Today’s guest post comes from an avid follower and friend of PWAC – Jason Francisco, also a fellow miles and points travel enthusiast. He has his own travel blog site at Daddy Travels. Just like PWAC, Jason also has a big family. He and his wife, Nancy, have four growing kids. However, that hasn’t stopped them from traveling the world. One of the side benefits of many credit cards that we have is airline lounge access, which can range from the very good to the very bad.
Can airline crew and pilots access airline lounges?
A very good friend of mine who works in the airline industry reached out to me about ways to access airport lounges when on vacation. He was also very interested in finding ways to bring his wife to these lounges for free or for a small fee. Knowing what I know about my personal experience, I suggested for him to look in to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum cards
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Both cards offer access to Priority Pass lounges. American Express Platinum cardholders also have access to the Centurion Lounges, the International American Express Lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs when traveling Delta.
I happen to carry both cards and have used them in my worldly travels. I used to dread going to the airport. Why? The wait. Yes, I’m not a fan of waiting for my flight. But my travel life changed once I started accessing airport lounges…for free.
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This stirred my curiosity. My buddy could use the Priority Pass whenever he goes on vacation, but I asked myself, “would he be able to use airport lounges on the days that he is working (in uniform)?” My curiosity took the best of me so I sent a tweet to Priority Pass. Why? Well, from my observation, whenever flight crews go through airport security or whenever they pass through the gate before boarding the aircraft, I see them show their ID badge. No boarding pass. No passport. Nothing. Why was this important? In the lounges that I’ve used, they typically ask for the Priority Pass card, and a boarding pass. This led to the tweet that I sent to @PriorityPassCom. Shown below was my question, and their reply.
As expected, Priority Pass mentioned that a boarding pass may be requested when entering lounges. I did learn from my friend who works for an airline that on the days that he’s working (on duty, flying the aircraft), he is not issued a boarding pass. All he needs to show is his ID. But on the days when he is an actual passenger, he gets a boarding pass.
Knowing what I didn’t know at the time, I had imagined that by him acquiring a Priority Pass card, that it would give him an opportunity to enter a lounge before his flight. But it never really occurred to me that I’ve never seen any flight crew members in uniform at the many lounges I’ve visited. Sure enough, my friend did state that those in uniforms are prevented from being in the lounge. It’s frowned upon.
I inquired about this as well from a Facebook travel page and the feedback I received from those in the industry or knew people in the airline industry that they were told not to go in the lounge while in uniform or on duty. Lounge access in her case was used whenever she’s not working or on vacation. Plus, since flight crews who are flying or working do not get a printed boarding pass, this prevents them from being allowed to enter the lounges. In fact, in early 2023, Delta banned all employees from using Delta Sky Clubs, even if they otherwise had access.
The next time I travel, I will observe for myself if there are flight crew members in uniform hanging out at the lounge. After hearing and reading what I’ve read though, I doubt I’d see a bunch of them at the lounge.
Readers what do you think? Have you ever seen airline crew, flight attendants or pilots in an airport lounge?
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Hey Dan, last year I transited YYZ en route to Montreal from Cleveland in Terminal 1. I used the plaza premium lounge with PP access and riding the elevator up with me was a pilot who entered the lounge ahead of me. I feel like he wasn’t the only pilot in the lounge if my memory serves me correct. It is the only time I have ever seen crew members in a lounge tho.
Generally, they cannot access it if in uniform or have anything marking them as a crewmember (badges, bag tags, etc). This varies across several carriers, however at UA I remember seeing that they can access it if they have a seat in international business or first class, and travelling standby or confirmed. If they are waiting for a seat they cannot use it.
I work for another carrier, but I have a UA club membership so if I go there I take my badge and crew tags off so I don’t look like I have any airline affiliation. I also do not wear a uniform if I intend to use the lounge.
A few years when heading home Beirut, I recall seeing tmy Turkish flight crew sleeping on the couches in one of the lounges in Beirut. Granted I think it was about 530 AM when I showed up and I’m pretty sure they spent a very short night there.
From the people I know that work and fly for airlines it varies from each airline. Some do not allow employees to join clubs and have access, some do. I have a Delta pilot friend that is a lifetime SkyClub member. He does not go into the club in uniform.
Canada is full of crew in the PP lounges, the airline contract these for crew instead of crew rooms
Every time I am at the Priority pass lounge in YYZ at the domestic terminal – I always see pilots and cabin crew in there having meals before the flights. They are in and out after a quick meal.
After a crack down by American Express, crew members without a boarding pass are no longer being granted entry into PP lounges. In Canada it had become common to see more crew members than travellers in the lounge. PP lounges gladly accepted crew since they never stayed long, didn’t consume the free alcohol, and Amex flipped the bill. But few crew used their Amex card for anything other than lounge access and to grab a quick bite between flights.
Just wondering if airport or airline staffs allowed to use their priority pass to eat in the airport?
Because some of the outlets or restaurants in the airport accepts priority pass card and they are located at the landslide area, I believe they were designed for guests to use before they check in, or for family and friends whom are in the airport to send or meet passengers.
Many Lounges are just Restraunts with $28.00 worth of food and don’t ask for a boarding pass ( at least in my experience) my daughter just got hired as a first officer and wanted me to get her a priority pass using my AE platinum card. Can you add someone on your PP?
You can’t add someone to your Priority Pass (at least not for free). As you mentioned, many restaurants do not ask for boarding pass, so in that case, it’s potentially possible for her to just use your card. We actually were having an interesting debate on that the other day in the free Points With a Crew miles and points Facebook group
Delta Sky Clubs will admit pilots and probably other crew members if they take all of their insignia off their uniforms.
…they have to have Amex Platinum card or some other membership allowing them access to the Sky Club.
As a flight crew member, I have been accommodated generously at several Priority Pass and Escape lounges. Such opportunities can contribute not insignificantly to the safety of flight, as they provide brief respite during a long and hectic day, as well as nutrition and caffeine, when lines at concessions are often prohibitive.
On the other hand, several experiences at the American Express Centurion lounges may well qualify as discriminatory. I have come to terms with deidentifying myself as a crew member, although it makes the lounge the only place where I am made to feel ashamed of my career choice. It is when they demand not only a boarding pass, but one that indicates a seat assignment, that they go to far. In doing so they not only exclude Platinum Card carrying flight crew, but also all such passengers of our largest domestic US carrier. And I have to say the refusal is uniformly delivered with a subtle but clear gleefulness. At SFO a lounge guest checking in next to me took me in as his guest, expressing his disgust to the smug receptionists and reminding them that we are the ones responsible for transporting their guests safely from lounge to lounge.
I can accept an organization’s right to be exclusive. However, when it conducts its business inside a public transportation facility, and chooses to add on trivial and capricious disqualifiers to target and turn away a particular subset of members, it’s obnoxious at best.