While American Express is perfectly free to tinker with its Priority Pass benefit, its choice to eliminate all restaurants with such short notice represents a foolish and short-sighted move.
Effective August 01, 2019, you will no longer be able to use your American Express-issued Priority Pass card at “non-lounge airport experiences” (i.e. restaurants or bars that currently provide $28 in credit to Priority Pass members):
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.
Why such a sudden and draconian cut? Why not halve the credit, say from $28 to $14? Why not limit overall annual visits—whether in a “real” lounge or a Priority Pass restaurant—to a set number per year, maybe 20-25?
For many, this represents the removal of a key Priority Pass benefit. If actual compensation, whether in a restaurant or lounge, is about $23, what difference does it make whether it is in a lounge or restaurant?
The answer might be that restaurants were much more utilized. Fine. Limit the overall number of visits per year. Or maybe the problem was that airport employees were using the facility for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for themselves and their friends (and hopefully tipping at least…). The easy way to remedy that would have been to strictly require same-day, outgoing, confirmed (non-standby) boarding passes. That rule is technically in place for many Priority Pass restaurants, but I’ve never actually been asked for my boarding pass.
Put simply, there were less draconian reactions that American Express could have employed to better balance its interest with those of its cardholders.
In defense of American Express, this does not represent “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I’ll still be keeping my Platinum card and frankly don’t use the restaurant benefit all that much. For example, I prefer the ambiance and food in the American Express Centurion Lounge over the nearby Yankee Pier at SFO. If others are in my boat, then credit to AMEX for making a cut it can get away with.
I’m curious, are any of you going to cancel your American Express cards because of this reduction in Priority Pass benefits?
Now we’ll wait and see if Chase and CITI match this. I’m hoping the answer is no.