Breaking down Priority Pass

I recently talked about why I am such a believer in the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Between the triple points on points or dining, $300 travel voucher, or incredible travel insurance, the Card allows me to travel like a pro no matter how often I’m travelling. One of those amazing perks that they offer is a Priority Pass Select Membership for as long as you have the card.

First things first, if you have a participating Priority Pass card, read my upcoming post about how to secure Priority Pass.

Along with the Sapphire Reserve, there are other cards that can get you a Priority Pass lounge, like the Platinum Card from American Express or the Citi Prestige card. Each card differs slightly in their membership guidelines, so be sure to read into that. While credit cards are the most popular way to get into the Priority Pass, you are also able to purchase memberships directly on the Priority Pass website.

The basics of Priority Pass

Priority Pass is an independent network of lounges that allows members access to various airline lounges and restaurants at airports across the globe. While their network is more developed internationally, there seems to be a large push towards developing a network stateside. I won’t go through every lounge in the US, but there are 31 different airports with a Priority Pass option — some offering access to some of the more exclusive clubs. For the full list of Priority Pass “lounges,” visit their site directly here.

While I tend to fly through and to many of the same airports, so I know whether or not there is a lounge available, I always check the Priority Pass website whenever flying to or from a new airport. While I may not have time to go relax in a lounge, there may be options to grab a quick bite to eat at one of the many restaurants that are joining the Priority Pass network.

I’ve only been able to visit two Priority Pass lounges — but I’m hoping to test out many more this year! As someone who frequents the Atlanta airport, I utilize The Club at ATL quite a bit. The lounge is located in Atlanta’s F terminal, the airport’s larger international terminal located at the far end of the airport. If you are flying domestically through the airport you are most likely staying between gates A-D (and T). So while this lounge sounds like it may be hard to get to, I find it incredibly convenient — just hop on Atlanta’s famous terminal train and you’re there no problem. It’s also a cool place to go if you’re into big planes.

The Club at ATL is pretty flexible with guests (really no limit), as is the policy for anyone with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but some lounges have their own policy so make sure that you check the individual clubs policies before visiting.

The other lounge I had the pleasure of visiting was the Korean Air lounge at LAX. It was nothing over the top, but as someone who had never visited LAX before, I was just as impressed walking through Tom Bradley terminal itself.

View from the patio outside the Korean Air lounge within Tom Bradley terminal at LAX.
Sitting in the Korean Air lounge overlooking Tom Bradley International terminal.

I don’t want to make this a full on review, but I had never experience the “open bar” concept that I understand most lounges follow.


The rules

Priority Pass lounges are independent lounges, so while they are all within the Priority Pass network, each lounge is governed by their own rules. Unfortunately, with the emergence of Priority Pass, also comes overcrowded lounges. If you can I’d recommend getting to the airport as early as possible — as later in the evening tend to be the most busy times.

While I don’t think Priority Pass lounges are the fanciest in the world, or the most exclusive, I do think it is an awesome perk to have added on to an already super-lucrative card. Besides the obvious lounge access, here a few important things to know in regards to the Priority Pass.

  • There is a Priority Pass app, but depending on the credit card that got you access, you may not be able to use it to get in. For a while, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders had to present a physical card along with their boarding pass for that day, but just recently that policy changed. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders are now able to utilize the app to enter any Priority Pass lounge.
  • One of the coolest things that I think Priority pass has begun to do is partner with airport restaurants. So when you present your waiter/waitress with the Priority Pass card you receive a credit (usually $25-30) to purchase food and drinks. Most of these restaurants allow 2 meals for each card, as long as you have someone else with you. This is a growing concept, but I personally love the idea. A majority of the lounges only offer small entrees and snacks, so having a full meal can be very enticing.

    Timberline Steaks & Grille in Denver International airport, a Priority Pass member
    Timberline Steaks & Grille offers Priority Pass members a $28 voucher with up to 1 guest, which would increase to $56.
  • I’ve mentioned it a few times, but each lounge has their own set of guidelines for Priority Pass holders. For instance, I have heard about many of the clubs in Seattle being restrictive to Priority Pass members, as some of the clubs their quickly become overcrowded. Some clubs even have written rules into their policies that Priority Pass members can only visit the lounge during certain times.
  • As a follow-up to that, guest policies differ card to card, and lounge to lounge. This is something that you should not only check with for your card-specific membership, but also check with the lounge itself. The rules for Priority Pass holders will be in plain writing on their website. I personally have never run into a lounge where they’ve tried to restrict me, but I also haven’t pushed the bounds too much.

I am not sure whether to think this is a downside, but at certain airports there has become a serious overcrowding issue. With more and more credit cards offering Priority Pass access, I am hoping this can only mean that more lounges will join the network. Priority Pass has given me my first opportunity to experience lounges and I am hooked.

I am even considering other card options like the Platinum Card from American Express to get me into a SkyClub, or Centurion Lounge. 

Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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