Relax with Priority Pass
A long layover can be torture, especially if there is not much to do in the airport. I’ve never qualified for any special airport lounge memberships that are part of any airline loyalty programs, but for the last few years, I’ve been using Priority Pass and haven’t regretted it.
Essentially, Priority Pass is a paid membership program that permits cardholders access to over 1200 airport lounges in many different countries. With entrance into the lounges, you also gain access to the various amenities that the lounges have, such as food/drinks, shower facilities, Wi-Fi connection, business centers, and massages although some of the extra amenities like the use of the shower facilities might require an additional payment that is not included in the Priority Pass membership.
Priority Pass also has an app that can be downloaded on your phone. Not only will it keep track of what lounges you visited during the course of your membership, but it will provide key information on each lounge in the network. Typical information will include what lounges are available in each airport (some airports will grant access to one, others will grant access to multiple), amenities that are available in that particular lounge, hours of operation, location, and special information, such as the guest policy. While there is a typically a fee for bringing in guests, some lounges permit a limited number of guests free of charge, but this differs from lounge to lounge. The Priority Pass app is definitely useful. I have often used this app whenever I am in a new airport, and it has been a godsend since one of the first things I do upon reaching the departure area is head for the lounge.
There are three membership levels for Priority Pass. The Standard membership, which is the first tier, will cost $99 per year. However, this will not get you into the lounges for free. It will essentially give you a reduced entrance fee of $32 to a lounge. In addition, if you bring in guests, it will cost another $32 per person.
The second tier of membership is the Standard Plus. This will cost $299 per year, and it provides a little more benefit. For instance, if you have the Standard Plus membership, you will be able to enter any lounge free for up to 10 visits. Afterwards, each lounge visit will cost $32. In addition, any guests will cost another $32 per person.
The final and top tier of membership is Prestige. The annual fee for membership costs $429 per year. While it is quite expensive for one year, all the entrance fees for all of the lounges that Priority Pass has access to are waived, so a member with Prestige will get in for free. However, the free entrance for the cardholder does not apply to guests. Entrance into the lounge for guests will still cost $32 per person unless lounge rules say otherwise.
Personally, since I travel solo relatively frequently, I have maintained a Prestige membership for the last few years. While the annual fee is not particularly cheap, I do like the fact that I have access to over 1200 lounges for free. Plus, if you assume that each lounge entrance will cost approximately $32, a cardholder only has to visit about 14 lounges to make up the price of the annual fee. This is actually quite easy to do. In many airports, there is often more than one lounge that Priority Pass can give access to. In those cases, if I have a rather long layover, and the airport has two or three lounges that I can access, I will spend time in each one, so each of those counts as a separate lounge visit. If you do that, you can certainly make up the price of the annual fee fairly quickly.
It is important to note though that not all lounges are equal. This is beyond the control of Priority Pass. There are some lounges that have many amenities and are very comfortable and spacious. On the other hand, there are also some other lounges that are often very crowded, too small, or there is a lack of amenities/food options. However, despite this, I have found that spending time in a lounge during a long layover is much more preferable to sitting in the general terminal area since I do find the lounges to be generally more comfortable and quiet. In my experience, most of the lounges I have been into are not often crowded. Even if they are, I have found that they tend to experience waves of crowds followed by relative quiet with few people. It all depends on the flight schedules.
While many of the lounges that one can enter with a Priority Pass membership are typically located in the departure areas of airports, there are a limited number of lounges that are located in arrival areas before one even has to check in. I found this to be the case when I was in Quito, Ecuador. One of the three lounges that works with Priority Pass, the Layover Stay Lounge, is located in a building across from the arrivals hall at Quito International Airport. If you’re like me, and you arrive too early for a flight, you can hang out in there for a couple hours and not be stuck sitting in the main terminal waiting for the check-in desks to open.
Also, while most of the lounges are public areas that are open to anyone with Priority Pass or other membership programs, there are a couple options that are not lounges per se. Instead, they are almost like private rooms where one can do work or rest. An example of this is the Minute Suites that I stayed in while flying domestically in the US in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Unlike other lounges where I could stay longer, this one did have an hour-long limit, or else there would be a fee per additional hour. However, this was not a typical lounge. After checking in, you are led to a small room (similar to a hotel room) that has a small couch, desk, TV, and plugs. The room was completely private, so it was possible to lay on the couch and watch TV. However, there was no bathroom on site. If you have to go, it is necessary to leave and go into the main departure hallway for the public bathroom. To date, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson is the only place where I have seen private rooms being used. The only downside to this was that they had a limited number of rooms. The second time I tried to use the Minute Suites, there was a waiting list, and I would have been able to get in just as my flight was boarding.
Overall, I have now been a member of Priority Pass for about 3 years now, and I have definitely been satisfied with the service it provides. I would say that if you’re a frequent traveler who would like to have a certain element of comfort, I would recommend getting a Priority Pass membership for a year and see how it works. That is what I did. I joined for a year to see how it went, and I felt it was worth it to stay. Personally, depending on how much you travel, I would recommend the Prestige membership tier, which is the highest and most expensive tier, since it quite easy to make up the fee by visiting lounges, but if you’re only an occasional traveler, it might be a good idea to try a lower level membership level at first.
Do you have Priority Pass? What do you think of it?