Credit Cards Cutting Access To Priority Pass Restaurants?

Filed Under: Credit Cards

One of the best developments we’ve seen to the Priority Pass network over the past couple of years is the significant growth of Priority Pass restaurants.

What are Priority Pass restaurants?

Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges, though in some airports and terminals, Priority Pass isn’t able to strike a deal with a lounge for member access. In those cases, Priority Pass sometimes has an arrangement with a restaurant, and offers members a credit worth ~28USD that they can spend however they’d like.

Many people have commented about how this is too good to be true, and must be unsustainable. I’m not sure I have the same take, though. Airport restaurants are being paid ~23USD for each ~28USD credit, and the amount they’re paid is very similar to what a lounge would be paid when you access it through Priority Pass.

So it certainly seems more exciting when you basically get “cash” to spend, though I’m not sure the economics are that different than with traditional lounges, perhaps other than increased usage from members.

Cafe by Mise en Place Tampa Airport, a Priority Pass restaurant

Priority Pass restaurants being cut from some memberships

Up until now there hasn’t been any real differentiation between various Priority Pass locations in terms of what members can and can’t access. However, LoyaltyLobby notes that American Express cards in Hong Kong that offer a Priority Pass membership are cutting access to non-lounge airport experiences. Per the update to cardmembers:

With effect from August 1, 2019, the complimentary access to the non-lounge airport experiences via the Priority Pass Membership will be removed from the Card Benefit. The Card Benefit does not cover access to non-lounge airport experiences. Non-lounge airport experiences are non-lounge airport lounges including, but not limited to, restaurants, cafes and bars where a food/beverage credit is offered instead of entrance into a traditional airport lounge.

So these cards are essentially explicitly excluding restaurants from the Priority Pass benefit. It’s interesting to see a Hong Kong issued card be the first to add this change, given that Hong Kong Airport doesn’t have any Priority Pass restaurants, and for that matter Southeast Asia has very few of these restaurants — most are in North America and Australia.

Update: American Express has confirmed that US cardholders will no longer receive access to Priority Pass restaurants beginning August 1st.

This sets a very bad precedent. I hope this doesn’t spread, but now that this distinction has been made, I worry that it will. After all, Priority Pass has presumably recently gone through the effort of changing their technology so these are treated differently.

Lunch at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse JFK Airport, a Priority Pass restaurant

Do you think we’ll see this Priority Pass restaurant restriction spread to other credit cards?

  1. Maybe priority pass gets a volume based discount for lounge access? I can see lounges complaining of decreased usage and wanting to charge more

  2. “So it certainly seems more exciting when you basically get “cash” to spend, though I’m not sure the economics are that different than with traditional lounges, perhaps other than increased usage from members.”

    Given that’s their only major expense, I can’t see how even a minor increase could be dismissed as trivial!

  3. As the original Priority Pass Select was created to exclude certain lounges this is now Priority Pass Select Select.

  4. I don’t understand. Is PP kicking back the lounge/restaurant costs to the credit card? I thought the CC companies paid a fixed annual fee to PP, so why would it matter? …and I agree with Jack: this is starting to sound like a Select option emerging again.

  5. Maybe the bad guy is PP here and AMEX HK is trying to boycott.
    Could be that PP doesn’t charge a fee per use but rather by type.
    Could be AMEX trying to cut cost and ‘non-lounge’ is the largest category (like United Club back then).

    Or simply,
    HK people are (the real) CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

  6. Since I very rarely get to use this perk, it just doesn’t seem like its sustainable. They hand out these cards like candy on Halloween. I would not be surprised to see them remove this benefit.

  7. Does it seem like all good things, miles and points, eventually come to an end? I need a refresher course on all the good things are happening on the miles and points front in order to get beyond the impending feeling of doom surrounding all the cutbacks of the past two years.

  8. My assumption is that PP is receiving complaints as well from the restaurants because of no tipping. I say this because of a recent experience I was at one of the restaurants and I noticed a lot of people not leaving tips. I asked my waiter if he was tipped* and he mentioned he rarely gets tips from people using PP.

    Do you tip? I feel that is should be expected of us, it is a great benefit and sad if we don’t tip.

    *I have asked various waiters and waitresses and very similar answers.

  9. OK, so it looks like HK just had the Amex-wide announcement earlier in the day and now it has been announced to rest of Amex in the US. I would have to think that PP is going to charge CC companies a different rate to include restaurants or not.

  10. How will this work in practice? Will a new priority pass membership card be issued that excludes restaurants? Or is my current PP card somehow coded to know that I received the membership through a credit card?

  11. This is a huge devaluation. Priority Pass has been much less useful with most airline-lounges blocking entrance (seen it a few times recently in different airports and countries). This was a good attempt to make PP useful again.

  12. Personally, I don’t like PP restaurants. I would like to see PP contracts more lounges. With long connection time, my priority is to get to a lounge to get some snack and have some quiet time or use their bathrooms. PP restaurants is like going to any restaurant to get a meal, and you got to leave after your meal, no quiet time. There is not enough lounges that I can use with PP from the places I go, for example, San Francisco International Airport, depending on the terminal, for domestic flights, somehow I never got to use any lounge, Houston, El Paso, Denver, all the same. Some of these airports have only PP restaurants.

    I hope with taking out PP restaurants, they add more lounges.

  13. Sad to this disappearing, I do agree the value of PP is heading south, but what choice do we really have ? The overall value of Amex platinum is still good, provided you utilize all your benefits.

  14. If Chase Sapphire Reserve didn’t come with the PP, I’d never get PP. At first I thought it was a great benefit. I travel more than 3/4 of the year for work and on several airlines so I’m not loyal to one lounge or airline. More and more I notice the signs outside of the lounges barring PP from entry due to capacity. I also know that while it is true that they fill up, they have been empty numerous times and had the sign out and some even very rude when people inquired. In many cases, we are treated like 2nd class citizens in the lounges, whereas in the restaurants I’ve been treated well and felt welcome. I hope they don’t reduce our benefits.
    They aren’t fabulous now.

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