Review: Choosing a Priority Pass lounge option at Newark International (EWR)

With a network of over 1,200 lounges worldwide, a Priority Pass membership can make a big difference when it comes to elevating your travel experience. Priority Pass is one of the many benefits of premium credit cards like the American Express Platinum, which we’ve covered in detail here. Many Priority Pass lounges offer amenities like food, alcoholic beverages, private rooms, and showers.

Often times, airports will even have more than one lounge to choose from. This is the case at Newark International Airport (EWR), which currently plays host to 2 Priority Pass lounges, both located in Terminal B. While neither lounge offers anything particularly noteworthy, both are definitely sufficient for a short layover — that is, if you can get in (more on this later).

Option 1: Art & Lounge

Entrance, courtesy of Art & Lounge

The Art & Lounge is a land-side lounge located in Terminal B, before the B2 & B3 security checkpoint. Given that security is notoriously slow and inefficient at EWR (even with TSA pre-check), not having to pass through security makes Art & Lounge an ideal lounge to visit if you’re departing out of Terminals A or C.

The lounge can be found on the gate level just before the security checkpoint for B50-60 gates, adjacent to Duty Free.

Entrance, courtesy of Art & Lounge

Art & Lounge is a contract lounge, and welcomes passengers flying on a handful of airlines which are listed on the door.

As far as comfort, it’s quite a small lounge. On top of that, the entire left side of the lounge (about half of the total square footage) was sectioned off for El Al and La Compagnie premium cabin passengers. We’ve found this is pretty typical each time we’ve visited.

La Compagnie reserved seating sign
La Compagnie reserved seating area
El Al reserved seating sign
El Al reserved seating area

During peak hours, it gets extremely tight here. Even during off-peak hours, there isn’t much space for Priority Pass holders due to the reserved areas created for the airlines that share this lounge. I estimate there are about 100 total seats, with half of them generally partitioned off as reserved seating for contracted partner airlines.

There also really isn’t a lot of room for baggage storage, so I noticed a lot of carry-on bags lining the walls that were left completely unattended. I wouldn’t be particularly comfortable storing my bags here.

The seating areas, while small, are moderately comfortable and there are a decent number of outlets along the walls. The lounge also offers WiFi, but it’s only fast enough to listen to music or do light browsing.

There are self-serve fountain drinks and a small bar near the buffet area as well.

However, despite being on the small side, the Art & Lounge has a decent food and beverage offering – better than what is offered at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. It’s somewhat comparable to what you’d find in an American Express Centurion Lounge, with four or five warm dishes and a hot soup option, but certainly a step down in terms of food quality and comfortable seating.

For this particular visit, we left at 5pm before the dinner spread came out. We weren’t very hungry since we’d just been served on our inbound flights, so we munched on cookies before heading to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

Although their regular posted hours are 7am-11:30pm daily, be mindful that the Art & Lounge has recently tightened the strings of admission and are restricting access to Priority Pass members between 3:30-9:30pm. So unless you’re at EWR in the morning or early afternoon, I wouldn’t count on being admitted. Despite the lounge being at surprisingly low capacity, we did see them turn away a handful of Priority Pass holders.

Option 2: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is accessible by elevator immediately after the B51-57 security checkpoint.

Once through security, the elevators are on the right-hand side of the hall, across from the currency exchange kiosk.

Upstairs, the lounge shares an entryway with the British Airways Galleries Club Lounge.

Hours of admission for Priority Pass members are posted at the entrance — admission is limited to 12-5pm.

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is more than twice the size of Art & Lounge and has significantly more seating areas. It feels significantly less cramped, and the styling is contemporary and comfortable. It was virtually empty during our Saturday afternoon visit.

In the center of the room is the bar with self-serve water and juice dispensers.

Food and beverage are served a la carte, but really don’t compare to the Art & Lounge. I was presented with a menu that had a small selection of light food and drink options. Notice the alcohol limitation at the bottom.

Not being particularly hungry, I ordered the salad and soup of the day, which happened to be a Minestrone. Both were very basic (the salad was mixed greens with a few onion slivers) and tasted mediocre. My server was very transparent and told me the fruit cocktail was not worth the calories, which I appreciated. The staff were very polite, and service was quick, which I think warrants a small gratuity.

Our recommendation

If you’re trying to decide which lounge to visit, it really comes down to whether you’d rather have decent food or space to sprawl. And of course, time of day. One of the frustrations with many Priority Pass lounges is the restrictions around admission during certain times of day. Unfortunately, both of these lounges have restrictions in place, and admittance is always to the discretion of the employee at the counter.

But if you do find yourself in EWR, we’d suggest heading over to Art & Lounge because of the superior food and beverage offering – assuming you’re admitted and can find a seat. Plus, it avoids the hassle of having to clear security at Terminal B, which is painfully slow (especially since TSA pre-check has very limited hours at EWR).

However, if you’re just looking for a place to relax and stretch out, or if you’re already in or departing out of Terminal B, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is a much more comfortable space for lounging.

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