Virgin Australia is ending its relationship with the global Priority Pass scheme next month as of July 14: see this story for more details.
The airline-independent airport Priority Pass lounge program markets itself as a way for travellers to get access to lounges without paying business class fares, and without having to achieve a high-spend frequent flyer status with airlines to qualify for lounge access.
It's had relatively soft appeal among Australian flyers but there's one benefit which makes membership worth a second look: Priority Pass cardholders get access to Virgin Blue's domestic lounges at less than half the cost of what Virgin Blue itself charges.
Virgin Blue's own lounge membership costs $369 per year on top of a one-time $199 joining fee.
Priority Pass, however, costs just US$249 per year -– so you're over $300 better off.
(Some credit cards, such as the Citi Select card, offer free Priority Pass membership, though with a $700 annual fee, you'd have to be sure that the other card benefits were worth the money to you.)
Virgin Blue's domestic lounges in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth are all included in Priority Pass membership (as is the United Airlines Red Carpet Club in Melbourne's international terminal).
The Priority Pass has considerable advantages.
Virgin Blue members can only access the airline's lounge if they are travelling with Virgin Blue, whereas Priority Pass members have entry into the lounges regardless of what airline they're flying.
And of course, outside of Australia Priority Pass provides access to over 600 lounges for airlines all over the world, whereas a Virgin Blue lounge membership is only useful in Australia.
One caveat is that the US$249 Standard Plus membership is limited to only 10 lounge entries per year, which will cover you for just five return flights (assuming you leave time for lounging around before both legs of the journey).
If you're a more frequent flyer, the US$399 Prestige membership allows unlimited lounge entry -- and you're still around $170 ahead compared to Virgin Blue's own lounge access program. At both Standard Plus and Prestige levels you can also sign a guest into any Priority Pass lounge for $27 a time.
If you opt to join Priority Pass we suggest you also grab their iPhone/iPad app which helps locate partner lounges in any airport in the world, using GPS to locate the nearest lounge based on the user’s current location.
Travellers can also search for lounge information based on airport location -- even without an internet connection.