What Is Priority Pass and How Do I Get It?

Here’s how to obtain complimentary membership to the world’s largest independent airport lounge program.

Rooftop deck of Sala VIP Internacional at Quito International Airport in Ecuador

The Sala VIP Internacional, a Priority Pass lounge at Quito International Airport in Ecuador, has an alfresco rooftop seating area.

Photo by Paul Rubio

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With over 1,300 lounges in more than 600 cities across 148 countries, the Priority Pass lounge network is the world’s largest independent airport lounge program. The lounges within the Priority Pass network run the gamut from singular, airport-managed lounges to some owned and operated by major airlines. Priority Pass membership can be purchased outright, but it’s also included as a complimentary benefit under specific credit cards. With Priority Pass membership, travelers can enter lounges in the portfolio on their flight date, regardless of airline or class flown. In the most general sense, membership means complimentary access to snacks and meals, alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi, power outlets, and comfy seating before most flights. Here’s how to gain membership and how to get your friends and family into a lounge, too.

Where are Priority Pass lounges found and what are they like?

Priority Pass lounges are found in airports across the world—in 600 cities across 148 countries to be exact. Not every airport has a Priority Pass lounge, but some have multiple. The network’s app makes it easy to search for lounges by global airport code and terminals.

As one can imagine with so many lounges in a single portfolio, not all are created equal. Some are fabulous with full meal presentations and artisan cocktails. Sala VIP Internacional at Quito International Airport in Ecuador, for example, is a beautifully appointed space, with an alfresco rooftop seating area and a lunchtime spread that includes a buffet with sushi and ceviche plus a manned, made-to-order sandwich station. Others are legacy airline lounges such as the mediocre Turkish Airlines lounge in Central Terminal E at Miami International (not to be confused with the much nicer second Turkish lounge between Terminals H and J, not accessible with Priority Pass). And, finally, some are downright basic. These tend to be in airports where the facilities overall are underwhelmingly rudimentary and where getting a cold beer feels like a real luxury, even if it’s to be enjoyed on a cracked and highly worn leather couch under dim light.

How to buy a Priority Pass membership

It’s possible to acquire membership directly through the Priority Pass website. The three levels of membership—Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige—all have an annual membership fee. Regardless of membership tier, the cost for a guest is $35 per visit.

Membership Level
Annual Fee
Access cost
Guest fee
$35 per visit
Standard Plus
10 visits free, $35 thereafter

How to get a Priority Pass membership for free

Despite Priority Pass’s published prices for membership, most travelers obtain it for free and even avoid guest fees. How? Several credit cards come with a complimentary membership at a tier called Priority Pass Select. With certain credit cards, the benefits and lounge access of Select tend to be the same as Prestige plus a bonus of two complimentary guests per visit. The credit cards include:

Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee—see rates and fees) comes with a Select membership that is more on par with the paid Standard Plus membership. You get 10 free lounge visits annually and pay $35 thereafter.

While Select membership may be complimentary in all cases above, enrollment is not automatic. You’ll need to activate your membership online through your credit card login or call the 800 number on the back of your credit card. Once enrolled, you can set up your membership in the Priority Pass app and download your digit card to your digital wallet. A Priority Pass Select card will also arrive in the mail. Note that keeping the actual card in your wallet or passport holder is a smart idea, especially if traveling to countries where Wi-Fi connectivity can be an issue.

Extending membership to authorized users

Priority Pass Select membership is given in the name of the cardholder and provides that cardholder with access to all lounges within the network. However, most credit cards also grant membership to authorized users/additional cardholders. Authorized users of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Hilton Honors Aspire Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, and the Platinum Card from American Express are each entitled to their own Priority Pass Select Membership with the same access and two-guest policy.

What about overcrowding?

Given the sheer number of credit cardholders who use their Priority Pass benefits, the lounges tend to be crowded—sometimes overcrowded—since travelers can enter lounges in the portfolio on their flight date, regardless of airline or class flown.

The lounges have the right to refuse entry if at capacity and even sometimes prioritize travelers accessing the lounge on a business-class ticket with a partner airline. Our advice: Arrive early if you want to secure entry and enjoy the freebies.

Nonlounge airport alternatives

In addition to its lounges, Priority Pass has numerous airport restaurants, cafés, and bars in its network. There are almost 30 of these so-called lounge alternatives where Priority Pass members receive a food and beverage credit of $28 to $32 per guest. Unfortunately, those with a Select Membership are not privy to the credit except in one case: Chase Sapphire Reserve. At press time, the Reserve is still honoring this Priority Pass credit for the cardholder plus one guest when using their Priority Pass card. Those who try to use a Priority Pass card affiliated with any other credit card will not receive the credit at nonlounge airport places.


The Priority Pass lounge network allows many travelers to relax and indulge a little preflight at airports across the globe. With the right credit card, you can take full advantage of over 1,300 airport lounges for free. Even your friends and family can join at no cost.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in AFAR, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
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