Priority Pass is the world’s leading program for independent airport lounges. Membership in Priority Pass allows passengers to access over 1,300 lounges worldwide, making it one of the best ways to ensure uninterrupted lounge access on all your travels.
Having a separate lounge membership can be handy if you’re flying in economy and don’t have access to a lounge with a business class or First Class ticket. Even if you have elite status with an airline, Priority Pass can still come in handy if you find yourself travelling on a different airline alliance as a one-time exception.
Let’s look at everything there is to know about the Priority Pass program, including which credit cards include Priority Pass membership, how you can enroll, how many guests you may bring, and which lounges you have access to, to help you make the most of your membership.
Priority Pass via the Amex Platinum Cards
The Priority Pass website lists a handful of membership packages, which would apply if you were looking to purchase an annual membership outright.
However, there’s almost no reason to purchase one of these memberships directly. Instead, the most common way of obtaining a Priority Pass membership is to get a premium travel credit card that automatically grants you Priority Pass memberships of varying levels.
The American Express Platinum Card and American Express Business Platinum Card are the prime Canadian-issued candidates for those looking to enjoy the benefits of Priority Pass. That’s because these cards come with a Priority Pass Select membership, which grants free unlimited visits to airport lounges worldwide for the cardholder and one guest.
You aren’t able to purchase a Select membership outright, even if you wanted to. It only comes as a side benefit on high-end travel credit cards.
For net annual fees of $499 (taking into account the Platinum Card’s $200 annual travel credit), this can be an excellent value proposition if you can make use of Priority Pass lounges often enough.
Keep in mind that the Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card have additional lounge benefits in addition to Priority Pass, such as providing access to Plaza Premium and Centurion Lounges worldwide, and it can be confusing to keep track of them all.
Another benefit of these cards is that supplementary Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders are also entitled to their own Priority Pass Select memberships. This can be very useful if you’re travelling as a family or larger group, as having two Priority Pass memberships will let you bring four people into the lounge in total.
The $175 fee on a supplementary card is much more affordable than the $499 net cost of getting another Platinum or Business Platinum, although it doesn’t come with the signup bonus, of course. Furthermore, it’s much cheaper than paying for a separate Priority Pass membership.
Unfortunately, upon cancelling your card, your Priority Pass membership gets cancelled immediately, too.
Before moving on to other Canadian cards that come with Priority Pass perks, I should also mention that several US credit cards come with Select memberships as well, including the following products:
Most US premium credit card products allow you to bring in two guests for free, unlike the Canadian cards that only allow one guest.
If you dabble with credit cards on both sides of the border, you may find yourself with access to far more Priority Pass memberships than you’ll ever need, and you should be prioritizing the US-issued membership over the Canadian ones because of the more generous guest policy.
Priority Pass via Other Canadian Credit Cards
There are a handful of other Canadian credit cards that include an annual Priority Pass membership as part of their ancillary benefits, although the number of lounge visits they offer is typically limited. After you’ve used up all the lounge visits, you’ll get charged $32 (USD) per visit.
In recent years, many credit card issuers have severed ties with Priority Pass and have partnered with DragonPass instead. Because of this, the number of Canadian credit cards with Priority Pass as a perk is less than what it used to be.
Currently, aside from the Platinum Cards from American Express, the following Canadian credit cards include some form of Priority Pass membership:
Of these, the Scotiabank Platinum Amex is the most generous, with 10 complimentary lounge visits and four for any supplementary cardholders. With a relatively lofty annual fee of $399, you’d generally be much better off getting an Amex Platinum or Business Platinum for their far superior Priority Pass memberships at a similar cost.
How to Enroll in Priority Pass
After applying for any of the above credit cards, you can simply call the number on the back of your card or submit a request through Live Chat and ask to be enrolled in your Priority Pass benefit.
The card issuer will generate a new Priority Pass membership for you, and the membership card will then be shipped to you in 7–10 business days.
Moreover, for your convenience, and in the event that you have imminent travel plans, you can also ask the agents for your enrollment code. With the code, you can set up your online Priority Pass account right away and get access to the vast majority of lounges using the digital card on the Priority Pass app.
Note that a handful of lounges don’t accept the digital card, and their page on the Priority Pass website will clearly say “Digital Card Not Accepted”.
Once you receive the Priority Pass card in the mail, I find it helpful to add a sticker or something to indicate which credit card it’s associated with. As you obtain more and more credit cards with Priority Pass, it can be easy to mix up all of the membership cards since they all look the same.
Which Lounges Do You Have Access To?
The Priority Pass program was founded in 1992 and today encompasses over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. No matter where your travels take you, chances are there will be a Priority Pass lounge somewhere along your journey.
Some of these lounges are generic “contract lounges” by independent lounge operators, while others are operated by individual airlines who have signed a deal with Priority Pass to allow access to its members as well.
The Priority Pass website has an excellent Lounge Finder feature, which lets you know which lounges are available to you at the airport you’re flying out from. The website also contains information on opening hours, amenities, lounge location, and any access restrictions in place.
For example, some lounges only allow access for Priority Pass members during certain times of day, or within a certain number of hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time.
Pay close attention to this information, since it’s often the case that only a portion of the lounges at that airport are actually available to you, depending on which terminal/concourse/wing your flight is departing from. If you do happen to find yourself with multiple lounge options, consider engaging in some lounge-hopping to see which one you like best.
Keep in mind that not all lounges were created equally. For every gem of a lounge in the Priority Pass network, there’s a dud somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum.
You’ll want to use the Lounge Finder to get a preview of which lounges are available to you on your upcoming trip, and then look for reviews to see how they stack up against each other.
Some of the best lounges in the Priority Pass network I’ve visited include the Jewel Changi Lounge in Singapore and the Fiji Airways Premier Lounge in Nadi.
A few other lounges that have caught my eye include Canada’s very-own SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver International Airport, the Star Alliance Lounge in Paris Charles de Gaulle, and the ANA Lounge in Tokyo Haneda.
From a Canadian perspective, you’ll enjoy regular Priority Pass lounge access if your home airport is one of the below:
Toronto Pearson (YYZ): Air France/KLM Lounge (International)
Vancouver (YVR): SkyTeam Lounge (International)
Montreal (YUL): National Bank Lounge (International)
Calgary (YYC): WestJet Elevation Lounge (Domestic/International), Aspire Lounge (International), Aspire Lounge (Transborder)
Ottawa (YOW): Aspire Salon Lounge (Domestic/International)
Quebec City (YQB): V.I.P. Lounge by Club Med
The last thing to note is that individual lounges reserve the right to turn away Priority Pass members if the lounge is overcrowded. That’s one of the drawbacks to lounge memberships like this – if the program gets too popular, certain lounges might not have enough room to accommodate everybody.
Things tend to balance out in the long run (for example, the lounge might expand its capacity or drop out of Priority Pass entirely), but in the meantime, it’s unfortunate that some passengers get turned away purely due to space constraints.
What About Priority Pass Restaurants?
A few years ago, Priority Pass began partnering up with establishments outside of lounges, such as restaurants and bars, at various airports around the world. Guests could benefit from a $28 (USD) credit to spend in lieu of having lounge access.
This opened the door to getting lots of free food and drinks while waiting for your flight – and at restaurant quality too, rather than run-of-the-mill lounge snacks and sodas.
This generous practice was clearly quite unsustainable, and as of August 2019, all American Express-issued Priority Pass memberships no longer provide the credit on restaurants, bars, and other “non-lounge airport experiences”.
To enjoy the restaurant and other airport experiences with Priority Pass, you’ll have to either purchase a separate membership or look at some non-Amex issued memberships from US credit cards, such as Chase or Capital One.
Getting consistent lounge access when you travel is one of the many pieces of the puzzle when it comes to leveraging travel rewards, and a Priority Pass membership is something that I never travel without.
With the American Express Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card offering one of the most powerful memberships you’ll find anywhere, there’s no reason not to give it a try and treat yourself to a more comfortable airport experience the next time you fly.