Since I haven’t written directly about my Priority Pass card, now seems an opportune time to do it. This is primarily because they appear to be getting some really negative reviews on-line in places such as Trustpilot, which to me at least seem undeserved.
I hadn’t really intended to get a Priority Pass card last year, but Accor were doing a special offer which meant that it was just over £210 a year for an unlimited pass. That gets me into lounges at most airports for free and I can take a guest in for £20 (was £15) although I haven’t bothered with that option as I’m happy to abandon travelling companions.
One defining reason that I wanted one of the cards last July was that I was flying out of Luxembourg and that’s one of my favourite lounges, so Accor messaging me whilst I was in that city was just destiny as far as I was concerned…. Incidentally, that’s been the only lounge where something went wrong, as the Priority Pass system was down and they wrote down my card number and clearly never invoiced them since it never appeared on my account.
Accessing the lounge can usually be done by downloading an App on a smartphone and showing that, although I carry my physical card as well. When someone joins the scheme they also get sent a book of where the lounges are, which is quite a substantial little tome as there are over 1,000 lounges around the world where access is possible.
Anyway, I’ve written about several of the lounges, and there have been some really good examples, such as in Katowice, Luxembourg, Malta and Vilnius to name just a few. There’s also the Grain Lounge at Gatwick Airport, which is a restaurant where lounge card holders can go.
One common complaint raised against Priority Pass is that some of the lounges, and these seem predominantly to be in the UK, are often full and have to turn away card holders. I’ve never been turned away, although I do try and visit at quieter times if I can which might have helped. My flights are usually at strange times of the day though, which helps me since sensible people prefer not to fly at 6am.
There is a way round this, and that’s to pre-book a lounge by paying a sum of £5. I’m not engaged with this at all, as although it guarantees access I don’t see that this feels like a fair way of charging customers who have already paid for the pass. Some people get a lounge pass courtesy of their bank or financial provider, and they might be willing to pay £5, but it seems expensive to me to ask people to buy a pass and then charge them another £5 every time they want to visit the lounge.
The best way of resolving this problem has been trialled in numerous US airports, and at Gatwick as I mentioned, which is to encourage restaurants to join the scheme. This works by giving the customer £15, or a broadly similar amount in a different currency, to spend at the restaurant, which takes some pressure off the lounges. I’d very much like Priority Pass to focus on expanding this part of their offering, as it would enable people feel that they are at least able to get a meal and drinks if nothing else.
My renewal comes up in around two months, and I’m not entirely sure how much it will be, as this information isn’t in my account yet. I’m on balance not going to renew, but this isn’t because I’m disappointed with the service, but solely because I’ve now got Oneworld status again and so I get lounge access this way for many of my flights.
But, back to whether the pass is a good idea or not…. There are a variety of passes available, some give a fixed number of lounge accesses for those who travel slightly less frequently, through the unlimited accesses card that I have. For anyone making even more than a handful of flights a year, I’d recommend the card, as airports can be a bit of a nightmare, and it is nice to get a little calm before the flight. Or indeed after it, as there are a few arrivals lounges which are part of the scheme.
So, I’d say that Priority Pass is actually quite a decent scheme, and that it is far better than some reviews might suggest it is. If they can give me a reasonable annual fee offer for another year, then I’d certainly be keen to sign up again. For the time I’ve had the pass though, I’m very happy with it and have certainly benefited from the peace and quiet in numerous lounges during that time.