Priority Pass Lounges are (Almost) Always Crowded — Here's Why

Many Priority Pass lounges are crowded, but they could still provide a better experience than a busy terminal gate — and there are other lounge options available.
Last updated May 12, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Melinda Sineriz
Man waiting in lounge

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Airport lounges often provide frequent travelers an oasis away from the crowded and busy terminal gates. But what if the lounge is just as crowded as the gate?

Priority Pass offers its members access to one of the largest airport lounge networks in the world, but access is relatively easy to gain and has led to some overcrowding issues. See why certain Priority Pass lounges are crowded and what some alternative options could be.

In this article

What are Priority Pass lounges?

Priority Pass is an airport lounge network consisting of over 1,300 lounges worldwide. The network advertises that its lounges offer “more places to relax, work and connect in.” This often rings true for many airport lounges because they typically provide a private area away from the public terminal gates and food courts.

Different brands

You’re likely to see a wide range of different airport lounge brands within the Priority Pass network. These are all brands that partner with Priority Pass to allow members access to their lounges. Depending on each specific lounge, you might find different amenities. You may even find different amenities for lounges from the same brand but in different airports.

Some of the different lounges and experiences you might encounter with Priority Pass include:

  • Air France Lounge
  • Be Relax Spa
  • Gameway
  • Lufthansa Business Lounge
  • Minute Suites
  • The Club

Amenities

Here are the typical amenities you’ll find in Priority Pass lounges:

  • Wi-Fi
  • TV
  • Refreshments (snacks or meals)
  • Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)
  • Seating
  • Flight information
  • Business centers

Food and drinks are often welcome amenities because airport food prices could be expensive. And if you typically have a lot of air travel involving long layovers, having access to airport lounge amenities could help you save money.

In some cases, you might find additional amenities such as showers, massage chairs, prayer rooms, luggage storage, and more. The size of each lounge varies and could range from a few rooms to multiple floors of space.

Access to Priority Pass lounges

You need a Priority Pass membership to access Priority Pass lounges. If a lounge is full, you might be asked to wait until there’s space available, even if you have a membership. You typically need to show your membership card or digital membership card, which is available on the Priority Pass app.

Priority Pass offers three types of paid memberships, including:

  • Standard: $99 annual membership that allows you and your guests access to Priority Pass lounges for $32 per person.
  • Standard Plus: $299 annual membership that offers you 10 free visits per year. After your 10 free visits, it’s $32 per visit. It’s also $32 for each guest you bring in.
  • Prestige: $429 annual membership that offers you unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges. You can bring in guests for $32 per guest per visit.

If you want to avoid these paid memberships, it’s typically more cost-effective to get a credit card with Priority Pass included as a benefit. Most credit cards that offer Priority Pass benefits provide you with a Priority Pass Select membership. This type of membership gives you free unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges worldwide and often includes free access for one or two guests as well, it varies by credit card issuer and each lounge’s guest policy.

To research different Priority Pass lounges, use the Priority Pass app or Priority Pass website. This will give you information about specific lounges and their amenities, including for major airports such as Seattle (SEA), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and San Francisco (SFO).

Why are Priority Pass lounges so crowded?

Priority Pass lounges are likely crowded because so many people have access to them. What was once an exclusive benefit on specific premium travel credit cards has now become an increasingly common perk on loads of credit cards.

Priority Pass was founded in 1992 by a traveler who observed premium ticket holders enjoy the benefits of different airport lounges while he was stuck suffering the experience of waiting at the terminal gate. The founder wanted to offer an affordable way for frequent travelers to gain access to similar airport lounge benefits and improve their travel experiences.

And, for some time, Priority Pass has led the way in providing millions of members access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. Priority Pass was initially introduced as a benefit on a few premium travel credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige (not currently available), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (select benefits require enrollment).

High annual fees kept many travelers away from these cards, but over the years, more and more cards have added Priority Pass benefits. Also, cardmembers found that the benefits and rewards found on these travel cards often more than outweighed any annual fees.

If you compare credit cards, you’re able to find loads of options for airport lounge access, especially among travel credit cards.

Credit cards that offer Priority Pass benefits

What started as a few credit cards with Priority Pass benefits has grown to a sizable list. Here are some of the cards that provide Priority Pass lounge access (depending on the card, select benefits require enrollment):

Many of these cards offer a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, but a few cards might only provide a select number of free lounge visits per year. Additionally, certain cards also allow you to eat for free at Priority Pass restaurants if available. American Express credit cards don’t typically offer the restaurant benefit.

Alternatives to Priority Pass lounges

If you’re ready to leave Priority Pass behind or simply want more options for lounges, consider a few alternatives such as using another lounge network or program. Some of the best travel credit cards offer airport lounge access that isn’t necessarily through Priority Pass.

Here are Priority Pass alternatives to consider.

Centurion Lounge

The Amex Centurion Lounge network has long been thought of as an upgrade over Priority Pass, but without as large of a footprint. Many of these lounges are spacious and they typically offer elevated food and beverage options. The Centurion network, which includes Escape Lounges, has over 40 locations worldwide and limits access to these cardholders:

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Intro Offer

Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months

Annual Fee

$695

Rewards Rate

5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • Select your metal card design: classic Platinum Card, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and prepaid hotels booked on Amextravel.com
  • $200 hotel credit (minimum two-night stay required), $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Chase Sapphire Lounge

Chase is set to open five airport lounges in partnership with The Club in these locations:

  • New York (LGA)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Hong Kong (HKG)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • Phoenix (PHX)

News reports indicate that Priority Pass members should have access to these lounges when they open.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Intro Offer

Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards, and Peloton Bike and Tread purchases; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards, and Peloton Bike and Tread purchases
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Excellent credit required
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards, and Peloton Bike and Tread purchases; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else

Capital One Lounge

Capital One has an airport lounge in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and plans to open locations in Denver (DEN) and Washington, D.C. (IAD). These lounges are open to any traveler for a $65 fee per visit. These credit cards also offer specific lounge benefits:

Premium Travel Rewards & Perks

Intro Offer

Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$395

Rewards Rate

10X miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel and car shares booked through Turo; 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel; and 2X miles per dollar spent on everything else

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus miles
  • Up to $300 in annual statement credits when booking through Capital One Travel
  • 10,000-mile annual anniversary bonus
  • Up to 10X miles per dollar spent
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Access to Capital One and Priority Pass lounges

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 10X miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel and car shares booked through Turo; 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel; and 2X miles per dollar spent on everything else

Airline lounge memberships

Many major airlines have their own lounge networks that you can join. Here are the costs for some of the more popular lounge memberships, including Delta Sky Clubs and United Clubs:

Name Membership cost Day pass cost Number of locations Free credit card access
Alaska Lounge (Alaska) $350 to $600 $60 8 plus 90+ partner locations N/A
Admiral’s Club (American Airlines) $550 to $1,250 or 55,000 to 125,000 miles $59 or 5,900 miles 30+ Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Sky Club (Delta) $545 to $845 or 54,500 to 84,500 miles N/A 50+ Delta SkyMiles Reserve

Amex Platinum

United Club (United) $550 to $650 or 75,000 to 85,000 miles $59 45+ United Club Infinite Card

Keep in mind that certain premium fares such as first class or business class tickets could get you into different airline lounges as well. Additionally, having elite status with a certain airline might provide airline lounge benefits.

Lounge programs

Certain travel programs also offer access to specific lounges and networks. Here are a few other options for gaining access to different lounges:

  • LoungeBuddy: Pay a fee (starting from $25) to access specific airport lounges worldwide. LoungeBuddy is owned by American Express and its booking services are reserved for Amex cardmembers.
  • Plaza Premium: Plaza Premium is a brand of airport lounges that offers different membership plans to access its lounges. Certain Plaza Premium lounges are also available to access through other programs.
  • DragonPass: DragonPass offers membership plans to access airport lounges in over 770 airports worldwide.

FAQs

What are the advantages of Priority Pass?

Priority Pass memberships offer the advantage of being able to access Priority Pass lounges around the world. With over 1,300 available lounges, having a membership could be helpful for frequent travelers who want a place to wait for flights away from the terminal gates. Many Priority Pass lounges offer free Wi-Fi, food, drinks, and seating for their guests

What are Priority Pass lounges like?

Priority Pass lounges often provide a welcome retreat from busy terminal gates. This could include having a more comfortable space to sit and relax before your flight, and certain lounges also provide complimentary food and drinks. Special amenities such as showers and massage chairs might also be available at specific lounges.

Are Priority Pass lounges overcrowded?

It depends on the location, but it’s not uncommon for Priority Pass lounges in busy airports to be overcrowded. This is likely because access to Priority Pass lounges is a common benefit on many popular travel cards. Also, certain lounges might not offer much space to begin with, so the lounge could quickly become crowded during busy times.

Bottom line

Priority Pass lounges are often busy, but they could still be a better option than waiting for your flight at the gate. Terminal gates typically have little to no amenities and are often more crowded than airport lounges. It also doesn’t hurt to check a Priority Pass lounge to see exactly how busy it is, especially if you have a credit card with Priority Pass as a benefit.

But if you want to open up more lounge options, consider other airport lounge networks that might not be as busy as Priority Pass. Depending on your typical travel routes, different lounges could offer you more flexibility and benefits. Check out these credit cards with lounge access.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • point sign-up bonus
  • points on
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.