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How does the Priority Pass airport lounge card work – and how can you get a free one?

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With travel picking up, we know that many of you will be heading back to an airport lounge soon.  We are also aware that some of our airport lounge reviews (we have a substantial collection of UK airport lounge reviews) were getting a bit dated ….

To solve the problem, we have partnered with Priority Pass to bring you reviews of five airport lounges across the UK.  We have deliberately ignored Heathrow and Gatwick to focus on airports which we usually wouldn’t visit.  If you wondered why Rhys has been writing a few UK airport hotel reviews recently, this is why! All of these lounges can be accessed with Priority Pass.

The reviews kick off tomorrow with our first look at the fully refurbished Aspire lounge at Luton Airport.

Is Priority Pass worth the money?

As an introduction to the series, I want to review Priority Pass in detail by showing you:

  • the different types of Priority Pass available
  • which UK credit and charge cards offer you one for free
  • which UK airport lounges are part of the scheme

You can find out more, and buy a Priority Pass, on its website here. This link contains a special discount of up to 40% for HfP readers.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a card membership scheme which gives you access to 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. 

In the UK, this includes the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5, the British Airways terminal.

A full list of UK airport lounges which accept Priority Pass is at the bottom of this article.

Priority Pass lounges are generally independently owned although the company that owns it – Collinson – is also involved in lounge ownership.  Collinson has a 50% stake in a company called Airport Dimensions which owns the Club Aspire (but not Aspire) and No1 Lounges brands.

There are actually a few places where a Priority Pass gets you access to an ‘official’ airline run lounge.  The British Airways lounge in Amsterdam Schiphol is part of Priority Pass, for example.  In other airports, such as Jersey and Newcastle, the lounge used by British Airways is also accessible with a Priority Pass.

What do the airport lounges offer?

Facilities vary by lounge, as does the quality and scale of those facilities.

As a minimum, you should expect comfortable seating, free newspapers and magazines, free drinks (usually including alcohol), free snacks and free wi-fi.  In the better lounges you will find a full buffet with hot and cold food, IT facilities and showers.  That said, facilities in some lounges are currently restricted due to covid, as are lounge opening hours.

What are the different types of Priority Pass membership?

Priority Pass has three different levels of membership as you can see on its website here.

Here are the tiers:

Standard membership (£69 – reduced to £41 with our HfP special rate) – no free visits included, you and your guests pay £20 each time

Standard Plus membership (£189 – reduced to £141 with our HfP special rate) – 10 free visits then £20 for every additional visit or for every guest visit

Prestige membership (£339) – all your visits are free, your guests pay £20 each time

When there is an additional charge indicated, you do NOT pay this to the lounge on the day you fly.

What happens is that, when you enter a lounge, your Priority Pass card is swiped and the number of guests marked down.  If payment is required, your stored credit card is charged by Priority Pass at a later time.  No money changes hands in the airport.

Is Priority Pass worth the money?

Which Priority Pass membership tier is best?

There is no ‘right’ answer here.  It depends on how often you fly and whether you are using airports which have lounges which accept Priority Pass.  You can search the Priority Pass website by airport to find participating lounges.

The Standard Plus membership is the most attractive option for most people.   As long as you hit 10 visits within your membership year, you will only be paying £18.90 each time.  My personal value benchmark is how much a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine would cost in a terminal restaurant versus the lounge access cost – so £18.90 seems OK to me.

It is possible that the Prestige card could be a better deal, but you need to do the maths.  You would need to do 18 lounge visits per year before the Prestige card became better value than Standard Plus.

Standard membership is not huge attractive.  If you made six or more lounge visits per year you would be better off with Standard Plus.  If you are doing fewer than six lounge visits, the ‘cost per visit’ of the Standard plan would be so high that I doubt you would be getting value for money.

Is Priority Pass worth the money?

Does Priority Pass have an app?

Yes, and it is a good one, allowing you to easily find participating lounges.

Priority Pass has a digital membership card inside the app, which saves you from carrying your plastic card with you.  The digital membership card is accepted at virtually all – but, annoyingly, not 100% – of the lounges in the Priority Pass network.

Can I get a Priority Pass via a UK credit or charge card?

You can also get most of the benefits of Priority Pass via selected UK credit and charge cards.

You should note that Priority Pass cards issued by American Express do not come with restaurant credits. This means that you cannot use them at The Big Smoke Taphouse in Heathrow Terminal 2, which offers a £15 credit to other Priority Pass cardholders. There is one global exception to the ‘no restaurant credits’ rule – The Grain Store in Gatwick South – although the terminal is currently closed.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with TWO free Priority Pass cards.  One is in your name, and one is in the name of whoever you give your supplementary American Express Platinum card to.

Priority Pass cards issued by Amex Platinum admit TWO people to a lounge for free.  This means that, if you travel with your partner and your partner is your nominated supplementary Platinum cardholder, you can get four people into a lounge between you.

I will repeat this point because it is a little odd:

  • you CANNOT buy a Priority Pass direct from the company which lets you bring in a guest for free, but
  • you CAN get a free Priority Pass via American Express Platinum which does give you one free guest on every visit

American Express Platinum also comes with other lounge benefits.  You can access Delta airport lounges when flying Delta, you can access Plaza Premium airport lounges and, more usefully for UK residents, you can access Eurostar lounges for free.

The Platinum Card is not cheap but comes with a LOT of travel benefits.  There is also a fat sign-up bonus for new cardholders.

You can find out more in our American Express Platinum review here.  You can apply for The Platinum Card here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

You can try out the benefits of Priority Pass for free with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, which is itself free for the first year.

Amex Gold comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free lounge visits.  You can either use these for yourself plus a guest, or for yourself on two separate visits.  This is worth at least £40.

If you make additional lounge visits during the year, or bring in additional guests, your Amex Gold card is charged £20 per person.  When your Amex Gold card renews after 12 months, you get two more free lounge visits credited to your Priority Pass.

We call Amex ‘the best card for a miles and points beginner’.  As well as being free for the first year (£140 thereafter, but you cancel at any time), and coming with two free lounge visits and £120 of Deliveroo credit (24 x £5 vouchers), you also receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for signing up.  These convert to 20,000 Avios or many other airline and hotel schemes.

You can learn more in our full review of American Express Preferred Rewards Gold here, and you can apply here.

HSBC Premier World Elite

Whilst it doesn’t offer a Priority Pass card, we should also mention HSBC Premier World Elite.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  LoungeKey is a sister product to Priority Pass but has a slightly smaller number of participating lounges.

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.

Conclusion

If you are fed up of sitting in airport terminals but do not have airline status or do not fly Business Class, Priority Pass is the easiest way to access airport lounges across the world.

You need to think carefully about which of the three membership tiers is best for you.  If you always travel with your partner, you may find The Platinum Card from American Express to be a cheaper option.

You can find out more about Priority Pass, and buy one, on their website here. Remember that you can currently get special discounts of up to 40% as a HfP reader.

Northern Lights lounge Aberdeen

Appendix – Which UK airport lounges are in Priority Pass?

Here is the list of UK airport lounges which accept Priority Pass.  There are another 1,300 lounges outside the UK too!

  • Aberdeen International – Northern Lights Executive Lounge, pictured above
  • Belfast City – Aspire lounge
  • Birmingham – Aspire lounge, Aspire Lounge South (currently closed), No1 Lounge (reopens 16th December), Clubrooms Birmingham (currently closed)
  • Bristol International – Aspire lounge
  • Derry – Amelia Earhart lounge
  • Doncaster/Sheffield Robin Hood – Premium Lounge
  • Teesside International – Middleton Lounge
  • East Midlands – The Escape Lounge
  • Edinburgh International – Aspire lounge x 2
  • Exeter – The Executive Lounge (currently closed)
  • Glasgow International – UpperDeck
  • Humberside International – Aspire lounge (currently closed)
  • Inverness – Aspire lounge
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – Rendezvous Executive Lounge (currently closed)
  • Jersey – The Executive Lounge
  • Leeds Bradford International – The Yorkshire Lounge
  • Liverpool John Lennon – Aspire lounge 
  • London Gatwick (North) – The Gateway, No1 Lounge, Clubrooms (currently closed)
  • London Gatwick (South) – Grain Store Cafe and Lounge (£15 discount per person on final bill), No1 Lounge, Club Aspire, Clubrooms – entire terminal currently closed
  • London Heathrow (Terminal 2) – Big Smoke Taphouse & Kitchen (£15 discount per person on final bill)
  • London Heathrow (Terminal 3) – Club Aspire Lounge (currently closed), No1 Lounge
  • London Heathrow (Terminal 5) – Club Aspire Lounge 
  • London Luton – Aspire lounge
  • London Southend – Skylife lounge (currently closed)
  • London Stansted – The Escape Lounge
  • Manchester International (Terminal 1) – Aspire lounge, The Escape Lounge
  • Manchester International (Terminal 2) – The Escape Lounge, Aspire lounge (opens 13th December)
  • Manchester International (Terminal 3) – The Escape Lounge (currently closed)
  • Newcastle International – Aspire lounge
  • Newquay – Executive Lounge
  • Norwich International – Executive Lounge (currently closed)
  • Southampton International – Spitfire Lounge

Thank you to Priority Pass for partnering with us on this project. Look out for our first lounge review tomorrow.

Comments (77)

  • AJA says:

    I have never been able to justify buying a PP. I am lucky that all of my flying is in Club which comes with lounge access and even negates much of the point of having a Silver card (although that is how I maintain Silver status, outside of the extensions granted). The only time I can see the point of this is when not travelling on BA or when BA doesn’t offer lounge access for Club passengers but then I’d rather just pay an individual entry fee which appears from other comments to guarantee entry anyway.

  • His Holyness says:

    As I posted yesterday, I assume the contentious issue is that Collinson have kept all the lovely membership fees during the pandemic and paid out nothing to (closed) lounges. Costs for lounges have gone up- I’d imagine many are losing money, with the extra labour needed and a rework of the food and drink model to Covid.

    I bet Collinson haven’t increased their payments to lounges, despite their increased costs and the lounges have turned around and said FO.

    Priority Pass is waste of time, therefore a meaningless benefit added onto the £550 Platinum card.

    • Lady London says:

      The lounges already said the FO to Priority Pass for at least a couple of years before Covid.

      The reaction of lounges to Priority Pass was the same as when a guy that was keen on my friend asked her out and she said “No, I’m washing my hair that week”

  • Hulk says:

    Senior management of Collinson read the comments here….I wonder if they care to comment?

  • Aston100 says:

    Before Covid, I always got turned away at all lounges I tried other than when prebooking for a fee at LGW.
    So I was very surprised to get into the escape lounge at STN last month, though I did have to queue for twenty minutes

    Priority Pass isn’t fit for purpose in my opinion

  • Kannan says:

    I got turned away at Doha airport Priority Pass lounge. Then hours later a different assistant let me in. The Priority Pass issued by banks does not work well. The first assistant was very nasty.

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