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Priority Pass lounges are found in airports across the world—in 600 cities across 148 countries to be exact. Not every airport has a Priority Pass lounge, but some have multiple.
The lounges within the Priority Pass network run the gamut from singular, airport-managed lounges to Plaza Premium lounges to Chase Sapphire lounges to some owned and operated by major airlines. Priority Pass membership can be purchased outright, but it’s also included as a complimentary benefit under specific credit cards (more on how to apply to those below). Here’s everything you need to know about Priority Pass from what it is to how to gain membership and how to get your friends and family into a lounge, too (often free of charge).
What is Priority Pass
Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge program. Priority Pass does not actually own and operate airport lounges but rather consolidates them through a single membership program. In total, a Priority Pass membership card gets you into more than 1,400 lounges in more than 600 cities across 148 countries. (The network’s app makes it easy to search for lounges by global airport code and terminals.) With Priority Pass, travelers can enter the lounges in the portfolio on their flight date, regardless of airline or class flown.
What are Priority Pass lounges like?
As one can imagine with so many independent lounges in a single portfolio, not all are created equal. In the most general sense, a Priority Pass lounge means complimentary access to snacks and meals, alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi, power outlets, and comfy seating before most flights. However, some are extra fabulous with full meal presentations and artisan cocktails. Sala VIP Internacional at Quito International Airport in Ecuador, for example, is a beautifully appointed space, with an alfresco rooftop seating area and a lunchtime spread that includes a buffet with sushi and ceviche plus a manned, made-to-order sandwich station. (Read our highly curated list of the 10 Best Priority Pass lounges in the world to quickly find out the best-of-the-best.)
On the flip side, some lounges are just mediocre, and some are downright basic. That said, some of the worst tend to be in airports where the facilities overall are underwhelmingly rudimentary and where getting a cold beer feels like a real luxury, even if it’s to be enjoyed on a cracked and highly worn leather couch under dim light.
How to get Priority Pass
There are multiple ways to get Priority Pass. You can buy membership directly from the company, get it as a complimentary perk by being a primary cardholder of a premium credit card, and also get it by being an additional cardholder on select credit cards.
How to buy a Priority Pass membership
It’s possible to acquire membership directly through the Priority Pass website. The three levels of membership—Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige—all have an annual membership fee. Regardless of membership tier, the cost for a guest is $35 per visit.
How to get a Priority Pass membership for free
Despite Priority Pass’s published prices for membership, most travelers obtain it for free and even avoid guest fees. How? Several credit cards come with a complimentary membership at a special tier called Priority Pass Select. With certain credit cards, the benefits and lounge access of Select tend to be the same as Prestige plus a bonus of two complimentary guests per visit (with the exception of the Chase Sapphire lounge in Boston). The credit cards include:
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card ($395 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($550 annual fee)
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card ($450 annual fee)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card ($650 annual fee—see rates and fees)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee—see rates and fees)
Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee—see rates and fees) comes with a Select membership that is more on par with the paid Standard Plus membership. You get 10 free lounge visits annually and pay $35 thereafter.
While Select membership may be complimentary in all cases above, enrollment is not automatic. You’ll need to activate your membership online through your credit card login or call the 800 number on the back of your credit card. Once enrolled, you can set up your membership in the Priority Pass app and download your digital card to your digital wallet. A physical Priority Pass Select card will also arrive in the mail. Note that keeping the actual card in your wallet or passport holder is a smart idea, especially if traveling to countries where Wi-Fi connectivity can be an issue.
Extending membership to authorized users
Priority Pass Select membership is given in the name of the cardholder and provides that cardholder with access to all lounges within the network. However, most credit cards also grant membership to authorized users/additional cardholders.
Authorized users of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Hilton Honors Aspire Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, and the Platinum Card from American Express are each entitled to their own Priority Pass Select Membership with the same access and two-guest policy (with the exception of the Chase lounge in Boston).
What about overcrowding?
Given the sheer number of credit cardholders who use their Priority Pass benefits, the lounges tend to be crowded—sometimes overcrowded—since travelers can enter lounges in the portfolio on their flight date, regardless of airline or class flown.
The lounges have the right to refuse entry if at capacity and even sometimes prioritize travelers accessing the lounge on a business-class ticket with a partner airline. Our advice: Arrive early if you want to secure entry and enjoy the freebies and read up on other tips for avoiding the crowds at Priority Pass airport lounges.
What’s the deal with Chase lounges?
Chase is busy expanding its own branded lounges and has so far debuted two, both part of the Priority Pass network. Yet as far as the Chase lounge in Boston goes, Priority Pass holders through the Chase Sapphire Reserve have full access to the lounge (and can bring guests); other Priority Pass members can enter only once per calendar year, free of charge (subsequent visits come at a rate of $75 per visit, as do guests). Meanwhile, the Chase lounge in Hong Kong follows regular Priority Pass rules for Select membership: unlimited entry plus two guests free. Both Chase lounges rank among our Top 10 Priority Pass lounges in the world.
Can I get into Plaza Premium lounges with Priority Pass?
Admittedly, it’s easy to get confused between Priority Pass and Plaza Premium, so we’re here to clear things up. Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge program while Plaza Premium Group (PPG) is the world’s largest operator of airport lounges. PPG owns and operates its own branded lounges and also runs many more under other names, including Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in the United States, the Capital One Lounge in Dallas, and several Avianca Lounges in Colombia. PPG’s branded lounges are part of the Priority Pass network though some of the lounges they operate on behalf of airlines are not.
Nonlounge airport alternatives
In addition to its lounges, Priority Pass has numerous airport restaurants, cafés, and bars in its network. There are almost 30 of these so-called lounge alternatives where Priority Pass members receive a food and beverage credit of $28 to $32 per guest. Unfortunately, those with a Select Membership are not privy to the credit except in one case: Chase Sapphire Reserve. At press time, the Reserve is still honoring this Priority Pass credit for the cardholder plus one guest when using their Priority Pass card. Those who try to use a Priority Pass card affiliated with any other credit card will not receive the credit at nonlounge airport places.
The Priority Pass lounge network allows many travelers to relax and indulge a little preflight at airports across the globe. With the right credit card, you can take full advantage of over 1,300 airport lounges for free. Even your friends and family can join at no cost.
This article was originally published in March 2023; it was updated on September 13, 2023, with current information. While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.