Priority Pass is a popular airport lounge access program and for good reason. You can buy a membership or get the benefits of one (for free) with one of several premium credit cards (e.g., Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige, US Bank Altitude Reserve, etc.).

Not All Priority Pass Lounges Are Created Equal

I have Priority Pass memberships through the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum.  Priority Pass lounges provide a nice place to hang out on layovers to enjoy buffet food and an open bar—for free.

Typically, all you have to do is hand the lounge attendant that sweet, shiny, plastic, number-embossed membership card—and your meal, caffeine, booze, and to-go snacks are free.

*cue Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing*

The Priority Pass network also includes restaurants where membership gives you ~$28-30 credit per visit per guest (i.e., you and a guest receive $56-60 in restaurant credit by presenting your membership card). It’s one of the top reasons why I recommended the Chase Sapphire Reserve to my Aunty (to no avail)…

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Existing Restrictions

I was ecstatic when Timberline Steaks & Grille joined the Priority Pass network as it was the first and is still Denver’s only Priority Pass “lounge.” I’ve been to Timberline at least fifteen times in the past two years and they are starting to crack down on every loophole we have exposed.

  1. No More To-Go Orders or Takeaway Macarons.  I’ve never been asked to present a boarding pass before.  I’ve been in a line of twenty people arriving in Denver just to get takeaway Macarons.  I knew this wasn’t gonna last.
  2. No More Plus 2+’s.  Timberline now limits the $28 benefit to you and one other guest for a total $56 max credit per visit.  I’m not sure if this is how it’s always been but on several occasions, I’ve used my access for multiple friends.
  3. No More Stacking Priority Pass Memberships.  Timberline now limits “1 card per visit per Cardholder.”  I get it. I’m sad about it. But, I get it. I remember stacking both my memberships for me and two guests for a $168 credit.  It didn’t feel right. Remember, tip your servers generously.
  4. No More Amex Priority Pass Access.  American Express Priority Pass memberships will no longer include restaurants effective August 1, 2019.  It’s okay though.  The Denver Centurion Lounge is slated to open later this year and I couldn’t be more excited.
  5. No More “Quasi-Guests” and the “Point of Registration” Provision.  I unfortunately learned the definition last week.  I’ll discuss further.

Live and Learn, I Guess: Enforcement of the “Point of Registration” Guest Provision

My flight to Los Angeles was delayed by four hours last week so I found stalked and fought for a spot at the open-seating bar at Timberline Steaks & Grille.  The Timberline policy clearly states:

I get to the bar and tell my stellar bartender that (I’ll call him Keanu) I’m using my Priority Pass.  He didn’t take my card or “register me.” I order a dirty martini. Keanu responds, “How dirty? Miley Cyrus or Madonna circa 1986?”  I’ll never forget that. Remember, tip your servers generously.

I meet some fellow solo travelers who were also delayed and we start drinking.  We ask Keanu if we can buy each other drinks by using the guest credit.  Since none of us had been “registered” yet, he didn’t see why not. $56 of food and drinks later—one of the travelers asks the other bartender (we’ll call him Stone Cold Steve Austin) to close her tab.  She informed him that I needed to be registered as her guest.

He saw my Priority Pass on the counter and said, “You can’t do that. You guys aren’t together and he is using his Priority Pass.”  I told him that the five of us were registering each other as guests to maximize our Priority Pass. He became livid and raised his voice.  “You can’t do that.  We register you and a guest at the beginning and you aren’t registered as guests.”

I shouldn’t have spoken again but—two Madonna dirty martinis in…

“We were told by Keanu that this was okay.  We specifically asked him beforehand to avoid this situation.  You’re registering her right now. Can you just add a guest?”

“You’ll all have to leave if that’s what you’re trying to do.” It was extremely uncomfortable.

Keanu came back and honored his word with all of us.  We tipped him generously.

Takeaway: The Demise of the Friendly Traveler Loophole

Almost every Priority Pass lounge requires that you present your membership card for registration of you and your guests prior to entering. So, what does “point of registration” mean when dealing with restaurants? It depends on your luck.

I’ve bought and received drinks for/from strangers new friends at Timberline on at least five occasions through the Priority Pass.  Clearly, the only reason this is an issue is because some servers are registering restaurant patrons before they order and some are registering patrons when they close their tab.  It seems to me that Timberline is stilling working out bugs in their policies and procedures and that the “friendly traveler” Priority Pass loophole will soon come to an end completely.

Either way, loopholes are (kinda) like a box of chocolates: “you never know what you’re gonna get.” There are some that exist out there for folks like us to take advantage of to maximize our benefits. Others get shut down right away. And then, there’s always the element of chance.

The post Using The Priority Pass “Friendly Traveler” Loophole at Restaurants was first published on Coworkaholic.

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