Are Priority Pass Lounges Crowded?

And everything else you need to know about airport lounge memberships.

An airport lounge employee sets down a tray of drinks in front of a traveler.
Escape the noise in an airport lounge.
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Airports can be stressful, so it helps to know how to make your pre-flight or layover experience more relaxing. One way to do that is to retreat to a lounge away from the hustle and constant announcements over the loudspeaker. While there are many ways to gain access—including through airline loyalty programs, credit card rewards, and day passes—you can also purchase a membership to a lounge network like Priority Pass, which has more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. Here’s what you need to know before buying a membership.

How do you get access to Priority Pass lounges? 

To use these cushy airport spaces, you don’t need to be flying a specific airline or ticket class. You just need to become a Priority Pass member, which isn’t as challenging as it sounds. Most people get their membership as a credit card perk from cards like Capital One Venture X, American Express Platinum, or Chase Sapphire Reserve (Chase-issued Priority Pass cards also throw in $28 per person at participating airport restaurants). These banks pay the lounge directly each time that you enter.

How much do Priority Pass lounges cost?

You can also buy a membership directly from Priority Pass, which offers a variety of plans, the most limited of which costs $99 per year, plus $35 per lounge entry. The company’s most expensive plan costs $469 per year and lets you enter any lounge, any amount of times, at no additional cost. 

However, buying a membership directly from Priority Pass doesn’t always add up, because of how many credit cards offer a complimentary Priority Pass membership. And since the annual fees on these credit cards tend to be less expensive than the cost of direct Priority Pass membership, having the right credit card is often the most economical way to gain Priority Pass membership. 


What kinds of amenities should you expect in Priority Pass lounges?

Once you are a Priority Pass member, the glass doors open for you, and you’ve got amenities galore: comfy seats, free food and drinks (yes, including alcohol), Wi-Fi, charging points, computer workstations, printers, TVs, newspapers, and magazines. 

Offerings vary by location, but some Priority Pass lounges also offer shower facilities, private bathrooms, spa treatments, gaming experiences, conference rooms, sleeping areas, and even a swimming pool. You also, of course, get a space to wait for your flight that is almost certainly less crowded than the main terminal.

A man sits in an armchair with a cocktail inside an airport lounge.
Many airport lounges include free amenities, such as drinks.

Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded?

It depends on your flight’s time, day, and departure city. Priority Pass lounges do tend to get packed at peak times in busy U.S. airports, since Americans are much more likely to have the credit cards that offer Priority Pass membership as a perk. Lounges that are centrally located in their airports also tend to draw more people, as do lounges that serve elite members of airline frequent-flier programs in addition to Priority Pass members.

Priority Pass lounges are much less likely to be crowded in airports outside of the United States and at less common flight times, when you might even find yourself as the sole guest in a Priority Pass lounge.

“Generally, Priority Pass lounges aren’t too crowded as they have a limited capacity,” says Gary Leff, who cofounded InsideFlyer and runs the popular View From the Wing blog. “This is also because of the limited number of people who can use them. While they do offer a great benefit to those who pay for their travel through credit cards, it isn’t something that most people are going to be taking advantage of.”

Note, too, that certain lounges’ hours are limited, since some airlines restrict their lounges only for their own passengers in the hours leading up to when their flights depart, and then open more widely for Priority Pass members at other times.

Can you bring guests or kids into Priority Pass lounges? 

Rules vary about whom you can bring into a Priority Pass lounge with you, often by local regulation: “For instance, if there’s self-service alcohol,” Leff says, “a given lounge might have rules about children or at least unaccompanied children.” However, many Priority Pass lounges do let kids in as long as an adult is present with them, and those ages 2 and younger often get in for free. 

If you do bring a guest into a Priority Pass lounge, your guest’s entry fee, if any, will depend on what type of Priority Pass membership you hold. “Many premium travel credit cards include a complimentary Priority Pass membership for the primary cardholder and typically includes at least one guest,” says Zach Griff, a senior aviation expert at The Points Guy, a site that covers credit cards and loyalty programs, “though the guesting policy differs based on which issuer provided the membership.” 

Capital One is perhaps the most generous issuer—cardholders can bring in all guests into a Priority Pass lounge with no additional fees. Otherwise, you can expect to pay around $25 to $35 to bring a guest into a Priority Pass lounge. 

So is Priority Pass membership worth it? Only you can decide for yourself. But if the chance to duck the airport hordes amid pre-flight sips and bites appeals, file it under serious consideration.