Priority Pass is an airline lounge membership program many travelers have courtesy of credit cards. Most “premium” credit cards throw one in as part of the annual fee. While a nice perk, most travelers associate Priority Pass with mediocre domestic lounges. Just look at lounges like The Lounge at BOS, which are OK but hardly worth arriving early for. Recently, though, Priority Pass introduced a new concept at select airports: restaurant credits. Basically, PP gives you credit to order food & drink at a restaurant, in lieu of lounge time. After testing out the perk with my family last month, I must say: it’s a great one that I’d love to see more of.
How it Works
Priority Pass currently has partnerships with several domestic airport restaurants, including:
- House Spirits Distillery, Portland Airport
- Capers Cafe Le Bar, Portland Airport
- Capers Market, Portland Airport
- Timberline Steaks & Grille, Denver Airport
- Corona Beach House, Miami Airport
- The Pasta House, St. Louis Airport
- Kentucky Ale Taproom, Lexington Airport
- Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, New York JFK Airport
- Bar Symon, Cleveland Airport
- Air Margaritaville, Miami Airport (Concourse E)
- Viena, Miami Airport (Concourse E BEFORE security)
- Barney’s Beanery, Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 2
Priority Pass also offers a few international dining options, including at London Gatwick, Melbourne, and Sydney. Typically, they provide a fixed, per person credit off of your meal, usually $28. Depending on your specific benefits, you can usually use the credits for guests as well. For example, the PP membership on my Citi Prestige card includes guesting privileges for two. So, when I visit a restaurant with two guests, we can avail a total credit of $84. Guests are responsible for any overages, plus gratuities.
I found using the credits quite easy. Simply show your Priority Pass card to your server before ordering. Just like in a lounge, the server will ask you to sign for your visit on a machine.
Anyway, last month, my family had to make a last-second trip to Portland. With a toddler in tow, we decided to break up the trip into smaller flights. (Yes, I said I had no intention of flying with a toddler. While the experience wasn’t the disaster I braced myself for, I still far prefer driving 4,000 miles with one than dealing with one day of flying and airports.) Our schedule had is in both Denver and Portland for lunch, so we decided to try the restaurants in both.
The Dining Experience
Our first stop was at Timberline Steaks and Grille in Denver. Timberline is in Concourse C; conveniently, just a few gates away from our Southwest departure gate. The hostess didn’t seem too thrilled when I showed my Priority Pass card. Our server was quite nice, though. I ordered a buffalo burger with sweet potato fries, French onion soup, and a beer. My wife ordered the soup and a club sandwich; my mom, a grilled cheese and a salad.
The total bill came to $60.48, but after applying the Priority Pass credits, we owed nothing. The credits apply in the aggregate, so if you have a light eater in your group, someone else can splurge and you’re still fine. Note that the menu also includes steaks, though most exceed $28. The PP credit cannot be used towards macarons, though.
Quality-wise, I’d rate the food average. Not great, but certainly better than the usual airport fast food. Vegetarian options are also limited (my mom is, and didn’t care for the sandwich or salad). But when you can feed 3 adults for just a $12 tip, that’s a great deal. And of course, the ramp views from the window are free.
The entire meal took about an hour. Before the hostess seated us, she did ask when our flight boarded. Thankfully we had plenty of time. Timberline does have an excellent selection of Colorado craft beers, though. So if you’re short on time, you can still enjoy a drink or two before your flight.
In Portland, we visited Capers Cafe Le Bar. Capers is located conveniently right in front of the security checkpoint in Concourse C, so you can’t miss it. Capers has quite a large selection of salads, sandwiches, soups, and breakfast foods. I ordered a pastrami sandwich, tomato soup, and a cappuccino. My mom and wife both had a soup and some pizza.
The food here is better than at Timberline. The sandwich was very good. Though I wanted rye (they were out), the “Capers roll” was fresh, and quite tasty grilled. The cappuccino was excellent, made by Mount Hood Roasters. The total bill here came to just over $41, so again, we paid only the tip of $8 for three. That’s a really good deal. And you don’t have to worry about getting turned away like at the Alaska Lounge.
We once again encountered slow service, though. We arrived right at 11, and barely made it to our gate in time for boarding at 12. So, if you want to eat, make sure to allow plenty of time. If you’re short on time, Capers does have a very nice looking wine bar; $28 gets you a couple of glasses at least.
The main issue I noted at both restaurants was slow service. You’ll need to either arrive early or book a longer connection to sit down and eat. Capers does have a grab ‘n go case at least if you’re in a hurry. Also, both restaurants stay fairly busy, so don’t expect a quiet place to work. Think of PP restaurants as a place to grab a drink or meal while catching up on e-mails.
I’m really liking the Priority Pass restaurant benefit. The ability to have a good, hot meal and/or a couple of drinks for just the price of a tip is fantastic. Given the rather poor food selection and overcrowding in domestic lounges, I’d just as soon sit in a restaurant with the airport’s WiFi. If you’re traveling with kids who don’t eat much, you can probably even stretch the benefit over more than 3 people. Now if only PP would add Cool River at DFW…