Major: Plaza Premium & Priority Pass Cut Ties

Filed Under: Travel

Here’s a change that has some major implications for those who get lounge access through credit cards, as reported by Executive Traveller.

Plaza Premium breaks up with Priority Pass

Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges (and other experiences), with over 1,300 lounges around the world. All kinds of premium credit cards offer a Priority Pass membership, which is a great way to get lounge access when traveling. Priority Pass doesn’t operate lounges as such, but rather has partner lounges that it pays when a member visits.

Plaza Premium operates the world’s largest collection of independent airport lounges, with 180 locations across nearly 50 airports. You can’t directly buy a Plaza Premium lounge membership, but rather Plaza Premium acts as a contract lounge provider for premium airline passengers, and for other lounge access programs.

Historically you’ve been able to visit virtually all Plaza Premium lounges with a Priority Pass membership, but that will soon be changing.

As of July 1, 2021, Priority Pass and LoungeKey members will no longer have access to Plaza Premium lounges. LoungeKey is a similar program to Priority Pass, except it’s not quite as big.

Note that “a small number of lounges” may still belong to these programs, as that’s still “under review.”

Plaza Premium Lounge Taipei Taoyuan

Why is this partnership ending?

It’s clear that in this case Plaza Premium is cutting the cord, as the company states that it has chosen not to renew its contract with Priority Pass and LoungeKey.

As Plaza Premium describes this decision in a statement:

“In view of the rapidly changing travel environment and staying true to our mission in Making Travel Better, we have reassessed our product and service offerings in the hope of creating a comprehensive airport hospitality experience to reach more travellers globally.”

This is purely speculation on my part, but here’s my take on the motive:

  • Plaza Premium lounges are able to negotiate different reimbursement rates through different partners; for example, an airline that sends their business class passengers might pay more per person than a Priority Pass member who visits, since Priority Pass can offer so much volume
  • My guess is that Priority Pass was reimbursing Plaza Premium among the lowest amounts of any source of lounge access, so Plaza Premium is focusing on other partnerships instead; presumably the two companies couldn’t agree on a “fair” price as they renegotiated their contract
  • The big question is what kind of partnerships Plaza Premium will be forming going forward — could we see Plaza Premium try to sell lounge memberships directly and compete with Priority Pass, could we see Plaza Premium work directly with more credit card issuers, or what?

Plaza Premium Lounge London Heathrow

What does this mean for travelers?

I’ve always enjoyed Plaza Premium lounges, and have generally found them to be a notch above other contract lounges. They have consistent and reasonably nice decor, and they typically have a solid food & drink selection.

This development is bad news for everyone except those with the Amex Platinum. Why? While the Amex Platinum offers a Priority Pass membership, it also offers “The Global Lounge Collection,” which offers access to some lounges beyond that.

One of those agreements is with Plaza Premium, where members can access these lounges with one guest (in fairness, that’s a reduction from the two guests allowed through Priority Pass).

So this shouldn’t impact most people with the Amex Platinum too much, but it’s bad news for those who access lounges through other cards.

I’ll be curious to see what Plaza Premium’s strategy is going forward for filling lounges. I can’t help but wonder if Plaza Premium might be launching a competitor to Priority Pass, since the barrier to entry is pretty low, and Plaza Premium has the huge advantage of also actually operating a large lounge collection.

Plaza Premium Lounge Penang

Bottom line

As of July 1, 2021, Priority Pass and LoungeKey members will no longer have access to Plaza Premium lounges. This is a bold move on the part of Plaza Premium, but I’d imagine there’s some plan that we’re going to be learning the details of soon.

This is a bummer for most people with Priority Pass memberships, given at just how many airports these lounges exist. Fortunately for those with the Amex Platinum, you’ll still be able to access the lounges with your card directly.

I’m curious to see how this progresses, because this is a huge development.

What do you make of this shakeup to airport lounge access? What do you think Plaza Premium’s plan is to fill lounges going forward?

  1. Can you still use the lounge buddy credit from the Amex Green for Plaza Premium or is that being cut as well?

  2. Pure guess: Expect something from Amex to exploit this development. They may even be behind it. Amex is very interested in lounges.

  3. Given that Plaza Premium lounges are primarily not in the US, I don’t think it will impact many people here. I think the one in Dallas is the only US one at the moment? A bummer for those who still travel internationally at the moment. But this could be a small win for Amex Platinum as they will still have access, especially with the news of a possible fee increase with changes in benefits.

    The only time I used one was in Vancouver (US departures), and it was a nice lounge, albeit a bit crowded (and the week before COVID shutdowns). What was interesting is that I had my Amex Platinum and my Priority Pass card, and the check-in staff used my Amex card instead of PP. Not sure if it was because it was faster for check-in than PP’s machines or if they get more when people use their Amex card instead.

  4. Wow. When international travel returns, this will really impact Priority Pass at some Asian and Canadian airports (such as YYZ, HKG, TPE, KUL, etc) where the vast majority (if not all) of the current lounge options are Plaza Premium lounges.

  5. Ah, bummer. I’ve used the Plaza Premium lounges a few times on my international travels. Good lounges. Too bad…

  6. I had no idea about the Global Lounge Collection thing. Do I need to sign up separately or anything, or do I just flash the Platinum card?

  7. This makes another big strike against the value of Priority Pass. I had already become increasingly frustrated with my credit card provided Priority Pass owing to common denied-access to airline lounges that were part of the PP network or sub-standard non-airline lounges. I agree with @Ben that Plaza Premium lounges tended to be better than the average contract lounge so were an important part of the PP network, especially in Canada and Asia. Plaza Premium lounges, especially in smaller airports (YEG and Penang come to mind as two that I experienced) were a very good experience even relative to the airline lounges at those out-stations.

    Bottom line for me is that I had already essentially given up on the value of my Priority Pass and this further confirms it.

  8. ive never had a priority pass membership, but is it me, or are less and less lounges accepting priority pass, hence making it less worth it?

  9. This is a BIG deal for Priority Pass. Expect Plaza Premium to launch their own membership product, or more likely establish direct deal(s) with some of the premium card programs. Disintermediation by it’s largest customers (banks) and partners (lounge operators) is one of PP’s biggest threats.

  10. @RG1X

    No you don’t need to do anything. Just show your AMEX Plat at the lounge and they will swipe you in.

  11. This is gonna hurt in Asia, where Plaza Premium lounges are good/safe PP options. Since Asia is a no-go anyway until next year, maybe us PP members shouldn’t be too worried, hopefully PP gets a new deal with other lounges.

  12. This is a huge bummer to someone like me from Taiwan and travels to Asia frequently each year pre-COVID.

    TPE: Great lounges in T1 and T2. Hot food (actually good) straight from onsite kitchen and draft beer, and always not too crowded.
    HKG: Decent but crowded. Been to PP First using Amex Green credit and what a luxury experience, unforgettable lobster meal with wine pairing plus a free massage.
    MFM: PP is the only lounge option, nice place to relax before departure.

    More incentive to keep Amex Plat and dumping CSR for the upcoming renewal, CSR is losing big and sad to see this decline from 2016.

  13. I pay for an annual membership (not enough credit history to get a card w/ priority pass as a benefit) and this will likely cause me to stop paying for that membership, or at least downgrade to one of the more limited packages. Just another reason to push harder for *A gold, I guess.

  14. While Priority Pass does not operate their own lounges, the parent company Collinson does in fact own ‘Airport Dimensions’ which owns and operates a growing network of independent lounges (many branded as The Club @) which are increasingly competing with Plaza Premium and others on new airport lounge developments growing beyond the US. This may have contributed to Plaza Premium’s decision to break ties with Priority Pass.

  15. Plaza Premium already has many other existing partners. Apart from Amex, banks such as HSBC and OCBC have cards for accessing Plaza Premium only. Non-business class passengers for a large number of airlines ranging from WestJet to EVA also get sent to Plaza Premium if they have status. I would also guess that a significant number of passengers actually pay for lounge access, especially as Plaza Premium offers rarer upsells such as nap rooms.

  16. Well I guess it was a good call that I just renewed my Amex plat card. I’m not looking forward to the future when they jack up the AF though. Will be interesting to see what the sapphire reserve does as a result of this.

  17. I don’t fly to YYZ much anymore but really used to enjoy hitting up the PP lounge in the transcontinental terminal for a nice hot meal. Then I’d scamper up to the Air Canada lounge as it was the better lounge overall except in the hot food department. A nice one-two punch I’m sure many will miss.

  18. Personally I don’t come across Plaza lounges that often, so no great shakes for me. PP seems to cover the bases I need.

    I read a comment elsewhere that a Plaza staff member was wondering what the plan was, given that the majority of their traffic was from PP. Negotiating tactic?

  19. This will sting in places like India where, 1) Plaza Premium may be the only option at an airport, 2) airline lounges are only open for short time windows (totally understand when they only have one flight per day – thinking LH/SQ lounges at DEL), or 3) available airline lounges are not accessible due to flying another carrier.

  20. The sole lounge at PNH is a Plaza Premium, and this may be one less reason for me or my wife to consider Priority Pass. But if there’s more competition amongst membership lounge programs, maybe it’ll benefit us as consumers?

  21. AMEX is the clear winner, albeit probably short term, because of its direct deal with Plaza Premium for Platinum holders.

    This will force other premium card issuers (like Chase) to cut their own deals with Plaza Premium, which in turn would force Priority Pass to concede higher rates to Plaza Premium or risk becoming irrelevant.

  22. At last, PP can stop paying Plaza Premium for overcrowded and substandard facilities and refreshments. Even though I have been using PP for free through Chase Reserve, I often wanted to tell PP they got suckered by Plaza Premium. Truth be told, I’ve always treated Plaza Premium as the store at the gas station: pick up a few cans of cold drinks and GTFO.

    I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of visiting Plaza Premium at MFM, HKG, TPE, SIN, YVR, YEG, PEN, KUL. Of the above I will say that HKG was hands down by far THE WORST of all due to excess crowd. Refreshment at TPE & SIN are substandard with warm (or none) beer and lousy food.

    I hope this is an opportunity for PP to shine. PP access to Oman First & Business Lounge at BKK was simply unforgettable.

  23. I didn’t realize that there are so many plaza premium lounges. Do they all carry the plaza name? The only plaza premium lounge that I remember visiting is the one at some reap, and it was quite memorable. I didn’t expect anything remotely as good.

  24. @Mister Malibu…Was at the PEN lounge and it was substandard on food, but did allow for decent seating as our gate – which was just outside of the lounge and down the escalator – was packed. It also had cold beverages. Had 2 Carlsbergs that morning. Outside of that it was just OK.

  25. DragonPass card scheme still has access so banks like Barclays and RBS still have access. I think some Visa and Mastercard schemes too.

  26. Throw this out to the frequent business class flyers.

    Is lounge access automatic at departure airport when flying business? Or just depends on carrier and their alliance or partner lounge availability?

  27. On a slightly different but related topic, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported today that the Qantas First lounges are reopening today …

    “Normally the lounge is reserved for Platinum members of Qantas’ frequent flyer program. The lounge will now open to business class flyers, Gold status frequent flyers and Qantas Club members.”

    Quite an improvement for qf club members!

  28. While many credit cards now offer the priority pass membership the details matter such as regarding if guests are allowed for free. Some lounges are great while others are not that good. In some airports Priority Pass does not have airside lounges. Landside lounges have less value and in other times they only have partner lounges on the international side of the airport not domestic or vice versa.

  29. The Plaza Premium lounge in DFW is nothing like the overseas ones. Nothing very “premium” about it.

  30. @EC2: Outside the US, lounge access for business class and top level frequent flyers is pretty standard, but there are exceptions. Some airports do not have any lounges, or might have a lounge catering to one alliance only. Some carriers have also cut down on access to third party lounges in order to save money. As an alternative, some airlines offer vouchers which can be used at F&B outlets for refreshments.

    I would also argue that many lounges are not worth visiting. Crowded, run-down, windowless and/or bad quality of food & drink. I have on numerous occasions left lounges and gone back into the main terminal for one or several of these reasons.

  31. Been in to a couple of Plaza lounges and they were ok, but certainly not worth what they’ll be charging outside of a PP membership.

    I guess the alternative are the restaurants PP have in their network? Anything but Dragon Pass (through a previous Barclays account), the app was awful, and I was often refused entry so it was pointless!

  32. I visited (pre Covid) the transborder PP lounge in YYZ. It was the worst lounge I have ever been in so much so that I just walked out.
    Smelled of stale food, crowded, cramped, dark….just awful.
    The other PP lounges in Europe were also crowded. Not pleasant experiences.
    Priority Pass is a benefit of my AMEX Platinum but I will just use the Maple Leaf and Star Alliance lounges in the future.
    The Canadian AMEX Platinum card benefits are no longer worth the annual fee and I’ll now revert to using my AMEX Gold Rewards card. So now I’ll be Canadian Gold not Platinum!

  33. Just when a Plaza Premium opened at my home airport – DXB….
    Also, I echo what some of the other commentators said above, PP lounges were the only decent offering in many Indian airports, so this is going to sting…

  34. Wow this is a disaster for me! Plaza Premium LHR T2 deps and the arrivals lounge is practically the only lounges I use with Priority Pass. The T2 arrivals lounge was always great for some free food and wine before heading off to your hotel room at LHR, and 9 times out of 10 there were no more than 3-4 people using it. Literally no point in me paying for Priority Pass anymore. Gutted!

  35. I was traveling internationally for many years prior to the onset of Covid. I do not see this as a great loss. Like another reader above, I feel PP lounges are sub standard to many other lounges. Generally crowded and unkempt by mid afternoons. I will continue to have access to PP through other affiliations, but PP lounges were, and most likely will be my alternative choice in an airport.
    But it will be interesting to see what AMEX, Chase, PP and Priority pass do moving forward. is this a game of who blinks first?

  36. The only reason I have the Amex Hilton card is the Priority Pass privileges. This certainly devalues that. Will take this into consideration when my Amex Hilton annual fee comes around.

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