What to Do if a Priority Pass Lounge Is Full

Priority Pass lounges are known to hit capacity every now and then. Try one of these workarounds.
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Written by Josh Garber
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
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Priority Pass is a popular program that, for a fee, gives members access to 1,300 airport lounges and experiences globally. Some credit cards include Priority Pass as a card benefit.

While visiting a Priority Pass lounge can be a great way to pass the time before a flight, lounges are limited in capacity and can sometimes fill up, which might put a damper on your pre-flight plans.

While it can be frustrating when a Priority Pass lounge that you planned to use is full, you can still have an enjoyable airport experience — maybe even a more enjoyable experience — by taking some of the steps outlined below.

1. Ask if you can join the waitlist

If a Priority Pass lounge is full, you should always ask if there is a waitlist available.

If there is one, put your name on it. You’ll usually be asked to give your cell phone number so you’ll get a text if space becomes available, which gives you some freedom to explore the airport while you wait.

Keep in mind that if you do get a text that a spot has opened up, it’s usually time sensitive. For instance, the text may say that you have 10 minutes to show up or they’ll give your spot to the next person on the waitlist, so be sure not to wander too far from the lounge when you’re exploring.

2. See if there are other Priority Pass options nearby

Depending on the airport, there may be more than one Priority Pass lounge. If the lounge you originally wanted to use is full, you should check the Priority Pass app or website to see if there are other lounges at the airport.

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If you try to check into a lounge and find out it’s full, ask the receptionist if there are any other lounges at the airport that are not at capacity. This could help you avoid trekking to a second lounge only to find out that it’s also full.

You can also check to see if there are any Priority Pass experiences nearby. These can include free massages, restaurant credits and even access to a video game experience.

Note that if you have Priority Pass membership through your credit card, certain experiences may not be covered. So when you sign up for Priority Pass — or at some point before your flight — verify which experiences, if any, are included with your membership.

3. Buy a day pass to a non-Priority Pass lounge

If a Priority Pass lounge is full, find out if any lounges nearby offer day passes. For instance, you can buy a United Airlines lounge day pass for $59 through the United app. Alaska Airlines also sells day passes for $60 at some airports.

You can also check out LoungeBuddy, which is a tool to help you find and buy lounge day passes at airports around the world.

Before buying a day pass to an airline’s lounge, check to see if you need to be flying on that airline to gain access.

For example, Alaska only allows day pass access at its New York-John F. Kennedy lounge to those who are flying with Alaska or a Oneworld alliance member airline.

4. Try to get on an earlier flight

If your Priority Pass lounge is full, you may want to see if there are earlier flights to your destination; then, ask a gate agent if there’s space available. Sometimes a gate agent will be willing to move you to the new flight free of charge, which can get you to your destination quicker.

Keep in mind that it’s much easier to change to an earlier flight if you don’t have any checked luggage, so this may not be the best option if you’ve already checked luggage to your destination.

5. Use your free time to explore the airport

You may be in an airport that has interesting amenities that are worth checking out. If the Priority Pass lounge is full, see what else the airport has to offer.

Examples of unique features in airports that are worth exploring:

  • The yoga room at San Francisco’s airport.

  • The Butterfly Garden at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

  • Zurich airport’s observation deck — binoculars included.

  • A 10-hole mini-golf course at the Denver airport.

Depending on the airport and the amenities offered, you may actually end up being glad you didn’t spend your time in the Priority Pass lounge.

The bottom line

While it can be frustrating when the Priority Pass lounge you were planning to spend time in is full, there are steps you can take to ensure you still have an enjoyable airport experience.

These include signing up for the lounge’s waitlist, seeing if there are other Priority Pass lounges or experiences nearby, accessing a non-Priority Pass lounge, trying to get on an earlier flight, or using your time to explore unique amenities at the airport.

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