Choose this, not that: IAD Priority Pass lounge edition

Sep 9, 2019

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We here at The Points Guy always want you to have the best travel experience possible so we’re kicking off a new series where we look at airports with multiple Priority Pass lounges and compare all of the options head-to-head. 

A 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 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’ll be digging into Washington Dulles (IAD), an airport with six Priority Pass options. Since all concourses at Dulles are connected by a train, you can visit any of the lounges without having to re-clear security.

(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. Turkish Airlines Lounge Washington

Location: Concourse B, near gate B43 on the concourse level

Hours: 6 a.m. — 11 p.m.

Food and Beverage: Large variety of high-quality Turkish food. There’s a staffed bar with liquor, wine, beer and nonalcoholic drinks.

Amenities: Speedy Wi-Fi, many power outlets, shower room and prayer room. Check out TPG’s full review of the lounge.

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

2. Air France-KLM Lounge

Location: Concourse A, across gates A20 and A22

Hours: 10:30 a.m. — 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. — 11:45 p.m.

Food and Beverage: Decent selection of cold, sweet and savory foods, though not as substantial as in the Turkish Airlines lounge. There’s a staffed bar with complimentary alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, including draft beer.

Amenities: This lounge was recently renovated and expanded. It can now seat 155 passengers across two levels and offers showers, plenty of power outlets and “quiet” alcoves. Check out TPG’s tour of the lounge.

(Photo by Edward Russell/The Points Guy)

3. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Location: Between concourses A and B, in front of gate A32

Hours: 6 a.m. — 1 p.m.

Food and Beverage: During the hours the lounge is open for Priority Pass members, there’s a rather modest buffet consisting of cold items and made-to-order egg sandwiches in the mornings.

Amenities: Aside from a work station with computers and a printer, this lounge does not offer much in terms of amenities. There are no showers and power outlets are lacking, though you do get a great view of the tarmac.

(Photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

4. British Airways Galleries Lounge

Location: Concourse B, near the train on the concourse level

Hours: 6 a.m. — 2 p.m.

Food and Beverage: You should not come to this lounge with the hopes of making a meal out of your visit. Like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, there is a reduced food and beverage offering for Priority Pass members. Food options are limited to light snacks like pretzels, chips, cookies and trail mix. Complimentary wine, beer and nonalcoholic drinks are also available.

Amenities: There are shower suites and power outlets near most seats. Although the lounge has giant windows with amazing views of the tarmac, unfortunately, Priority Pass members only have access to a part of the lounge which overlooks the inside of the terminal so people-watching will be your only form of live entertainment.

(Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Bonus: Non-Lounge Airport Experiences

In addition to the four conventional lounges above, Priority Pass partners with two non-lounge airport experiences at Dulles — Sleepbox in concourse A and the restaurant Chef Geoff’s in concourse C. These are ideal for those looking for a quick nap or a full meal, but we left them out of the rankings since you unfortunately 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 $450 annually, plus $75 for an authorized user.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum® Card from American Express $550 (see rates & fees) and $595 annual fees (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.
  • 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).
  • 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. There’s a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) for this card.
  • 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.

Bottom Line

Dulles-based travelers are lucky to have many Priority Pass lounge options, but as you can see, some are far better than others. The Turkish Airlines lounge in concourse B outshines the other lounges when it comes to food and beverage options and amenities. Plus, it’s the only one that’s open and available to members throughout the day. However, it does get crowded and sometimes turns away members because of that. If that’s the case when you’re there, the Air France-KLM Lounge over in concourse A is a solid second choice. The hours the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and British Airways Galleries Lounge are open are more limited and they don’t offer much in terms of food and drink.

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

Featured image by Joaquin Ossorio-Castillo / Getty Images.

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