Priority Pass has been in a bit of a tough spot recently when it comes to their relationship with Alaska Airlines. All five Alaska Lounges–located in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle (the airport has 2 Alaska Lounges), and Anchorage–used to be accessible to Priority Pass members under the standard policy (allowing each cardholder to bring two guests into the lounge with them). However, the Alaska Lounges were apparently plagued by overcrowding, and lounge staff were often forced to deny entry to Priority Pass members because the lounges were so full. In April, a temporary solution was arrived at, wherein Priority Pass members would be able to access Alaska Lounge, but would not be allowed to bring in guests (the lounge in Anchorage was exempt from this, because apparently, like the state in which it resides, that lounge was always sparsely populated). Despite this, there were still instances of Priority Pass members being denied access because the Alaska Lounges were still full, even without bringing in guests.
All of this makes it somewhat odd that Priority Pass has changed back their Alaska Lounge access policy, once again allowing members to bring in guests. This is certainly a positive change, but one that is a little confusing on face value. Alaska Lounges didn’t suddenly get less crowded in the absence of Priority Pass guests. For example, I visited the Alaska Lounge in Los Angeles last week (using Alaska lounge day passes; I get four per year as an MVP Gold 75k) and it was really full–for a moment after we entered there wasn’t anywhere to sit. Alaska lounges didn’t suddenly get less crowded, which is why it’s hard to make sense of Priority Pass cutting guest access, citing capacity constraints, and then a couple months later change the policy back as if the problems had magically disappeared.
Of course, the best explanation is that recent changes that could lessen the burden on the Alaska Lounges when it comes to letting in Priority Pass members. During the time guests were denied access to the Alaska Lounge, two restaurants and a wine tasting room in Portland have joined the Priority Pass network, and a third Alaska Lounge just opened in Seattle, offering Priority Pass members other places to spend their time at the airport besides the overcrowded current locations. Despite all this, Alaska still reserves the right to deny entrance to Priority Pass members and their guests, and it’s quite possible that we’ll still see this happening if lounges get exceptionally crowded. Priority Pass members will be the first to get denied if the lounge is full (after all, they’d much rather turn away Priority Pass members than paying first class passengers, elite members, or Alaska Lounge members).
It’s great to see this perk back!