fbpx
Priority Pass Loses Access to Plaza Premium Lounges Ricky April 15, 2021

Priority Pass Loses Access to Plaza Premium Lounges

As reported by Executive Traveller, Priority Pass and Plaza Premium – two major players in the airport lounge space that are often confused with each other thanks to their perplexingly parallel initials – will be cutting ties as of July 1, 2021.

This is a decidedly negative development for many Canadian travellers, as it means that a wide range of our credit card options will lose the ability to access the Plaza Premium lounges at Canadian and international airports.

What Is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a global airport lounge network that spans over 1,300 airport lounges, airport restaurants, and other types of access-only experiences at airports and other transportation venues.

As a lounge network, Priority Pass doesn’t operate any lounges themselves; instead, they negotiate individual contracts with airport lounge operators to provide access for Priority Pass members.

While you can purchase Priority Pass memberships individually, that’s almost never a good deal, because Priority Pass memberships often come as a complimentary perk on many Canadian- and US-issued credit cards:

What Is LoungeKey?

In addition to Priority Pass, Plaza Premium will also be cutting ties with LoungeKey as of July 1.

LoungeKey is a competitor to Priority Pass with a smaller global network, and it’s typically associated with World Elite Mastercards as a credit card benefit.

For example, here in Canada, most World Elite Mastercards offer you at least a LoungeKey membership (although you have to pay extra per lounge visit), while the BMO World Elite Mastercard gives you four lounge visits per year on top.

What Is Plaza Premium?

Plaza Premium is a Hong Kong-based airport lounge operator that runs one of the world’s largest chains of independent non-airline-branded airport lounges around the world.

Here in Canada, they have a total of 13 lounge locations at four different airports:

  • Plaza Premium Lounge Toronto (domestic, transborder, and international, across Terminals 1 and 3)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (domestic, domestic cafe, transborder, and international)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge Edmonton (domestic/international and transborder)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge Winnipeg (domestic)

I’ve probably lounge-hopped through most, if not all, of these locations over the years. While Plaza Premium lounges aren’t necessarily the pinnacle of luxury, they do provide a welcome alternative option to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges in terms of airport lounge access before your flight.

Plaza Premium Lounge Winnipeg

For example, I’ve found that the Plaza Premium Lounge in Toronto Terminal 1’s transborder departures area is often a superior experience to the transborder Maple Leaf Lounge, as they’d usually have a few hot food options compared to the Maple Leaf Lounge’s chips and cookies.

Indeed, the prevailing lounge-hopping strategy for any US departure out of YYZ was to hit up the Plaza Premium Lounge for food and then the Maple Leaf Lounge for drinks.

Globally, Plaza Premium Lounges are also nice places to relax before a flight, often providing guests with à la carte dining or bar service. If they’re open 24 hours, you can even use them as a place to crash on an overnight layover. I have fond memories of the Plaza Premium locations at London Heathrow, Singapore Changi, and Hong Kong International Airport over the years. 

Priority Pass Will No Longer Provide Access Plaza Premium Lounges

Sadly, as of July 1, 2021, Plaza Premium will no longer be renewing their contracts with Priority Pass and LoungeKey.

This means that you won’t be able to use your Priority Pass or LoungeKey membership to access a Plaza Premium lounge; instead, you’d either have to access the lounge through another method, or you’d have to pay the $50+ access fee.

Now, what other methods are there for accessing Plaza Premium lounges?

Well, thankfully, the American Express Platinum Card and American Express Business Platinum Card (as well as their US counterparts) also include Plaza Premium lounges as part of their Global Lounge Collection, so these cardholders will still be able to access Plaza Premium lounges (with one guest in tow) simply by showing their cards.

(Previously, this benefit was somewhat moot: you could’ve shown either your personal or business Platinum card, or the Priority Pass card associated with it, to gain access to a Plaza Premium lounge. From July onwards, you must flash your personal or business Platinum card, as the Priority Pass card won’t suffice anymore.)

However, if you have a Priority Pass membership from any other credit card, then you’ll no longer be able to visit Plaza Premium lounges for free.

That’s a big loss for many Canadian flyers, especially those based in Toronto and Vancouver who might’ve previously relied on Plaza Premium’s ubiquitous presence across all departure areas via a non-Platinum Priority Pass membership.

Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (International)

Personally, in recent years I’ve taken comfort in relying on my US-issued Bonvoy Brilliant and Hilton Aspire Cards as a way to access Priority Pass airport lounges while bringing in two guests.

I plan on keeping both cards around in the long run, so it’s quite straightforward for me to use them for lounge access compared to the personal and business Platinum cards on both sides of the border, which I may not decide to keep forever.

I’ll certainly be reevaluating my strategy going forward, as the loss of Plaza Premium lounges both domestically and abroad is a fairly significant hit to the value of a Priority Pass membership. I might place a greater weight on keeping at least one of the four Platinum Cards in Canada or the US, keeping in mind that they now offer exclusive access to Plaza Premium lounges as well as Centurion Lounges.

I’ll also be curious to see whether Plaza Premium strikes up any new partnerships of their own, or perhaps introduces their own membership model to make a play for the major North American credit card issuers as a card benefit. That would certainly be a welcome development, and more competition among airport lounge providers can only be a good thing.

Until then, though, the value proposition of a Priority Pass membership has certainly tumbled a few notches, while the Platinum series of cards and their Global Lounge Collection look a little bit more attractive thanks to their soon-to-be-exclusive Plaza Premium benefits.

Conclusion

Plaza Premium will be cutting ties with Priority Pass and LoungeKey as of July 1, 2021. Since it’s quite unlikely that most of Plaza Premium’s lounges around the world will reopen by then, this is effectively an immediate change in the context of airport lounge access once we’re able to travel again.

This is certainly unwelcome news for Canadian travellers who might’ve frequented Plaza Premium’s 13 domestic lounge locations over the years, although I’d expect that the lounge chain has plans in the pipeline to fill up their lounges through new access avenues.

Until then, it’s only the Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card that will retain access to Plaza Premium lounges through their Global Lounge Collection benefits. At a time when many of our Platinum Cards might be coming up for renewal, this change might move the needle in your decision in whether or not to keep the card around.

Top Offers

American Express Business Platinum Card

100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points
upon spending $10,000 in the first three months

  • 1.25x MR points on all purchases
  • Points transfer to Aeroplan and British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio
  • Unlimited Priority Pass access
  • Marriott Gold Elite status
Signup bonus
100,000 MR points
Annual fee
$499
23 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Jack

    Just got off the phone with Platinum Support to ask about this. Agent mentioned that their most recent update shows that Platinum Card Holders will be losing access to Plaza Premium. I initially mentioned Priority Pass, but in their wording it seems like its losing access completely? Couldn’t confirm specifically if it was a result of Priority Pass losing access, or Platinum losing access as a whole. If as a whole, this would be very concerning. Certainly warrants a little deeper dive.

  2. Avatar
    Andrea

    I also think Plaza Premium is trying to cut out the middle man (Priority Pass) and deal directly with major card companies, airlines, consumers, etc; so that they could improve the bottom line and achieve a better ROI, and who knows, they might even looking at IPO or Private Listing… that’s what I heard from some business associates in Hong Kong. Just like what they are developing their own brand of “Aerotel” in airports, a line of hotels inside airports for transient passengers. They have the numbers and the economy of scale to cut out the middle man and be something more profitable and exclusive and unique. I think access to their lounges will come back after they’d negotiated directly with major card companies or airlines or banks; so don’t be disappointed, more news from Plaza Premium will be announced this year.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Agree with this and I’m excited to see the direction they’re headed in.

  3. Avatar
    Andrea

    It is actually good news to some (myself included, as I have a American Express Platinum Card). I always found the Plaza Premium in many airports are over crowded, just a month before the pandemic, I were in HKG, the Plaza Premium lounge there was way over crowded, with a long line lining up with dozen of people to go in… worse than a McDonald during lunch time in a busy industrial district… And this is not the only time such thing happened. AE also will be limiting access to its Centurion Lounge (which is good too…. as it won’t affect American Express Platinum Card members). These airport lounges are supposed to provide a quiet exclusive ambience to business or first class seats members; but in the past decade, these lounges access had been abused, over-distributed…. it’s worst than a busy Starbucks in a busy mall… so often not only you have to line up to get in there, but also have to wait for an empty table… I think while this seems painful to some travelers, but to many, it is a welcome ,….. back to its “root”: providing an exclusive quiet lounge to those who seek quiet and exclusive ambience before departure…

  4. Avatar
    tigerwoo

    What airport restaurants are available to use my priority pass at YVR?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      There’s a place called Stanley Park Taphouse that’s on the Priority Pass list.

  5. Avatar
    Zj

    Also the HABC JADE World Elite MasterCard is hit here too as it offered unlimited access for the card holder + 1 (and also free supplementary cards each with unlimited access far cardholder + 1) via LoungeKey.

  6. Avatar
    Simon

    Just a small comment on the US Platinum access: Canada Plat gives you member + 1 access to Plaza Premium, but the US Platinum gives you member + 2. Here is the quote from the Global Lounge page on the US side: Plaza Premium Airport Lounges

    To enter, present your valid Platinum Card, a boarding pass showing a confirmed reservation for same-day travel and a government issued ID. You may enter with up to two (2) complimentary guests.

  7. Avatar
    Loretta

    I think you forgot to add that a way around this is to use the lounge access passes you get when you convert the WestJet Companion fare into four lounge passes.

    1. Avatar
      Sam

      Only works if flying on westjet. Any other airline and you’re SOL.

  8. Avatar
    Kenny

    Really hope Amex US adds plaza premium access to the Brilliant and Hilton Aspire cards! This also renders my Scotia Passport Visa useful, as I kept it around as a back up for lounge access

    1. Avatar
      loretta

      Scotia Visa Passport is also Priority Pass so I don’t know what you mean.

      1. Avatar
        Kenny

        typo..meant to say useless (not useful)

  9. Avatar
    Alex

    I am betting that AMEX will soon introduce some new partnership with Plaza (i.e. 2-8 free visits a year). They must come with something as this change leaves them fairly exposed – and they are known for acting rather quickly to changing environments.
    Anyway – I hope they do!

  10. Avatar
    David

    Does not bode well for AMEX Aeroplan for international travelers.

  11. Avatar
    RWrubel

    Can you provide some clarification re: U.S. Bonvoy Brilliant. If someone has that card will that card still get him/her into the Plaza Premium Lounges?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Marty’s got it. The Bonvoy Brilliant comes with a Priority Pass membership but no Plaza Premium benefit of its own, so after July 1 it’ll no longer be good for Plaza Premium lounges.

    2. Avatar
      Marty

      Only until july 1st. Afterwards no.

  12. Avatar
    Oz

    Home run of an article Ricky! Lounge access is what got me excited about credit cards. If someone knows what the BMO WE has mutually exclusive of the AMEX global collection that would be nice to know.

  13. Avatar
    Marty

    So priority pass will only be useful at:
    – YYC elevation lounge (for now)
    – YYZ terminal 3 KLM
    – YUL NB

    That’s pretty rough.

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      YOW “aspire” and YQB “Salon” will still be Canadian Priority Pass lounge’s

    2. Ricky
      Ricky

      There’s also the Aspire lounges in Calgary and Ottawa, the Quebec City VIP lounge, the YVR SkyTeam Lounge, and a handful of airport restaurants at YUL, YYZ, and YVR. Not quite a complete decimation, but a big chunk out of Priority Pass’s presence in Canada for sure.

      1. Avatar
        Marty

        Fair enough. Forgot about YOW/YQB and neglected the restaurants since my PP uses came from AMEX in the last couple years.

        I used YYZ/YVR plaza premium lounges so much with my priority pass that it just threw me off! Like you said I’ll have to re-evaluate my cards.

Ricky

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have an Account? Click here to Login