Provide decent food and people will come to the airport early. More people will spend more time in lounges even accounting for expecting more people to do just that. It’s why American Express Centurion lounges get so crowded. And it’s why some Priority Pass lounges get so full they turn away guests.
A lot more people have lounge access than ever before thanks to Priority Pass cards that come with premium credit cards. And there’s a mismatch between Priority Pass cardmembers and where their lounges are. US banks have been the most aggressive in handing out these cards, but less than 10% of participating lounges are in the U.S.
Adding airport restaurants helps, but those get busy too, people come for free food and drink even more than for access to a lounge. Here’s how the economics of accepting Priority Pass works out for restaurants.
Walking through Washington Dulles airport this past week, I was able to capture what Priority Pass lounge access is like in the U.S. — in just one sign.
This is at the Washington Dulles Turkish Airlines lounge.
- Access to the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses at the airport had ended for the day.
- Turkish’s own flight doesn’t depart until 11 p.m. So it wasn’t that Turkish needed the lounge for its own passengers.
- However Saudia uses the lounge and their flight departs at 5 p.m. Their passengers will be exiting the lounge around the time that Priority Pass guests become welcome again.
Priority Pass is a great way for lounges to monetize their downtime, since the space is leased all the time and airport leases are expensive. However Priority Pass guests are getting access to excess capacity only. Think of Priority Pass lounge access, then, as the last minute saver award that may or may not open up.