Choose this, not that: LAX Priority Pass lounge edition

Sep 14, 2019

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We here at The Points Guy always want you to have the best travel experience possible, so we launched a series where we look at airports with multiple Priority Pass lounges and compare your options head-to-head. Here’s what you need to know. 

Priority Pass membership can help make your preflight experience a whole lot more enjoyable. For those not familiar, the program unlocks access to more than 1,200 airport lounges in 143 countries and 500 cities worldwide. You can check out this guide to learn everything you need to know, from which cards offer a free membership to guesting policies and more.

Although there’s definitely room for growth, most major airports in the US and around the world now have multiple lounges accessible through Priority Pass, so you’ll often be faced with the question of which lounge to use. Since the program doesn’t actually own or operate any of the lounges themselves, the quality can vary massively. While some lounges are little more than a small room with bottled water and pretzels, some are as good, if not better, than access you’d get if you were flying in a premium cabin.

Today, we have our eyes on Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the second busiest US airport and the fourth busiest in the world. It’s home to three Priority Pass lounges and three non-lounge experiences. Although LAX has nine separate terminal buildings, many are connected airside, so you can clear security at one and either walk or shuttle to another to visit a specific lounge. Tom Bradley International Terminal and terminals 2 and 3 are connected airside via shuttles, and Tom Bradley and terminals 4 — 8 are connected airside via walkways.

Related: Choose this, not that: IAD Priority Pass lounge edition

(Note that the hours listed for the lounges are the hours they are available to Priority Pass members. A lounge may be open outside of those hours, but will not admit members then. Additionally, for all these lounges, you must have a valid boarding pass and access may be restricted if the lounge is full.)

1. KAL Lounge

(Photo by J. Keith van Straaten/The Points Guy)
(Photo by J. Keith van Straaten/The Points Guy)

Location: Tom Bradley International Terminal on Level 5, near the Qantas First Lounge

Hours: 1 p.m. — 7 p.m.

Food and Beverage: Finger foods like pizza, sandwiches and sushi, as well as a self-serve bar with various wines, beers and liquors.

Amenities: Complimentary Wi-Fi, shower suites and power outlets near many seats. Check out TPG’s full review of the lounge.

2. Alaska Lounge

(Courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
(Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
(Courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
(Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

Location: Terminal 6, on the mezzanine level, near Gate 64

Hours: 4:30 a.m. — 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 4:30 a.m. — 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday (Closed Dec. 25). However, it’s not uncommon for this lounge to turn away Priority Pass members during these hours due to overcrowding.

Food and Beverage: Complimentary snacks like hard-boiled eggs, bagels and pancakes in the mornings and soups, salads, and cookies in the afternoon. Also included is barista-made Starbucks coffee and non-premium alcohol. Made-to-order meals and premium alcoholic drinks are available for purchase.

Amenities: This lounge was recently renovated and now has a fresh look. There are more seats and power outlets than before, though there is no longer a children’s play area. The Wi-Fi is fast.

3. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

(Photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Location: Terminal 2, on the upper level

Hours: 5 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.

Food and Beverage: There’s a reduced food and beverage offering during the hours this lounge is open to Priority Pass members. The food selection consists of fruit, pastries, yogurt and cereal, meanwhile beverages are limited to soft drinks, beer and wine.

Amenities: This lounge offers complimentary Wi-Fi, power outlets near most seats and a great view of one set of the airport’s runways and the Hollywood Hills.

Bonus: Non-Lounge Airport Experiences

In addition to the three lounges above, Priority Pass partners with three restaurants at LAX — Rock & Brews in Terminal 1, P.F. Chang’s in the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Point the Way Cafe in Terminal 6. Each of these restaurants offer Priority Pass members credits toward their meals ($28-30 per person, not including gratuity), but we left them out of the rankings since you no longer get complimentary access if your Priority Pass membership was generated through an American Express card.

Priority Pass Membership as a Credit Card Benefit

A Priority Pass Select membership is included with the following premium credit cards, although enrollment is required. Note that this list doesn’t include cards that are no longer available to new applicants or are invitation-only.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Membership is included for both cardholders and authorized users, along with two guests. The card costs $550 annually, plus $75 for an authorized user.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express $695 (see rates & fees) and $595 annual fee ($695 if application is received on or after 1/13/2022) (see rates & fees), respectively. Access for both primary card holders and authorized users, along with two guests. Platinum cardmembers can also access Delta Sky Club lounges when they’re traveling on a Delta flight the same day, with guest access at a reduced fee ($29 per person for up to two guests); Airspace lounges (with two guests); Escape lounges (with two guests) and American Express Centurion Lounges (with two guests). Authorized users cost $175 annually for the personal card (see rates & fees) and $300 for the business version (see rates & fees).
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Primary cardholders receive a Priority Pass Select membership good for themselves and two guests. There’s a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees) for this card. Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: This card offers a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited complimentary access for the primary cardholder and two guests. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees). Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: This card includes a Priority Pass membership; however it offers only 10 free visits a year, with no free guests. You can visit by yourself 10 times, or visit once with nine guests. After that, you’ll have to pay a $32 fee per person per visit. Enrollment required for select benefits. There’s a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees).
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: This card comes with a limited Priority Pass Select membership for one cardmember per account, including authorized users. The member will receive complimentary access to participating lounges for the first four visits as well as four individual guest visits. After the free visits are used, the discounted $32 per visit entry fee will apply to cardholders and guests. There’s a $400 annual fee for this card.
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Cardholders and authorized users both get Priority Pass Select with access for immediate family members (a spouse, children or domestic partner) or up to two guests. The annual fee is $495, and the primary cardholder may add authorized users for $75.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom Line

Although LAX technically has six Priority Pass partners, the options are actually quite limited since the three restaurants aren’t accessible to American Express members and the other three are restrictive with when Priority Pass members can enter.

If your Priority Pass membership doesn’t include restaurant access and your travel plans coincide with the hours the KAL Lounge admits Priority Pass members, then that will probably be your best bet. The lounge offers better food and beverage options than the other lounges, has showers and rarely turns away members due to overcrowding. What’s nice about this lounge is that unlike the Virgin Atlantic lounge, it lets Priority Pass members stay in the lounge even after it officially “closes” for members rather than kick them out. So, if you have a late-night flight out of LAX, you’ll still be able to use the lounge as long as you enter before 7 p.m. Just be sure to leave enough time to get back to your terminal if you’re not flying out of Tom Bradley.

Further Reading: The 9 Best Priority Pass Lounges in the US

Featured image by narvikk/Getty Images

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