Priority Pass announces a major expansion
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An interesting war of words is breaking out among the airport lounge operators.
As we have covered, Priority Pass – the dominant airport lounge club card – has been hit hard in the UK by the loss of No1 Lounges and Plaza Premium. Plaza Premium is removing 57 lounges from the programme on 1st July including five at Heathrow.
Plaza Premium may be planning its own lounge club network. It launched ‘Plaza Premium Lounge Pass’ recently and I get the impression that it is planning to add lounges from other companies in airports where it does not have its own facilities.
Today, Priority Pass has published a statement with its own plans. It is promising to add:
- 150 new airport lounges during 2021
- 100 new ‘premium airport experiences’ and off-airport lounges (eg railway stations)
Can Priority Pass find 150 new lounges to add to the porfolio, especially as recent losses have been blamed on the low fees it pays?
Of the 40+ new lounges added in 2021 to date, only one (Belgrade) is in Europe, with the bulk being in China. It is possible that these 150 new lounges will not be in places where you visit on a regular basis.
The ‘premium airport experiences’ element is easier to arrange via deals with airport restaurant operators. Unfortunately, these options are blocked to anyone who gets their Priority Pass via American Express. The only exception is “The Grain Store” restaurant in London Gatwick South Terminal, where someone with an Amex-issued Priority Pass can still get £15 of free food.
The real area of interest in the UK would be if Priority Pass could do a deal with the various rail lounges. It is odd that no-one has done this before, especially as East Coast used to sell lounge access at Kings Cross for a £5 supplement. Priority Pass would pay more than this.
Let’s see where we end up. In the short term, there is no doubt that Priority Pass is now far less useful if you fly from Edinburgh, Heathrow, Gatwick or Birmingham (ie the No1 Lounges and Plaza Premium strongholds).
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (March 2023)
As a reminder, here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit card:
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.
You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta Air Lines and Eurostar lounges. Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £20. You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.
There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network. Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.
The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer. Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.