AMEX axes Priority Pass meal credit at Australian airports

AMEX axes Priority Pass meal credit at Australian airports

American Express is withdrawing the offer of $36 of credit at selected cafes and restaurants at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast airports via AMEX Platinum card membership to the global Priority Pass lounge scheme.

While access to Priority Pass-partnered lounges will remain available, AMEX Australia is removing "non-lounge airport experiences from Priority Pass for its card members."

A spokesperson for American Express confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that this will take effect from August 1, 2019, in line with similar changes in the US market.

"As our lounge access benefits are intended to provide card members with premium lounge spaces to relax and unwind in while traveling the globe, the Priority Pass Membership benefit offered on American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards in Australia and New Zealand will no longer include complimentary access to non-lounge airport experiences from 1 August 2019."

"Non-lounge airport experiences and outlets include but are not limited to restaurants, cafés and bars where a food and beverage credit is offered as an alternative to entrance into a traditional airport lounge."

Many business travellers have made solid use of their AMEX-issued Priority Pass membership to enjoy a pre-flight or post-flight meal at a dozen restaurants, bars and bistros at  SydneyMelbourneBrisbane and Gold Coast airport terminals.

Sydney's Movida at Terminal 2 has proven especially popular – not only with passengers booked on domestic Jetstar flights under 'lowest fare of the day' travel policies, but also Virgin Australia passengers who prefer Movida's meals, drinks and cafe ambience to that of Virgin's own lounge nearby.

Free Priority Pass membership is offered with the following American Express cards:

  • American Express Centurion Card (Australia)
  • American Express Platinum Card (Australia, New Zealand)
  • American Express Platinum Business Card (Australia)
  • American Express Corporate Platinum Card (Australia)
  • American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card (Australia)
  • American Express Platinum Rewards Credit Card (Australia)
  • American Express Airpoints Platinum Card (New Zealand)
  • American Express Airpoints Platinum Reserve Card (New Zealand)

American Express Centurion and Platinum Charge cards allowed unlimited use of the Priority Pass food and drink credit, while other cards were limited to two lounge visits – or airport restaurant visits – per year.

Australian Business Traveller understands that the meal credits will remain in place for travellers holding direct membership with Priority Pass (rather than an 'affiliate membership' offered through American Express) but has approached Priority Pass parent company The Collison Group for confirmation.

The following Australian airport lounges are available to AMEX Platinum Charge and Centurion Card members at airports where complimentary Priority Pass cards are accepted:

  • Sydney T2 (domestic): the Rex lounge, plus the Virgin Australia lounge for AMEX Centurion and Platinum Charge cardholders when flying with Virgin
  • Sydney T1 (international): while there's no Priority Pass lounge per se, eligible AMEX cardholders are welcomed at the American Express lounge
  • Melbourne T4 (domestic): Rex Lounge
  • Melbourne T2 (international): after passport control, choose between the Plaza Premium Lounge and the American Express lounge
  • Brisbane domestic: only AMEX Centurion and Platinum Charge cardholders can access the Virgin Australia lounge, and only when flying on Virgin Australia
  • Brisbane international: after passport control, visit the Plaza Premium Lounge
  • Gold Coast: only AMEX Centurion and Platinum Charge cardholders can access the Virgin Australia lounge, and only when flying on Virgin Australia
  • Adelaide domestic: Rex Lounge
  • Cairns international: Reef Lounge
  • Darwin international: Catalina Lounge
David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

35 comments

  • flyme2themoon

    flyme2themoon

    7 Jun, 2019 12:09 am

    Hi David - to confirm is it just AMEX issued Priority Pass benefits that are changed as per the headline or is it all Priority Pass Holders who will lose this benefit? (I hold Priority Pass membership not connected to an AMEX product). Thanks
    No member give thanks

  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    7 Jun, 2019 06:53 am

    AFAIK it affects only Amex issued PP. the decision came from Amex US head office. There is no similar changes with Citi or other bank issued PP yet.

    Although with the current trend of credit cards racing to the bottom, it's not impossible the other banks will follow.
    No member give thanks

  • Alan Su

    alansu

    7 Jun, 2019 12:25 am

    Boo. Yet another “enhancement” to justify the $1450 annual fee?
    Member who gave thanks

    sillytraveller

  • downdata

    downdata

    7 Jun, 2019 09:28 am

    Just wait until they “enhance” the annual fee again next year XD
    Member who gave thanks

    sillytraveller

  • Andrew Andrew Lane

    digitalane

    7 Jun, 2019 03:28 am

    Given the severe lack of lounges in Oz - this is a massive reduction in the benefit - in fact I see no benefit of the PP inclusion now
    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • jubbing

    jubbing

    7 Jun, 2019 08:37 am

    If you travel overseas regularly, and if you don't have lounge access, this is still useful where PP lounges exist - however it's a massive loss in Australia either way.
    No member give thanks

  • Andrew Andrew Lane

    digitalane

    9 Jun, 2019 06:37 am

    Agreed - though I never travel economy internationally :(
    No member give thanks

  • Traveller sg

    Traveller sg

    7 Jun, 2019 06:59 am

    Seeking advice. Does this affect restaurant lounges on oz issued cards in other countries?? as LGW Grain Store is commonly used by me.
    No member give thanks

  • Brandon Loo

    Brandon Loo

    7 Jun, 2019 07:44 am

    In line with similar changes to US and HK-issued AMEXs, I believe the benefit is being removed for all countries, not just your 'home country'.
    No member give thanks

  • Nimeton

    Nineton01

    7 Jun, 2019 07:33 am

    Really unhappy with this, I signed up to AMEX Platinum only a few months ago specifically for this benefit and it’s really devalued the product for me. At the very least they should negotiate with Rex to extend lounge hours or expand Virgin longe Access to all flights if they’re not going to offer restaurants.
    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • Flying High

    Flying High

    7 Jun, 2019 09:32 am

    You spent $1,450 so you could get a $36 credit for food at an airport?

    Um....
    No member give thanks

  • Dean

    deanr

    7 Jun, 2019 10:43 am

    I'm the same actually, and it's not the case of $1450 vs $36.

    The credit for Amex Platinum can actually be $72 per restaurant visit when you're travelling with somebody as you get a free guest on the Priority Pass membership ($36 + $36), so for a single return trip, that can be $72 before the outbound flight and abother $72 for the return flight, or $144 all up.
    Fly once a month, over 12 months, and that's $1728 in dining credits vs the $1450 annual fee: and that's before taking into account things like the Amex travel credits, points, hotel status etc, as well as the real lounge access options, so I found the card very valuable.

    This is a very significant cut for people who travel regularly, who seem to be the target market for this card, and I'll certainly be running the numbers before I pay my next annual fee to see whether paying another $1450 still makes sense.
    Members who gave thanks

    Batesy, mjm

  • Tom

    Batesy

    7 Jun, 2019 11:37 am

    I'm with you on those numbers deanr. I use it whenever I go through either of Sydney's domestic terminals. Breakfast at Movida is great, breakfast at Bar Roma OK. With my wife being a platinum card holder too the $$ provided by the credit is substantial. I have alrerday email my contacts at Amex with my dispaointment.
    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • Flying High

    Flying High

    7 Jun, 2019 04:11 pm

    I'd be interested in what your contacts at Amex say in response.
    No member give thanks

  • Tom

    Batesy

    12 Jun, 2019 09:38 am

    No response so followed up with a polite email this morning after I got the email advising the reduction in value. 5 days after it popped on ABT.
    No member give thanks

  • Tom

    Batesy

    14 Jun, 2019 08:20 am

    Got a bland response that said they will come back to me. Will keep you posted
    No member give thanks

  • johnaboxall

    johnaboxall

    7 Jun, 2019 12:08 pm

    That's why AMEX cancelled the benefit... it was getting smashed by frequent travellers and people working at the airport.
    No member give thanks

  • Dean

    deanr

    7 Jun, 2019 12:38 pm

    Heaven forbid people paying good money for the most expensive travel-themed card in Australia might actually be people who travel, and are in a position to use the benefits they're paying through the nose for... $1450 per year certainly doesn't make sense for the once-a-year flyer types who are mainly in it for the points, given the earn rate is now barely better than what can be had on Visa/Mastercard, or one of the cheaper Amex credit cards.
    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • Dean

    deanr

    7 Jun, 2019 12:40 pm

    And for those working at the airport, given you have to present a boarding pass that matches the name on the Priority Pass membership, this shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure there were issues when Priority Pass first started this, but every time I've used the card for at least the last year, they've wanted to see a boarding pass every time.
    No member give thanks

  • Matt Wiley

    iNfLuX

    7 Jun, 2019 12:59 pm

    I am likely one of the people many would consider to be abusing this benefit (although completely within the rules as set until now).

    I commute weekly between cities (at my expense), and also sometimes do intra-week travel within Aus and Asia for client work. I'm therefore a regular user of the $36 dining credit allowance, sometimes 3-4 times per week in different airports.

    I've found in the last 2 yrs having the AMEX PP has completely changed my travel booking habits - no longer forced to maintain status with QF for lounge access, and having flexibility to book flights at better cost or time on whichever airline.

    The change is obviously a decent loss to me (and no doubt many others), but I've thought since the start that it was 'too good to be true' and was only a matter of time before things tightened up - although not expecting it to disappear completely.
    Having a restaurant quality meal from a menu and (usually) some quiet space before travelling has been a luxury that for me is far superior to the offerings of the VA or QF lounges.

    In my case, assuming the option remains available for non-AMEX PP memberships to access the $36 dining benefit - I'd almost certainly justify paying for a separate PP membership.

    I have heard various stories from airport venue staff in Sydney Airport regarding airline personnel (I understand Flight Crew mostly) using a PP literally every day for their lunch or dinner - which may be another reason for the change.

    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • Flying High

    Flying High

    7 Jun, 2019 04:09 pm

    That's a fair enough point!
    No member give thanks

  • Nimeton

    Nineton01

    7 Jun, 2019 04:24 pm

    Well, no, not just for the $36 (which was $144 between myself and an additional card holder). The overall lounge offering of Priority Pass lounges, dining + Virgin lounges was a significant factor in luring me away from Qantas … the Amex offering just got less attractive...
    No member give thanks

  • Randomtraveller

    Randomtraveller

    7 Jun, 2019 07:35 am

    Well, it is certain for me to cancel the Platinum card before the annual fee due.
    Member who gave thanks

    mjm

  • jubbing

    jubbing

    7 Jun, 2019 08:35 am

    I'll be honest, Amex Plat charge is really becoming a lesser option everytime they do something like this. I finally got around to justifying keeping this card despite the devaluation and then they drop another perk. Might just cancel after they double my points.

    They really should have just changed the rules to limit the number of visits to 1 Priory Pass venue in a day of they wanted to reduce something, but to completely remove this benefit is ridiculous.
    Members who gave thanks

    ScottB, mjm

  • Dean

    deanr

    7 Jun, 2019 10:45 am

    Agreed: I'd even be happy if they limited the number of restaurant visits to maybe 5 or 10 per year if there are people rorting the system. Given you can just buy an unlimted Priority Pass membership for around $500 (which includes unlimited dining credits), paying $1450 and getting a Priority Pass membership much less valuable really makes paying the Amex annual fee much less attractive.
    No member give thanks

  • Greg84

    Greg84

    7 Jun, 2019 09:07 am

    Disappointing change after the increased annual fee last year. I'll likely use my travel credits & close after a number of years of enjoying the card.
    No member give thanks

  • MEL737

    btaus

    7 Jun, 2019 02:15 pm

    I don't mind Amex withdrew non-lounge Priority Pass uses. Been to MoVida SYD T2 and it was terrible. Sloppy service and mediocre food. Left me pretty disappointed.
    No member give thanks

  • mjm

    mjm

    7 Jun, 2019 03:47 pm

    This is a massive devaluation of the card for frequent domestic travellers. Movida and other offerings are miles ahead of the Qantas and Virgin Lounges. I calculate this as a $500+ devaluation and see no benefit to keeping the AMEX Platinum. I wanted to be loyal and not change cards ever 12 months but AMEX makes it impossible. The fee increase for Accor Plus last year alongside this enormous devaluation is sickening.

    It's Priority Pass taking the benefit away but AMEX needs to replace the benefit or lower the costs as the card is no longer attractive. Period.

    This is like the government playing games with superannuation. Just leave the system as is people are happy. Stop making changes.


    No member give thanks

  • David Lupton

    davidlupton

    7 Jun, 2019 04:18 pm

    I can get priority pass membership through my Amex or my Mastercard. I thought i had signed up through Amex, but i got my renewal card (same membership number) with my new Mastercard. I didn't know about the out-of-lounge benefits anyway. I rarely use the Priority Pass as I usually have alternate lounge access but it is handy occasionally. Amex also stopped the tie-up with Accor which i did use quite frequently and they wont cover my medical so am thinking of cancelling it. Just nostalgia really, the card says Member since 1977.
    No member give thanks

  • crosscourt

    crosscourt

    7 Jun, 2019 04:29 pm

    What's that slogan for AMEX … don't leave home without it?? It was the "prestige" card to have, now it's getting like a LCC. Not that I have used the non-lounge component but this is so pathetic by AMEX, first they slash the points transfer rate and now this.
    No member give thanks

  • michael blazewicz

    blaz

    7 Jun, 2019 05:14 pm

    This is an accountants decision. But I think things turned south for Amex when they gave the same priority pass membership to associated card holders( Amex platinum charge card). My main beef is the lack of equal access to lounges in airports such as Melbourne where each terminal has their own lounges or lack there of....this is where using a possibly less generous system for accessing a restaurant might be a more acceptable option.
    No member give thanks

  • h15t0r1an

    h15t0r1an

    7 Jun, 2019 08:39 pm

    Australia seems to have very poor lounges. Often in the wrong terminal for the particular flight I'm on and with restricted hours. (worse than some airports in the USA whose lounges also open restricted hours). Letting supp card have the soft benefits too is what's got them in this mess. However I wouildn';t pay $1450 for the card again with this benefit removed. It makes Australian airports tolerable otherwise they're not. And no, no international lounge available to Priority Pass in Sydney? Really? What are you thinking, Amex?
    No member give thanks

  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    8 Jun, 2019 08:27 am

    No PP lounge in SYD isn't Amex's fault. PP act independently of Amex, they are separate company. In fact Amex has its own lounge in SYD.

    Of course I'm not happy with Amex either. I think the best way is to vote with our feet. Just cancel the card. Personally that's what I'm doing. Cancel, wait for 18 months and come back for another sign up bonus. The more people cancel, the bigger the sign up bonus will be. Just look at Citiprestige, after they screwed up with the earn rates and conversion rate, no doubt they lost lots of customers. So they are offering a whopping 410k sign up bonus (equivalent to 150-200k FFP) to get more customers.
    No member give thanks

  • wodfrey

    wodfrey

    8 Jun, 2019 12:57 pm

    After a bit of discussion and capturing my feedback, Amex apologised and authorised a $20 credit to my card as goodwill, with no news on any other changes. I mean, it's not nothing... Completely agree that caps for reasonable use make far more sense than an outright ban.
    No member give thanks

  • bert

    bert

    9 Jun, 2019 03:22 pm

    The whole thing defies common sense, of course it was going to be abused. Now they throw out the baby with the bath water. A set of limitations could have saved the pp access for the majority of us the didn't abuse it.
    No member give thanks

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20 Jun, 2019 01:41 am

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