I went to my first Priority Pass lounge in the US after visiting dozens abroad, and international ones are light-years better due to the food
- As I've traveled over the last year, I've made extensive use of airport lounges through my credit card, which offers a free Priority Pass membership as a perk. Priority Pass has access to over 1,200 lounges all over the world.
- While I loved my experience with Priority Pass abroad, many American users complained last year that lounges are overcrowded, have poor service, and weak food and beverage options.
- I recently used the new Alaska Airlines lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. While the lounge was well-designed and clean, food and beverage options paled in comparison to what I've experienced at international lounges.
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Over the last year, I have flown a lot: I've taken upwards of 30 flights in 20 countries since March 2018.
While that sounds - and is - fun, it also means that I've put in a lot of time in the utterly exhausting environment of the world's airports. Factor in that I'm the kind of traveler who always gets to airports early - no amount of travel experience will dispel my persistent anxiety of missing my flight - and it can be a lot of time wasted.Over that time, I've been raving that Priority Pass is one of the greatest memberships ever for frequent travelers.
Priority Pass is a network of 1,200 airport lounges that members can access, as well as a number of restaurants and spa-type properties that offer credits for Priority Pass members. Priority Pass only has access to about 6o lounges at US airports. The rest are abroad.
Priority Pass sells memberships directly, but I, like a lot of people, have a membership through my credit card.
Membership to Priority Pass has expanded greatly over the last couple of years thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, my credit card. Last summer, it led to complaints from American users that Priority Pass had become unreliable and overcrowded.
I was dumbfounded. As I traveled from country to country, I used a Priority Pass lounge every time I entered an airport. Each one, from Portugal to Israel to Indonesia, was a haven. They all tended to have a few essential features: comfy chairs to work or relax in, speedy Wi-Fi access, televisions, and, most importantly, an extensive buffet of fresh, hot food, endless made-to-order coffee, and complimentary alcoholic beverages. Some even had a full cocktail bar.
When I headed to New York's John F. Kennedy airport this week for my first domestic flight in over a year, I was pretty excited to check out the Priority Pass lounge at Terminal 7, the Alaska Airlines lounge.
Opened in April 2018, the lounge is one of the newest in the airport. It had a fresh, clean design with lots of modern, comfy furniture, power outlets, wood accents, and large viewing windows. There was fast Wi-Fi and even a made-to-order espresso bar. So far so good, I thought.
Then I saw the food selection. It was pretty uninspiring.
The morning spread consisted of near-frozen bagels and pastries, unripe oranges, and Greek yogurt. After visiting lounges abroad where, even in the morning, you could find a full omelet bar, along with hot breakfast from multiple different cuisines, the Alaska Airlines lounge was a disappointment.
I brought this up to my partner, who has traveled for business in the US extensively and used Priority Pass at a dozen US airports or more. She told me that, in her opinion, the Alaska Airlines lounge was one of the nicest US lounges she's visited.
If the Alaska Airlines lounge is as good as it gets, I understand why so many American travelers might be unhappy. I can only hope, as lounges become more and more popular, Priority Pass pushes its member lounges to bring their services up to par with those abroad.Hey, at least it had this pancake printer gadget. That was pretty cool.