Priority Pass – A review one year in

A year ago I decided to treat ourselves to airport lounge passes. We were doing an increasing amount of air travel and with our big trip looming, it sounded like a good idea. Travel days are typically our most expensive days when we’re travelling. Given that we typically spend almost as much on food and drink in airports as a lounge pass, I thought it would be worth giving it a try. The one year membership has come to an end and here’s my verdict.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a membership scheme giving you access to airport lounges around the world. It’s not tied to any specific airline – just pay your membership fee for one of the various tiers and gain access to a number of airport lounges.

The tier I chose included 10 lounge passes a year, which works out about £18 per visit. If you think you’ll use it more than 15 times per year, then the unlimited use tier makes more sense and each visit gets cheaper the more you use it.

Finding a lounge

Priority Pass comes with an app which lists which lounges are available in which airports and terminals. Cross check the reviews and photos of the lounge using Lounge Buddy and off you go.

What’s it like in a lounge?

Most lounges have more comfortable seats than you would find elsewhere in the airport, a buffet of food, and hot and cold drinks available. The wifi is usually better than the standard airport wifi, and sometimes you have extra facilities like nap pods and showers.

However it varies wildly between airports. Some have alcohol included, some don’t. Some have a really high quality buffet with lots of options, whilst some have quite pitiful offerings. You can usually get a fairly good feel for what the lounge will be like from the lounge buddy reviews.

Is it worth it?

The good…

In some countries where airport snacks and drinks are expensive (Stockholm….) then having a lounge pass can save you quite a bit of money, especially if you plan to drink alcohol and its included in the lounge for free (not true to all lounges, but for most).

It’s also a wonderful thing to have if your flight is delayed, if you have a long layover, or simply need to get some work done. Some lounges have nap pods, nice areas for working, plentiful wifi and power sockets. When you end up stuck in the airport for much longer than you anticipated, having access to wifi, a comfy chair and unlimited wine can make it much less terrible.

The bad…

There were countless times when we arrived at the lounge to be told it’s full or not open to Priority Pass members at the moment. This sucked quite a bit when we had planned to use our time in the lounge to rest or get work done. Out of our attempts to visit lounges, about a quarter failed. It seems that Priority Pass holders are the lowest in the hierarchy – once a lounge gets close to capacity, other lounge memberships will still be allowed in but Priority Pass holders will be turned away.

Whilst I had checked out the list of available airport lounges before buying, I later came to realise that often the terminals I was flying out of didn’t have a lounge I could access. You can only access the lounge in the terminal you’re in, and if you’re in Europe flying on a budget airline which flies from a budget terminal, you probably wont have a lounge available.

Some lounges are not much better than the airport itself. Amsterdam Schipol is a wonderful example – on the way to the lounges you pass a nice chilled out area with reclined leather seats, whilst the lounge itself was busy with less comfortable seating.

The opening times for lounges are often not useful. Whilst you would think that it would be great to be able to make use of the lounge during that 4 hour middle of the night layover, what you’ll find is that most lounges close at 10:30 and open again at 6am.

The verdict…

If you travel regularly through airports (and terminals) with participating lounges outside of peak hours, then it might be a good option. Being able the hide away from the chaos of the departure lounge with a glass of wine or two whilst you do some work can make quite the difference to your travel experience.

However, even though we flew more than 15 times in the year, we still didn’t manage to use all of our 10 lounge passes because of lounges being unavailable, full or closed. Whilst it was a nice luxury at times, it seems that lounge availability is less than I realised and that the service is over subscribed, leading us to not be able to rely on the service being available.

Do you use another airport lounge membership? Do you have any alternatives to Priority Pass?

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