By Robert McGarvey
I like it. That’s my verdict on the Priority Pass expansion into airport restaurants. Necessity doubtless mothered this invention and I’d had a healthy skepticism about it. But after a lunch stop at terminal 8 at JFK, where Bobby Van’s was my only club option, I’d give this gambit a qualified thumbs up.
Priority Pass comes as part of my Platinum card perks via Amex. I don’t mentally calculate it as costing me anything. And at participating restaurants it antes up $28 ($56 with a covered guest).
The one hesitation about the Bobby Van’s stop: lunch cost me around $55 for two but that included a couple glasses of decent red apiece – a Rosenblum Zin along with a turkey club, a veggie burger, fries and finishing with coffees. Total tab, with tax and tip, around $112. Priority pass ponied up $56, I covered the rest.
Yes, a typical visit to an airport club costs me nothing but I also rarely see anything worth eating and I typically drink only coffee because, again, there’s nothing I want and the coffee isn’t any good either.
This way I got a pleasant lunch, in a quiet venue. It made me forget that I’ve avoided JFK for over 20 years because I find everything about it painful. I still don’t like going to JFK but at least in terminal 8 I’ve found an option I like.
Of course I also could have cut my out of pocket to around zero with more frugal ordering. But it was noon, I was in pricey New York, so why not eat well before a cross country flight where I could skip the inflight food without listening to my stomach growl.
So I am okay with the Bobby Van’s deal.
And the restaurant got a visit from a first time customer who may well return. It also presumably gets a few bucks from Priority Pass.
Will I always want to drop $50 on a lunch for two, or $25 just for me? Probably no. But, again, I don’t have to. Doing this just with the $28 per head credit is possible. Just order accordingly.
Buy a burger, a beer, and toss down $5 in cash as a tip and you are good with this deal even at JFK.
Meantime, back at the standard airport club, mainly I am seeing crowds. Just getting seated is a hassle.
That’s true also at the Amex Centurion lounge which still ranks as my airport fave if I can get in.
But overcrowding has become a staple at Centurion. Sigh. Amex is also putting restrictions on entry. A perfect airline club is becoming less so.
Even when I can get into an airport club I often wonder why I bother. Last week at the Priority Pass club lounge at Phoenix terminal 4 I got in at no charge and managed to get the last seats but there was nothing worth eating.
Free is not always the best deal.
Priority Pass, apparently confronting a lack of available club spaces at airports, has decided to hunt for restaurant partners and I am hoping it works for all – Priority Pass, the restaurants, and of course the travelers. Want more info about Priority Pass, its challenges and opportunities? Read Joe Brancatelli’s column on this – it gives the full scoop.
Face it, we need more options at airports. I had become so cynical, I had even begun extolling the virtue of scorning clubs and sitting amid the ordinary passengers, with a Starbucks latte in hand. But maybe things aren’t quite so desperate.
Looking at the Priority Pass restaurant options, there are around two dozen, with more to come, they say.
Many are modest – Johnny Rockets at Syracuse airport, for instance. In those joints the Priority Pass credit should go far indeed.
At Barneys Beanery at LAX, $28 should get you the chili sampler and a beer. Add a$5 in cash for the tip and you are good.
Bottom line: check the Priority Pass app because you just may find fresh options at the airports you find yourself in.