American Express removes access to Priority Pass restaurants
The news literally went around the world yesterday: American Express Hong Kong was the first to fire when it announced these changes. Followed by American Express USA… and finally American Express Canada has confirmed that this will also affect Canadian cardholders.
Technically, this mainly concerns holders of:
… that have unlimited access to Priority Pass airport lounges for the cardholder and one guest.
This was a practical advantage to have, especially when dealing with Priority Pass lounges that can be particularly busy.
I use it regularly, especially on connections in Boston at Jerry Remy’s restaurant:
And since last year, many restaurants have joined Priority Pass:
|Australia||Brisbane||BNE||Corretto Cafe & Bar||36 AUD$ / Pers|
|Australia||Brisbane||BNE||Graze Grill & Bar||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Brisbane||BNE||Bar Roma||36 AUD$ / pers|
|United States||Boston||BOS||Stephanie’s||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Boston||BOS||Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Cleveland||CLE||Bar Symon||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Washington DC||DCA||Bracket Room||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Washington DC||DCA||American Tap Room||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Denver||DEN||Timberline Steaks & Grill||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Fort Lauderdale||FLL||Kafe Kalik||28 US$ / pers|
|Brazil||São Paulo||GRU||Bleriot Bar & Lounge||27 US$ / pers|
|Brazil||São Paulo||GRU||La Bonbonniere||27 US$ / pers|
|United States||Greenville-Spartanburg||GSP||RJ Rockers Flight Room||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Washington DC||IAD||Chef Geoff’s||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Houston||AHI||Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Houston||IHA||Landry’s Seafood||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Indianapolis||IND||The Fan Zone||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||New York||JFK||Bobby Van’s Steakhouse||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Los Angeles||LAX||Rock & Brews||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Los Angeles||LAX||P.F. Chang’s||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Lexington||LEX||Kentucky Ale Taproom||28 US$ / pers|
|United Kingdom||London||LGW||Grain Store Cafe & Bar||15 £ / pers|
|Peru||Lima||LIM||Bleriot Bar & Lounge||27 US$ / pers|
|Peru||Lima||LIM||La Bonbonniere||27 US$ / pers|
|United States||Miami||MIA||Viena||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Miami||MIA||Corona Beach||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Miami||MIA||Air Margaritaville||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Portland||PDX||House Spirits Distillery (Bar)||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Portland||PDX||Capers Market||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Portland||PDX||Capers Cafe Le Bar||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||Seattle||SEA||Floret by Cafe Flora||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||San Francisco||SFO||Yankee Pier||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||San Francisco||SFO||San Francisco Giant’s Clubhouse||28 US$ / pers|
|Singapore||Singapore||SIN||The Green Market (TGM)||27 US$ / pers|
|United States||St. Louis||STL||The Pasta House and Schlafy Beer||28 US$ / pers|
|United States||St. Louis||STL||The Pasta House||28 US$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Wok on Air||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Bar Roma||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||MoVida||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Bistro 2020 & Bar||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Peroni Bar||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Mach 2||36 AUD$ / pers|
|Australia||Sydney||SYD||Better Burger||36 AUD$ / pers|
|United States||Syracuse||SYR||Johnny Rockets||28 US$ / pers|
|Israel||Tel Aviv||TLV||Schmoozy Bar||27 US$ / pers|
|United States||Tampa||TPA||The Café by Mise en Place||28 US$ / pers|
Are other credit cards that offer Priority Pass affected?
For now, only Priority Pass memberships obtained through American Express are affected.
So if you have obtained a Priority Pass card through other issuers such as Scotiabank, you are not affected by this measure.
For example, if you have in your hands the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card – and you have registered for Priority Pass via the link provided with the welcome package – continue to enjoy your 6 complimentary annual Priority Pass airport lounge AND restaurant access.
This is a good reminder of the importance of diversifying your credit card portfolio with different issuers! If one takes away your benefits… you can always switch to another to continue to benefit!
In our couple, we always have between 4 and 6 Priority Pass accounts per year, depending on our credit card subscriptions!
My opinion on the matter
Some will see this as a further withdrawal of benefits, especially Platinum Card® holders from American Express.
However, I’m one of those people who think there’s something going on between American Express and Priority Pass. It was becoming illogical and uneconomical for American Express to offer unlimited annual access:
- at Priority Pass restaurants
- at Priority Pass bars
- at Priority Pass lounges
- at Centurion salons
Each time a Cardmember accesses one of these Priority Pass lounges/restaurants, American Express contributes approximately US$20-25 to Priority Pass.
And some of them took advantage of the system by doing “the round of the lounges” in the same airport:
- 2 drinks in a Priority Pass bar
- meal at a Priority Pass restaurant
- relaxation / work in a Priority Pass lounge
- and why not take a nap in a Centurion lounge!
I don’t accuse anyone… since I already did it 😉
Rather than remove the “unlimited annual” feature, American Express chose to cut ties with the restaurants. But I think in the future, American Express wants to go further with the salons.
The purchase of LoungeBuddy by American Express
American Express already has a network of salons that it operates itself: the Centurion salons.
There are some in the biggest American airports like San Francisco, Miami, New York or Las Vegas.
And even internationally like Hong Kong.
But American Express recently decided to go a step further with the lounges. Indeed, in March-April 2019, it acquired the platform
LoungeBuddy is a digital platform that allows you to discover the different airport lounges and know how to get there… but can also allow you to book an entrance.
This is a very useful application as it allows you to immediately identify, based on your credit card portfolio / Priority Pass / LoungeKey subscriptions…
…which lounge(s) is/are available in the visited airports….
… and which card(s) to use from your portfolio:
As of April 01, 2019, only American Express cardholders can book lounge access at airports doing business with LoungeBuddy, as stated in the FAQs related to the acquisition.
In the short term, restaurant withdrawals for Priority Pass holders via American Express are a further loss of benefits. However, I think we need to take a longer view.
It would not be surprising if in the future LoungeBuddy became a competitor to Priority Pass / LoungeKey by dealing directly with each lounge… which would allow American Express to separate itself from Priority Pass by directly offering ITS lounge network.
This is all guesswork… but the LoungeBuddy acquisition in April 2019… and then the Priority Pass restaurant withdrawal announced in May 2019 for August 2019 seem to be good indications of where things are going!