Southwest Airlines Testing Club Lounge Access For Credit Card Customers

United, Delta, and American Airlines all have airport lounges for premium customers. Alaska Airlines has them, too. Southwest Airlines doesn’t offer lounges.

That makes waiting in the airport less pleasant for some passengers, who may even choose other airlines as a result, especially now that the other carriers no longer allow members to access their lounges when flying Southwest. I used to use the American Airlines Admirals Club when flying Southwest out of Austin.

These lounges are also a huge perk of premium credit cards, which are a lucrative business for airlines.

  • Southwest is competing with one hand tied behind its back placing cards in consumer wallets without lounges.
  • Another hand tied behind their back is the lack of global redemptions – they don’t have airline partners on which to use their points. (A key reason they built up Hawaii was to be more attractive to co-brand customers.)

As a result, Southwest Airlines is testing sending Priority Pass cards to some of their credit card customers late this month.

Before the pandemic, participating lounges and airport restaurants were receiving ~ $24 per swipe of a Priority Pass card. Consumers who pay Priority Pass per swipe are charged $35. Banks pay Priority Pass less than that, but it’s still a costly proposition each time a customer uses their Priority Pass.

We know that airport lounge access is a key reason that travelers apply for and retain premium credit cards. And it is a benefit that Southwest hasn’t had with its card, since the airline doesn’t have its own network of lounges.

Presumably what’s being tested here is how often do Southwest passengers actually use a Priority Pass? This will help provide insight into how costly this sort of benefit would be to offer broadly. And it could foretell a new, more premium Southwest card in the pipeline?

Lucky cardmembers who receive Priority Pass from Southwest will be able to use participating lounges, and since the cards come through Chase’s contract with Priority Pass they’ll presuming include non-lounge experiences like restaurant credits and some airport spas as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. At least they’ll be used to standing in queues at the lounges with all the other credit card customers.

  2. Received the email this morning. Good for a year after registration. Must register by 4/30/24.

    If this is a test to see if SW customers use lounges, they won’t get that data from me since I’m not gonna make another Priority Pass account; I already have the good version of PP (restaurant access) via Citi Prestige.

  3. I have to wonder how many WN stations actually have Priority Pass lounges that are easily accessible for WN departures.

  4. The very limited availability of PP lounges and benefits is so small that it isn’t really worth it. SW would be better off giving improving their wifi (current hit rate for me is about 50/50) and stop this wheelchair and pre board abuse. I have been A+ Preferred for about 15 years plus hold a chase card. I usually get A15-19 yet am about the 30-40th to board because of the widespread abuse with the wheelchairs.. But at least every SW flight is a miracle flight – 30 wheelchairs board and 29 are miraculously cured en flight so much so they can run off the plane. Wow!

  5. I’ve been an AA platinum card holder for 18 years it’s useless on international flights. It was supposed to get me priority boarding but it’s gone from group one to five. Everyone with an excuse gets on before me. I’m cancelling it this year.

  6. Funny, the airline they took over and dismantled (AirTran) had global redemptions. For 100 credits they’d flat out buy you a ticket anywhere in the world you wanted to go to.

  7. I can just imagine the clientele in a Southwest lounge as they fight for an aisle or window seat lol

  8. I for one am happy to see Southwest try this. I have long believed that they have a successful business model but it has not adapted to changes in the marketplace including WN’s lack of ability to compete with legacy carriers in competitive markets where amenities matter. They also can’t duplicate the upgrades that are important to business travelers but priority boarding does help. There are things they could do to help offset that as well as the disdain some have for open seating.

    I am not sure how much benefit they will get but I commend them for being willing to try. If the data shows that PP lounges in more WN cities are necessary, I am sure there would be a willingness to build them.

    Like it or not but we live in a society where there are people that are willing to pay for services that elevate their experience relative to other people even if the degree of those benefits is highly dependent on people’s interpretation.

  9. I agree with Tim Dunn. I would like to see WN take a deep dive into the competitive landscape and analyze whether their bottom line would benefit from changing their model. There is real demand for premium seating and premium services . Buying up to be able to stand in line for A-1 -A-15 is not a premium choice , especially when you can often buy a premium class seat on another airline for the same price as the the “privilege” of getting A-1 – A-15. Heck , a premium class doesn’t have to be fancy or have bells and whistles. Put in a standard F class seat with extra legroom and give free drinks and a snack basket .

  10. Southwest is already a premium airline for 90% of the population.

    Most leg room
    Two bags
    No basic economy
    Best customer service

    Everyone here and on ft has main character bias since they think first class and lounges are “normal”. Sorry, but southwest is successful because they stay consistent and don’t get ahead of themselves.

    Jetblue is the best example of an airline who got jealous at big boy airlines and lost their competitive edge.

  11. I’m probably pretty close to the Southwest target market. Mostly business traveler and mostly fly Southwest due to the cumulative favorable aspects of their service for business travel, though this travel hobby has afforded me opportunities to fly and appreciate the other major airlines.

    That said, I agree with others, most of the “Southwest airports” I fly in and out of don’t have Priority Pass lounges anyway. So kuddos to Southwest for wanting to compete but I’m not sure they’ve thought this through. If I did use their Priority Pass I would estimate 90% of the usage to be when I’m able to fly a different airline.

  12. We use Southwest often because they fly where we need to go. We use Priority Pass lounge with our Amex Hilton credit card. Unfortunately, we are due to cancel the Amex Hilton card because they will drop Priority Pass benefit as of February 2024. They are not honoring the passes earned that would not have expire by end of January.

    We are left looking for new options as we enjoy lounge access. This is great news from Southwest and we hope we are included in the test for Priority Pass. Fingers crossed.

  13. If you are lucky enough to have a Lifetime Admirals Club Card or Delta Sky Club you have access with any airline ticket.

  14. “We are left looking for new options as we enjoy lounge access.”

    Simple…Capital One Venture X. This is basically a $95 per year card, after applying the $300 travel credit. Also, the 75,000 initial bonus points, which are worth a minimum of $750, will pay your “$95” annual fee for the first eight years. Finally, if you can get someone to send you a referral, you can receive an increased initial bonus of 90,000 points. This card is a no-brainer.

  15. Interesting to see Southwest try this but agree with other comments that I don’t think they’ve fully thought through how much crossover there is for their customers to actually use PP lounges. Their regional focus airports like Dallas Love Field, Oakland, and Chicago Midway don’t have Priority Pass lounges or usually any lounge option outside of a USO (though Midway will get a Club Fall 2024). I wonder if this is an exploration of a future play to partner with Chase on access to their Sapphire lounges along with PP similar to the access the Ritz Carlton card has.

  16. I find most “Business” PAX only use WN for convenience!! More as a means to avoid a connection or take advantage of frequency to a nearby city. If the business PAX has more sophisticated travel needs, they gravitate to the Big Three.

    To develop a bigger Business following, WN would do better to assign the 1st two or three rows as business “ASSIGNED” seating. The current seating arrangements of paying top dollar for A1 thru 15; yet, immediately bumping into the reserved seats BS, and the legion of miracle walkers just gnaws the hell out of any business PAX.

  17. And the innovator becomes the imitator . . . the next major business cycle is bankruptcy. Priority Pass will only be worth carrying in Europe, if you still travel Economy.

  18. I bought Priority Pass, they are so crowded you can never get in…JFK, AMS, and others. So not worth it, but I pay for KLM lounge in AMS because it’s spacious, good food and beverages and comfortable seating with Internet and charging ports.

  19. Priority Pass lounges, IF YOU CAN LOCATE IN AN AIRPORT, are small and overcrowded ow
    Adding SWA passengers, forget it!
    We travel once or more a month.. All over USA and Canada in five years we have located two lounges. One so crowded, not one seat available

  20. I fly SW as my preferred carrier for several reasons.

    1. NO MATTER WHAT, the aircraft will be a 737. I LOATHE the small “regional jets” the Big 3 use to ferry passengers from their hubs to any non-hub REGARDLESS of distance., CRJ-7 from DFW to CVG or Dulles to AUS is not my idea of a pleasant flying experience.

    2. They generally fly where I want to go.

    3. No change fees for same-day travel.

    4. Companion Pass.

    5. Generally competent Customer Service.

    There are PP lounges in many of their destinations (SJC, ATL, CVG, PIT, MCO, to name a few). Although one in DAL or MDW would be AWESOME.

    My big concern is the same as “Platinum” noted above, many fo the lounges are often already crowded, overbooked and this won’t help that problem.

  21. Don’t forget that The Club is opening at MDW in about a year.

    There is a thread on Flyertalk which lists all the PP and AMEX lounges. There are currently 17 domestic PP lounges and a few PP restaurants which are reasonably convenient to WN gate areas.

  22. DAL/LAS/DEN/PHX would be a perfect start to try this. I can see it being a popular option, especially for the business flyers.

  23. If they do this, they should talk to Priority Pass about re-establishing relationships like they had at Rock & Roll at LAX…. otherwise the card is useless fif that’s your home base. Priority Pass has basically dled LAX..used to be great but now abandoned an important airport. Also..there are no lounges at all in Terminal 1 since the US Airways Club left years ago ( and it was a Priority Pass Access lounge. )

  24. Have SW/Chase determined who gets this offer or is it just random? I’ve had the Chase priority card for..ever, so if they’re going to randomly give perks to some and not all (especially with a $149 annual fee), then they can stick it.

  25. I can live without a club easily
    PP will not be a solution sadly
    why I don’t fly Southwest for business or leisure
    Is the lack of a seat assignment
    So no thanks at any cost

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