Update: American Express (U.S.) Cuts Priority Pass Restaurant Use For All Premium Cards Effective August 1st 2019

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There has been a new development since John wrote about the American Express cutback of “Non-lounge Airport Experiences” [Read: Restaurants] for Hong Kong customers, it seems that this change will be applicable to Amex issued Priority Pass accounts worldwide but definitely U.S. issued cards.

The new policy will be in effect coming August 1st 2019 and is most certainly an enhancement that will irritate many customers who have come to appreciate this feature of the Priority Pass.

Priority Pass initially introduced these “non-lounge experiences” at airport were cardholders face issues to access a lounge due to overcrowding or lack of partners. As a result they signed up a range of restaurants at various airports worldwide including the Yankee Pier in San Francisco which I visited in November.

Yesterday John wrote about an account change notice of Hong Kong Amex accounts a reader forwarded us where he is being notified that American Express will restrict their HK issued Priority Pass account effective August 1st 2019 from using said restaurants.

People immediately started speculating if this is just going to be a test run or if the was a specific issue with the Hong Kong market especially since most of these participating restaurant outlets are in North America (I have used one in Osaka, Japan before this April). Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be limited to Amex Hong Kong, they were just the fastest entity to communicate it.

Gary Leff who writes View From The Wing got in touch with an Amex spokesperson for the U.S. who confirmed the bad news: Priority Pass cards issued for Amex U.S. card members will also no longer receive the benefit of using the airport restaurants.

American Express has confirmed to me that U.S.-based cards offering Priority Pass will have these same restrictions.

Effective August 1 “the Priority Pass Membership benefit offered on American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards and Hilton Ascend, Hilton Aspire, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Cards will no longer include complimentary access to non-lounge airport experiences.”

That’s it folks, the party is over – once again – just months after Amex already cut another lounge benefit for their Platinum card holders, namely accessing the Centurion Lounge upon arrival and restricting access to 3 hours prior to departure.

The internet is buzzing with people chiming in with their opinions regarding this. Why is Amex going after this benefit and takes it away from their premium customers who pay the highest annual fees including Centurion members?

One option would be that there was rampant abuse such as people going to multiple restaurants per day or running up giant tabs. In light of that (if correct) Priority Pass probably wanted to renegotiate their compensation with Amex for the entire memberships they purchase. I don’t believe that PP charges Amex for each individual visit.

Another possibility is that Amex simply runs another cost cutting measure and even if there wasn’t noticeable abuse they are trying to lower their fees with Priority Pass somehow, for example by negotiating a new type of membership with them that excludes restaurants and will cost Amex a lot less.

Whatever the reason might be, it stinks for Amex cardholders and I actually believe that this will become worldwide policy for them.

As far as U.S. based customers are concerned, there are other financial products available in the market that have a more liberal policy (at this point), especially those issued by Chase.

Right now there are no published statements by Chase that they plan to limit card members from using restaurants.I’d take that with a grain of salt though because in my eyes the real abuses do in fact take place with Priority Pass cards issued as part of Chase products.

Especially the Ritz Carlton card that allows additional card holders at no extra fee and who are then eligible for their own PP. There is also no guest limit on this card which further opens the door to abuse. Mind you before you start salivating, the Ritz Carlton Card is no longer available for new applications.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also has a Priority Pass that, as of right now, doesn’t have any exclusions of the airport restaurants.

Conclusion

Before you cancel your Amex cards and hop over to Chase I’d wait and see if there will be a similar change with their products as well. I’d be highly surprised if this abuse situation will be allowed to go on forever and let’s be honest there are some real pigs out there who take advantage and then make it a challenge to post pictures of their highest tabs online (I’m not going to link these here and give them even more exposure).

Also, remember a couple months ago when American Express purchased LoungeBuddy? I mentioned that if Loungebuddy would introduce a system like Priority Pass (a flat membership option with unlimited visits to all lounges) I could see Amex considering a change from PP to their own in-house solution. Maybe we’re a step closer to that right now?

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