Priority Pass expands agreement with Air France; fills gaps in domestic US market

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. Members enjoy access a to vast network of worldwide lounges regardless of the airline which they fly or of their class of service.

Back in may, the breadth of the Priority Pass lounge network within the continental US took a significant hit when United rescinded their agreement with Priority Pass, leaving members with no alternatives at numerous major US airports.

Air France lounges in the US join the Priority Pass network

Priority Pass has been working on filling the gaps, which is no easy task since they’re unlikely to strike an agreement with a major US airline in the short term future: Delta recently severely restricted access to Sky Clubs by charging extra for their own members to bring in guests, while American Airlines is in the midst of a global renovation program which they will surely want to monetize. More generally speaking, the three major airlines are focusing on improving their lounges after years of neglect, which includes enhancements to food and beverages and an attempt to mitigate crowding. They have no interest in bringing in a stream of additional customers at most likely a low price point.

Priority Pass is therefore naturally turning to independent lounge operators and foreign airlines, and it should be no surprise that the company is expanding their agreement with Air France, which was already a partner at Chicago O’Hare (ORD). As of this month, Priority Pass members may now use the Air France lounges in San Francisco (SFO), Houston (IAH), New York (JFK), and Washington, DC (IAD.)

Air France Lounge - San Francisco, CA (SFO)

Air France Lounge – San Francisco, CA (SFO)

Priority Pass options and alternatives at major US airports

While the addition of four Air France lounges to the Priority Pass network is a welcome development, there are still significant gaps in the continental US. Furthermore, the location of the Air France lounges is not always convenient and in some cases may not meet the need of most travelers.

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Fortunately, for US customers, a common way to get a Priority Pass membership is through the popular American Express Platinum Card, which in addition to a Priority Pass membership also comes with access to the American Express Centurion Lounges, Airspace lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs (the latter being applicable only when flying Delta.) This gives American Express Platinum card holders a few more options.

Here’s a brief overview of the situation at key US airports where Priority Pass members used to be able to use United Clubs.

  • At San Francisco International airport (SFO), Priority Pass members may now use the Air France lounge located in International Terminal A. This is a good option for passengers on Alaska Airlines or various foreign airlines including British Airways, Emirates, and Air Canada. However, International Terminal A is not connected to any other terminal airside, so a visit to the lounge will require two trips through security if you’re flying one of the dominant carriers such as United, American or Delta. (At SFO, a boarding pass grants access to all terminals.) Also, the Air France lounge at San Francisco airport is one of the airline’s least exciting locations – the facility still sports the look of the defunct Northwest Airlines lounge. Fortunately, American Express Platinum card members may use the gorgeous and well appointed (albeit busy) Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3, which is connected airside to International Terminal G.
American Express The Centurion Lounge - San Francisco, CA (SFO)

American Express The Centurion Lounge – San Francisco, CA (SFO)

  • At New York Kennedy (JFK), Priority Pass members may now use the Air France Lounge in Terminal 1. The Air France JFK lounge is the airline’s flagship in the US, with a fresh design, showers, and hot food. Unfortunately, at JFK not only none of the terminals are connected airside, but in addition, a boarding pass only grants passengers access to the terminal from which their flight departs. The availability of the Air France lounge is therefore of limited use overall. (Airlines departing from Terminal 1 include Lufthansa, Alitalia, and Korean Air.)
  • At Washington Dulles airport (IAD), Priority Pass members may now use the Air France lounge in Concourse A. While the British Airways Galleries lounge in Concourse B was already available to Priority Pass members, it is reserved to British Airways and oneworld passengers, and off limits to Priority Pass members after 2pm. The addition of the Air France lounge therefore gives Priority Pass members an all-day option. At Dulles airport, all concourses are connected airside through a train system, “mobile lounges” (shuttles), and underground walkways, making the lounges in Concourses A and B relatively convenient options for all travelers.
  • At Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Priority Pass members may continue to use the Air France lounge as well as the Swissport lounge. However, both are located in Terminal 5 which is not connected airside to any other terminal and does not offer TSA Pre Check security. Unless you are departing from Terminal 5, the Priority Pass lounges are therefore of extremely limited use, especially since neither the Air France lounge nor the Swissport lounge are truly worth a visit – both are busy, and the former does not have a bathroom while the latter lacks windows.
ORD_AF_07050_w_ab

Air France Lounge – Chicago O’Hare, IL (ORD)

  • At Houston airport (IAH), Priority Pass members may now use the Air France Lounge in Terminal D, in addition to the KLM lounge. All terminals are connected airside through a train system and shuttle busses, so all passengers will benefit from this new addition even though switching terminals may be time consuming.
Air France Lounge - Houston Intercontinental (IAH)

Air France Lounge – Houston Intercontinental (IAH)

  • At Cleveland airport (CLE), Priority Pass members still do not have any lounge options. However, American Express Platinum card holders get complimentary access to the Airspace lounge, a modern and bright facility with premium food choices.
  • While Priority Pass does not provide access to lounges at Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Orlando (MCO), Philadelphia (PHL), San Diego (SAN), and Washington Reagan (DCA), American Express Platinum card holders may use the Sky Clubs at these locations when flying Delta, as well as the Airspace lounge San Diego when flying any airline.
  • Unfortunately, Priority Pass members including American Express Platinum card holders are still left without any options at the following airports where they used to get United Club access: Austin (AUS), Denver (DEN), Orange County (SNA), and San Antonio (SAT).
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10% off a Priority Pass membership!

In conclusion, the addition of four Air France lounges to the Priority Pass network does not come close to closing the void that was created by United’s withdrawal from the program, but it is welcome news, and highlights the fact that Priority Pass is actively working on alternatives for members in the US.

Featured image: Air France Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

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