Access to the very best airport amenities is more affordable than you might think
The world’s best airport lounges might seem out of reach to a large part of the general public. We tend to assume they’re reserved for the businesspeople and aristocrats among us, and that paying for luxuries like shower facilities and all-you-can-eat buffets is only possible if we first remortgage our homes.
We’re glad to report, however, that these days that’s simply no longer the case. With sites like Priority Pass and Lounge Pass leading the charge, airport lounges are becoming more and more affordable. Naturally, this is a positive development: after all, it’s pretty rare to meet someone who actually enjoys the stress and strain of air travel. Anything that can make the experience that bit easier is a welcome bonus.
But which of the two major airport lounge passes is best? Read on for our in-depth analysis of all that Priority Pass and Lounge Pass have to offer.
Priority Pass vs Lounge Pass: Lounge access
Let’s start with the subject that most of us really care about: which lounges can each of these passes actually get you into?
With Priority Pass, even the most basic package will give you access to every single one of over 1200 affiliated lounges worldwide. That covers 27 UK airports, plus pretty much all the major European cities and international hubs.
To use London Heathrow as an example, Priority Pass will give you access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 2, the Club Aspire Lounge and No1 Lounge in Terminal 3, the Plaza Premium Lounge and SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 and the Aspire Lounge in Terminal 5. That’s six lounges at Heathrow alone, with the added luxury of choice if you’re flying from either Terminal 3 or 4.
There’s no compromise on quality, either. All of the lounges listed above feature complimentary refreshments, Wi-Fi, newspapers and magazines, shower facilities and more.
To find out which lounges Priority Pass grants access to at your local airport, check out the company’s full lounge directory.
Lounge Pass runs a decidedly smaller operation than its biggest rival. However, you can still choose from over 400 lounges at more than 250 airports worldwide, including 26 in the UK.
At Heathrow, Lounge Pass will give you access to exactly the same lounges as Priority Pass. It’s the same story at Manchester, although at London Gatwick, Lounge Pass can get you into seven lounges, which is two more than Priority Pass. You can find out if Lounge Pass supports your local airport right here.
Although Lounge Pass gives you slightly more options at the UK’s major airports, Priority Pass has to win in this category. Why? Because when you start travelling abroad it gives you access to around three times the number of R&R venues as Lounge Pass does.
Winner: Priority Pass
Priority Pass vs Lounge Pass: Customer support
Priority Pass prides itself on its customer service. In addition to the helpful app (more on that below), there’s a dedicated 24/7 support line which will connect you with the multilingual Membership Services team all year round. As well as its UK office, the company has locations in Hong Kong and the USA, should you ever find yourself needing assistance in those countries.
Lounge Pass definitely falls behind in this respect. There is a dedicated support line, but it’s open from 8am until 8pm, and is UK-based, leaving you with a potentially hefty phone bill should you need to call from abroad. This one’s a clear victory for Priority Pass.
Winner: Priority Pass
Priority Pass vs Lounge Pass: App
The Priority Pass app’s five-star rating on the iOS App Store is well deserved. It’s slick, easy-to-use, and feels like a quality product right from the off.
Once logged in, you can use the newly-refurbished app to navigate selected major airports, access your lounge, manage your account and more. There are also contact details for the dedicated support line, which will be handy if you find yourself at a loose end.
Lounge Pass doesn’t boast any of these features because, well, it doesn’t have an app. Again, this one’s a clear victory for Priority Pass.
Winner: Priority Pass
Priority Pass vs Lounge Pass: Membership options and value
Priority Pass has three membership options if you live in the UK, all of them requiring an annual fee.
The first, the ‘Standard’ membership, will set you back £69 for the year, after which you’ll have to fork out £20 for every lounge visit you make, plus another £20 for every guest you want to bring with you.
The next tier up is ‘Standard Plus’. The flat fee is substantially higher at £189, but for that you’ll get ten free visits, after which every subsequent visit will cost £20. The guest visit fee remains at £20 per passenger you bring with you.
Finally, the ‘Prestige’ package is £339 for the year, but all lounge visits are free for the membership holder. Again, the guest visit fee remains at £20.
Naturally, the value you gain from your chosen Priority Pass depends on how much you travel by air. As a general rule, the more you travel, the more you’re going to want to be spending on the annual fee for your Priority Pass.
Lounge Pass works in a completely different way. Rather than splashing out on an annual fee, you pay-as-you-go, purchasing a new pass every time you want to visit a lounge.
There’s no need to sign up for a membership, either. Simply enter your flight’s booking reference along with your email address, then select how many passengers are in your party, entering details for each one.
Prices start from £13.50 per visit, with an overall average cost of £17 per passenger. This is slightly cheaper than Priority Pass, which averages closer to £20 per visit.
It’s hard to choose a winner here, since it really depends on how often you travel and how much flexibility you need. Priority Pass is probably the better option for frequent business travellers as, with the Prestige tier, you can simply pay one lump sum at the start of the year and breeze into any one of the company’s affiliated lounges at your leisure.
Lounge Pass, on the other hand, is more suited to infrequent travellers. If you’re going on a one-off romantic getaway and fancy a little dose of luxury, a one-time payment per lounge visit is almost certainly going to be a better fit for your needs.
For this reason, in terms of membership options and value, it has to be a tie.
Priority Pass vs Lounge Pass: Verdict
Although Priority Pass is the overall victor in terms of the categories listed above, we wouldn’t recommend that you rush to buy one immediately. As outlined previously, the best choice will be determined entirely by your personal needs.
Priority Pass is a premium product, and a pretty good one at that. If you’re travelling frequently and/or for business, the Standard Plus and Prestige options in particular will give you the peace of mind you’re after when on the move.
However, a Lounge Pass is by far the better option for those special one-off occasions, when you won’t want to be splashing out on a big annual fee.
Either way, affordable airport lounge access is here and it’s here to stay. How you make the most of it is completely up to you.