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Priority Pass adds two new Heathrow ‘lounges’ you can’t access via Amex – is this sustainable?

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Priority Pass has added two new options at Heathrow Airport. 

In Terminal 5, ‘The Globe’ pub and restaurant has joined the programme. You will find it by South Security, landside.

In Terminal 3, ‘Oceanic’ pub and restaurant has joined the programme. You will find it next to Pret, landside.

Big Smoke

Priority Pass members can visit either ‘The Globe’ or ‘Oceanic’ and get a £15 credit towards their range of craft beers, gins and ‘classic pub food’.

Unfortunately anyone who gets their Priority Pass via American Express cannot use this benefit. I’d say that 90% of HfP readers who have a Priority Pass fall into this category.

You CAN access them via LoungeKey, if you are a HSBC Premier or Santander World Elite credit card holder or similar.

You have the same problem with ‘The Big Smoke’ pub and restaurant in Terminal 2, as well as ‘The Big Smoke’ at London Luton Airport, which joined the programme a couple of weeks ago. All of these pubs are under the same ownership.

There is a grand total of ONE restaurant experience GLOBALLY that Amex-issued Priority Pass customers can use and that is ‘The Grain Store’ at London Gatwick’s South Terminal. Given that this is the British Airways terminal, it is at least convenient for most HfP readers.

This is starting to look bad for American Express in the UK

The addition of ‘Oceanic’ and ‘The Globe’ means that holders of American Express-issued Priority Pass cards cannot access a large proportion of the Priority Pass inventory at Heathrow.

Importantly, the Priority Pass website does not make it clear that holders of Amex-issued Priority Pass cards will be charged £20 if they use their £15 discount at any of these outlets.

The only way you can find out that they are blocked to American Express cardholders is via the Priority Pass app. If you have this on your phone, it will filter out lounges that your card does not allow you to visit, and these two new Heathrow options are not shown.

Why does this happen? My best guess is that Priority Pass wants to charge American Express a higher fee for restaurant visits, as it pays out more than it pays a lounge operator, and that the two parties could not reach an agreement.

This really isn’t sustainable for American Express. It cannot double the number of Priority Pass visits provided with Preferred Rewards Gold (you will receive four per year from October 2022, instead of the current two) whilst the percentage of the UK Priority Pass estate you can access continues to fall.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that American Express will soon be on the receiving end of a huge number of complaints from Priority Pass holders, either because they were charged £20 for visiting ‘The Globe’ or ‘Oceanic’ or because they have realised they are excluded.

This is something that American Express needs to look at given the existing frustration over being unable to access UK lounges with Priority Pass due to overcrowding. The fee differential cannot be more than £1-£2 per visit, given that no other bank or credit card provider has brought in a similar restriction. It wouldn’t surprise me if Priority Pass is deliberately building up its pub and restaurant portfolio at Heathrow to force American Express into changing its policy.

If you get a free Priority Pass via any other financial product you hold, or indeed pay for one directly, you can visit ‘The Globe’ in Terminal 5 or ‘Oceanic’ in Terminal 3 and get £15 of products on the house.

Both sites are open from 6.30am, seven days per week. ‘Oceanic’ closes at 9.30pm whilst ‘The Globe’ closes at 9pm. Remember that both are landside so you need to factor in time to clear security after your visit.

PS. The name ‘Oceanic’ for the Terminal 3 pub is a subtle reference to ‘The Oceanic Terminal’, which was the original name of Terminal 3 when it opened in 1961.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (August 2022)

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit 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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Amex Gold

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 (165)

  • Bob says:

    How does PP charge you £20 for in-correctly claiming the £15 credit?

    • Rob says:

      The pub swipes your Priority Pass and deducts £15 from your bill. As your free visits don’t apply here, Priority Pass charges the Amex linked to your card a £20 fee.

  • Youllnever says:

    What has everyones experience been with LoungeKey vs. Priority Pass regarding lounge access in LHR? Do you get turned away as often as well or is it better?

    Wondering if this is mostly affecting PP or if their other lounge programmes are affected as well.

    • JosephH says:

      In terms of being turned away due to capacity issues, I’ve never noticed a difference between the schemes. I’m fairly sure the contracts PP / LK require the lounges to sign require them to treat the schemes the same as walkup cash users.

      The way the lounges try and work around this is by allowing cash customers (but often not PP/LK users) to make bookings in advance. If I remember correctly for plaza premium “booking in advance” can be at little as 30 minutes before…

      • Youllnever says:

        Yeah I see what you mean. However like the article has stated, it seems like LoungeKey is providing access to the new pubs and restaurants introduced, so I’m thinking whether they might be paying more than the Amex-provided PP.

        • Rob says:

          LoungeKey – like all other bank provided PP cards except Amex ones – gets access to the new restaurants, yes.

  • A Traveller says:

    After losing access to Plaza Premium lounges, Mastercard Canada dropped LoungeKey and Visa Canada dropped Priority Pass, both switching to DragonPass.

  • Peter says:

    Clubrooms at Gatwick are still closed as well.

  • Jonathan says:

    I have PP on Amex Plat. It is showing on the PP app on my phone?

    • Rob says:

      What’s the question? If you are registered with PPass then you can log in on the PPass app even if your card comes from Amex.

  • vlcnc says:

    The Priority Pass benefit is pretty. much useless. Both myself and my partner have Amex Gold and been unable to use our complimentary passes for the last year every time we’ve travelled. This includes in Heathrow where the lounges are oversubscribed and thus they just don’t take PP during that period.

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