We’re big fans of Priority Pass, the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world, especially since complimentary membership is a core benefit of several elite credit cards. And while we’re often reporting on the network reaching milestones, enhancing benefits, and adding new lounges and lounge alternatives, recent months have not been filled with such upbeat news. From notable lounges and restaurants leaving the network to new fees at select lounges, here’s what you need to know.
Priority Pass is losing lounge alternatives faster than gaining them
In 2017 Priority Pass began expanding its lounge network to include select restaurants and bars worldwide. This made membership more attractive and abated issues of overcrowding in many member lounges. By late spring 2019, there were 27 of these “lounge alternatives” in US airports and 15 others outside the United States. At lounge alternatives, cardholders can use their Priority Pass card to receive $28 to $30 off the bill for each person covered by the Priority Pass membership.
Many in the points blogosphere, including us, questioned the longevity of this program, given the high cost Priority Pass pays to reimburse member establishments. Recently we started to get our answer. On August 1, 2019, cardholders with Priority Pass membership through American Express lost the privilege of using their Priority Pass card within the network’s selection of lounge alternatives. Ouch. Next, restaurants and bars began leaving the lounge alternative program. During summer 2019, Floret by Café Flora in the Seattle airport and Capers Market in the Portland airport bid farewell. In October 2019, Priority Pass member-favorite Timberline Steaks & Grille at the Denver airport shuttered. Then, P.F. Chang’s at Los Angeles International Airport announced its decision to no longer accept the Priority Pass card.
Priority Pass has lost some of its top lounges
Since reaching a milestone 1,250 lounges last year (and spanning a whopping 143 countries), the network has continued to add some 5 to 10 new lounges per month, currently topping 1,300. However, many of the latest entries are small, subpar lounges at airports through China and India, not necessarily the ones you’d want to linger at for hours. After losing the Maple Leaf Lounge at the Newark airport this past summer, Alaska Airlines Lounge at Anchorage International and Alaska Airlines Lounge at Portland International Airport also left the Priority Pass network last month.
On the flip side, we’re excited to report that Priority Pass did add its first lounge in Istanbul, the new, snazzy IGA Lounge, plus a new lounge in Buffalo Niagara International Airport, named The Club (how original!). In addition, Priority Pass welcomed Point The Club Lounge at the Charleston airport (which, unfortunately, does not serve alcohol). And, best of all, the new Turkish Airlines Miami lounge is open to Priority Pass members.
Two new lounges to the network are charging entrance fees
Earlier this fall, Priority Pass added “The House” lounges at the Sydney and Melbourne airports to its network—with a major caveat. Yes, Priority Pass members can access these lounges with their membership cards, but they must pay an additional $20 AUD per person. As of now these seem to be two isolated cases, but just the idea of having to pay extra fees has us a tad worried.
There’s still some good news coming out of Priority Pass
Fall may have been a rough patch for the Priority Pass network, but we’re confident there will be more great news to report soon. The network is trying to replace its lounge alternatives at select airports. The Way Café was added at the Los Angeles airport and Bambuza Restaurant at the Seattle airport. At Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, Priority Pass members can now get one complimentary hour at Sleepbox, a 24-hour micro-hotel within the airport. And as of early fall 2019, Priority Pass members can rate their lounge visits in the Priority Pass app to help improve the Priority Pass experience and help decide 2019’s Lounge of the Year.