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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)

  • Track says:

    This was solved in SE Asia airports by limiting lounge visit duration — and charging 2x times for long visits 3hours+

    Works for everyone.

    • Blenz101 says:

      Sounds sensible. I’ve never understood the attraction of spending anymore time than necessary at the airport.

      On long layovers leave the airport, get an airside hotel, eat in a restaurant etc etc.

      The idea of spending over 2 hours in an Aspire lounge at LHR is just odd to me.

      • memesweeper says:

        If you’re working a long layover in a lounge can be a great way to get work done.

        • Track says:

          Not so much for BA Galleries and even Galleries First — impossible to find a seat, let alone work.

          Heathrow or NYC airports are not suited for going out — risk spend a good 1h in security on way back (pre-Covid), and not much infrastructure landside.

          Barajas or Hong Kong — no need to go landside, spaces are vast.

          Changi on the other hand, is a delight inside and outside. Possible to just go another terminal for a quieter lounge on PP. Crowne Plaza adjacent to T3 beats all jacks.

  • ChrisW says:

    Here’s a question – what is the best Priority Pass lounge you have ever been in?

    Mine would not be in the UK!

    • Peter K says:

      I liked the one at Lansarote. It was simple, cold food only, but was self serve on drinks and had an outside terrace so you could get real air while at the airport. It had a reasonable selection of gluten free food when you asked.
      There was an outside terrace off the main airport terminal but it was full of smokers. The lounge one didn’t have that.
      BA didn’t pay for lounge access for club/status pax so it was not that full either.

    • Liam says:

      I can’t recall a bad experience (apart from not being allowed in to some due to overcrowding) but I don’t think I’d describe any as great or go out of my way to spend any longer in them than necessary. Aspire at LHR T2 is pretty good, as these things go. Most of the others that I’ve ended up in have not given off much of a “premium” air, and since moving to the US it’s been pretty rare that I’ve actually ended up using Priority Pass (and I haven’t generally had regular access to any airline-operated lounges here for domestic flights).

    • Matt B says:

      Bali.

    • HAM76 says:

      T4, LHR… Plenty of lounges have been better, but I go access to them based on status or class of travel.

      • Gavin says:

        T4 Singapore Changi
        Blossom lounge – Plaza Premium

        • Sam G says:

          Yep, this one wasn’t bad at all, always pretty quiet too. I got pretty good use out of my PP in APAC – Changi was my home airport & there were plenty of decent options across the region. Between leisure and work I travelled multiple times a month so got good value even if I was just popping in for a coffee for half an hour. I think my best value was using it in a restaurant in Sydney though!

          Now I’ve moved back to the UK I wouldn’t bother having a card, the UK airport ones from what I read you can rarely get into with a PP anyway, they tend to be very crowded & I’ll be flying a lot less & (trying) to fly mainly in business class anyway.

    • Zana says:

      Plaza Premium at Rome Fiumicino (T3), used it a few times for free using LoungeKey courtesy of the WE card. Listed as PP lounge too. The PP restaurant deals are pretty good – I once had lunch at a cafe in Sydney airport, then a drink at a bar and then a nice chicken burger meal to takeaway on a long haul flight. 3 visits for one flight! If PP loses all the LHR lounges, hope they’ll bring in the restaurant deals!

      • kitten says:

        I wonder why PP canned the dining benefit then.
        Miaow.

        • Zana says:

          I think it’s Amex that discontinued the “non-lounge airport experience” if that’s where you get your PP from. If you get your PP direct or on LoungeKey, those restaurant deals are still on.

    • lumma says:

      Amman Jordan is the Royal Jordanian lounge

    • Wollhouse says:

      Malta- it’s always quiet and they are friendly. And the food is always fresh and interesting- not your typical UK offering.

    • Nathan says:

      Changi 😎

    • Jim says:

      For me it’s been Rome. Really quite large space, decent food, but the highlight has been great shower rooms

  • Stu N says:

    Agreed, it’s a decent package. Net £18 a month for Black account and Credit Card after rebate for 2xDDs and using the app twice a month. It’s a good insurance package including full car breakdown cover, Dragonpass for both account holders and I and earn approx 0.65 Avios per pound on non-Amex spend. My personal bank manager has been very helpful and I’ve had the same person for about three years now. Maybe no sexy sign up bonuses but works for me.

    • Stu N says:

      And if I don’t want to exit for Avios it’s a return of 0.5-0.55p for cash or vouchers.

      • Lady London says:

        Yes but since recent news provided by Rob you *would* give thought to exiting to avios then nectar? As if you can use Nectar, that puts a floor value of 0.8p on your avios?

        • Stu N says:

          It doesn’t work. £10 accumulated Rewards = 1,170 Avios x 0.8 conversion factor = £9.36 value as Nectar points.

          For other vouchers you cash out at par but get 4-10% rewards added back in. If I took a JL voucher, it would cost me £10 of rewards but they credit my Rewards account with 40p, so net £9.60.

        • Genghis says:

          At the top end it’s £50 cash transferring to 5,850 avios, I believe. I make this 0.85p. I’d take the cash if you were otherwise thinking of exiting to Nectar.

        • Stu N says:

          My workings suggest that £1 of spend gets you:
          – 0.5p cash
          – up to 0.55p of gift vouchers depending on level of rebate
          – 0.58 Avios
          – 0.46p of Nectar via Avios

          In the past I usually bought Avios for c.0.8p but we have a huge Avios balance at the moment so more recently have taken JL vouchers. Shows the value of a bit of flexibility….

  • JonW says:

    Do you get access with a Corporate Amex Platinum?

  • 747_Brat says:

    As a new WE card member, I am very disappointed by this move.

    Anyway, I haven’t received the LoungeKey card in the post until now which makes me wonder if I have to request it separately or does the credit card doubles up as the LoungeKey card because I can see there is a LoungeKey logo at the back of the WE card?
    Thanks.

  • ADS says:

    “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.”

    I’m not surprised by this. Years ago I chatted with a guy who worked in IT for Collinson, and he said that attempting to get the company to invest in IT improvements was like trying to get blood from a stone!

    • Patrick says:

      As an ex IT employee I would say the situation there was more complicated than it sounds:
      Understaffing and high employee turnover is IMHO what slowed down the improvements, leading to delays in implementing them. Not unusual for a software company but this wasn’t corrected when I left a couple of years ago.

  • Gary says:

    It’s now monthly £31 (or £21 taking into account £10 rebate, used to be more generous as based on % of DDs! ). The black natwest CC that sits alongside offers free Fx on foreign purchases (not cash withdraws). Was going to downgrade or switch as not much travel, perhaps article made me decide to hold on

  • Lady London says:

    This news has appeared on Australian executive traveller site today 16th. What a nice guy their editor David is. Noting you still got it out first yesterday Rob.

    Looking forward to hearing news next week of the mysterious ‘third party that is also involved’ you mentioned you were researching Rob.

    I will take a flying leap at the wall here and guess that Collinson is getting out of the lounge business and selling the existing bulk agreements such as with Amex, on. That bundle of agreements still has a useful value. Selling individual, direct memberships model isn’t that valid a proposition any more based on Europe and US lounge accessibility situation , at
    least. So personally I’d take the opportunity to sell on the commercial PP agreements and focus on other businesses. Oops just hit the wall 🙂

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