Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges

Gary Leff asks the question, is Priority Pass killing airport lounges? Its a reasonable post that highlights over lounge overcrowding, varying levels of quality and amenities. However, what Gary really highlights is that Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges
A week ago, I had the chance to visit Portland. It’s a great city that I’ll write about later, but flying out of Portland’s Airport was a pleasure, primarily because of the Priority Pass Benefit courtesy of my Chase Sapphire Reserve (but you can get the Priority Pass Select from other cards too!).
This is not just a unique aspect of Portland. I had a similar experience in Sydney this past January, and others have too

Priority Pass is Changing the Game For Airport Lounges

The article that Gary references in his post is right in one area – some Priority Pass lounges aren’t great.
The article sites overfilled lounges, finger foods, and less than stellar quality beverages. In truth, that first observation is accurate even for American Express Centurion Lounges. 
The fact is, there were never gourmet meals, lets just dispel that one right now. The best you can get are First Class lounges like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, or the Qantas First Class Lounge, but you won’t get into any of those lounges with Priority Pass. In fact, you won’t get find yourself getting a dish like the phenomenal wiener schnitzel below at a Priority Pass lounge. 
Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges, Lufthansa First Class Terminal

wiener schnitzel at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal

But, you might get it at an airport restaurant! I would argue that Priority Pass has come to realize the changing times. This is where I would argue that Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges.
Take for example, Capers at Portland International Airport; here is a subset of my and my wife’s experience a few short weeks ago. 
Priority Pass is Changing the Game for Airport Lounges

Capers at Portland International Airport, a Priority Pass Restaurant.

We received $56 worth of credit, we had a nice breakfast, and even took a few items to go, and you know, had a few glasses of bubbly!
Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges

The Priority Pass benefit at Capers includes alcohol in addition to food and soft drinks.

And with all that here’s our bill:

Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges

Our bill at Capers — and look at all you can get with that $56 benefit!

Despite airport prices, we still couldn’t spend the entire Priority Pass benefit! 
Having experienced this though, the biggest feeling I am left with, is the fact that I couldn’t have had that caliber experience in a lounge. Effectively Priority Pass has acknowledged that many non-airline affiliate lounges just can’t compete with the quality that airport restaurants can provide. 

The Real Question

Many have hypothesized how much Priority pass pays lounges for members to enter. That isn’t terribly clear. What we do know, is that Priority Pass members get between $26-30 benefit per person at restaurants. Logically, most folks that are drawn to an airport restaurant because of a benefit, would likely spend more there, so one would surmise that Priority Pass isn’t paying that full benefit amount. But lets just assume that for a moment. It seems to me that folks get greater benefit for the restaurants, where you can get higher quality food, rather than lounges, unless of course you are there for a rather long layover and/or drinking expensive beverages.

Wrapping Up

I love the fact that Priority Pass is innovating here. It’s not clear whether this is a higher cost, or a cost savings for them, but they really are providing a greater value. I’d offer that having benefits at restaurants does fall short of my view of the value of lounges. But you still get a ton of value from eating at a restaurant with real food, rather than the limited options of a lounge.

Have you leveraged your Priority Pass membership at an Airport Restaurant? What do you think? 


10 thoughts on “Priority Pass is changing the game for airport lounges

  1. Pingback: Priority Pass's innovates, why you might not want to book that tour through Chase, outsized Hilton value and more - Frequent Miler

  2. I agree with Gary, if you are at an airport for 1-2 hours, the restaurant alternative is nice. I had lunch at the steakhouse in Denver which was excellent (inspite of my guest being vegetarian!.). For longer stays with work involved, a lounge may still be a better option, though quality of PP lounges is very variable and generally well below what I experienced at Delta lounges. The worst currently is Dallas, where you are corralled in a small area within the terminal with very limited choices and questionable friendliness by the staff. They are renovating their lounge, it is temporary but I had to spend 4 hours there recently twice and it was not pleasant, which was echoed by other patrons. I would have much preferred a local restaurant.
    Moreover, the PP lounges seem to often be in the wrong terminal with separate security gates etc…

  3. I love the generous allowance to spend on a full restaurant menus of choices with drinks and desserts. I don’t know how PP can afford to offer this, but I hope it expands to many more airports.

    • Given the costs for individuals to some lounges, I have to believe that Priority Pass is paying a somewhat consistent cost per entry, whether its for a lounge or a restaurant. I think members just get a better value at restaurants, unless its a sleepy lounge and they prefer quiet over quality of food or drink.

  4. Just fyi, airport prices are not a thing at pdx. They are contractually obligated to provide the same prices as their off airport locations. Not sure how it works for capers (who doesn’t have an off airport location as far as I know), except through having to compete against other prices matched to off airport prices.

  5. Enjoyed a steak and burger at the Timberline Grill in Denver for $55. Service was great and very accommodating since our layover was only 90 minutes long. PP is providing a great benefit by partnering with restaurants.

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