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Plaza Premium lounges drops Priority Pass

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Priority Pass cards will not be accepted at the majority of Plaza Premium airport lounges globally from 1st July.

You don’t need to worry if you have The Platinum Card from American Express, as the deal between Amex and Plaza Premium is still in place. You will still be able to enter a Plaza Premium lounge, with a guest, by showing The Platinum Card at the lounge.

Plaza Premium is retaining its deal with DragonPass, which will continue to be accepted at Plaza Premium lounges.

Which UK Plaza Premium lounges were in Priority Pass?

Not all of them, but almost all. A few launched without accepting Priority Pass but eventually started taking it.

The permanent hold-out was the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.

This was, I believe, linked to the fact that Collinson Group, owner of Priority Pass, was also co-owner of the Club Aspire lounge in Terminal 5. It was financially beneficial for them to ensure Priority Pass guests went to their own – inferior – facility.

The following UK Plaza Premium lounges are currently part of Priority Pass:

  • Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 2 arrivals
  • Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 2 departures
  • Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 3 arrivals
  • Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 4 arrivals
  • Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 4 departures

Are Plaza Premium lounges worldwide leaving Priority Pass?

Most, but not all.

This also impacts the LoungeKey card issued by HSBC and some other banks.

This is the statement we got from Plaza Premium:

“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.  As a result,  it is with regret that we have decided not to renew our contract with Priority Pass and LoungeKey, effective 1 July 2021 except for a small number of lounges which are still under review.”

This is the statement we got from Priority Pass:

“Certain Plaza Premium lounges will be removed from the Priority Pass Programme as of July 1st 2021. Due to the recent nature of this change, we are in the process of communicating with our members. We already have alternative lounges in operation for many of the locations and for the remainder we are undergoing sourcing of new partners.”

We have tried to find out if the Heathrow lounges are in the ‘small number’ which are still ‘under review’, but no-one at Plaza Premium or Priority Pass was willing to comment.

Didn’t No1 Lounges also leave Priority Pass?

Yes.

Back in September, No1 Lounges stopped accepting Priority Pass cards.

This was partly down to money but also partly down to Priority Pass being unable to support No1’s wish to move to 100% pre-booked visits.

How much does Priority Pass pay a lounge?

I have never met an airport lounge operator which was happy with the amount of money it received from Priority Pass.

I was once told that it is around £12 – £15 per visit, although that feels a little high. Rate increases are rare, allegedly. Lounges apparently saw virtually no increase in their payments when Priority Pass hiked the guest fee charged to users from £15 to £20 a couple of years ago.

To be crystal clear, I am not criticising Priority Pass here. It is their job to negotiate as good a deal as it can get. If it was to pay substantially more to lounges, it is unlikely that American Express, HSBC, Santander etc could afford to give out lounge passes as they do now.

Lounges are free to take money from Priority Pass or not. However, for lounges which do not have contracts with airlines to take their premium passengers or do not have a good sales operation, lounge club cards can account for 80% of visitors.

Plaza Premium not accepting Priority Pass

How does an airport lounge make money?

In terms of revenue, I would expect it looks like this:

Most profitable guests – lounge passes sold directly to passengers

Followed by – lounge passes sold by partners such as tour operators to clients

Followed by – airlines which take space for their premium passengers where they do not have their own lounge

Followed at the end by – Priority Pass and similar lounge club cards

It isn’t quite that simple though. Airport lounges have a high fixed cost for rent and staffing and a relatively low marginal cost.

If the fixed costs are covered by direct sales and airline contracts, guests sent by Priority Pass should still be profitable if the payment covers marginal costs, ie the food and drink consumed. This assumes that Priority Pass guests are not displacing someone who would have paid more.

Covid restrictions are likely to have led to a cut in capacity. More importantly, in many lounges it has led to the closure of self-serve buffets and the launch of table service. This is likely to have pushed up costs.

I am guessing that lounges are coming to realise that they can hit their revised capacity limits purely from direct lounge pass sales and airline contracts.

As DragonPass has retained its deals with both No1 Lounges and Plaza Premium, we have to assume that they are willing to pay more for access and/or are more willing to embrace compulsory pre-booking.

What is left for Priority Pass cardholders in the UK?

For clarity, it is possible that the Plaza Premium Heathrow lounges are in the ‘small number’ that may be reprieved. We will receive final confirmation nearer to 1st July.

If they do disappear then, adding this to the loss of No1 Lounges, Priority Pass cardholders will be struggling for options in Heathrow and Gatwick.

There is no risk of Club Aspire lounges losing access to Priority Pass as Collinson is a shareholder in both businesses. Standard ‘Aspire’ branded lounges are not part-owned by Collinson but it would still be very odd if they pulled out.

Remember that Amex Platinum cardholders are not impacted Even if the Heathrow lounges leave Priority Pass, the exclusive arrangement between American Express Platinum and Plaza Premium seems to be continuing.

If you currently pay for a Priority Pass, you may want to move to an American Express Platinum membership instead. This will ensure that you retain Plaza Premium access. American Express Platinum comes with two free Priority Pass cards anyway, each of which allows a guest.

You also get Eurostar lounge access via The Platinum Card amongst other lounge benefits. American Express will also be opening an exclusive ‘Centurion Lounge’ in Heathrow Terminal 3, for Platinum and Centurion cardholders.

Will the airport lounge return to its jet-set heyday?

Private airport lounges have historically been advertised as places to relax and recharge before or after a long flight.

The reality, in recent years, has been very different. Many lounges have become more crowded than the terminals themselves. Real exclusivity has meant paying £100 for PremiAir at Manchester Airport or the First Class Lounge at London City Airport, both of which will also drive you to your aircraft.

One upside of these changes is that third party lounges may again become a civilised experience. You will have to pay for the privilege, however.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (November 2021)

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (98)

  • Lady London says:

    This only confirms the experience of anyone who actually *paid* for a Priority Pass. When trying to access lounges at any UK major airport since at least the past 2-3 years. The lounges that were supposedly accessible to these Priority Pass holders were constantly “full” even though they were empty. Other un-prebooked entrants were allowed to sail past into the lounge while right there Priority Pass holders were being turned away.

    The fact that those with paid Priority Passes only received a 3 month extension when lounges pretty much everywhere had been closed for much of the past 12+ months also said “we took your money and the contract is frustrated by lounges not actually even opening but too bad we’re keeping your money”. 3 months is nothing and the service promise of paid Priority Passes appears broken.

    Surely Priority Pass must have known this was coming? What is their plan?

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      I always ascribed a cash value of zero to PP (received from other sources) for that reason. It was a bit like having a lottery ticket – it gives you a small chance of a good result but nothing more.

    • Ross says:

      Spot on. For the past few years I’ve had multiple occasions where the Lounges have been full.

      I believe this so due numerous “special offers” by Lounges for one-off paying visitors.

      The result, no entry for PP. The lounge still getting PP contract money. The Lounge getting an additional cash payment.

      Even when I’ve got in, they’ve not been as nice as they were, as they’re packed.

  • TeesTraveller says:

    I was on the verge of ditching my Amex platinum for HSBC Premier (with Lounge Key). Not sure that will be a smart move now as it looks like there will be no lounge access at LHR T2.

    • Youllnever says:

      If you’re able to get the welcome bonus on the WE card then it’s still a good card to consider applying for regardless. However I agree, definitely makes my WE card a lot less attractive after the first 2 years. Thank goodness I still have access via the HK Amex Explorer card.

      • TeesTraveller says:

        However doing the maths on the Plat v HSBC WE really means I should downgrade my Amex to green and pay for access when I use T2. I have that £175 Waitrose voucher to use first (plus I need to apply for HSBC Premier).

        Really struggling with Plat right now. No travel, kids don’t come with us on holiday any more so no use for the 4 lounge entries, I don’t live in London so the Addison Lee taxi credit is worthless and virtually all the bonus offers are at high end shops that I would never dream of using.

        Unfortunately I am a sucker for that metal card.

  • WaynedP says:

    “As DragonPass has retained its deals with both No1 Lounges and Plaza Premium, we have to assume that they are willing to pay more for access and/or are more willing to embrace compulsory pre-booking.”

    OR, that they have a contract with a longer expiry/renegotiation date than Collinson’s ?

    • Rob says:

      No … I know the DragonPass people in the UK, they see this as a chance to create a gap with Collinson.

  • Jenny says:

    So is the Gold Preferred card useless now?

    • Peter K says:

      Depends on how much value you put on the lounge access it provided. It was only 2 free visits a year then you pay anyway. These will still be able to be used at numerous lounges elsewhere.

    • Rob says:

      Not really:

      T5 – you never got into Plaza anyway
      T4 – SkyTeam
      T3 – Aspire
      T2 – yes, you’re stuffed …

  • DAJ says:

    On the subject of lounges, does anyone have any idea of what BA will be doing re domestic lounges moving forward (other than at LHR) and CE? As things open up, BA will surely have to look at the likes of MAN and NCL and offering something for their CE passengers or am I being too optimistic?!

    • Sigma421 says:

      I would assume that eventually they’ll pay for 3rd party access at those airports. It’d be very odd for BA to offer access to a third party lounge at (to take a totally random example) Seville and not Newcastle. The lounge at Belfast City closed shortly before COVID and I’m 99% sure that access to the Aspire lounge had been sorted.

      At MAN I imagine the Escape lounge at T3 will expand into the space previously occupied by the BA lounge. I’ve never flown from NCL so not familiar with the structure.

      Current FlyerTalk rumour is for the EDI and GLA lounges to reopen in June or July.

      • HAM76 says:

        They could decide to follow LHs lead and not pay for any third party lounge at all…

        • kitten says:

          +1 often no lounge at all at outstations. In recent pre-Covid years BA also withdrew sponsored access to third party lounges at outstations that was reported here.

  • Mike P says:

    A bit of a shame given Amex Gold just swapped over to priority pass this year!

    • Rob says:

      Lounge Club was owned by the same people, so you would have lost Plaza regardless.

  • Sigma421 says:

    Is there any chance of Amex Plat trying to cut a deal with either No. 1 or MAG’s Escape offering directly – possibly to reduce the number of people being turned away? They have a separate deal with Escape in the US and obviously have always had a separate deal with Plaza Premium despite the majority of Plaza Premium lounges previously being in Priority Pass

    • Rob says:

      They might do a deal with No1. Amex would pay a premium if it felt the benefit was worth it in terms of card retention. Can’t see them bothering with Escape unless Escape pulls out of Priority Pass, and Escape is not exactly ‘on brand’ for Platinum ….

      • Alan says:

        Amex Plat deal with No 1 would be good, esp as you don’t tend to get turned away the same as with PP.

  • the_real_a says:

    Good job i’m sitting on 30 dragonpass from the Dufry offer last year! Hoping there is no change, and they roll over once again to 2022/23…

    • Gary says:

      I got this offer and Dufry have marked my account as expired. I called them to extend and they just said they no longer had a deal with Dufry and they dont know what to do with my 15 unused passes. They even suggested that I may not be refunded for them

      • flyforfun says:

        I just noticed my account says expired too, but the expiry date on the card says next month! Tried to send an email via the app and it doesn’t send!

        • Gary says:

          I tweeted dragon pass a few months ago to extend my membership. My reply was not to worry my membership was with Dufry and would automatically be renewed at the expiry date. I then called and they said they no longer work with Dufry. Has this happened to anyone else. Rob do you have any more details on this ?

          • Rob says:

            No, but I’m talking to the DragonPass UK MD next week.

          • AndyGWP says:

            oh yeah, just checked mine – says “valid till 06 Jan 2022” then on the right hand side it says “0 visits” and a massive “CANCELLED” written over it 🤦‍♂️

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