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Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded? Word has spread around the travel community that a lot of members have been turned away by some partner lounges due to overcrowding.
While the size of the crowd typically depends on the day, lounge location, and time of the year, we can’t deny the fact that overcrowding is becoming a common scenario even at less popular lounges. Well, that’s mainly because the number of people traveling and using airport lounges has increased drastically over the years.
Plus, Priority Pass has also made lounge access so much easier for the public. Lounge access used to be exclusive to VIP guests or top-tier frequent flyer members but nowadays, a day pass or an eligible credit card is enough to get you through.
This overcrowding issue has sparked a debate among travelers whether Priority Pass should make their memberships more exclusive, or keep it the same way but risk the chances of getting public backlash for having overcrowded lounges all the time.
In this article, we’ll give our two cents on this issue and what solutions Priority Pass can adopt to address it.
What Is A Priority Pass?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Priority Pass Lounges, it’s basically a lounge network that gives you access to more than 1,300 lounges in over 148 countries.
Priority Pass memberships are sold as annual memberships and there are two ways on how to get them. First, you can get a paid membership and select among these three choices: Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige Plan. The higher the plan, the more benefits and guest privileges you’ll get.
Second, you can get a Priority Pass Select membership which is a complimentary membership extended to a few select credit cardholders such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum Card, and the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card.
How Does The Priority Pass Business Model Work?
Priority Pass doesn’t have its own lounge and what it has is a vast network of partner lounges that are being paid on a commission basis. Basically, the company earns money from annual subscriptions, and then it pays its partner lounges around $20 per person per visit.
Annual subscriptions are Priority Pass’ main source of income but it also gets an additional income stream from credit card companies. Companies like Chase and Amex pay Priority Pass a certain amount of money to give card members access to its lounge network.
Why Do Priority Pass Lounges Get Overcrowded?
It’s typically major cities like New York or Los Angeles that get overcrowded most of the time but nowadays, even smaller airports are slowly getting crowded too. Here are a few reasons why we think this is happening.
Increasing Number Of Priority Pass Members
Take note that Priority Pass doesn’t just offer lounge access but also access to out-of-lounge dining, spa, and relaxation experiences. This gives people more incentive to sign up for a membership. The number of Priority Pass members is drastically increasing but the lounge areas remain the same.
Partner Lounges Want More Visitors Because of Priority Pass
Most airport lounges used to operate independently and they were able to set the prices based on the types of customers that they want to target. For example, they can set the prices higher and target luxury travelers and business travelers only, keeping the number of lounge guests low yet still making enough money.
But with the rise of Priority Pass, Lounge Buddy, and similar lounge network services, the market landscape has drastically changed making it hard for independent airport lounges to make a profit. Most of these lounges end up joining Priority Pass and splitting the profits for every customer that enters their lounges.
As a result partner lounges are forced to make up for that money lost by letting more visitors in, which eventually results in overcrowding.
More Credit Card Companies Are Offering Priority Pass Memberships
Credit card companies want more credit card sign-ups so they offer complimentary Priority Pass memberships to sweeten their cards’ benefits.
However, it’s not just the surge of new cardholders / Priority Pass members that causes overcrowding, but also the increased guesting privileges. Most cards now allow primary cardholders to bring at least two guests per visit.
Read More: How To Access The Delta Sky Club Lounges
What Should Priority Pass Do To Avoid Overcrowding?
As per policy, Priority Pass member lounges have all the right to deny entry if the lounges are overcrowded so passengers should manage their expectations when entering a lounge. It’s no one’s fault actually but that’s just how it is.
There’s no immediate solution for this but we think that these should be the steps that Priority Pass and partner lounges should adopt moving forward.
Make Airport Lounges Bigger
Increasing the size of airport lounges is the best way to address overcrowding. However, it’s easier said than done since that would mean taking over another space which could cost thousands of dollars in renovation and rental fees.
Set Restrictions For Priority Pass Members
Priority Pass should set restrictions for members on select partner lounges. For example, a lounge could limit access to Priority Pass members between 5:30 PM and 11 PM when there’s a surge in visitors. It doesn’t really benefit Priority Pass members but it can help manage their expectations since they know the lounge is going to be full during those peak hours.
Another option would be to restrict access based on status. For example, Delta Sky Club lounges that are part of the Priority Pass network can limit lounge access to only Delta Medallion members or Delta SkyMiles Credit Card holders during peak times.
Limit Guest Access
If the number and space area of the lounges cannot be increased, then Priority Pass should decrease guesting privileges for members. Most credit cards allow primary cardholders to bring up to two guests or their immediate family per visit. While every cardholder may not bring guests, guesting limits can greatly help reduce overcrowding.
Improve Forecasting & Queuing Technology
Partner lounges typically grant lounge access on a first-come-first-served basis, and while it still works, it can get out of hand during peak times. Most travelers are often left wandering the airport just to find a place to sit.
It would be good if Priority Pass added a feature where it provides real-time data on the lounge’s crowd capacity and if there are still available seats. A priority waitlist feature where you pay extra to have seats reserved for a certain amount of time is also a good idea.
Additionally, for airports that have multiple Priority Pass lounges like Los Angeles (LAX), the app can help distribute the members evenly to avoid pooling in one airline lounge.
Allow Members To Take Out Food
Almost all airline lounges allow eating within lounge premises only which forces members to stay within the lounge for a longer period of time and eventually causes overcrowding.
Lounges should give members to-go options, especially during peak times. We’re pretty sure that some Priority Pass members are only after the free food and beverages, and don’t really want to stay within the lounge.
All it takes is some careful planning and policy-making, and for sure, there’d be noticeable changes in crowd reduction.
Add More Service Partners
Priority Pass is already doing this because they have been offering access not just to lounges, but also to restaurants, spas, and relaxation experiences. As of now, there are more than 30 restaurants in the Priority Pass network which helps decongest the crowds in the traditional lounges.
For sure, most members would prefer eating at a nice restaurant with access to a charging port and free Wifi than staying at an overcrowded lounge.
Bottomline: Why Are Priority Pass Lounges Usually Crowded? Who’s At Fault?
People want to travel more and want to avail of premium services at a cheaper price so overcrowding is bound to happen and is nobody’s fault.
And just like a restaurant at full capacity, the only way to manage overcrowding at airport lounges is to turn away people. However, in the case of Priority Pass, members are at a loss because they’ve already paid for their memberships in advance. But it’s a policy that members agreed on from the moment they signed up for a membership so there’s really nothing that can be done about it.
Have you been in an overcrowded Priority Pass Lounge before? Were you denied access?
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