Some bad news for many of our readers holding a Priority Pass membership, usually as part of their credit card perks, with the revelation that most of the popular Plaza Premium lounges globally will stop accepting admission to members from 1st July 2021.
While they don’t tend to reach the same standards as airline-operated lounges, third-party Plaza Premium facilities are broadly popular because they are usually decent, dependable facilities towards the upper end of the quality scale in this category.
This development also impacts the LoungeKey membership, issued by HSBC and some other banks. LoungeKey is effectively a subset of Priority Pass (both are owned by UK-based Collinson International), however you cannot buy LoungeKey access – it is always linked to your credit card.
Some credit cards will retain access
Luckily for our readers holding the American Express Platinum Charge card and the OCBC Voyage card, Plaza Premium lounge access will continue to be available, though the guest allowance does vary.
For example, if you hold a Citi Prestige card and an OCBC Voyage card, you would have been using the Priority Pass from Citi to access the Plaza Premium lounge at Changi T1 when travelling as a couple, due to the complimentary guest allowance.
From 1st July 2021, you’ll have to use your OCBC Voyage card to gain access, which does not include any guest allowance and will therefore attract a charge of US$36 for your partner to join you.
Plaza Premium’s partnership with DragonPass will continue, meaning those holding some ICBC and CIMB cards, plus UOB Visa Infinite Metal cardholders, will still benefit.
The Maybank Horizon Visa Signature card also retains access to the Plaza Premium lounges at Changi Airport.
You can also prebook paid access to Plaza Premium lounges, for example it’s US$43 to access the Changi Airport Terminal 1 facility for up to 5 hours. Walk-in payment is also available at most locations, subject to space constraints.
How many lounges are we losing?
Not all Plaza Premium lounges were part of the Priority Pass programme anyway, but most (66 out of 76) were.
At London Heathrow, for example, the Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 2 currently accepts Priority Pass, but the one in Terminal 5 does not.
In Jakarta, the (rather good) Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 3, used by Singapore Airlines for First and Business Class passengers plus PPS Club members, also doesn’t accept Priority Pass.
Overall therefore the worst case is probably around 60 lounges disappearing from the two programmes, since it’s already been confirmed that some will remain.
Which lounges are staying?
While most Plaza Premium lounges will not be available to Priority Pass and LoungeKey members from 1st July 2021, some will be retained.
The list of lounges staying in the programmes has not yet been revealed, however, with Priority Pass telling Head for Points:
“Certain Plaza Premium lounges will be removed from the Priority Pass Programme as of July 1st 2021. Due to the recent nature of this change, we are in the process of communicating with our members. We already have alternative lounges in operation for many of the locations and for the remainder we are undergoing sourcing of new partners.”Priority Pass
Plaza Premium also told them there would be “a small number of lounges still under review” which will remain accessible to Priority Pass members, again declining at this stage to confirm which ones they might be.
What it means in Singapore
There are two Plaza Premium lounges at Singapore Changi Airport, in Terminal 1 and Terminal 4.
We rate the Terminal 1 facility as one of the best Priority Pass options at the airport (though it’s currently closed due to COVID-19). It would be a shame to see it removed from the Priority Pass and LoungeKey networks by the time it reopens and we all get travelling again, though that now seems likely.
The Blossom Lounge in Terminal 4 is a different matter, because it is a joint venture between SATS and Plaza Premium, so we expect this lounge will continue to be accessible via the Priority Pass and LoungeKey memberships, even from July 2021.
We have contacted Plaza Premium and Priority Pass to check whether these two lounges are among those “under review” for retention in the access programme, but no response has been received so far.
It’s probably safe to say at this stage that the Blossom Lounge in T4 is the only one of the pair at Changi that will probably remain part of the Priority Pass scheme.
What is left at Changi?
Luckily for most of our readers there is no shortage of third-party lounges at Changi Airport, so the loss of the single Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 1 should be only a minor inconvenience.
Once travel restarts and all terminals reopen, assuming the existing lounges follow suit, there is still a wide selection of options available.
- Dnata Lounge
- SATS Premier Lounge
- TBC (redevelopment ongoing, however two non-Plaza Premium third party lounges were previously available)
What about the rest of the region?
This is where it gets as bit more serious.
In Kuala Lumpur, the removal of a sole Plaza Premium Lounge in KLIA1 and all three Plaza Premium Lounges in KLIA2 will leave Priority Pass holders without a single option at the airport.
The Plaza Premium Lounge in KLIA1 is now the Singapore Airlines third-party lounge, since the permanent closure of the airline’s own SilverKris facility there.
In Hong Kong, the removal of all Plaza Premium lounges from Priority Pass would also leave a total void of options there.
In Taipei, available lounges would reduce from five to one. In New Delhi, all current Priority Pass lounges are Plaza Premium branded.
Priority Pass will have its work cut out arranging alternatives at these airports by July 2021.
Is there more to this?
Plaza Premium has promised to update on “further developments” related to this partnership change in due course, suggesting this isn’t the end of the story.
Indeed Rob at Head for Points, who had a world exclusive on the news before it was leaked elsewhere, has already hinted such, saying “there is more to this story than has been made public so far. I was hoping to get the final piece of the jigsaw during today which is why we were sitting on it”.
Our bet would be on Plaza Premium potentially setting up its own lounge membership programme, or perhaps doing a deal with a card provider like American Express.
Hopefully we’ll get some form of press release from Plaza Premium soon to shed more light on their post-Priority Pass future.
Plaza Premium (and LoungeKey, which is effectively the same thing) is ending its contract with Priority Pass from 1st July 2021… to some extent at least.
The final list of affected lounges is still awaited, though it’s probably safe to say that here in Singapore the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 will no longer be available through these programmes, while the Blossom Lounge in Terminal 4, when it finally reopens, should remain available.
While members will lose the majority of these lounges, probably around 60 worldwide, Priority Pass is working on new partners at the worst affected locations, so there should still be alternatives by the time we’re all travelling again.
Both sides are remaining tight-lipped for now, but hopefully we can bring you further details soon on which Plaza Premium lounges survive the Priority Pass cull and what potential future arrangements result from this change.
Hat-tip to Head for Points
(Cover Photo: Sorbis / Shutterstock)