Priority Pass value for casual travelers

For a frequent traveler, a Priority Pass membership can be a life saver. Spending long layovers and delays behind the walls of a private lounge with food and drink can certainly be a nicer perk. But, for the casual traveler, what exactly is a Priority Pass membership worth?

Priority Pass membership is a common perk among premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum Card. While the details vary, the card offers access for you and a guest to more than 1,200 lounges around the World. Priority Pass has even started added restaurants giving members a credit to use at those establishments.

The Good

The Club at ATL is one of the many lounges accessible to Priority Pass members. Image courtesy of prioritypass.com.

While some lounges are better than others, it’s rare to find a bad lounge. At worst, you’ll have a place to sit with a power outlet. You will also avoid paying $6 for a bottle of water on the concourse! You will usually have access to free Wi-FI and television, as well.

Many lounges will have food, typically light snacks, but sometimes you’ll luck out and get real food. Most will have alcohol, some will have a bar with bartenders, others with self-serve drinks. 

Nothing beats a long layover or delay than having a lounge to go to in order to kill some time. Priority Pass has also been adding more and more lounges stateside, so just because there isn’t one there now, there could be on in your city soon.

The Bad

While the idea of free lounge access is great, there is a negative that comes along with a Priority Pass membership.

First, while there are more than a thousand lounges around the World, there’s no guarantee that there will be one in the airport your home airport. The majority of Priority Pass lounges are outside the United States, in fact less than 50 airports in the US have lounges. And even if there is one in your home airport, there’s a good chance it could be in another terminal. 

Before you get too excited, check out the Priority Pass website to see if a lounge exists at an airport that you would use. It’s sometimes possible to go to a different terminal to visit a lounge, but if you have to trek miles across the airport, is it really worth it?

Secondly, when Chase launched the Sapphire Reserve a few years ago, the number of Priority Pass members in the United States skyrocketed, and lounges regularly are “at capacity” for priority pass holders.

Why is this? Lounges that belong to select airlines or have contracts with specific airlines want to make sure there is room for premium cabin travelers first, not just the group of people who take advantage of credit card perks.

The Value

I am by no means a frequent traveler, but I do collect points and miles religiously and take advantage of credit card perks. While I usually travel 8-10 times per year, I have found value with Priority Pass. Based in Seattle, I used to have a ton of options at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport including multiple Alaska Airlines Boardrooms and the Club at Sea. However, due to the overcrowding, Alaska Airlines and Priority Pass ended their agreement for the Seattle boardroom locations.

I loved having a place to grab a beer and light snack before getting on a cross-country flight home to Atlanta or a latte and a bagel before boarding an early morning flight. On a recent vacation to Puerto Vallarta, having a quiet, air-conditioned place in a smaller airport in Mexico to get some work done before coming home was amazing. But, I’ve also been stuck in San Francisco on a layover with the only Priority Pass lounge in a different terminal that I could not access.

I get my Priority Pass membership through the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If you’ve read our review, you’ll see that steep annual fee of $450 is really just $150 once you take the $300 travel credit into consideration. This means that lounge access along with the other perks only cost me $150 – I still deem it a valuable perk. But, with that said, don’t make Priority Pass the reason  the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. 

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