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How does the Priority Pass airport lounge card work?

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What is Priority Pass? Is Priority Pass worth the money? How can you get one for free?

We mention the Priority Pass airport lounge card quite a bit on Head for Points, but we very rarely go into the nuts and bolts for new readers about how it works.

Today I want to review Priority Pass in detail by showing you:

  • the different types of Priority Pass available
  • which UK airport lounges are part of the scheme

You can find out more, and buy a Priority Pass, on its website here.

Is Priority Pass worth the money?

What is Priority Pass?

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

A full list of UK airport lounges which accept Priority Pass is at the bottom of this article. There are only a handful of independent (non-airline run) UK airport lounges which do not take part.

Priority Pass lounges are generally independently owned, not airline owned.  In the UK they tend to be run by brands such as No1 Lounges, Plaza Premium and Aspire or directly by the airport.

There are many places where a Priority Pass gets you access to an ‘official’ airline run lounge. In the US, for example, Virgin Atlantic lets cardholders use its lounges during the day as Virgin Atlantic flights tend to be in the evenings.

Priority Pass is owned by a UK-based group called Collinson.  Collinson also owns a number of insurance businesses and a major loyalty consultancy, and runs the online shopping portals for many hospitality groups including BA and Virgin Atlantic.

Priority Pass offers restaurant and ‘airport experiences’ too

Priority Pass also has deals with selected airport restaurants and other service providers.

Some airport restaurants will offer a £15 credit against a meal if you show a Priority Pass. There are also deals for free treatments with some airport spas or free visits to airport gaming centres.

These offers are NOT available to you if your Priority Pass comes free with an American Express card. Cards provided by other banks such as HSBC do provide restaurant credits.

If you bought your Priority Pass for cash, the £15 restaurant credits are a terrible deal. You are likely to have paid more than £15 per card use based on the number of visits included.

The Vienna Lounge at Vienna Airport

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 wi-fi, free drinks (usually including alcohol, premium drinks may be chargeable) and free snacks.  In the better lounges you will find a full buffet with hot and cold food and showers.

Above is a picture of the buffet at the Vienna Lounge at Vienna Airport which recently won the Priority Pass ‘Lounge of the Year’ award (click to enlarge). The photo below is also from the Vienna Lounge.

Are you guaranteed entry to a lounge?

In theory, you can just turn up at a participating airport lounge, have your Priority Pass card or app scanned, and you will be allowed in.

You can visit multiple lounges on the same day if you wish if you are in an airport which has multiple options.

Some lounges in major UK airports become full at peak times and will not accept ‘walk up’ Priority Pass guests. However, you can now pay a £6 per person fee to reserve a slot in most UK Priority Pass lounges. This will guarantee you entry when you arrive.

You can book a reservation via the Priority Pass app or, for No1 Lounge / My Lounge / Clubrooms / Club Aspire, via this website.

Review: the Vienna Lounge at Vienna Airport

What are the different types of Priority Pass membership?

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

Here are the tiers:

  • Standard membership (£69) – no free visits included, you and your guests pay £24 each time
  • Standard Plus membership (£229) – 10 free visits then £24 for every additional visit or for every guest visit
  • Prestige membership (£419) – all your visits are free, your guests pay £24 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.

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 £22.90 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 £22.90 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 seven or more lounge visits per year you would be better off with Standard Plus.  If you are doing fewer than seven lounge visits, the ‘cost per visit’ of the Standard plan would be so high – given the £69 flat fee and the £24 payment per visit – that I doubt you would be getting value for money.

How does Priority Pass work?

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.

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

This is the interesting bit.

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 Platinum card to.

Each Priority Pass card admits 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, selected Lufthansa lounges when flying Lufthansa and, more usefully for UK residents, you can access Eurostar lounges for free. American Express also has its own ‘Centurion’ airport lounges in selected airports, although Heathrow Terminal 3 is the only UK site.

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.

airport lounge access with Amex Gold

Get four free airport lounge visits with ‘free for a year’ Amex Gold

If you are a light traveller, you might find American Express Preferred Rewards Gold a better deal.

For a start, this card is FREE for your first year but comes with four free Priority Pass airport lounge visits. You can either use these all for yourself across four visits or for you plus three guests for one visit (or, of course, you plus one guest over two visits).

You can four additional free lounge visits each year if you keep the card, albeit there is a £195 annual fee from Year 2. Lounge visits above your four free ones are charged at £24 which is usually a big saving on booking directly with the lounge.

Other options which come with a Priority Pass or its competitor DragonPass include:

  • HSBC Premier credit cards (free entry for World Elite, £24 for the free card)
  • Lloyds Bank World Elite Mastercard
  • NatWest Black current accounts

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.

Of course, you can’t beat the four free airport lounge visits which come with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, especially as your first year is free.

You can find out more about Priority Pass, and buy one, on their website here.

Appendix – Which UK airport lounges are in Priority Pass?

Here is the full list of UK airport lounges which accept Priority Pass, along with links to our reviews.  There are another 1,300 lounges outside the UK too.

We have NOT listed restaurants at UK airports which give a £15 meal credit to anyone who does not get their Priority Pass from American Express. However, you can find the list in this article.

Comments (91)

  • Dan says:

    The Luton no 1 lounge is annoying as it closes at 8pm so if you’re flying at 10pm as I often do you get a very limited time there then you ejected out to the masses. It’s not a PP issue, but frustrating all the same

  • Ghost11 says:

    What are best options for 3 friends flflying from Edinburgh? I have Platinum AMEX and priority pass.

  • LukeLukeLukeLuke says:

    Got turned away from the airport’s lounge due to it being fully booked recently (even though there were empty seats beyond their reserved arrival time). This seems to be increasingly common, and with PP charging people to reserve space, it looks like a money spinner rather than something PP/lounges actually intend to fix by opening up more capacity for paying customers.

    It was another instance that really is making me think long and hard whether the Amex Platinum is honestly worth it or not. I travel a lot, but the PP lounge situation is poor in non-major airports (and LHR T5), the hotel status is of questionable value vs the Hotels.com pricing and rewards system (which is unfortunately due to change), and the dining credit choice outside of London is dire.

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