PF Chang’s LAX Leaving Priority Pass

Filed Under: Travel

Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges, with over 1,300 lounges around the world. One of the cool things that Priority Pass has done is that they’ve added all kinds of restaurant locations to their portfolio.

With these restaurants, members receive a certain dollar credit towards food & drinks. These restaurants have been especially common at airports and terminals where Priority Pass couldn’t otherwise reach agreements with lounge operators.

Just last week Priority Pass lost Timberline Steaks & Grille as a partner restaurant, and it looks like Priority Pass will lose another restaurant next week.

PF Chang’s LAX Leaving Priority Pass

This has been rumored for a while, but Priority Pass’ website has finally been updated to reflect it. PF Chang’s at LAX will be leaving the Priority Pass network as of October 25, 2019.

This restaurant is located at Tom Bradley International Terminal, and joined Priority Pass just over a year ago, in September 2018.

Historically this restaurant has offered a $30 credit to Priority Pass members, though as of October 1, 2019, that credit was reduced to $28 per person. So it seemed like aspects of the partnership may have been getting worse already.

Why Is PF Chang’s LAX Leaving Priority Pass?

A lot of people say that the Priority Pass restaurant business model is unsustainable. While it might sound too good to be true, as such I don’t think the model is necessarily unsustainable. Essentially Priority Pass is paying restaurants a discounted rate on the dining credit, and that amount is roughly equal to how much they’d usually pay a lounge when you access it (figure somewhere around $22-25 per person per visit).

The only real part of it that’s perhaps unsustainable is that it increases overall Priority Pass usage, and that’s a cost center for credit card companies for memberships issued through premium cards (this is probably why Amex cut restaurants from their Priority Pass memberships).

So what would cause a restaurant to leave the Priority Pass network? We’ve heard a few different reasons, though it’s anyone’s guess what’s happening here:

  • Apparently Priority Pass’ payments are slow, and this creates a cashflow issue for some restaurants
  • Some restaurants may feel that they can fill the space without using Priority Pass, in which case that’s advantageous (since they’re getting paid the full amount for food that way)
  • Not only are restaurants offering discounted food, but a lot of servers have complained that people using Priority Pass don’t tip

So who knows what exactly is going on here, though it’s likely one or multiple of those reasons. Given how busy Tom Bradley International Terminal is, I could see the restaurant management feeling that they could fill the restaurant more profitably without Priority Pass.

Bottom Line

PF Chang’s is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’m sad to see them leave the Priority Pass network. The restaurant has consistently been pretty full with Priority Pass members, so this is quite a loss.

LAX does have a couple more Priority Pass restaurants. Unfortunately the only other Priority Pass location at Tom Bradley International Terminal is the awful Korean Air Lounge.

For those with the Amex Platinum Card, a Centurion Lounge is expected to open in that terminal in 2020.

Will you miss having PF Chang’s as a Priority Pass option at LAX?

  1. More restaurants leaving Priority Pass and just received an email from Priority Pass 2 days ago stating that they were planning to increase their prices

  2. Timberline in Denver was a perfect example. Before, it was a good airport restaurant where you could get a meal and a few beverages while waiting for your flight. Maybe you could also chat with a fellow traveler at the bar. They open up to Priority Pass and attract a lot of “value oriented” guests that don’t want to spend a dime out of pocket, displacing better paying guests. Service and quality decline, and the restaurant becomes unprofitable.

    I have Priority Pass rights from four cards and maybe use it once or twice a year.

  3. People abuse it. They should have done something like 50% off. That would make the abusers stay away since they won’t pony up any real cash. Simply giving someone $15, 20, etc. to use is asking for abuse.

  4. I may be to blame for this closure and other closures (ie Capers in PDX). When my wife and children fly with me from PDX To LAX for summer vacation (or Disneyland, etc) my wife and I each have PP rights thru our card portfolio – we Would each use our PP card for one adult and one guest. So, in Portland we would Get $112 in Credit at Capers for Breakfast and then $120 at PF Chang’s at LAX for lunch. Then, do the same on the return. So In one family round trip We would extract around $464 in dining value on one week. We have done several times at several other airport restaurants across the US over the years, hitting PP for approximately $4k over the years. We did nothing but use the PP rights offered to us.

    Additionally, if we were leaving, say Capers in PDX and settling our bill, the server would typically say “you have not maximized your credit. Would like 17 chocolate chip cookies? A whole pizza? Sandwiches for tomorrow? We looked so rediculous walking out of the terminal with to go bags with another days worth of food.

    We made sure to absolutely tip in cash. $20 each time.

  5. Umm, a bit old news but this has been brought up for weeks?
    Now we should see PF Changs’ enormous area close to empty and the KE lounge would get more entry restrictions.

    I do hate it when people call PP straight out with ‘abuse’ or ‘free rides’.
    First of all, it’s not free. Cardholders indirectly pay for them. Could be straight through PP or through bank fees and merchant charges.

    I don’t even think @JW is to blame or even abusing, it’s business as expected.
    Here is what I see as abuse. You have 4 cards from 4 banks and you swipe them 4 times getting $112 for yourself on the same day. Or airport employees who are not flying but using them for lunch everyday.

    The ones who really are to blame is ONLY PP. For 2 reasons.
    1. Convincing banks to hand them out like Halloween candies. (Overcrowding is not their concern)
    2. Convincing restaurants that they can make ancillary revenues from getting people in the door. (People ordering just under $28 and tip or not is not their concern)
    2.1 And people who uses $28 doesn’t seem to order alcohol (high margin) with it, just food.

    The model works because those who remain is still making money. One of the reasons, I travel a lot so I spread out my pass usage among different bank is so one bank won’t get hit hard from my usage. I have to say I use it 50+ times per year, that’s $1400 (at list price). Doesn’t look too good for a single bank.
    If banks are happy, they will still give me this benefit.
    I also use the lounges owned by PP. That is how they make money from banks.
    As long as a lot of people have the membership and use the lounge for just one drink and little snacks, this business model holds. If all members visit lounge and treat it as all-you-can-eat-and-drink competition, then PP will fail.

  6. @JW…I don’t think your clever plan is to blame. You stayed within the rules and maxed it out. I ate at the Denver Timberline several times and always left the appropriate tip. Sad to see that one leave PP as I’m flying out of there next week….

  7. Agree with Eskimo’s argument. The PP user is not non-paying customers nor abusers; airport employees that use the program as lunch passes are. The problem here is even when abuse does not exist, the business model is still questionable when people are ENCOURAGED to squeeze every penny out of it.

  8. Ouch this one is going to hurt. I frequently fly those late night Asia flights out of LAX on either Asiana, EVA, or ANA. With 3-4 family members with me I can’t take anymore than one of them into the star alliance lounge because of the 1 guest gold rule so this was always the alternative for all. Get 2 plates between the 4 of us, eat it up like a snack, then next meal on the plane after takeoff and a long good sleep to follow. The only other PP restaurant at LAX walkable from TBIT is in t6 right?

  9. I was there last week and chatted with a manager about the decision to leave PP.

    Was told it was 50% delayed payments from PP which was a big issue considering the volume of PP business for this particular location. The other 50% was lack of tips to the wait staff.

  10. So that’s an easy $20 bet I just won.

    When I was there on July 1st, Priority Pass holders were restricted to that small section at the front of the bar (but maybe it was because I was solo?). I have only once (out of five visits) seen another PP holder leave a tip. Shameful.

  11. The solution to the tips issue is to mandate a $6 per person tip (cash or credit) for all Priority Pass guests (just over 20%). It’s only fair.

  12. @Santastico – I agree with you. Their meats are almost always coated in some sort of grease absorbing breading and the food often as an off-sweet taste to it.

  13. @flyingrohit, after P.F.Chang’s departure, here is what we have left at LAX:

    Rock & Brews Terminal 1
    Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Terminal 2
    Alaska Lounge Terminal 6
    Point the Way Cafe Terminal 6
    KAL Lounge Tom Bradley International Terminal: Restricted to 13:00 – 19:00 daily.

    Terminal 2 is closer but 1 & 6 are more interesting – all within 5-10 minutes walking distance.

  14. I don’t understand the “no tipping” issue. Are Priority Pass holders so cheap they can’t tip on a free or heavily discounted meal? First of all I hope everyone knows you tip on full value before any discounts are applied. Secondly I always over tip since I’m getting a great deal. Let’s say I get $28 from PP and my total bill is $33 for a net amount due of $5. I usually leave $10 for the tip. Still a great deal for $15 (instead of around $38-$40 w a normal tip).

    I do think the model is unsustainable though. Any restaurant which can do decent business on their own (and airport restaurants pretty much have a captive audience) is crazy to take a discounted amount from PP, especially if they slow pay.

  15. As a retired server,i would suggest letting P.P. Have a $28 limit at restaurants,but only $23 could be applied for food and drink,leaving $5 tip on $23 worth of food and beverage.That would solve the waitstaff complaint.But why P.P. Chooses not to reimburse restaurants in a timely fashion is not fair to the restaurants.

  16. @anthony Great idea! Why limit it to priority pass holders who don’t tip? Why not just increase all prices by 20% and remove tipping altogether. Seems like it would make everyone happy and remove confusion. Tipping is ridiculous IMO.

  17. Big loss, I fly out of LAX exclusively. Although still have OW Sapphire status, I always enjoyed a quick bite, and have always tipped. The bald bartender from NY has always treated me well. I guess it’s back to the OW J lounge or AA flagship.

    That KAL lounge is so bad! Plus closes at 7pm…

  18. Personally, I find the argument that the airport workers are to blame to be, well, unconvincing.

    It’s worth remembering that it’s the restaurants who want out. When Amex wanted out, sure, maybe the workers. But this is the restaurants. If a bunch of airport workers are the problem, well, they will quickly be identified, remembered, and treated accordingly. You really *really* think restaurants can’t simply require boarding pass?

    I do think the problem is that there is money limit to what you get to order. You “have $28.” That’s an awful statement. If you eat $27.50, well, you threw away $.50 of your money! Oh the horror! And why would you tip? If your goal is to maximize every cent, you wouldn’t want to do that. For context, 20% of $28 is $7. Let’s be frank, for many, if Priority Pass has nothing there, you would consume exactly $0. Why *spend* extra, right?

    And then, you have all of those people bragging about how much money they “saved.” It feels so smart, right? Yeah, vicious cycle. Now *every*one wants to be smart, right? Race to the bottom commences shortly.

    Finally, when you are in the business of “let’s maximize my monetary value,” you will. As @Eskimo points out, these people won’t order alcohol. Why? It’s high margin. Read the other way around: it’s “low value” for the customer. Oh the horror! You leave money on the table! Oh the humanity!

  19. With many priority pass restaurants leaving the network, maybe it could be the restaurants them selves abusing the program and not just customers. Two weeks ago I was at P.F. Chang’s in LAX and even though it was just me and my wife, when I was signing their form it said total number of guests “3”. Seems like they were adding the extra person so they could get paid more by priority pass. They could be doing this to all their guests with 2 ppl or ppl who come solo. The waiter had this form/machine so not sure if he has a way to get some of that money for the “non third” customer or if management is telling the waitstaff to do that.

  20. I’ve eaten there twice. The food was average at best. But at least it was a PP option. The tipping issue could easily be resolved by PP simply including a certain percentage on the bill. Not sure why they do not do that. I should say I much prefer those countries where tipping is not part of the culture. Personally I do not care what your name is and I do not need your fake smile! Give me Russian service any day – I know exactly what to expect.

  21. @Kalboz yeah see that’s the issue. KE lounge would be hard as check in for all these flights that I take don’t even start until around 9/930. And on tops of that, getting to t2/T1 airside from TBIT is kind of a hassle with the buses. Honestly wouldn’t even mind outright paying for food next time. Or rather let my parents relax in the lounge and then join back up before boarding. We shall see next time 🙂

  22. @Kalboz

    You are underestimating LAX too much.
    From TBIT, you will never make it to any of those PP location in 5-10 minutes except KE. Plus you have to clear security again for T1 and expect at least 15 mins waking to reach T6 on airside.

    If your only access is Priority Pass and from your timing, your ONLY option is Point the Way Cafe. It is fairly new and I’ve never visited there yet so I can’t really comment on that place that late.
    And there is NO BUS airside to/from T1. Bus runs T2 TBIT T3.

    It’s a broken system and a never ending debate.

    @Anthony @Mike frank
    You can’t expect PP or the restaurant to reimburse for that because they won’t. Think like this, if PP pays PF $25 and you eat $20 of $28 why would PF give away $8 as tips. Same as to why would PP pay $20 to PF and $5 as tips. (greedy PP?)

    “But why P.P. Chooses not to reimburse restaurants in a timely fashion is not fair to the restaurants.”
    Let’s assume the agreement term is 90 days once per month (sounds fair right?). Judging from PF Changs traffic pre/post PP let’s say it doubled (likely more). If you run a restaurant that is a lot of cash missing while your cost just doubled. At the end of the day, these places might make 300% more sales but maybe less than 10% more profit. If so why bother with all the risk. This is the likely reason other restaurants left the program too.

    To be fair to PP, they also need to collect money from banks too.

  23. @Eskimo if only star alliance allowed 3 guests as a gold member this would all be solved . But of course that’s an unreasonable thing to ask for

  24. @eskemo

    The late reimbursement to the restaurants from pp is why Barneys beanery left the program. I frequent a Barneys in LA and asked the manager. After a few days they got back to me after checking with corporate. The waiting time for payment simply wasn’t worth the time and effort required by the company and its employees. This is almost certainly why others have left too.

  25. This is what happens when you cater to “travel hackers” which are essentially, glorified coupon clippers. A lesson on why airlines are very hesitant to honor mistake fares now — it’s the same market.

  26. It’s an international terminal. Not everyone is an obese American. Mandatory “tipping” is not intuitive to tell rest of the civilised world.

    If you work in an international terminal you should know what to expect!

  27. I agree with what @JeffyK99 said. Restaurants also abuse the system as well. I was the only one in my party at the restaurant, but they charged it for two people. Also, I did not even use my full credit and I did tip properly. They made a lot of extra cash for that one bill.

  28. @Eskimo

    There is no excuse for the delayed payment. I can do instant bank to bank transfers with most banks. It’s 2019!, there is not reason PP should not be instantly transferring money as soon as the charge is finalize., it’s all automated anyways.

    And I agree with 5% tip for super… It’s an airport with many international travelers. These restaurants should adopt the way of the world and pay their waiters instead of this ridiculous corrupt american tipping system. WTF is the point of a minimum wage law if it’s not enforced across the board.

  29. PP just brings a weird energy to places, as others have commented with The Timberline in Denver, and I think restaurants just end up running away whether or not it makes sense financially. A few months ago I showed up to this PF Changs right as it opened, and there was a line of PP people practically with bibs on ready for their FREE FOOD. A few people ahead of me didn’t have boarding passes and were sent packing. The couple immediately ahead of me were loudly discussing how to maximize their FREE FOOD benefit. This is a (fairly?) nice place, with an airy/relaxing design, and the PP FREE FOOD scene didn’t really mix.

    The service/tipping thing is more complicated maybe than “well basically you are a jerk for not tipping.” Faced with the FREE FOOD crowd, service suffers. When I was here, the server was brusque and just plopped my semi-warm food in front of me – why bother when I’m just another PP idiot? But given that service, why would I be motivated to leave a generous tip? It ends up being a race to the bottom, and I’m not at all surprised restaurants are leaving the program.

  30. This is why i suggest P.P. State on its benefit package that of the $28 credit at the restaurant,$23 will be capped to go to food and beverage,and $5 will go to gratuity.When the waitstaff knows they won’t be screwed over by the minority of P.P. Cardholders that are cheapskates.,their attitude will improve.

  31. @staradmiral

    It’s 2019! did you ever see any of your bills’ due date just 1 day after the statement closes. You can do instant bank to bank transfers with most banks. Better yet should banks instantly expect you transferring money as soon as the charge is finalize every transaction?

    I think the term ‘delayed payment’ is misquoted by someone. I’m pretty sure it is more of a longer payment cycle than your impression of ‘instant’, which is a normal business practice anywhere (look at any of your bills). If PP were really ‘late’ on the payments, I’m quite sure we would hear about a pending litigation by now.

    If your across the board mean not including waitstaff, there is a law called “Minimum Wages for Tipped Employees”.

    It’s not free. Just because you didn’t pay cash upfront at list price makes it free.
    “A few people ahead of me didn’t have boarding passes and were sent packing.” That is abuse.
    “why bother when I’m just another PP idiot?” Then don’t leave a generous tip. With the increase volume, they probably make enough that your missing “generous tip” would not matter.

    @Mike frank
    As much as I agree to the fairness of this idea. Like I said, it’s not their job to pay gratuity, it’s yours. Setting aside $5 right away is asking for fraud. Hypothetically if I have 5 cards with 2 guest each. Each restaurant will set aside $75 for the waiter. They agree to keep $40 I keep $35. I hit 2 restaurants a day that gives me $70 a day. Let’s assume there are 100,000 users any given day. 20% did what I do, PP will be losing millions everyday.
    It’s always loopholes like this that makes the rest of us can’t have nice things.

  32. @Eskimo
    Why is it my job to pay gratuity? There are numerous countries in the world where a service charge is automatically added (examples would include Guatemala, Armenia, etc.). PP could easily build in the percentages. Just because Americans accept that employees deserve terrible wages and make up the difference with a big tip does not mean the rest of the world needs to do the same. If someone knows a country with better service than Japan, please let me know. Service is good because employees are proud to do the job not because they expect a tip.

  33. Since you don’t mind service charges that the restaurant owner is allowed to keep but object to gratuities that go to the waiter,have P.P. Put a $5 service charge on every check and allow you to eat or drink $23 worth of food and drink.Problem solved.

  34. I agree. By the way it is not that I like the service charge either but it is clearly spelled out on the menu. I’m sure many of those who do not tip at a PP restaurant simply consider the meal free and 18% of free is 0! I personally have tipped at a PP restaurant in Houston.

  35. @alan

    Apologies, you’re right it is not our”job” to pay gratuities. It is “expected” of us to leave proper gratuity. The tipping system is broken but there is little that can be done.
    Even service charge as a percentage of the bill is broken in my opinion. Why would a server who serves a table of 2 but ate over $1000 make more than a server at the same restaurant who serves a table of 8 but ate just $250. Pooling of tips doesn’t solve that either. You just have to live with the social norms.

    @Mike frank
    Go read again about my thoughts on that regardless of which pocket the money went into or out of doesn’t change the fact. Setting aside $5 right away is asking for fraud. Hypothetically if I have 5 cards with 2 guest each.

  36. I would limit entrance to just the cardholder,no guests and once that cardholder uses a card with his name,i would have the computer block his other cards.This will stop the flood of P.P. People trying to use lounges that in return consider them pariahs and deny them entrance due to overcrowding.

  37. That particular PF Chang’s in LAXvis actually not a real PF Chang’s (also a guilty pleasure of mine). It is completely unaffiliated and doesn’t even serve the same food. They just licensed the branding. I tweeted about this on 7/25 on my way to Australia. Why would a restaurant license its branding but not require the licensee to have the same menu and serve the same food? I was not a happy camper.

  38. How dare you come to T6!
    Alaska and KAL are no option. Always turned away cardmember and even has pp wait in line! Crazy…

    My pattern is to sit the United lounge with couple drinks and then head to T6 order to go food. Better than united offered on any class. Then go back lounge for couple more drinks before boarding and sleeping. Do not disturb light on.

  39. The problem with Priority pass through credit cards is that the standards for acquisition and usage are non-existent. Have a 2 person maximum *and* a minimum spend of say $6000/yr on the card to avail of the benefit. This will improve the experience.

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