Have Airport Lounge Access? Here’s What to Do to Make Sure You Aren’t Turned Away

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

There are plenty of cards that give you access to comfy airport lounges.

Priority Pass airport lounges are perhaps the most well known, with 1,200+ locations around the world.  And you can get a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (10 visits per year). The information for the Hilton Surpass card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The good news is that it’s very easy for you to earn lounge access!  The bad news is that it’s very easy for all of us to earn lounge access.  So lounges are often crowded, and may at certain times place a sign outside the door to inform folks that they aren’t admitting certain members.

There are measures you can take to minimize your possibility of disappointment.  Jasmin frequents the lounges with her 3 kids and has never been denied.  I visit often as well, and I’ve only been turned away once.

Credit Cards Can Open Up Some Pretty Sweet Airport Lounges to Your Travels

Here’s what I do when I visit Priority Pass airport lounges!

Will an Airport Lounge Turn You Away?

Link:   Dodge the New Airline Lounge Restrictions:  Get Access No Matter Which Airline You Fly

We’ve recently seen rapidly changing airport lounge policies.  Airlines are making their lounges more exclusive, so access is more difficult to obtain for some of us.  Many intend to keep folks out (even with a membership!) if you’re not flying their particular airline the day of your visit.

Not the case with Priority Pass.  No matter the airline you’re flying, you can enter a Priority Pass lounge.

But there are still a handful of reasons you could be turned away at the door.  Some of these may sound like common sense, but they aren’t!

1.   Overcrowding

Because Priority Pass membership is easy to pick up if you have the right card, you’ll have to keep in mind the necessity of capacity control.

If you’re heading to hub airports during super busy hours, it’s possible you might not get into an airport lounge.  I was once turned away at a Priority Pass lounge in Seoul because there were too many visitors.  And peering into the bustling lounge, I think I’d rather have stayed in the terminal anyway.

That’s happened just once that I can remember.  And I’ve visited airport lounges probably over 100 times.

Google can be of help when you’re anticipating a visit to an airport lounge.  For example, I searched the Korean Air Business Class Lounge in New York on Google, and in the right column was a breakdown of the lounge’s busiest hours.

You’re a Cinch If You Arrive Around 4:00 pm!

2.   Unique Lounge Restrictions

Each lounge has rules for when folks with Priority Pass members can and can NOT enter.

For example, the Korean Air Business Class Lounge in New York is primarily for Business Class passengers flying Korean Air.  But Priority Pass members are allowed to access the lounge between 2:00 pm and 8:30 pm.

You can find the unique rules for each lounge by searching the location on the Priority Pass website.  It notes the hours you can enter the lounge.

The KAL Lounge Is for Valued Korean Air Business Class Passengers (but You Can Enter, Too)

In addition to the hours of operation, you can scroll down to “Conditions” to make sure you meet all the requirements to enter.  At this location, only 2 guests are allowed to enter with you.  And of course, if it’s during a busy time of day, they can refuse you.

Some Lounges Will Restrict Larger Groups From Entering

3.   Leaving Your Priority Pass Card at Home

If you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you will receive a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.  While it is free, it’s NOT automatic.  You must activate your Priority Pass membership by logging into your online account prior to accessing a lounge.  After enrolling, your membership card should arrive within ~10 business days.

Within the Priority Pass app is a virtual card that many Priority Pass lounges accept.  However, NOT ALL of them accept it.  And flashing your fancy credit card or opening the app in an attempt to prove you are a Priority Pass member isn’t good enough.  I’ve tried.

Beware Alaska Airlines Lounges

Keith wrote a post mentioning his rotten luck with Priority Pass to access Alaska Airlines lounges.  He is denied access more often than not!

Keith Pissed

Digging into other folks’ experience, it is NOT uncommon for Alaska Airlines lounges to “put the sign out” telling Priority Pass members they can’t come in.  Taking all the accounts I found, it appears folks are denied ~58% of the time to Alaska Airlines lounges in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.

For what it’s worth, I’ve entered the Alaska Airlines lounge twice in Los Angeles with no issues.

The AMEX Platinum Cards Give You the Best Shot at Entry

Apply Here:   The Platinum Card® from American Express

Read our review of The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Here:   The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Read our review of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

While many cards come with Priority Pass membership, the AMEX Platinum personal and small business cards give you the most comprehensive lounge access by far.

Folks who have either of these cards will receive membership to the AMEX Global Lounge Collection, which includes:

  • The Centurion Lounge network
  • The International American Express Lounges
  • Delta Sky Club (when you’re flying Delta that day)

  • Priority Pass Select lounges
  • Airspace Lounge
  • Escape Lounge
  • Plaza Premium Lounge

So if Priority Pass isn’t admitting, you’ve got lots of other options!

Many folks consider Centurion Lounges to be the best lounges in the US.  That’s because they offer tasty buffet-style meals, premium alcoholic beverages, showers, conference spaces, and speedy Wi-Fi.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll benefit from this card, head to the AMEX Global Lounge Collection, and type the airports you travel to!  Here are step-by-step instructions on how to find AMEX Platinum airport lounges.

Bottom Line

Getting denied access to an airport lounge is always a possibility.  Sometimes the lounge is unexpectedly closed for maintenance.  Sometimes it’s overcrowded.  Sometimes it’s got funky hours.  But you can keep your disappointment to a minimum simply by:

  • Quickly researching the lounge’s busiest hours
  • Noting the unique times of day the lounge is Priority Pass eligible
  • Bringing your physical Priority Pass card everywhere
  • Holding a card that comes with the most comprehensive lounge access, so you’ll always have options (the AMEX Platinum personal and small business cards are your best bet).

And stay clear of those darn Alaska Airlines lounges around Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles!  They tend to have a sign out front shooing Priority Pass members away.

Let us know if you’ve experienced a Priority Pass lounge that frequently denies you access!  It would be good for other readers to hear.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments