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For decades, the Collinson Group has dominated the lounge service industry providing travelers extensive access to its vast lounge network through its two programs: Priority Pass and Lounge Pass. But in 2013, LoungeBuddy was launched and started to offer similar services to get a slice of the market share.
And to make things even more interesting, LougeBuddy was acquired by American Express in 2019 turning the business around and making it a major player in the industry.
In this article, we’ll discuss how each program differs from one another in terms of business model, benefits, memberships, and pricing. Let’s help you figure out which program fits you better.
Owned by the Collinson Group, Priority Pass is already a household name in the lounge service industry. Since its founding in 1992, the program has granted airport lounge access to thousands of travelers to more than 1,300 partner lounges across the globe.
Out of the three lounge programs that we’re going to discuss today, Priority Pass is the only program that offers a membership-based which means that members can get unlimited access to partner lounges for one whole year.
How To Get A Priority Pass Membership?
There are two ways on how you acquire membership and that is through a Priority Pass Select membership or a paid Priority Pass membership.
Priority Pass Select Membership
A Priority Pass Select Membership is obtained through an eligible travel credit card, making your membership free as long as you pay your card’s annual fee.
Here are some examples of cards that come with a Select membership:
- American Express Platinum Card
- American Express Business Platinum Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
- The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Just take note that each card comes with different entrance and guesting policies, so you might want to call customer service or read our reviews on each card above.
Paid Priority Pass Membership
With the paid Priority Pass membership, you can choose from three different plans:
- Standard (for occasional travelers)
- $99 per year
- $32 member visit fee
- $32 guest visit fee
- Standard Plus (for regular travelers)
- $299 per year
- 10 free visits with subsequent visits of $32 each
- $32 guest visit fee
- Prestige (for frequent travelers)
- $429 per year
- All member visits are FREE
- $32 guest visit fee
But in our opinion, we think that there should only be two tiers: Plus & Prestige, and here’s why. If you make 7 visits a year with a Standard Plan, you’ll be paying $323/year, including the annual fee. It’s not a good deal since you’ll be paying $24 more than the Standard Plus Plan, which already comes with 10 free visits a year.
And even if you make minimal visits with your Standard Plan, let’s say 4 visits per year, it’s still a bad deal because you’ll be paying $227 or an overpriced cost of $56 per visit.
Ideally, Standard Plus is the best option for travelers who use airport lounges for at least 6x -13x a year, and Prestige is the best option for members who use airport lounges for 14x or more per year.
For travelers who only make 4 visits or less per year, you’re better off booking a one-time lounge access through the Lounge Pass or Lounge Buddy program, which typically costs about $40 per visit (to be discussed below).
Lounge Pass is also owned by the Collinson Group, and it was founded in 2003. As of this writing, the program has more than 600 VIP lounges in more than 350 airports worldwide.
The LoungePass lounge network is run by the Priority Pass Ltd group, but it has a completely different business model than Priority Pass. Priority Pass has a membership-based model where members can get unlimited lounge access for a year. Meanwhile, Lounge Buddy is a lounge booking service where travelers pay a certain amount per visit.
One of the main reasons why LoungePass was launched is that it made lounge access readily available to travelers whenever, wherever. You only have to pay when you need it. Basically, LoungePass is like buying lounge access at a retail price, while Priority Pass is buying lounge access at a wholesale price.
Prices vary per location, but it typically starts around $40 per visit for lounges located at small airports and can go up to $50+ at major airports like Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles. For example, The Club CVG lounge at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport costs $45 per person per visit. Meanwhile, the Prime Class lounge at terminal 1 New York (JFK) airport costs $54 per person per visit.
How Does Lounge Pass Work
You don’t need to sign up for anything to complete a Lounge Pass booking. Here’s what you need to do:
- Just go to loungepass.com, choose an airport lounge from the drop-down list, and click search.
- After choosing your preferred lounge, you’ll be redirected to the next page, where you’ll type in your personal details, time of arrival, and the number of guests that you’ll be traveling with. Take note that you should book at least 24 hours prior to departure.
- Next, you’ll see a booking summary, and you can finally complete your transaction by filling in the payment details. Once your payment has pushed through, you’ll get a confirmation via email that you’re booking is successful.
Make sure that you show your email confirmation upon entering your lounge booking. You can also download the booking confirmation as a PDF file.
What Is Loungebuddy?
LoungeBuddy was launched in 2013, and it lets travelers purchase one-time passes through the LoungeBuddy app or website. In 2019, American Express acquired the company, and it’s now one of the major competitors in the lounge service industry, with more than 2000+ lounges in over 800 airports worldwide.
LoungeBuddy has the same business model as LoungePass but looking at the numbers; the former has a bigger network giving it an edge over the latter.
Additionally, LoungeBuddy has a better user interface since it allows you to leave reviews so travelers can help each other decide when booking a lounge (just like Airbnb).
How Does Loungebuddy Work?
Booking a lounge with LoungeBuddy is quick and straightforward. Just like LoungePass, go to the official website at loungebuddy.com, type in your preferred location, and click search.
Prices are a little bit more expensive at LoungeBuddy. For example, a single-pass entry for The Club ATL starts at $45 on LoungePass and $50 for LoungeBuddy. However, just check the prices on both websites when booking a lounge to be sure because it may vary from airport to airport.
Once you’ve confirmed your booking, complete your personal details and your credit card information. However, there’s only one downside with LoungeBuddy – the payment portal only accepts American Express Cards after it was acquired by American Express in 2019.
Which Lounge Program Should You Get?
Choosing the right lounge program depends on how frequently you travel. If you’re a road warrior, getting a Priority Pass would be the best idea but if you make 2 or 3 trips per year, then purchasing a single-entry pass with LoungePass or LoungeBuddy makes more sense.
However, let’s see each program’s pros and cons to help you decide better.
- Complimentary membership is offered on most travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card.
- Some lounges come with premium perks and amenities. For example, Moscow lounges have massage chairs, and Hong Kong lounges offer shower suites.
- Lounge access is not guaranteed. Some guests are denied access when Priority Pass lounges become overcrowded during peak hours. Passengers who have airline status or are flying on first class or business class flights are mostly prioritized (quite ironic having a Priority Pass, yet you’re not given top priority).
- Rarely offers lounge access to exclusive lounges like the Delta SkyClub or United Polaris Lounges, which is quite disappointing, especially if you’re paying an expensive membership fee of $429 per year.
- No annual memberships and has an easy and straightforward booking process.
- Cancellations and refunds are allowed as long as it’s done at least 24 hours before your booking date.
- Lounge prices are affordable and can cost as little as $20. Additionally, you can use multiple credit cards to complete your booking.
- Has a small lounge network. Lounges are only available at around 350 airports.
- Bookings must be made at least 24 hours prior to your flight schedule.
- No app version either on android or ios as of this moment.
- Lounge access is guaranteed upon booking, and refunds/cancellations are also available in case the lounge becomes unexpectedly unavailable.
- Has an extensive lounge network in 800+ airports around the world
- Available on both website & mobile.
- The LoungeBuddy App version is only available on iOS.
- American Express Cards are the only accepted form of payment.
Generally, infrequent flyers should always opt for LoungePass or LoungeBuddy. It makes more sense since you don’t have to pay annual fees just to book one or two lounge visits a year.
Choosing between these two programs would all depend on preference and each program’s benefits. However, if you’re an Amex cardholder, your first choice should be LoungeBuddy.
On the other hand, frequent flyers should always opt for a Priority Pass since it will give them the best value for their money. We don’t really recommend getting a paid membership since you’ll just get lounge access and nothing else.
It’s better if you have a Priority Pass Select membership with the American Express Platinum Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, even if you have to pay a few hundred dollars more in annual fees. You’ll get more premium perks like a TSA PreCheck membership, annual travel credits, and a chance to earn rewards.
Have you decided which program to use?
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