As I’ve written about in the past, Priority Pass members are increasingly reporting issues with accessing certain lounges. While it’s not the case at most lounges, some of the most popular ones are restricting access to Priority Pass members due to space constraints.
This is likely due to the huge increase in the number of people who have Priority Pass memberships, because of the increasing popularity of premium credit cards. For those of you not familiar, 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 around $20 per person per visit. 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).
The problem is that lounges only have so much space. This issue has probably been most common at Alaska Lounges, where Priority Pass members report repeatedly being turned away because there’s no more room in the lounges. More often than not, there seems to be a sign outside Alaska Lounges indicating that the lounge isn’t available to Priority Pass members.
This is of course a very frustrating situation, though I don’t think anyone is directly at fault here:
- 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 in, 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
The only real way to “solve” many of these issues is to have lounges where crowding is commonly an issue removed from the Priority Pass network, so that they better manage expectations. The past couple of days it has been reported that the Alaska Lounge in Portland will be leaving the Priority Pass network as of May 1, 2017, and I’ve received several reader questions about that.
I wasn’t sure if this was true, and hadn’t seen it officially confirmed anywhere, so I decided to follow up with Alaska about this. Here’s what they had to say:
Due to the popularity of some of our lounge locations, we have had to enact temporary limits on certain types of passes, including Priority Pass. We are currently working with Priority Pass on a solution to alleviate space constraints. Once a plan has been agreed upon, Priority Pass will communicate any updates/changes through their communication channels. That said, we do expect that the opening of our new Seattle C Lounge, in June, will help to alleviate the need to restrict access in Seattle.
I specifically asked about the Portland lounge and it supposedly being removed from Priority Pass as of May 1 altogether, and they weren’t aware of such a change happening.
It doesn’t look like anything will be done immediately, though it is interesting that Alaska and Priority Pass are working on a solution here, or at a minimum, communicating.
Like I said, I’m not sure there’s really any “solution” here, other than them cutting ties, and I’m not sure that’s in anyone’s best interest. I suppose one idea that might help is to limit the number of guests each Priority Pass member can take. As it stands, Alaska Lounges limit Priority Pass members to bringing two guests, though maybe they could get rid of guesting entirely (though that would understandably frustrate families).
What do you guys think — are Alaska Lounges best off leaving Priority Pass so that expectations can better be managed, or would you rather just inconsistently have access to them?