Last week we wrote about the Blossom Lounge in Changi’s T4 surviving the recently announced cull of Plaza Premium lounges from the Priority Pass programme, effective from 1st July 2021, though as expected the Plaza Premium facility in T1 will sadly be axed from the scheme.
We also touched on Plaza Premium’s new ‘PPL Pass’ membership programme, a new scheme to give you access to these Plaza Premium lounges for an annual fee, based on your usage.
Plaza Premium has now added a little more colour on PPL Pass with an official launch announcement, setting out the programme as a strong future contender to the existing lounge access alternatives in the coming years.
Plaza Premium PPL Pass
For now, PPL Pass effectively just replaces the former Plaza Premium Lounge Gift Card.
The PPL Pass is a membership programme currently allowing access to 68 Plaza Premium Lounges. That covers most of Plaza Premiums’s 76 such facilities globally, a total that includes the brand’s ‘Plaza Premium First’ lounge collection.
It’s also worth noting that, rather unusually, the programme does not currently allow access to the Blossom Lounge at Changi T4, which is a joint venture between SATS and Plaza Premium.
While the number of lounges currently participating in the programme seems low at the moment, significant expansion is in the pipeline.
Plaza Premium is promising a huge increase in coverage to over 500 lounges worldwide in the next few years, positioning the scheme as a direct competitor to the likes of Priority Pass and DragonPass.
“The pass gives travellers direct access to over 60 Plaza Premium Lounges globally, the largest award-winning independent airport lounge network set to expand to over 500 lounges worldwide (including the Group’s own branded-lounges and airline affiliates) by 2024/25.”Plaza Premium
That means we will almost inevitably start to see PPL Pass increasingly offered as an alternative to the other lounge access programmes with a range of credit cards, which is how most of our readers currently snag their free visits during the year when flying in Economy Class.
You may recall in 2018 how the Citi PremierMiles card announced a shift from Priority Pass for complimentary lounge visits to a (very slimmed down) DragonPass alternative, before quickly u-turning on the idea, so the banks are certainly looking for a better deal where they can find one – without alienating all their cardholders in the process!
Pricing for PPL Pass starts at US$75 (S$100) for two annual visits, or US$68 (S$91) for Smart Traveller members until 31st May 2021, which represents a slight discount on the regular walk-in rate at the Changi T1 lounge (~S$58).
“For a limited time only, Smart Traveller members can enjoy an exclusive Early Bird offer until 31 May 2021, whereby PPL Pass can be purchased at a further 10% discount and with additional Arrture points.”Plaza Premium
Each lounge visit will cost from US$30, for those enrolling via Smart Traveller for six visits per year, up to around US$38 for those paying full price for a two-visit pass.
Membership and access is valid for one year after card activation.
“The PPL Pass is fully integrated with Smart Traveller, Plaza Premium Group’s global membership programme, providing travellers with a digitally driven experience in a single platform, and the best way of earning Arrture points and redeeming rewards.”Plaza Premium
Arrture points are accumulated every time you visit a Plaza Premium lounge and can be redeemed for future complimentary lounge visits within their three-year validity window.
Priority Pass will still have a bigger reach
Fresh from its ‘divorce’ with Plaza Premium, Priority Pass came back fighting recently with the announcement that it will add 150 airport lounges worldwide to the programme by the end of 2021, in addition to 100 new airport experiences and off-airport lounges.
This expansion likely cements the position of Priority Pass as the most useful airport lounge access membership programme for our readers, with upwards of 1,500 lounges on its global network.
However, it will still be very interesting to see which lounges are added to the PPL Pass programme, especially here in Singapore and other regional airports like Bangkok, where there will have to be good coverage to make the scheme worthwhile for most of our readers.
Given that Plaza Premium’s own lounges look unlikely to be available to Priority Pass holders going forward, holding a PPL Pass and Priority Pass membership in concert could turn out to be the perfect solution in the years to come.
Plaza Premium lounges, like the one at Changi T1, are generally regarded as ‘a cut above’ your average third-party pre-flight retreat, so they are definitely a worthwhile option to hold onto if you can.
It’s certainly not the right time for most of our Singapore-based readers to be buying a PPL Pass membership, with international travel still months away and many lounges both at Changi and overseas shuttered due to COVID-19.
What is interesting about PPL Pass, however, is its significant growth plans.
Indeed PPL Pass looks set to be nicely positioned to compete with the likes of Priority Pass and DragonPass in the future, and we expect to see complimentary membership packages offered with some credit cards going forward.
When that happens, it will potentially be a good strategy to hold at least one credit card giving you Priority Pass access and a different one with PPL Pass access, for example. That will ensure you’ve got the best of both worlds and retain access to the Plaza Premium-branded facilities at airports like Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.
It will also be interesting to see whether this significant expansion for PPL Pass has any impact on the future ability to access Plaza Premium lounges via the DragonPass programme and for American Express Platinum cardholders, as part of the Amex Global Lounge Collection.
Whatever happens, there are bound to be more changes in the coming years, the most interesting of which will be how and who PPL Pass partners with on the credit card side, both globally and here in Singapore.
(Cover Photo: Plaza Premium)