Priority Pass: The complete Australian guide
Everything you need to know about Priority Pass' pay-per-visit lounge scheme and when it's worth signing up.
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Access to most airport lounges depends on either being a high-tier frequent flyer with that airline or paying an annual membership fee (think Qantas Club or Velocity lounges). Even then, you need to be flying with the airline on the day in order to use the lounge.
Priority Pass works differently. As a member, you can access lounges run by independent operators like Plaza Premium and Aspire, as well as some individual airline lounges. You don't need to be flying with a specific airline to gain access, making it a potentially appealing option if you regularly book low-fare flights but still want some lounge luxury before flying.
A typical lounge will offer free Wi-Fi, drinks and snacks, somewhere to charge your devices and spaces to relax before flying. Some also feature showers, meeting areas and a wider range of hot meals.
Priority Pass offers access to 1,200 lounges spread across 140 countries and 500 cities. However, just a handful of those lounges are in Australia. So when might it make sense to join up? Here's what you need to know.
What membership options does Priority Pass offer?
Priority Pass has three different membership levels:
- Standard membership costs US$99 a year. With standard membership, you pay US$32 each time you enter a lounge.
- Standard Plus membership costs US$249 a year. This gives you 10 free lounge visits during your membership year. Any subsequent visits are charged at US$32 each (the same rate as for standard members).
- Prestige membership costs US$399 a year. This offers unlimited lounge visits during your membership year. Given that it costs US$150 more than Standard Plus, you'd want to be confident of making at least 15 lounge visits a year before signing up for this option.
Whatever your own membership level, you'll need to pay US$32 each time you want to bring a guest with you. If you regularly travel with your partner, you'll likely each need your own membership.
There are regular "sales" on Priority Pass membership, offering discounts of 25% or more. If you're considering signing up, doing so during a sale is a definite bonus. You can keep track of Priority Pass sales by signing up for our Points Finder newsletter, where we track all the best frequent flyer deals. We also feature current discounts on our Priority Pass discount codes list.
You might be able to get out of paying altogether. Some credit cards offer Priority Pass access to their members as a perk. Check out our full guide to cards that offer Priority Pass. Note that many of these deals will give you a fixed number of lounge passes. That may not be ideal if you travel overseas frequently, but if you just want lounge access on your annual holiday it might be a better deal overall.
VIDEO: How to get free airport lounge access with your credit card
Which lounges does Priority Pass offer in Australia?
As of August 2018, Priority Pass only offers access to a handful of international lounges within Australia. In Melbourne and Brisbane, you can access Plaza Premium; in Cairns, you can visit the Reef Lounge; and in Darwin, you can use the Catalina Lounge.
In Sydney, Rex is located in T2, so it's an option for Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tigerair flights, but not for Qantas domestic. The same applies to Melbourne, where it's located in T4 (though it's quite a walk from most Virgin gates). Adelaide operates from a single terminal, so you could use Rex before any domestic flight, though you'll have to traverse the entire length of the airport to get to the regular Jetstar gates.
How can I use Priority Pass when there are no lounges available?
As well as lounge access, Priority Pass also offers food and drink credits at selected restaurants and bars. This means you can get $36 worth of food from specific venues and count that as one lounge "visit". You won't get access to other amenities like showers or power outlets, but you will potentially get better food than in the lounge itself.
Here's a full list of where Priority Pass offers food and drink credits in Australia (as of August 2018):
|Airport||Priority Pass dining|
|Brisbane Domestic||Bar Roma|
|Brisbane Domestic||Graze Grill & Bar|
|Brisbane International||Corretto Cafe & Bar|
|Coolangatta||Velocity Expresso & Bar|
|Melbourne International||Bar Pulpo by MoVida|
|Melbourne International||Cafe Vue|
|Melbourne International||Urban Provodore|
|Sydney International||Better Burger|
|Sydney International||Chicken Confidential|
|Sydney International||Peroni Bar|
|Sydney T2||Bistro 2020 & Bar|
|Sydney T3 (Qantas)||Bar Roma|
|Sydney T3 (Qantas)||Wok on Air|
Is it worth getting Priority Pass?
Whether Priority Pass membership makes sense depends on your individual flying patterns and plans. Here are some scenarios to consider.
You take lots of international trips with different airlines
This is where Priority Pass hits the sweet spot. If you're not a dedicated frequent flyer with a single airline, then Priority Pass can be a good way to get lounge access whenever you fly. Just check that your favourite destinations do have lounges available in the right terminals for the airlines you use.
You regularly fly domestically in Australia
It's going to be hard to get good value from this, unless you're regularly flying between east coast cities on a mix of airlines. You'd be better off concentrating on a single airline (Qantas, Virgin or Rex) and paying for access to its lounge network.
You largely fly with a single airline or frequent flyer alliance
Again, in this case Priority Pass isn't going to make a lot of sense if that airline has its own lounge network. However, if you're regularly using a budget airline like AirAsia or Scoot, then Priority Pass could be an affordable way to add regular lounge visits.
You regularly fly business class or first class
Lounge access is usually provided with business-class tickets, so this may not represent the best-value choice.
What should I watch out for when using Priority Pass?
If you plan to sign up, some other issues to watch out for:
- You're not always guaranteed lounge access. In busy periods, Priority Pass members may be denied entry to individual lounges. This is usually because the lounge is already filled to capacity. (To be clear, this can occasionally happen even with airline lounges and regular members.)
- You may not get access to all lounge features. Getting into the lounge doesn't always mean you can freely use everything. There may be extra fees for facilities like showers, massage or high-end alcohol. Priority Pass does a good job of listing any restrictions and extra charges in its printed and online directories and apps, so check before travel and you'll know what to expect.
- There may be cheaper alternatives. Many of the lounges Priority Pass uses also offer general paid access and in some cases this might be cheaper, especially when you factor in your annual membership fee. Here's a concrete Australian example: to visit a REX lounge costs US$32 as a Priority Pass Standard member. However, you can visit as a casual member for AUD$33 between 9am and 2pm on weekdays, which is cheaper. Many credit cards also offer free lounge access passes as a membership perk, which may be more useful depending on your travel plans and patterns.
None of those are total deal-breakers: all lounges suffer from crowding and charges for extra services don't apply everywhere. If you travel a lot, then the convenience of a single card can outweigh having to pay individually each time.
THE POINTS FINDER TAKEPriority Pass is affordable when compared to most single-airline schemes and it does cover a diverse range of destinations. For regular international travellers who often switch airlines, it's a solid choice. Domestic fliers will need to weigh that against the smaller number of local lounges. If you're planning on signing up, do so during a sale to cut your costs.
Popular Priority Pass coupon codes
|Last checked||Code description||Code|
|9 Nov 2020||Priority Pass from USD$99 per year||********|
|21 Sep 2020||10% off Priority Pass membership||********|
- Virgin Australia sale drops fares from $69 across 300,000 seats
- Fly across Australia from $99 with Qantas’s 2020 Boxing Day sale
- Score $75 flights with the Virgin Australia Boxing Day sale
- Take off across the country from $75 with this Virgin Australia sale
- Get in early with this $89 Virgin Australia sale
Pictures: Shutterstock, Amy Bradney-George, Angus Kidman
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