Portland Airport Loses Priority Pass Restaurant

Filed Under: Misc.

Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent airport lounges, and over the past couple of years they’ve added a considerable number of airport restaurants to their lounge network.

The logic is that they pay lounges a fixed amount every time you visit, so in terminals and airports where they struggle to reach agreements with lounges, they’ll instead give you a certain dollar amount to spend at partner restaurants. This is an awesome feature for members.

Historically the best airport in the world for Priority Pass restaurants was Portland Airport, and I once even flew to Portland primarily to review this experience. Portland Airport had four options for Priority Pass members.

There’s Capers Cafe Le Bar, which is a sit down restaurant in the airport.

Then there’s Capers Market, which is a grab-and-go concept, though also has a bar.

Then there’s House Spirits Distillery, the world’s only airport distillery, where you could get a tasting with Priority Pass.

Then there’s the Alaska Lounge.

Well, unfortunately this airport just got a little less exciting for Priority Pass members.

Capers Market Portland Airport has left Priority Pass. Interestingly Capers Cafe Le Bar continues to be part of the network, at least for now.

In addition to that, Priority Pass members will still have access to the Alaska Lounge (when they’re not restricting access due to crowding), as well as House Spirits Distillery.

It’s interesting to see Capers Market leave Priority Pass, since it was different than most other Priority Pass establishments. Capers Market mostly had grab-and-go items, so while other Priority Pass restaurants have restricted taking things to go, this place encouraged it.

Ultimately we don’t know why this place left Priority Pass. They charged huge markups, and they didn’t have to worry about labor costs as much as other Priority Pass locations, since it was mostly self serve.

This would lead me to believe that Priority Pass may have pulled the plug, given the number of people who were likely hitting up both Capers locations, eating at the other one while taking stuff to go from this one.

Many have thought that the Priority Pass restaurant situation is too good to be true. It will be interesting to see how this concept evolves.

Some restaurants seem to be doing really well with this. In other cases, like at SeaTac Airport, we’ve seen restaurants join and then leave within days.

Will anyone miss Capers Market being part of Priority Pass?

  1. I think the whole Priority Pass concept is in trouble, at least in the U.S. Too many people there have “free” access to the card and that makes the situation unsustainable, first in the lounges and now at the restaurants.

  2. I was thinking the same thing as Mauricio. Just too many people using it, over crowds lounges, too much money in the restaurants, etc.

  3. Well, I am guilty of sitting down at Capers to eat a yummy meal and then getting $30 of food to go for inflight from the market. I would bet good money that Priority Pass pulled the plug on this as my guess would be capers was minting money with the partnership.

    Having said that, yes, I will miss it.

  4. The cafe is gone now, too. Very sad. The wild salmon and risotto was a legitimately good dish, and they had a decent wine list.

  5. Is this effective immediately? As I checked Priority Pass app and I still see all 4 PDX locations listed.

    I am passing through PDX on April 18,19 for my first time and was really hoping to try all 4!

  6. I mean, if this was available when I’ve flown through PDX, I would use my PP at a lounge or restaurant AND stop in at the market to get snacks for my flight or for the hotel when I land ($28 can get you quite a lot, even at airport prices), whereas I’m unlikely to visit more than one lounge or PP restaurant normally. Plus, if you’re with a family and your card doesn’t have a guest limit, you can walk out of that places loaded.

  7. Priority Pass signed a ton of new card partnerships, then tried to add restaurants to meet customer demand for lounges. It’s a bad deal for most restaurants, especially given how most travelers try to “maximize” the value of the benefit. Longer term, priority pass needs to do what Amex has done and actually build real lounges in the US if it is going to work. In general, lounges are all way too crowded nowadays as air traffic and credit card membership all increase.

  8. Major bummer! I literally planned a trip from PAE to PDX for a night this Friday just to take advantage of this since fares of cheap! And I did think in the back of my mind- what if they drop out of priority pass before I get there… but they’ve been in the program for years, so that’s surely unlikely!

    Well, that’s somewhat comical, and somewhat tragic. But nothing stays the same in travel!

  9. PP seems to have been restricting “to-go” items anyway, so this would make sense. The intent is for it to support a “lounging” environment for PP members.

  10. I usually only pick up a water on my way out at the Capers Market, but usually most Priority Pass people pick up items like they’ve never seen food before. Pretty comical. The staff would even usually say to me “are you sure that’s all you want?”. RIP Capers Market.

  11. Noooo! I hit this place up every time I go home to see my family! Though I’d been wondering about the economics of it all after my last visit. I saw a couple with a basket full of stuff at the check out, and they each had two PP cards that they proceeded to max out. They were joking with each other that if they had more room in their carry on bags they would have used the guest benefit on each of them and gotten double their already-large haul. While Capers Market has take away food you can eat on the plane, they also sell duck liver terrine, toasted oregon hazelnuts, artisan sausages… like you could built a gorgeous gift basket from this place with your PP card.

  12. @aarowa- I did the exact trip last Tuesday. My plane-loving toddler and I flew from PAE to PDX for lunch. We had a nice meal at the Café, and the waitress knew my game and was happy to abet in my scheme. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving with a dime less then my $56 worth of food. I tipped her well.

    At the Market I stocked up on smoked salmon and my Capers bag was an overflowing cornucopia. I tried to pop into the AS lounge for a diaper change (sign was up) and was hoping for an empathetic lounge lady. Unfortunately, she said no and recommended that I go to Capers. Then she looked at my bag and slyly commented, “Oh. It looks like you’ve already been there.” Busted.

  13. What a bummer. Capers Market had a great selection I always stopped by when visiting my folks to pick up some of my favorite local foods. (Secret Aardvark hot sauce and Olympia Provisions charcuterie, yum.) The whole thing seemed unsustainable – I visited all 4 “lounges” several times over the last couple of years – so each time I go I assumed it’d be my last.

    FWIW, the last time I went to the House Spirits Distillery, I asked if they’re still accepting Priority Pass. The server looked at me, made a big grin, and said, “we will never stop accepting Priority Pass!” I get the sense that a big portion of their traffic came from PP.

    I can only get in to the Alaska lounge about half the time I fly from PDX, and it appears to currently be under renovation. So I really did welcome the alternatives.

  14. I’m with Mauricio. I never really “got” the Priority Pass concept. I mean, I do as a traveler, but as a business? It makes little to no sense. Too many credit card benefits are offered on a “if people actually use this, we’ll lose money” basis. Either that or the fine print is so restrictive I just mentally write it off.

    I wish we could find an equilibrium that is satisfying to the consumers, suppliers, and middle men. Until then…

  15. The corona beach house at MIA used to allow grab and go with PP. employees there told me that PP took that away, There’s seems to be a theme of not PP disallowing grab and go establishments

  16. Once restaurants go Priority Pass, they usually aren’t even worth free.

    May I say that with or without Priority Pass, Portland Airport is fabulous. One of the very few truly world class airport experiences in the United States – SAN is the only one that comes to mind as being remotely close. What is it about how Portland is managed that makes it such a superlative flying experience? Somebody should write an article about it so that it can be copied.

  17. Limit PP to 1 visit per airport per day.
    Limit grab & go to 1 item.
    Limit restaurants to $28 regardless of guests.

    I found myself ordering 5 Fiji waters to go upon arrival at a PP restaurant and was disgusted with myself. Dropped the order to 2 🙂

  18. Dammit. We’re passing through there connecting on one of the new routes from PAE tomorrow night, and were planning to hit both Capers locations. And yeah: wanted to hit the second one for takeaway food for the plane.


  19. Can you confirm that it is only the Caper’s market that has closed to Priority Pass. The rumor I am hearing is that Caper’s Market and Caper’s Cafe both are leaving.

  20. As a UA flyer that uses the E gates almost exclusively, this really screws me over. I usually grab a water and a salad before my flight. It pretty much means that my Chase Sapphire has lost a lot of its value.
    The Alaska lounge is also on the other side of the airport and turns away PP members about 80% of the time. I gave up trying to check it out and just use the UA Club even though the food is way worse.
    This move makes zero sense. The business at Capers Market will drop off by at least half based on my observations of their sales. I’m sure their vendors will not be happy when their products stop moving.
    I guess Capers enjoys making less money. The sheer stupidity of this move boggles my mind.

  21. While people calling out the establishment for this. There maybe more to it. As in the case with other grab and go, I think PP wanted to exclude those.

    I see potential risk of grab and go. The whole point of most membership club is to let members have great benefits “without” using them.
    Grab and go means people with 5 mins will use it.
    For lounges may be at least 30 mins (get rest from the detour). Then you need 60 mins from restaurants.
    You see on that assumption, PP has to pay 12x more for grab&go. Now if CC foots the bill then those guys wouldn’t be happy too. Same deal, PP makes CC holders happy and you make CC company happy as long as you don’t use it.

    Also big risk of frauds, but that’s for another day.

  22. Damn this closure is probably due to me! My apologies.

    I’ve hit both the Cafe AND market at PDX about 40 times in the last year, mostly on AS connections (outbound and return). I would go to the Cafe for a great meal and then pick up “to go”items at the Market for food on the plane or just take home and have a meal later in the day / next day. So figure $56 outbound and $56 on return, 20 times….that’s about $2,160
    in value extraction over the last year.

    Plus, when we would travel as a family of 5, my wife and I would use a combined total of 4 PP cards (tied to four Amex cards) to get $112 of PP credit AND, at times use the guest feature on 2 of the cards generating $168 of credit at the Cafe and $168 at the market. We would fill a small duffel bag full of food for the flight, or snacks later in the day for the kids.

    Talking to servers, they would proactively ask “ do you want 13 more cookies to maximize your credit?” Lol.

    So, just on those family trips alone, we would extract $336 of value on outbound and $336 on the return connection. We looked ridiculous with a bag full of food and snacks, like we were hoarders.

    Just assumed that our heavy use is being subsidized by non users of PP thy tied with an aspirational credit card.

    It still must be profitable for PP to offer the program, otherwise they would be the next movie pass.

  23. How can you use the PP at both Capers locations in 1 day? Or all 4 locations for that matter? Dont they swipe your card the first time, making it void for the rest of the day for the other locations?

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