Is Priority Pass Worth It?

If you have been following this blog (or similar ones) for a while or if you did some research on how to access airport lounges, you have likely heard of Priority Pass. Aside from flying in first/business class or having a frequent flyer status, it is arguably the best and easiest way to access airport lounges.

Continue reading this article to learn more about the program and its pros and cons, and to figure out whether or not getting a Priority Pass membership is worth it for you.

Is Priority Pass Worth It?

What Is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a program that allows its members to access airport lounges around the world either for free or for a fee. It also offers other perks like dining credit (i.e. a discount) at a number of airport restaurants and cafes.

Members can enter lounges in the Priority Pass network (with some exceptions) regardless of the airline or class they are flying and regardless of whether or not they have an airline frequent flyer status. The lounges – in most cases – offer not only a space to relax before your flight but also complimentary drinks and food, as well as showers.

3 Ways to Get a Priority Pass Membership

One of the key things that will help you determine whether getting a Priority Pass membership is worth it for you or not is, of course, the cost. How much getting a Priority Pass membership will cost you will depend on how you acquire it.

Essentially, there are three ways to do so: buying it directly, getting it as a credit card perk, or buying it using frequent flyer miles. As you will find out below, while the first two methods can be useful depending on the situation you are in, the third one is rarely (read: basically never) worth it.

Priority Pass Membership

#1: Buying a Priority Pass Membership Directly

The easiest – and in some instances the best – way to get a Priority Pass membership is by simply buying it directly through the Priority Pass website. Should you decide to do so, you will be able to choose from three different levels of membership:

  • Standard ($99 per year): Grants access to the network, but offers no free lounge visits. Instead, each visit triggers a $35 fee.
  • Standard Plus ($329 per year): Offers ten free lounge visits. Each additional visit triggers a $35 fee.
  • Prestige ($469 per year): Offers unlimited free lounge visits.

With each of the memberships above, you can also invite guests into the lounges with you at a cost of $35 per guest.

Considering that many of the lounges that are in the Priority Pass network can be accessed in other ways too, the Standard membership is not worth getting at all and the Standard Plus membership is rarely worth getting.

On the other hand, if you tend to depart from airports with decent quality Priority Pass lounges frequently, then buying the unlimited Priority Pass Prestige membership can be a good deal. That is unless it’s a better deal for you to get a membership as a credit card perk.

#2: Getting a Membership as a Credit Card Perk

To attract customers, credit cards tend to offer a variety of perks. One of the perks that some credit cards offer is a free Priority Pass membership. While this perk typically only comes with credit cards with an annual fee, the Priority Pass membership and other perks often outweigh the annual fee.

If you are in the United States, cards like the Capital One Venture X and the American Express Platinum offer Priority Pass membership. More specifically, they offer Priority Pass Select membership which is – in many ways – similar to Prestige membership. That said, on the negative side, it excludes access to some Priority Pass experiences. On the positive side, it often allows for a specific or unlimited number of guests to enter a lounge with you free of charge.

In my case, I have the Rakuten Premium card which is available to those living in Japan. For an annual fee of just 10,800 Japanese yen (less than 80 dollars), it provides me with a Priority Pass Prestige membership among other perks. Yes, the same type of membership that costs over 400 dollars if bought directly. Talk about a good deal!

The one downside of getting a Priority Pass membership through this method is that it might not be available in your country. Still, you should search for “credit card with priority pass” or similar in your language to see what your options are before buying a membership directly.

#3: Redeeming Hotel Points or Airline Miles for a Membership

The last way to acquire a membership is by using your hotel points or airline miles. While not all hotel and airline programs allow this, there have been a few here and there over the last few years. That said, this is more or less never (unless you have so many points that you don’t know what to do with them) a good way to spend your hard-earned points.

Just to give you an example, below are a couple of programs that allow (or allowed in the past) redeeming miles for Priority Pass:

  • Hilton Honors: 161,500 points for a year of Priority Pass Prestige, less for the lower membership levels.
  • JAL Mileage Bank: 40,000 miles for a year of Priority Pass Prestige.
  • Marriott Bonvoy: Points required not published, but considering that $85 TSA Precheck is 25,000 points, highly unlikely to be a good deal.
  • Radisson Rewards: 125,000 points for a year of Priority Pass Standard Plus.

Lounge Food Priority Pass

Pros of Priority Pass

The main reason why you would want to get a Priority Pass membership is clear – to access airport lounges before your flight. Diving deeper, there are some pros that Priority Pass has over its alternatives.

Access Regardless of Travel Class and Frequent Flyer Status

Until I learned about Priority Pass, I thought airport lounges were something that could only be accessed when flying in business class or when holding a frequent flyer status. It turned out, however, that at many airports, lounges can be accessed by other passengers too, and that oftentimes Priority Pass is the best way to do so.

That’s because with Priority Pass you can access a lounge regardless of the airline you are flying on or the travel class you are flying in. Flying on Ryanair, Wizz Air, or other low-cost airline out of Vienna Airport? Not a problem. Flying in Lufthansa business class out of Frankfurt? Not a problem (although there might be better options for you than Priority Pass lounges).

Extensive Network of Lounges Around the World

While there are other programs similar to Priority Pass, I believe Priority Pass has the most extensive network of lounges. According to its website, there are about 1,300 lounges at hundreds of airports around the world participating in the program. In fact, if there is a contract lounge at an airport, chances are it is participating in the program.

Considering that the list constantly changes – some lounges join the program, some leave, and some rejoin (like Plaza Premium did recently) – I will not list all the lounges here. Instead, you can search what lounges are available at the airports you plan to use on the Priority Pass website.8

Decent Participation from Airline Lounges

Roughly speaking, there are three types of airport lounges – airline lounges, contract lounges, and credit card lounges. While the vast majority of lounges in the Priority Pass network belong to the second category – i.e. they are lounges run by third parties that then sell access to airlines and the likes of Priority Pass – there are also quite a few airline lounges in the network.

Not only are airline lounges typically better than contract lounges but without Priority Pass, they can only be accessed by select passengers traveling on a select group of airlines. With Priority Pass, the participating lounges can be accessed regardless of the airline you are traveling on.

Some examples of airline lounges that can be accessed through Priority Pass include the Oman Air Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, WestJet Elevation Lounge at Calgary Airport, and ANA Lounge at Tokyo Narita Airport.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Bangkok Priority Pass

Free Dining in Restaurants and Other Non-Lounge Experiences

While traditionally Priority Pass only had lounges in its network, more recently, it started expanding into other experiences as well. Most notably, the network started adding airport restaurants to its portfolio where guests either get a free set meal or about 30 dollars credit they can apply toward their bill.

This is great as it provides an alternative to a lounge visit at airports where otherwise no Priority Pass lounges are available. Considering that food in many lounges is mediocre at best, the ability to have a “proper” meal for free before visiting a lounge is useful at airports where there are both Priority Pass lounges and restaurants too.

In addition to restaurants, other facilities like Minute Suites (small private rooms to relax/work in before taking a flight) in the United States, a capsule hotel at Narita Airport, and even a public bath at Nagoya Centrair joined the program too.

The Pike Brewing Restaurant Cheeseburger

Ability to Use Some Lounges and Other Facilities on Arrival

More often than not, you will want to visit a lounge before taking a flight, to grab a quick bite to eat or relax between checking in and boarding. That said, in some cases, you might want to visit a lounge after arrival too – whether to take a shower or grab a quick drink.

While in most cases this will not be possible with Priority Pass (or in any other way), at some airports, you will be able to do so. In addition to the individual lounge’s rules, it will also depend on which terminal you arrive at, whether the airport has common or separate departures and arrivals areas, etc. The same applies to Priority Pass restaurants and other facilities.

As an example, recently, I used the public bath at Nagoya Centrair mentioned earlier after arriving on a flight from Sapporo. That was mainly possible because the bath is located landside – i.e. before the security check.

Priority Pass Lounge Shower

Cons of Priority Pass

While there are no cons per se, there are definitely things to be aware of before you get a Priority Pass membership as these will play a role in you figuring out whether it is actually worth getting for you personally or not.

Plenty of Airports Do Not Have a Priority Pass Lounge

Chances are that you will use Priority Pass the most at your home airport or at an airport you travel frequently to. Chances also are that there will be a Priority Pass option at that airport. However, that is not to say that there are no airports without a Priority Pass lounge. There are many in fact.

As such, before you get a membership, you should make sure that there is a decent Priority Pass option at the airports you frequent the most. Otherwise, the use you get out of your membership might be very limited.

You Might Not Be Able to a Priority Pass Lounge Even If There Is One

Another thing to keep in mind is that even if there is a Priority Pass lounge, restaurant, or other facility at the airport you will be departing from, you will not always be able to use it.

That situation could arise because of a number of reasons:

  • Your departure terminal: If there’s a Priority Pass lounge at the airport but not in the terminal you’re departing from, you might not be able to access it. Whether or not you will be able to access a lounge in a terminal different than your departure terminal will depend on the airport layout, whether the lounge is before or after security, etc.
  • Restricted hours: Most lounges admit Priority Pass members all throughout their opening hours. Some, though, restrict access to members of the program to only certain hours of the day. One such example is the ANA Lounge at Tokyo Narita.
  • Restricted capacity: Some lounges reserve the right to turn Priority Pass members away if they are crowded. So far, the only time that has happened to me was at Nagoya airport.
  • Restricted to selected airlines’ passengers: While extremely rare, some lounges restrict access to passengers on traveling on select airlines only even when using Priority Pass. The only such case I am aware of are Asiana Lounges in Seoul which can only be accessed by Asiana Airlines and Star Alliance passengers.

In addition to the above, you should also keep in mind that some lounges limit the number of hours you can stay in the lounge – typically to three hours. If there is such a limitation, you will find it on the relevant lounge’s page on the Priority Pass website. How much length of stay rules are enforced depends on the lounge, though, and so sometimes you might be able to stay longer regardless.

Asiana Lounge Priority Pass

Using Your Priority Pass Membership Will Not Always Be Worth It

This last point mostly applies in two cases: if you have a limited (Standard or Standard Plus) membership or if you are traveling with someone else and you do not have free guesting privileges.

In either case, you will need to account for the fact that each lounge visit will cost you upward of 30 dollars. While that might be fine if you grab a meal at the lounge and take a shower, it might not be worth it if you otherwise wouldn’t need to go to the lounge and would just arrive at the airport at the last minute.

The case where this is the most obvious is Priority Pass restaurants where it’s the easiest to quantify. After all, you wouldn’t pay 35 dollars for a Priority Pass “visit” if all you get out of it is a 28 dollars credit at a restaurant.

Is Priority Pass Worth It?

As with any similar question, whether or not getting a Priority Pass membership is worth it depends on your situation. Some of the things you will need to consider to figure out how much value you will get out of each lounge visit and out of a membership overall include:

  • Which airports you use the most often: This will determine whether or not you will be able to use your Priority Pass membership on a regular basis.
  • How good the Priority Pass options at the airports you frequent are: You might want to consider things like how good the food and drink selection and quality are, whether or not showers are available in the lounge, whether the lounge tends to be overcrowded, and so on.
  • What your travel patterns are like: If you prefer to stay in your office until the last minute and just breeze through an airport, you will get less value out of Priority Pass than if you prefer to arrive early, grab a bite to eat, get some work done in the lounge, and so on.
  • Whether you would have lounge access anyways: In general, Priority Pass is much more valuable if you mostly travel in economy class and do not have a frequent flyer status than if you travel in business class or have a status. That’s because in the latter case, you would get lounge access in most cases even without Priority Pass anyways.
  • How often you fly (from airports with Priority Pass lounges): With an unlimited Priority Pass membership, the more you fly and visit lounges, the lower the average cost per lounge visit.

What it ultimately comes down to is the average cost you will pay for a lounge visit and the average value you get out of that visit.

For me, it is a no-brainer – it costs me about 80 dollars per year to have my unlimited Priority Pass membership and I visit Priority Pass lounges a dozen times a year or more meaning each lounge visit costs me five or six dollars. That’s a ridiculously low price to pay for not having to stop by airport restaurants or buy drinks in airport stores most of the time.

For you, the math might be different. To help you with your decision-making, below is a chart that shows the average price per lounge visit depending on how many times a year you use your Priority Pass membership.

Oman Air Lounge Priority Pass Bangkok


When it comes to visiting airport lounges before flights where you otherwise wouldn’t have free access, Priority Pass is by far the best option. Especially so if you can get it as a credit card perk. That said, it can also make sense if you buy your membership outright.

To figure out whether or not getting a Priority Pass membership is worth it for you, you will need to estimate roughly how often you will fly out of airports with Priority Pass lounges, find out your cost per lounge visit, and then figure out whether or not you will be getting more value on average than each of your visits would cost.

If you come to the conclusion that it’s not worth it for you to get a membership, make sure to check what Priority Pass alternatives there are.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How Can I Help You?