I’ve said before that I don’t value airport lounge access a whole lot, at least not enough to sway me to renew a credit card with a huge annual fee. It’s not that it’s a worthless benefit. Far from it! It’s just that my lifestyle makes the ROI look a bit iffy. In general, we fly once or twice per year and often don’t have time for lounges during a connection. Sometimes entering a lounge requires going to a different terminal or passing again through security. No thanks.
Sometimes hanging out in the terminal is actually fun, like our recent experience with the tiny Moorea airport. Drinking local Hinano beer and feeling a nice tropical breeze on my face made the time pass by rather quickly. I wish every airport was like this…
That said, I’m definitely happy to have airport lounge access on-hand, especially when it costs me $0. For example, I was planning to renew my Hilton Honors American Express Ascend anyway due to free weekend certificate on the first anniversary (the offer is no longer available, but you can read about the card here)
I did have to pay $95, but factoring in complimentary Gold status (which gave me free breakfasts in Tahiti and Auckland), plus weekend night, renewing really seemed like a no-brainer. The ten Priority Pass airport lounge certificates were just the icing on the cake.
What I really like about this benefit is that you can use the passes for other guests. So, if you are a family of five, you can enter two Priority Pass lounges at no cost. If you only fly once or twice per year, that may be all you need. I would argue that for large families this is a more valuable benefit than unlimited access with certain premium cards (Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve etc) that only let you bring two guests.
During our recent trip, we took advantage of the Priority Pass benefit a total of two times. I can say with absolute certainty that this perk has saved us real money because we needed to buy food anyway. In my recent post, I’ve mentioned that we got complimentary access to Air Tahiti Nui lounge due to redeeming miles on business class. Otherwise, I would definitely use my Priority Pass benefit from Hilton Ascend card.
Without further ado:
This is a wonderful (and air-conditioned!) refuge inside a chaotic and hot Papeete airport. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a way to access it when you are making a domestic connection on Air Tahiti operated flights (to Bora Bora, Moorea and so on). The lounge is located past security in the international terminal. So, it would come in handy for your flights back to US.
We had to catch an early flight to Auckland, and needed to buy breakfast anyway. Fortunately, the lounge had plenty of food and drinks, so we didn’t need to.
It didn’t have a mind-blowing selection of dishes, but it was good enough. There were finger sandwiches, fruit, coffee and juices. Plus, it was free, and you can’t beat that. Food in French Polynesia is expensive, and even a decent breakfast at McDonalds will run $10 per person, if not more.
On a clear day you can also enjoy nice views of a neighboring island of Moorea:
I would put a conservative value on lounge access at $25 per person due to complimentary food and A/C. The latter really makes a huge difference. Knowing what I know now, I would definitely pay that amount if I didn’t have Priority Pass access.
Total value: $50 for two people.
What a magnificent lounge and no, I’m not exaggerating! Both me and my husband said it’s the best airport lounge we have ever visited in our life though admittedly, our experience is somewhat limited. It’s located in international terminal, so if you have an hour or two to kill before the flight, definitely visit it. We were flying to Australia, so I was glad to have a chance to check it out.
We had to buy lunch anyway, and the lounge had an amazing selection of food. I mean, you had to see it. There were delicious hot dishes, salads, desserts, and all kinds of drinks (including alcohol):
I believe even picky kids will find something to their liking in this lounge. I honestly felt like I got a restaurant meal here rather than just basic snacks to hold me over.
The lounge was huge, and there was plenty of seating. I forgot to take photos of the seats, but they were quite comfortable. There were even cushy lounges where you could take a nap. Auckland airport is a bit shabby, so Strata lounge is a huge step up, I promise you. I was impressed by the fact that there are showers, which would come in handy after a long overnight flight.
I can honestly say that I would pay $25 per person to enter this lounge, especially if I was hungry. If I needed a shower, I would even pay a bit more.
Total value: $50 for two people.
Better Burger restaurant in Sydney Airport
Priority Pass has an agreement with certain airport restaurants where instead of lounge access you get an allowance towards food. We were flying from Terminal 1, and there was no lounge nearby. So instead, I took advantage of $36 AUD food allowance per person. Basically, each $36 bill is counted as one lounge entry. So, theoretically, if you have ten passes, you can load up on $360 AUD worth of food if that’s what you want to do.
We didn’t take it quite that far, but I did get a huge breakfast with sandwiches, yogurt, drinks and so on. I also bough some water bottles and snacks to take with us. The total was $72 AUD (about $53 USD). The young girl who worked at Better Burger was actually encouraging me to take advantage of the whole allowance for the two of us. I was happy to oblige.
We needed to buy breakfast anyway, though I definitely wouldn’t have spent $72 AUD if it wasn’t for Priority Pass benefit. Still, I would easily spend $30 USD. Plus, water bottles and chips came in handy when we arrived in San Francisco
Total value: $40, factoring in water and snacks.
I think it’s fair to say that Priority Pass has saved us at least $90 on this particular trip. If we flew economy instead of business class from Papeete to Auckland, the number would be $140. We were not able to take advantage of Priority Pass access in any of the domestic US airports. Either it was inconvenient, or we simply didn’t have the time.
That said, I don’t plan to go out of my way in order to make sure we have Priority Pass benefit at all times. In fact, I plan to cancel my Ascend card before the new annual fee hits. One possible strategy I may consider is upgrading my husband’s regular Hilton Amex card ($0 annual fee) to Ascend before our next big international trip. That way we would have ten Priority Pass entries at our disposal, which would cover two visits to an airport lounge for our family of four.
Still, I would have to think long and hard whether paying $95 fee speculatively makes sense. If we had kids with us on this particular trip, it definitely would be.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.