Lady London?

          Ask for your price list and if you did ‘extras’?

          What if you said ‘neuro surgeon’ would the lounge agent have to go through a book and ask questions only a proper neuro surgeon could answer correctly?

    • Chrisaurus says:

      “I don’t meant the expensive type”

      OK Seriously? So it’s cheap clothes you don’t like seeing in lounges then? That’s quite… Wow

  • Lady London says:

    Apollinaris would be nice. Not seen that in lounges even in Germany

  • Novice says:

    It was me the original Novice 😂

    I have nothing against tracksuits or ppl who are low net worth. I wear cheap tracksuits myself on a regular basis. My comment meant the football hooligan types. And I did say the proposal is flawed tbf.

    And I have nothing against any profession and this was never about income/wealth. I think in an ideal world, it’s about making the right choices eg. If you see an elderly couple you know they’ll be good and quiet and if you see two suited guys slapping each other on back and discussing stuff you know they might get loud. So, profession thing is probably flawed. Just need to mk the right judgment calls. But I maintain unlimited amounts of alcohol being served causes problems and attracts the wrong crowd.

    Also I would rather listen to the banker on phone then a hens party because I would learn something from the banker probably which can’t be said about girls just having fun. 😂

  • cinereus says:

    The only time I’d ever pay for a lounge is if it could be guaranteed that there were no children allowed in.