Why More Priority Pass Lounges Are Denying Access To Members

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Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent network of airport lounges. Priority Pass members receive access to over 1,000 lounges around the world, so it’s the single most widely useful airline lounge membership you can have.

Priority-Pass

The good news is that it’s getting easier and easier to get a Priority Pass membership. Several premium credit cards offer Priority Pass memberships, and they mostly now allow you to bring guests in at no additional cost. This includes the following cards with the following guesting privileges:

Card# Of Guests Who Get Free AccessAuthorized User AccessCost To Add Authorized User
The Platinum Card® from American Express2Yes$175 For Up To 3 People, $175 For Each Additional Person Beyond That
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN2Yes$300 Per Person
Citi Prestige® Card2 Guests Or Immediate Family MembersYes$50 Per Person
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit CardUnlimited GuestsYes$0
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ CardUnlimited GuestsYes$75 Per Person

However, people are increasingly reporting being turned away from Priority Pass lounges due to overcrowding, and several readers have asked me to write a post addressing this.

The Priority Pass business model

The way I understand, here’s how the Priority Pass business model works:

  • The credit card companies pay Priority Pass a fixed amount to grant Priority Pass memberships to their cardmembers. I’m not sure if the credit card companies are paying an average based on the number of people who actually activate the Priority Pass benefit, or if it’s based on the total number of cardmembers. Obviously they’re getting a massive discount on these memberships, given that a majority of people will likely never use them.
  • Priority Pass pays network lounges on a per visit basis. I don’t know the exact cost, but I’d guess it’s in the range of $15-20 per person per visit (I say that partly because a restaurant at Gatwick Airport has joined Priority Pass, and grants members a 15GBP credit towards food & drinks). This is a great way for lounges to generate incremental revenue, as that’s above the marginal cost of lounges taking on an additional guest (if it weren’t, they wouldn’t be part of the network).

Air-Canada-Lounge-LAX - 13
The Air Canada Lounge LAX is a Priority Pass lounge

So the risk lies with Priority Pass here. They get paid big bucks for granting memberships, but have set up the arrangement such that on average they’re making money on these members. I imagine they lose money on those of us who use Priority Pass lounges all the time, while they make money on a vast majority of people.

Why Priority Pass lounges are turning away people

There have been an increasing number of reports of lounges denying entry to Priority Pass members because they’re full. All Priority Pass member lounges reserve the right to restrict access when the lounge is full, and you can’t really blame them.

Priority-Pass-Space-Constraints

I wouldn’t say that this is happening at a majority of lounges, though it’s happening at more lounges than before. For example, the Alaska Airlines Lounges in Seattle are now frequently turning away Priority Pass members. I can’t really say I blame them — the lounge is consistently way overcrowded, and their last priority is letting Priority Pass members in.

First they have to let in members of the Alaska Lounge, as well as first class passengers who are eligible for lounge access. Unfortunately this is one of those situations where there just isn’t much of a solution:

  • With the number of people accessing lounges through Priority Pass having increased significantly, some lounges just don’t have the capacity to handle all that demand
  • Not only has the number of people with Priority Pass memberships increased, but the guesting privileges have increased as well, as many cards now allow you to take at least two guests with you

alaska-board-room-n-bar
The Alaska Airlines Lounge SEA is a Priority Pass lounge, though consistently overcrowded

So as much as I’d like to say this is unacceptable, etc., I’m really not sure there’s any solution here. No party is doing anything wrong:

  • The credit card companies are offering Priority Pass memberships to more people than ever before; at a vast majority of lounges the are no capacity issues
  • Priority Pass has been aggressive in adding new lounges, so they’re doing everything they can to get lounge access for as many people as possible
  • Lounges continue to have an incentive to let people into their lounges, as they’re getting paid for each visit; when they’re letting people into a lounge that’s already full, they’re doing a disservice to everyone

Perhaps the one solution would be for lounges to adjust the hours where they accept Priority Pass members, given that they know the periods when there’s a spike in demand. For example, the Air France Lounge JFK doesn’t accept Priority Pass guests between 5:30PM and 11PM, knowing that they’ll be full around that time anyway.

air-france-lounge-new-york-jfk-28
The Air France Lounge JFK limits the hours where they accept guests

So while it wouldn’t help Priority Pass members get more access to lounges, it would at least help manage expectations a bit.

Bottom line

Yes, an increasing number of Priority Pass lounges are denying people access due to overcrowding. This is only a major issue at maybe a dozen lounges, based on what I’ve heard, though it’s something to be aware of.

Does this make Priority Pass a scam (which I’ve heard some people suggest), or is there something that can be done to “fix” this? I don’t think so.

Ultimately the whole Priority Pass business model is based around lounges looking for additional revenue, and if a lounge chooses to join, they’re only going to deny someone entry if they truly think the lounge will be full. I can’t fault them for that.

Unfortunately this is the downside to a lot of credit cards greatly improving their Priority Pass benefits.

Have you been denied access to a Priority Pass lounge due to overcrowding?

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Comments

  1. The Air France lounge at Washington Dulles had a time restriction in place last summer, I believe PP members could not access it between 16:00-18:00. Not sure if it was seasonal or permanent.

  2. The root-cause is the luxury-card-craze. Those who pay money out-of-pocket for a Priority Pass membership (if they even exist) wouldn’t tolerate the “overcrowding” issues for long and simply cancel. However, people who get Priority Pass as a credit card benefit may renew their credit-card anyway, and even if they don’t, they may not tell the credit card company that Priority Pass rejection was the reason. And even if people do provide that reason, the credit card companies won’t act on it until enough people complain. In the meantime, the issue will continue unresolved and even get worse.

    It resembles the status of US healthcare. When enough bundling and intermediaries are present, the supply/demand signals get lost in the noise.

  3. I’m consistently perplexed why the N terminal Alaska Boardroom (pictured above) is overcrowded. Not really why it’s overcrowded, but why it’s so small, given it was just built.

  4. Scarcity as a business model: they want the revenue from the cards but they don’t want overcrowding.

    It’s the contrapositive of what Yogi Berra once said: “That place, it’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore.”

    And nobody likes being in these lounges when there are ten screaming children running around unsupervised.

    The future business model will be pay-only lounges; no family wants to pay for four so everybody will pay to go there alone for peace and quiet. Yogi Berra probably could have phrased that better than I.

  5. Stop allowing guests to get in. I still think that families should be allowed to bring 2 kids as guests because kids cannot apply for their own credit card but anyone who is eligible to get a credit card should get their own and them have access to Priority Pass. I find ridiculous that people traveling on business can bring co-workers for free. If they want access to the lounge they should apply to their own credit card.

  6. I’ve been denied once… at Gatwick. Monday morning around 8am. Airport was incredible busy, so I wasn’t too surprised.

    The Air France/KLM lounge at SFO says you must be departing from the A gates in the International terminal, but I’ve never had them check my boarding pass. They ask which flight I’m on and I just pick one departing around that time in the terminal.

    Rarely have I seen other lounges get too crowded. Are there other locations besides that Alaska boardroom which are known to get busy and deny entry?

  7. I think one of the problems (at least in the cases I’ve experienced) is that the lounges often have poor capacity modeling/predictions. It’s one thing when you arrive at a lounge that is crowded and are turned away – I’m definitely ok with that. However, it’s another thing completely when you are turned away from a lounge that is mostly empty and told that they are reserving the space for members as if entire plane loads of members are suddenly expected.

  8. Since your are using Alaska as an example as a long time high mileage FF with them Alaska has another problem and it’s not PP, it’s their own management of their Board Rooms which are old. tired minimal and small. While the other lines have been updating and enlarging theirs AS has sat by. Oh they as your picture shows they have bandaged Seattle with one and one more on the way “satellite” club rooms. PDX has been crowded well before PP go to the other clubrooms their the same. It’s interesting that when they market AS uses pictures of the very small N Gates room. “smoke and mirrors”

    Let’s also not forget that these clubrooms no matter which airlines derives income from each PP stay, they should have seen that one coming, no foresight.

    PP has a problem and so do the card companies that use them. Let’s see what the next chapter reads.

  9. Timely, as I just left the Alaska lounge located in the D concourse at SEA. I got in (with my two children), but the friendly desk agent informed me that we just made it as they were putting a sign up outside the door barring entry for any more priority pass members based on the lounge being full.

    And she was correct; it was full. I had to stand when we first arrived for about 15 minutes before it cleared out. We stayed for a little over an hour before leaving (sitting at the gate now), and when we left the lounge was much less crowded. There was no sign outside the door, so it would appear that they are somewhat proactive about limiting guests and then removing restrictions based on actual capacity.

    Can’t blame them, really. It’s not a huge space.

  10. @mallthus. FYI that lounge at N is a temporary lounge. They’re building a permanent one on the roof in N. I think it is supposed to open next year and another one in the C counciurse.

  11. No one really has an answer in the lounges for the guest policy. Sevreral sites note that the Priority Pass you get with the Ritz Carlton card including yours allows for free unlimited guest however they always try to bill $27

  12. I went to the Lounge in LGW in South Tetminal where there is only 1 lounge. I first tried to enter and was turned away. Second time I tried to enter same day after they said come back in an hour, I was again turned away, not happy. Finally I just left. A week later I was flying again, turned away from lounge again, keep in mind though with the lounge you can reserve yourself a spot in the south terminal 6 hours before the time of arrival, you need to pay £5 and book it online. That’s a bit ridiculous because the whole point of the lounge access is to either pay the annual fee for a membership and not pay again or get it for free.

    The 2nd week when I was turned away I went to the restaurant, got the £15 credit, of you don’t go over you don’t pay anything. I got a full English breakfast and tea and my total was £14.20, meaning I didn’t have to pay. The food was fantastic and they do have good food. Down side no wall outlets no where to charge phone, computer or tablets. You can also stay up to 3 hours. I’d still recommend tipping servers they’re very attentive and keep there eyes on you, the servers all work as a team, rather than just 1 person there’s two people being you good, also you’ll always have a chance to meet a manager too, they are the only ones who can run your priority pass cards or scan them.

  13. @ Lucky – you say 12 lounges are turning guests away more frequently; can you please tell us which ones they are? That’d be very helpful.

  14. I’ve gotten denied at Shongololo in JNB (at night) and a couple times in the Amsterdam lounges ( I fly through AMS probably 15 times a year so usually access has been ok). No issues at my home airport at SFO, although usually I’m in the Centurion (which has serious overcrowding issues).

    The way to solve the overcrowding issue is to limit to 2 guests.

  15. If this problem only affects a dozen or so lounges, why not just impose time limitations and/or guesting restrictions at those locations? Or expand the F&B credit program to airports with lounge overcrowding? Usually I’m just looking for a place to sit and have a drink or grab a quick snack before a flight; I’d be just as content to do so in a restaurant if the lounge is full.

  16. I’m with John, it would be nice to see a list of lounges where problems have been regularly reported. Then we would at least get a heads up that we might get turned away.

  17. Gresham’s Law says that bad money drives out good money – a reference to how the precious metals in coinage was diluted over time, to become almost worthless today.

    You could say the exact same thing about spraying around an “exclusive” product like this to the point where it is significantly devalued.

  18. This problem has an easy solution that you don’t want to hear.

    Make CC Priority Pass membership different from paid. The CC version gets a limited amount of free uses per year, whether that be 5 or 10. Beyond that is paid or discounted. However they need the economics to work.

  19. The obvious result is that PP membership benefits attached to credit card sign-ups will be scaled back soon. You will get a fixed number of visits per membership year, reduced guesting, and reduced access or time limited hours (can only access the lounge 2 hours before your flight). AMEX has the same problem with Centurion Lounge to the point it is now a junk benefit the lounges are way too crowded.

  20. Santastico writes: “I still think that families should be allowed to bring 2 kids as guests because kids cannot apply for their own credit card”.

    No, but their parents can pay for them, which I’m sure is what PP wants you to do.

  21. I was turned away once as a Priority Pass member at the Aspire Lounge in London Heathrow. Others in line were angry about being refused access, but I wasn’t annoyed for too long. Priority Pass is very easy to get, and you tend to get what you pay for.

    I’ve had no issues in any other lounges.

  22. Lucky, I just lost a bit of faith in your objectiveness. How can you possibly imply that “no party is doing anything wrong” when they are marketing a product and then not delivering. How much use is a Priority Pass card if you can’t rely on it?

    I am UA Platinum, a United Club Card holder, AMEX Platinum Card holder, and Priority Pass holder. Between all of these options, and the money that I spend to have these options, I should never have difficult getting into a lounge. I’m not sure what the answer is, but these companies need to get their act together.

    “Scam: a dishonest scheme; to be swindled” Priority Pass; thus, AMEX are marketing cards that give you access to airport lounges. When I get to the airport and can’t get into a lounge, I would say that the company is scheming me to use their card, then not delivering; the very definition of a scam!

  23. Considering I’ve never used a “lounge” and heard nothing but horrible things about many of them, and living and flying from a fantastic airport where the whole damn terminal is one giant lounge area anyway (SFO Terminal 2) I see ZERO incentive to sign up or pay or even use freely one of these airline lounges. To be perfectly honest, they are really only good on layovers, to take a quick bite to eat if you arrive too early, or are delayed – other than that they serve only to kill time, and time in my local airport is killed through looking at the art work, having quality food, checking out the planes landing and taking off right from the gate windows.
    Lounges have a benefit that anyone with First, Business or Premium Paid Upgrade Lounge Access should be able to hang out and relax, but the last 10 years or so of travel they have pretty much limited it to just a handful of people, select hours of the day (I’ve seen hours cut to the point that unless your flight is arriving 12-3PM you’re never goingto see an open one anyway) and very limited amount of space and amenities, it’s almost more productive and beneficial to passengers to throw in another gate where the lounge is and increase capacity rather than offer a company some place to just take up space.

    In short – If you didn’t get great service on the ground with the airline you fly, you’re not going to get it in the sky, and if you didn’t get it with your ticket in the air, you’re certainly never getting it on the ground. That should be an indicator of how well these lounges and airlines treat people.

  24. Never been in a lounge. Received pass through sapphire reserve. Flying thru cvg and Dulles. Are alcoholic beverages free such as beer or are they normal rates? Also what about food?

  25. Okay, I have thought about this more. How about all of the limit it to one guest! If you want to bring in more, you pay for them. Easy..done.

    And yes, your 18 kids count as guests!

  26. Excellent and timely topic/thread.

    This is a complex, multi-party (Priority Pass, participating airline lounges, banks offering premium cards, holders of said credit cards, first/business-class passengers, etc.) and multi-dimensional problem which is impossible for anyone to solve on their own, since each party prefers a different outcome.

    In line with some of the suggestions made above, it would make sense to:
    1. Allow only one guest (family member, child, co-worker, etc.) per Priority Pass member. Although I have the CSR, it’s obvious that allowing unlimited guests is untenable. This policy should be revised across the board.
    2. Consider e-mailing Priority Pass (see the URL on the back of your PP card) and your credit card company if you get turned away. “We know our Members love using their Priority Pass, but if you ever do need to lodge a complaint, please do so by sending us an email to infoprioritypass.com”

    I noticed Priority Pass went from 11-digit account numbers (assoc with my Amex Plat) to 16-digit numbers (assoc with my CSR) in the span of 8 months, which made me chuckle. With 16-digit numbers, they can issue an account number for every human on Earth.

  27. @EJ – You are mostly correct. The whole N satellite at SeaTac is being renovated/expanded. Scheduled completion 2021 (they just broke ground a month or so ago). The new permanent AS lounge is scheduled for completion in mid 2019. Look up the SeaTac NorthStar project for additional detail. I’ve gotten mixed answers RE a new lounge location on the C concourse. I hope they pull the trigger (though not real sure where they’d put it), since they could definitely use it.

    I’ve noticed that all of the Alaska lounges I’ve visited in the last few months (SeaTac D/N, PDX, LAX) are turning away PP guests during periods of peak crowding. There is always a sign posted outside the entrance indicating such. As long as you can read, there’s no risk of feeling embarrassed when denied entry at the desk.

  28. This is nothing to do with priority pass. All lounges have notes that they might refuse entry due to overcrowding. This is why QF flyers at SFO can’t use the CX lounge.

    With multiple guests, priority pass pays the lounge for each of them. The lounge could simply be full. The lounges need to grow, in which they get more revenue (from other airlines or from priority pass and other similar programmes, or simply paid access.

  29. @ Bryan — To me that system seems like more trouble than it’s worth, given that this impacts only a small percentage of lounges. Also, it seems difficult to track and enforce when people leave the lounge.

  30. @ Knicks — It all depends on the lounge. In most lounges the snacks and drinks are free, though some charge.

  31. @ AdamW — I don’t think they’re not delivering. The website very clearly notes that you can be denied entry due to crowding. We’re talking about a very small percentage of lounges that have this issue. This problem ultimately isn’t limited to Priority Pass. Some alliance lounges also turn people away due to crowding when you enter based on status or class of service with another airline.

    I completely agree it’s frustrating when you’re in this situation, but I just don’t think there’s a solution. However, I don’t think there are many airports where this is truly an issue. For example, in Seattle there’s also the Centurion Lounge for those who have the Amex Plat, or The Club at SEA, which is also a Priority Pass lounges, but doesn’t typically have crowding issues.

  32. @ Matt — Ultimately I’m not sure that’s doing anyone a service. If there’s not a single available seat in the lounge, isn’t it silly to admit more people?

  33. @ Bruce — Fair enough, though I think it makes sense to emphasize that this is a problem at a tiny percentage of Priority Pass lounges. Of the 1,000+ lounges, a tiny fraction of them ever have capacity issues. So I doubt we’ll see rule changes based on that, and I also don’t think that would be in anyone’s best interest.

  34. The ‘small percentage of lounges’ misses the point.

    The lounges that are issues are large U.S. airports, where people have taken cards on the idea that there’s a convenient lounge at their home airport.

    Definitely not delivering for those folks.

    It’s going to get tighter with Amex Plat letting 2 guests free.

    Maybe time for PP to eliminate guest access for domestic itineraries. It was originally an int’l travel focused benefit.

  35. So it’s not a ‘small percentage of lounges’ that matters, but a larger percentage of attempted visits, because these are high volume domestic clubs in people’s hometowns.

  36. And if you’re a cardholder, you should complain to your issuer each time you’re denied access. That’s where the money / pressure flows.

  37. It may be a small percentage of lounges worldwide, but it’s a much larger percentage of US lounges who are turning away due to capacity.

    All lounges should be required to post their busy times when denial is most likely, but I also think an intermediate solution is to not allow guests during peak times, just primary cardholder.

    I think limiting to X number of visits per year per Priority membership is a reasonable policy. If you have 3 credit cards with different priority pass memberships, you could get 3x. Win-win.

  38. @Lucky The Club at SEA is a perfectly fine alternative to the Alaska board room — except it’s out in the middle of nowhere. If you happen to be close gate-wise, it’s a great choice. Too often it’s simply too far to be worth (1) getting to (2) needed significant extra time to get from.

  39. Thoughtful and well-written posts like these (and your detailed reviews) are some of the reasons why your blog is one of the best travel & points blogs out there. I like both your analysis, and your suggestion about managing expectations. Here’s another two suggestions: (i) waitlists and (ii) the lounges have small bags of goodies (muffin, water, fruit etc.) that they give out to those that are entitled entry but are denied due to space constraints.

  40. Lucky, so how much percentage of people need to be turned away before it is not understandable? I travel SEA to/fr DFW and I went from 100% to 0% for the same flight times. I say that’s not OK.
    I see people are waiting for any journalist to get a proper answer from PP.

  41. Two thoughts on the issue:

    (1) PP membership is something cardholders have paid for. It doesn’t mattter if they joined thru PP directly or as a benefit with a CC, the fact is, they paid for it. IANAL, but I do not see how being turned away is NOT some form of breach of contract. If certain lounges have oversold themselves, that is their problem. They need to fix it. When an airline over sells a flight, it costs them either an expensive voucher, or expensive IDB compensation.

    (2) To solve this issue in a practical way, the member lounges should be penalized each time they turn away a PP member (and guests). This way, they will be strongly incentived to only do so when absolutely necessary. We can debate the penalty separately, but it could be a fine in the amount they would have received had the admitted the guests, or, say $59/per person denied, so they can walk over the nearest SC/UC/Admirals Club.

  42. Been turned away from the PP lounge in BOS terminal C many times in the late afternoon. Even when the lounge is empty, they say space is reserved for premium Air Lingus passengers.

  43. Yes I was denied access to the Alaska Boardroom Lounge at LAX on March 5th because of overcrowding. Pretty disappointing. It would be nice if they could post on the app to avoid having to cross 2 terminals only to be denied access.

  44. LAX Alaska lounge consistently at capacity. Makes this “benefit” of my card worthless.

  45. I fly Alaska Air from SFO International Terminal often and Priority Pass Members get turned away regularly. That is when KLM is expecting a flight. They even turn us away when the lounge is almost empty. Frustrating

  46. There are a couple of things that can be done. But airlines and related businesses are soooo pathetic when it comes to technology I doubt any real solution will be implemented soon. Even if you cannot control crowds what you can do is alert passengers before they hike over to the lounge. Crowd sourcing can easily tell you capacity of the lounge and notify you of your chances of being rejected. And if there are multiple lounges at the airport this will help load balance it. This is exactly what we do in software engineering when a website is powered by multiple servers. You spread the load when one server becomes overwhelmed. A virtual queue is not a bad idea either. Don’t they do that at disney world these days?

    Second, if it’s free people will be there and they will stay there forever if you let them. I was at JAL where the dining room is on a separate floor so if you want more than a simple drink or chips you have to go to the dining room. And the tourists there were not willing to leave even though they announced over the PA that the place is damn crowded and give others a chance to use the space.

    Remove any guest entry other than a minor with an accompanying adult. If you have 3+ kids you pay a fee for each additional kid. Don’t like it? stop having so many dang kids. When it’s not free people will weigh if they actually want to use the lounge.

  47. Too many fast track access methods is clearly the problem, just like airline and hotel “status” categories that are given out like candy through a plethora of credit cards (sorry, Lucky) which can end up bankrupting people. Whatever happened to the basic principle of selling memberships for money (which is what PP was supposed to be) or giving access free to the most loyal and/or premium cabin customers (in the case of airline lounges)? Moreover, how is it that none of the countries on the “world happiest” list are places where people pursue “status” like it was some kind of brass ring?

  48. @Matt: I’m curious about your statement “The Air France/KLM lounge at SFO says you must be departing from the A gates in the International terminal”. I used that lounge last month, even though my boarding pass was on AA in terminal 2. No issues getting in, and the receptionist made sure to point out that I had to clear security again to get to my gate. Where is this rule stated? Is it new?

  49. When do Business Platinum Open members start receiving two free guests per visit? The current terms and conditions state, “By enrolling in Priority Pass Select, you agree that you will be responsible for all accompanying guest visits and will be automatically charged $27 per guest to your Business Platinum Card® from American Express after you have signed for the visit and it has been reported to Priority Pass by the participating lounge.”

  50. A few days ago checked out the AS lounge near the marketplace. Yes they had the sign so I just looked around without using up a pass. Way, way too small, old and not much there. I think the problem is that lounges were originally intended to cater to a small group of frequent business road warrior travelers. They should not be marketing them broadly when they don’t have the capacity to accommodate the mass market. It’s just going to damage the brand and even the road warriors will refuse to sign up for lounge access. Too bad, otherwise I like Alaska Airlines very much.

  51. I disagree with you on this one, Ben: ALL of the partners in this are doing something wrong – they promise a service in their marketing that they are not willing or able to deliver!
    The lounges are signing up partners like PriorityPass to make additional money when they know full well that they are busy during parts of the day and won’t be able to accommodate additional guests.
    PriorityPass is selling memberships (directly or to credit card companies) and list lounges that they already know won’t be able to allow their members in for parts of the day.
    The credit card companies list a benefit they know is not available and hope that few enough members use it to notice or care.
    All of them are trying to maximize their profit and accept not delivering the service they promise for a (small?) percentage of their customers. It appears that the problem is most pronounced in the US – where you have few contract lounges and lots of credit card holders!
    I mostly use lounges in Asia and have not been denied entry. I will provide feedback on lounges that deny entry or don’t offer the services they promise. At a minimum, PriorityPass needs to adjust the info in their app, ie limited service or hours. If it happens frequently, they should remove the lounge from the program and find a better one.
    Because it is only certain lounges and certain times that are affected, I don’t think any of the proposed solutions to limit guesting or the number of times used would make sense. Why would you install general limits when only a handful of lounges is affected? PriorityPass needs to add more lounges in the US, where they seem to have a bottleneck.
    And customers need to let lounges, PriorityPass and the credit card companies know about the issues they have. The lounge benefit is the main reason I have the Citi Prestige card – if I would frequently not be able to attend, I’d certainly let Citibank know about my disappointment and the potential loss of business for them. If enough customers complain, I’m sure they’ll do something about it eventually….

  52. I have had this problem several times in London, especially Gatwick. Having paid for the Priority Pass card (and we all pay, one way or another), I was told at three lounges one morning that I should have booked a spot (at additional cost). I guess for those lounges 15-20 USD is not enough, and they want a bit more – this is obviously simple supply and demand economics at peak times, but I object to having to pay for something twice.

    Ultimately, I don’t think the Priority Pass model (or those of its competitors) is sophisticated enough to take into account that it is oversold/under-capacity, and I don’t think they provide any real oversight of the network; they take the money and palm off the provision of the product to a large number of different lounges.

    When I have changed credit cards in the past I have made sure they included a Priority Pass membership, but I didn’t bother last time and I probably won’t again. The standards of the lounges (especially in the UK) has also dropped considerably.

  53. I would be less concerned and not as upset if the Priority Pass app was updated with lounge hours that are restricted or blocked. This way, I wouldn’t bother walking all the way there only to be turned away.

    I’ve only been turned away twice so far – once at a BA lounge which requires reservations – the app did not mention anything about requiring reservations for a lounge visit. Another lounge refused entry to my 2 guests even though the lounge was empty – the receptionist (incorrectly) said that my Priority Pass only allows the card holder and no guests.

    I certainly wouldn’t pay for a lounge membership if PP is unable to control or expand their capacity as needed. As a perk for having a credit card, I would just accept it and not make a big fuss – but I will tweet about it so that PP knows it’s an issue.

    Unfortunately, the overcrowding issue at PP lounges will only get worse. What we need is an independent app that help tracks these sort of PP issues so that the public is well informed. Only then will PP do something about it i.e. get rid of bad lounges, expand crowded lounges, be more transparent about the overcrowding issue, have more consistent and enforceable policies, etc.

  54. I was at LAX 3 days ago and there was a sign outside Alaskan boardroom saying that they were not accepting PP members. I had a long lay over (5 hours) and the sign was still there when I was going to my gate. It was clearly not an occasional closure as it lasted the whole morning and there was a very nicely printed sign with PP logo and everything. If a lounge is declining PP members regularly then I do think that they should make it clear on the PP website, it is not good enough to just refer to a small fine print in the terms and conditions. If Alaskan lounges are small and they are finding capacity issues then they should clearly state that on the PP website or withdrawal from PP lounges altogether.

  55. @Dragonbaby

    From the lounge’s point of view, why would they withdraw unless they are forced to? They probably consider the lounge fit for purpose, they get PP revenue during quiet times and can just turn these peripheral customers away when it gets too busy.

    Presumably, even if they cared, PP don’t really know that the lounges are turning people away. It probably isn’t recorded, especially if there is just a sign in place rather than a conversation with an agent. It would be nice if they enforced a withdrawal for lounges that turn away a certain number of people, or a financial penalty per person (I don’t know how that would work from a practical point of view).

    The convenience of PP is definitely oversold…

  56. Get outside the Western world and you’ll get some real value from PP. Never been denied and got into some lounges that won’t rock your world necessarily, but provided a great place to relax, work, eat and have a glass of wine. Chiang Mai, Singapore, Bali, Colombo, etc.

  57. @Joel

    In my experience, there is a lot of truth in that. I assume it is simply a reflection of running costs. If, as suggested, PP are paying a fixed amount per person per visit, that money is going to go a lot further in Colombo (cheap wages, cheap rents) than in London (extortionate rents, high minimum wage, bad teeth, other stereotypes…). They obviously need to tweak their model a bit.

  58. @Matt

    People barking on here how PP is in “breach of contract” (oh, the horror) ALL know how many CSR are floating around in US consumer hands now. Nobody is like, “damn, I still got 100,000 UR points for a rich ass J seat AND a $300 credit. I’m really happy with this, and if I get turned down in Seattle or London, I accept that I’m far from exclusive just because I have a metal thing in my pocket.”

    Asia simply doesn’t have the same volume of PP members, or even close. I see them, and I’m not sure what % is from purchased membership vs. premium cc membership.

    Please, mileage dweebs, take a step back from your computers and realize life is very grey, not black and white. You can achieve travel nirvana even if you have to pay out of pocket for your champagne.

  59. @Joel

    Awesome post, dude!
    To add to that, here’s a though folks…if you want access to a premium lounge, buy a premium ticket! So tired of people expecting champagne for Budweiser money…although that ideology is well on it’s way out the door now (at least in the States).

  60. Lucky – this issue is not limited to just a fee PP lounges. It is actually a very widespread problem since the lounges that don’t let you in are the ones that have the highest potential use. It doesn’t matter if lounges at obscure airports let people in if the lounges at most major airports are having this issue – as they seem to have from the comments and personal experience.

    It’s also false advertising if you market lounge access with credit card but can’t deliver in many instances, even with disclaimers. It’s like airlines advertising “free showers on board” and then saying in the disclaimer “only for first class passengers”. This is illegal.

  61. Good grief, please do not propose cast in stone time block limitations. Situations differ day to day, season to season.

  62. Turned away yesterday from the PP Lounge in Montevideo, Uruguay. Only available to card holders after 8 PM. The lounge was half full.

  63. Then don’t offer it as a ‘benefit’ with credit card sign-up to begin with. Very deceiving if you can’t even use it.

  64. I have yet to find a PP lounge. So…. I have the PP card with the Amex Plat. Do I need to physically show my PP card or just my Amex Plat? I have been in a few lounges, mostly Centurion, but the only ones that allowed me in just used my Amex Plat for entry. Recently I was in the Delta lounge at SLC and it was at least as good as a Centurion. So… I’m looking forward to checking out some more Delta lounges this year as I’ve got a few Delta flights.

  65. I’ve found London Gatwick and Manchester T1 to be places where capacity was looking high, and people were getting rejected. We hung about outside Manchester’s and they let us in after a few seconds, as a couple.

    What I found in both of them was they were in no way full. There were a lot of tables with reserved signs on them. We stayed in lounge 2.5 hours and headed. Nobody took those reservations up.

    I think in some lounges they’re artificially limiting them, and attempting to get additional money off PP card holders. Not all. Never been refused from Birmingham (UK) Aspire lounge, East Midlands was pretty full and still admitting people, and Hannover, Germany always let me in despite there really only being room for about twelve people in there….

  66. One child per adult.. The rest can be shipped in cargo or left with one adult outside the lounge

  67. Ben,

    As others have suggested, software and management should do a better job with levels of usage.

    Newark NJ, EWR, after registering, we walked in and right back out. Horrible. Due to the crowds, it was extremely stuffy, not much offerings available, very uncomfortable and dirty.

    Fared better in Mexico City. Crowded but manageable, management was involved in serving.

    Never know what to expect anymore.

  68. I was turned away initially at Alaskan Airlines in Seattle as well. I couldn’t disagree with the article more as there are definitely shenanigans going on.

    I went inside anyway and told them I needed to use the bathroom. They scanned my card and let me.

    After I went in, I looked around downstairs and saw that they had seats for about 75 people, but only 3 peo Le were there. Upstairs was pretty much full. I went out towards the desk and asked them why they were saying it was full when the downstairs is nearly completely empty. I didn’t have a need or desire to go upstairs except to get a drink. At that point t they told me I could stay.

    This is some serious BS as they have the sign up that they are full almost nonstop.

  69. Anyone have any ideas what is going to happen with the Virgin America Loft and Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges in Terminals 3 and 2 of LAX once Delta moves in May? I am flying on Delta in August with 3+ hour layovers in LAX and was looking forward to using my PP pass for the first time, and even more excited when I saw the PP passes in Terminals 2 and 3 when I found out about the Delta move. Now I am bummed because it looks like Virgin and Air Canada are moving to Terminal 6, which means they are probably taking their lounges with them.

  70. @Robert

    Did you happen to see whether it was actually full? Presumably if they are running a wait list, it has genuinely reached capacity rather than being an excuse…

  71. I just noticed that KAL Lounge at LAX TBIT has time restrictions for PP members (12pm~) placed on a few month ago. I am bummed out that I can’t use the lounge for my oncoming trip since my flight leaves at 10am… Checking the Sky Team flights departs from TBIT before 10am, I could only locate one flight (China Eastern). I can’t imagine that the lounge would be so full just accommodating a Sky Team flight during that time period. Does anyone have experience entering KAL Lounge before 12pm restrictions recently?

  72. I was just told by the Alaskan lounge in PDX that they were not going to accept PP after May 1st after they turned me away for over crowding. Looks like Alaskan is done with PriorityPass.

  73. Yes, I have twice been denied Priority Pass access to lounges at LAX. I receive this empty privilege through my American Express Platinum card. I plan not to renew my membership in the program and to cancel that card as it is a rather dishonest practice to promise access to lounges only to regularly be turned away from them. Plus, there seems to be no way of advance notification that the lounges are closed. One other solution to this (which may still not be acceptable) would be to notify travelers that a lounge will not be accessible 24 hours before their trip so they can make alternative arrangements for a business meeting/teleconference or make other plans. I’ve notified Amex and Priority Pass of this and basically got the party line… they’re not going to change and I doubt they’ll try to make it up in some way.

  74. Writing from the “aspire” lounge at London STN where they are turning away PP despite the lounge being just one third full, and the early morning departure rush drawing to a close (7.30am). After a 30 minute wait outside (no missed call despite their claim) I was eventually seated in the cheap seats and told to remain there. It seems their priority is to keep free space (including all lounge, recline and large table areas) for walk up groups £££ or those who have booked directly ££. I asked how PP can “pre book” and was told they cannot. I get PP through Amex Platinum but based be number of times I’ve been refused (always but once at London LGW) it’s not worth having. Would be better off pre-booking directly or adding it to a bundle with car parking etc

  75. Have had a Priority Pass card from RBS black card for the last ten years, but RBS and Natwest have now withdrawn it from their black card perks. Am considering paying for a PP card myself, but like many of your contributors, I have been turned away twice from London Gatwick lounges because of overcrowding. “Have you booked” I am asked by the lounge receptionist. How on earth do you book an airline lounge, or even know exactly what time you are going to arrive – going through security can take up to an hour?

    Another problem in England at least, is the pay -as -you -visit crowd who can now use airline lounges used by PP. No membership needed – just turn up and pay for admission – usually around £20, and of course, this leads to congestion. Rather than pay PP for a card and get turned away, I think I will just pay for admission, and then, if turned away, I have not lost anything.

  76. I have been turned away from London Gatwick lounges 3 times in the last year. One lounge said they would ring us when they had space, which they did, and that was great. However, another one completely refused to ring, and kept saying come back in 20 mins, 40 mins, etc. I stood outside and kept asking if they had space – there was only 1 traveller, Me. Eventually after nearly two hours they allowed me in.
    The card is pointless if we cant get into lounges at busy airports
    kate

  77. I recently wasn’t allowed in multiple lounges with PP,. That includes the AirFrance/KLM in SFO, as well as the lounge in Cancun, MX, plus another one which I forgot.
    Some of them actually post PP hours now, which for sure loves are ridiculous, like no PP between 10am – 9 pm, even though the lounge was empty, and some just cried about the lounge being full which sometimes it really is but someone not. And if you want to bring in guest, especially a large family, just forget it..

  78. Logan Airport Boston 19 August 2017
    We were refused entry and told they had a waiting list for Priority Pass holders only. All other cards were allowed entry!

  79. Multiple hour limits at JFK. Don’t try in terminal 1 as both Air France lounge and Korean Air have severe limitations. Definitely puts a damper on one of the more fun parts of the trip (this in case was my honeymoon). I suppose it is all economics so can’t really be upset. Just a bummer.

  80. Every Friday evening this summer, LaGuardia’s Air Canada lounge denied access to Priority Pass members and would only let Air Canada fliers enter. I paid out-of-pocket for this membership ($400, I believe) and am very upset that I can’t use it.

  81. I am noticing this problem is now increasing because there appwars to have been an issue between the lounges and Thomson holidays, Thomson customers are granted lounge access for Premium economy flights but this Year the lounges are reserving all the tables to allow for this, because of this I have been asked to move, denied entry and placed on a waiting list.

  82. The lounges at London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted) are becoming increasingly difficult to get into using Priority Pass (PP). I have been turned away or had to wait at all of these airports at least once over the past 9 months. Part of the issue is that if you are booking a place at the lounge directly (e.g. via Holiday Extras, Aspire or with the lounge directly) they charge more (ca. £25) but allow you to book an arrival time. With PP you can’t book a place and priority is given to those who have booked (and paid more) for their place. I have been in lounges where there are vacant tables which are reserved for paid bookings, yet PP holders are being turned away. It would be helpful if PP allowed their cardholders to book in advance. It is starting to get to the point where I wonder if it is worthwhile being a PP member – what’s the point fo the card if you can’t use it when you want?

  83. stop guest access and it will alleviate this issue to a certain degree… I have been in overcrowded lounges where I see entire families there with many adults, I once talked to one such family and only one of them had a Chase Sapphire Reserve card but he had 6 guests in his party. This is ridiculous. Refusing access to Priority Pass members devalues the program… no way I would actually pay for a membership if I knew access could be hit or miss when I actually needed to use the service.

    I would just go to an airport restaurant and order a meal/drink where I would be guaranteed seating albeit in a slightly noisier environment but I would get much better food and service.

  84. I echo the problems reported by several UK users – I have been turned away from the lounge at London Gatwick South Terminal due to “overcrowding” and have had to wait for access at Stansted. Given how important a lounge visit is to relax and prepare for an often-unpleasant flight on a budget airline, and the amount I pay through Amex for this important travel privilege, I am disappointed at the recent results here.

  85. TT, I emailed PriorityPass about a similar issue recently (different location) and got a very helpful person call me back who was genuinely concerned about this.

    He explained that while it’s not possible to reserve lounge space because of the way the PP model works and the fact that the lounges are all independently operated, they take access issues very seriously and their expectation is that if space is available at the time of the cardholder’s arrival then they should be admitted, regardless of any “reservations” (more a problem in 3rd Party lounges than airline-operates, I admit).

    I was even encouraged to, in the event of future access problems, to call PriorityPass from the lounge entrance so that they could speak to the staff on duty.

    Overall I was impressed with the speed and professionalism of their response, they called me just one day after I sent an email describing my challenges.

    You can find the local numbers for your location on https://www.prioritypass.com/en/member-support/contact-us

  86. We were recently turned away at Washington Dulles’ Turkish airlines lounge and told to come back in 3 hours (after our flight) because of ‘space’. We could see in and saw there were maybe 10 people in the entire place. Just seemed like the lady didn’t want to deal with us.

  87. Denied today around 3pm, Alaska airlines boardroom LAX.. waited for 30 mins, sign wasn’t removed.. said they are at capacity. At least 5-6 people were turned away just in 10 mins I was there so gives you an idea of PP volume.

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