Can You Use A Priority Pass Lounge Upon Arrival?

Filed Under: Travel

I recently visited Timberline Steak and Grille, which is a Priority Pass “lounge” at the Denver Airport. I noted in the review that I’ve probably been there over a dozen times since it joined the Priority Pass network last fall. My family likes to say the best trips both start and end with a meal at Timberline. 

That caused a couple of readers to ask whether you can actually use Priority Pass lounges on arrival. I had just always assumed that you could, because until recently, Timberline was the only Priority Pass restaurant I had visited. And they had never once checked my boarding pass. But I figured I should look into the policies a little more closely since I expect to visit a few more Priority Pass restaurants in the near future.

Can you use a Priority Pass lounge on arrival?

The Priority Pass terms and conditions state that the customer must have a valid flight ticket and travel documents for the same day of travel. They go on to say that flight tickets must be accompanied by a valid boarding pass when outside the United States, though I’m not exactly sure how a valid boarding pass is different than a valid flight ticket.

Admittance to Lounges and Merchant locations is strictly subject to Customers and any guests, if permitted, being in possession of a valid flight ticket and travel documents for the same day of travel. Airline, airport and other travel industry employees traveling on reduced-rate tickets may not be eligible for access and Priority Pass has the right to refuse Program membership to people who are employed by or contracted to an airline, airport or a Government in respect of airline or airport security.  Outside the United States of America flight tickets must be accompanied by a valid boarding pass.

Notably, nowhere in the terms and conditions does it say anything about needing a departing boarding pass. In fact, the terms are rather silent on the entire topic as neither the words arrival nor departure appear anywhere in the document. I’m not a lawyer, but given that the terms don’t explicitly forbid something, I’d assume that the decision is reserved to the local lounge.

And in fact, I think that is what is happening. Let’s take a look at a few of the policies at Priority Pass lounge / restaurants in the US.

Like I said, I have been to the Timberline Steak and Grille at the Denver Airport probably over a dozen times since they joined Priority Pass last fall. The Timberline Priority Pass website states:

Departure Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel and must check-in with staff before placing an order.

Not once, however, have I been asked for a boarding pass — in fact, I didn’t even know this was a thing until a reader pointed it out to me. So presumably they don’t much care whether you are a departing, arriving, or connecting passenger. But of course, they do start to care at some point.

Bar Symon at the Cleveland Airport has a similar posted policy:

To be eligible, Cardholders and guests are required to show an Outbound Departure Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel.

I recently visited that restaurant (review coming shortly) and can assure you that they do indeed follow the the rule to the letter, and insist on seeing your boarding pass.

The Portland Airport has multiple restaurants that are part of the Priority Pass network. I haven’t been myself, but Ben has, and they both switched to a departure only policy earlier this year. The website states:

To be eligible, Cardholders and guests are required to show an Outbound Departure Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel.

So that’s three Priority Pass restaurants that all require a departing boarding pass. Seems like a trend, right?  But then we look at the St. Louis Airport Priority Pass restaurants. There you just need to have a same day boarding pass of any type to access The Pasta House. From the Priority Pass website:

Cardholders and a maximum of one Guest are admitted and required to show a Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel.

My take

It seems like Priority Pass leaves it up to the lounge to decide whether to accept arriving passengers as lounge guests. That leaves us with roughly three categories:

  • Lounges that state you need a same-day boarding pass
  • Lounges that state you need a same-day departing boarding pass
  • Lounges that state you need a same-day departing boarding pass, but rarely (or never) enforce it

In the first case, I’d be pretty confident that you could use the lounge on arrival. In the latter two cases, I’d probably assume that you cannot use the lounge on arrival, though it can obviously still be worth asking. I’ve used coupons and vouchers at restaurants for years, and I always show the discount that I intend to use before placing my order. That way if they decide not to honor it, I can then politely excuse myself and go somewhere else.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most of Priority Pass lounges, or maybe lounges in general, can choose to restrict access due to capacity constraints or other reasons. So even if it seems like they should accept your arriving boarding pass, and they don’t, it could be for a different reason.

Bottom Line

I’m really enjoying the massive expansion that Priority Pass has undertaken in the US recently. Adding restaurants to the network seems like a brilliant alternative for them to add lounges in a space-constrained airports. That said, I’m still not quite sure how sustainable this all is, but hey, I’m sure they’ve got smart guys figuring all this stuff out.

I suppose it would be nice if there were a bit more consistency in terms of the policies like whether you can or cannot use Priority Pass lounges upon arrival. But I think that the only consistent policy would be to say “departing only,” so it’s obviously better for us that they leave it up to the local establishment.

And honestly, I’m not sure why any particular restaurant wouldn’t accept arriving Priority Pass customers. From my perspective, this seems like a huge revenue source for the establishment, and I’d be doing anything I could to welcome as many Priority Pass customers as possible.

Do you use Priority Pass lounges upon arrival?

  1. “though I’m not exactly sure how a valid boarding pass is different than a valid flight ticket.” – Boarding pass is what you get when you check in. Ticket is what you get when you make the initial purchase.

  2. At Corona Beach House in Miami recently they checked my boarding pass (not so in the past). I was departing though, so I don’t know what would happen on arrival, even if I suspect they may deny it.

  3. “And honestly, I’m not sure why any particular restaurant wouldn’t accept arriving Priority Pass customers. ” If a restaurant is struggling maybe but if there are full paying customers available PP customers are costing them money. The restaurant does not get the full credit. There is a kickback to PP which results in the restaurant selling meals for a 18% discount. I think most these restaurants are hoping the customers will order more than their credit so they can make more of a profit off them.

  4. The first picture looks like a stock photo that journalists use to illustrate articles like “Why 60% of Americans are overweight”.

  5. This situation only applies to US domestic flights, as arriving (into the US) international flights and arriving domestic flights in most other countries clear directly into baggage claim and then the nonsecure area. It is a uniquely US phenomenon to have access to lounges and restaurants when arriving.

  6. @Claus — And that photo looks so gross. Like if a dog through up on french fries, that’s what it would look like.

  7. The specific lounge T&Cs are what apply, the general ones attempt to cover most possible uses. Since PP is an international program and most lounges outside the USA, most airports outside North America separate arriving passengers from all destinations from those departing. So unless you’re on a connecting flight (and clear security and possible customs/immigration) you’d not be able to physically access any airside lounges or restaurants. I was asked for a departing boarding pass last week when using the new DCA restaurant participant, the Bracket Room, which is located in the UA wing of B Terminal. (I noticed at least two other tables using their PP and showing boarding passes to the waitress with their cards.)

    Since US and Canadian airports intermingle arriving domestic arriving and departing passengers, the PP T&Cs have been made more specific to keep the program viable…otherwise “abuse” would lead to its collapse like the recent US fiasco of an unlimited cinema pass program.

  8. The arrivals lounge at the nee heathrow terminal 2 is landslide and for at least their first couple of years they allowed priority pass guests to enter without any kind of boarding pass. They quite openly allowed people who were picking up an arriving passenger to use their priority pass to enter. I think they now enforce a same day boarding pass rule.

  9. @DavidB, @Daniel M

    Plenty of European airports mingle arriving and departing passengers. I’ve used my Priority Pass on multiple occasions upon arrival, most recently in Lisbon.

    Admittedly, the lounge personnel is usually a little non-plussed when I show my boarding card; I don’t think a lot of people do this. But so far, I haven’t been refused entry.

  10. I’ve been to PP lounges that explicitly allow use on arrival – it’s not an issue of lax enforcement as they check / scan your boarding pass when you check in. It’s a nice perk because sometimes I’ll need a quiet area to take a work call immediately after landing and lounges are at least better than a crazy busy terminal.

  11. Many times the airline didn’t have any food I’d want, or didn’t load my special order, so could see arrival just as important as departure.

  12. Every time i’ve visited DFW’s and LGA’s (crappy) lounges, they ask for a boarding pass.

  13. Surprised we had to get to the 5th comment to read about how unhealthy French fries are and about how “Americans” (read: people in my own country I don’t identify with or have ever met – but hate) are sooooo obese.

    That said, I was ‘carded’ by Capers at PDX last week. The amount of time the employee spent looking at my electronic boarding pass was a split second. I don’t think she would have noticed had a shown her an out of date pass or a picture of my kid.

  14. Can’t you reach out to people and ask their policy and report to us if you are writing a post about it??

  15. How would you even get to [ most ] priority pass places without a boarding pass?
    Or what they are really saying “no airport/airline employees”.

    BTW, one difference between ticket and boarding pass is that ticket may be refundable and canceled – although doubt anyone would go through such trouble to visit the lounge.

  16. Can one visit a Priority Pass restaurant and then the lounge? We’ve had some long layovers where it would be great to get a real meal and not just snacks and still be able to relax in the quiet of the lounge before the flight.

  17. I can confirm that Bar Symon in CLE checks for BP, but I was at pasta house @STL this week and they didn’t.

  18. I know the “lounges” at PDX require it. That’s probably because people like me abused it for bottles of wine at the stores when I landed and when I was heading home.

  19. It is a poorley executed attempt at a Classic Poutine. My thoughts were if this was representative of their offerings, I think I will move along.

    Definitely agree though that catering to PP holders when full paying patrons are waiting for a seat is counterproductive to the bottom line. Not only are they selling the meals at a discount, there is an administrative component that doesn’t happen fee free!

  20. Clay
    I am sure you can. I have visited multiple lounges at airports waiting to fly out, so I don’t see why not. If you have PP from them, they just charge you, if you have PP from a credit card they charge the credit card.

  21. I can’t think of any lounge, priority pass or otherwise, without a shower, that I’d like to access on arrival.

    Honestly, where would you go where an airport lounge (or restaurant) would be a better choice than pretty much anywhere you could eat/drink/relax outside the airport?

  22. Checking for valid boarding pass is part of T&C. Unless stated, I don’t think they care if you are arriving or departing.

    I do wonder that since PP is paying the lounge/restaurant why decline arriving pax. They can always use capacity limit to decline usage.

  23. So now you know and other readers what the conditions are at Timberline, if you were to use them again on arrival (hoping that either they don’t check or the server doesn’t know the rules), why wouldn’t that be fraudulent?

  24. The Priority Pass lounge in HKG Terminal 2 is landside in the arrivals area and, as of last September, was available upon arrival (with showers available).

  25. I really don’t understand the confusion – it’s extremely straightforward. This article doesn’t answer as many questions as a Google search. Being a priority pass member means you have access to priority pass lounges. Apparently in some smaller airports you also can get a credit (discount) at certain restaurants- because these airports are too small to bother with a lounge, but big enough where some frequent fliers might want a priority pass lounge. These special situations (discount in lieu of actual club) are more restrictive, as in departures only, because they are specific and unusual.

  26. PP Lounge at Naples Airport asked for my boarding pass just last week (one of those European airports where arriving and departing passengers mingle).

  27. Thanks for the disgusting pic Travis. Looks it may combine nicely with Lucky’s AA lobster rolls.

  28. Travis, now that you know PP access at Timberline is for departures only, will you now refrain from using it upon arrival?

    “Connecting” passengers are both arriving and departing thus they are irrelevant to your story.

    “Seems” does not establish a truth! Did you contact PP for clarification on Priority Pass “leaving it up to the lounge to determine eligibility for arriving passengers?” “Seems” you did not!


  29. Fwiw, I’ve been asked to show a boarding pass at Timberline Grill at DEN once (like out of 12 visits).

    Also, does anyone know I’d you spend less than you’re allotted amount, does the restaurant still get its normal reimbursement? Like if spend $15,what do they then receive?

  30. There is a Priority Pass lounge in the arrivals hall at Phuket assigned specifically for arriving passengers. Albeit – it is the smallest Priority Pass lounge I have ever seen.

  31. in HKG, there is a Plaza Arrival Lounge — opposite to the Cathay Arrival Lounge. you can use PP card + boarding pass arriving at HKG to enter..

  32. A few days ago in LHR T4 I dropped by the Plaza Premium Arrivals lounge, hoping to grab some pastries and a coffee to takeaway for the journey into London. I used LoungeKey for access and they didn’t ask for my (inbound) boarding pass. Alas they only offered a la carte table service, but good lounge. Tasteful decor and I loved the serene ambience.

  33. I used the Escape Lounge at MSP yesterday after arriving on a flight . . .The receptionist asked to see my boarding pass, glanced at it, and weirdly, just took note of the airline I was flying–she said “that’s American Airlines, correct?”–wrote it down, then motioned me into the lounge.

  34. Timberline did not check my boarding pass neither of the two times I was there Saturday. I think their service has really suffered as a result of adding PP.

  35. Just take a screenshot of your mobile boarding pass…very few places read it or scan it to see if you just arrived or if you’re departing. They just want to see the pass.

  36. Yeah, I can confirm that the Capers lounges in PDX are definitely requiring that you are only there during departure. Sad, because I often used them on arrival.

  37. I can vouch for the Capers Cafe at PDX, which is pretty darn adamant about only allowing an outgoing boarding pass. For many times I used to stop there on the way into to Portland and that ended two weeks ago when I had already ordered and they told me of this new rule-I gave them the food back. Of course, they don’t have it posted (it is on the Priority Pass website) and of course the staff is absolutely clueless about why this rule is in place.

    The food there is marginal at best but it was a good place for a drink and a little snack. I never really understood why in the world would they care if you were coming in or going. Either way is an opportunity to make some additional revenue. Why not be like the good folks at Timberline in Denver and just welcome everyone and treat people with respect. It goes along way.

  38. It seems to me that this topic requires someone to reach out formally to PP to get a definitive response on the policies on play. Then report back with a photo of the letter/email/ chat string.
    Blogger – can you do this for us seeing as you raised the topic.

  39. I am not sure if the quoted T&Cs are old but the PP website for the PDX locations just says same day travel. No requirement of oubound travel from what I can find.

  40. There are multiple people saying outside north America arrival and departure are separated, while this statement is technically correct, but after arriving one can use the ‘transit with connection’ flight tunnel/walkway to stay in the security and get back to lounge area.

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