How to Eat For Free in Airports
Readers, it has been A WEEK. PCS is never a pleasant experience, but it’s that much more exciting when your packing crew is fresh out of packing crew boot camp. It makes the guessing game of how much of your stuff will actually survive the move an edge of your seat experience. It gets EVEN MORE exciting when you take your car in for a quick repair before your 28-hour drive and it deadlines for 2-3 weeks. Hence, I am now flying to my next duty station in order to close on our house on time. Have you ever procured an award saver ticket at a cost of 12.5k miles for departure in less than 18 hours? I just did. Churning for the win.
So, I posted on the facebook group about my free meal experience at the Timberline Lodge in the Denver airport and a loyal reader and good friend inquired about which card gained this benefit. Never passing up an opportunity to educate (draw site traffic) I seized the initiative to post another article. In short, the restaurant meal was free because of my Priority Pass membership.
Priority Pass is a lounge access membership to a lot of smaller fringe lounges around the world. It has a much better following outside CONUS where lounges seem to be more one-off entities rather than your standard United Clubs, Admirals Clubs, or Sky Clubs. It’s also an easy way for card companies to “offer lounge access” with their cards since Priority Pass is an already established lounge network and the card companies just need to buy you a membership. This results in a lot of avenues to a Priority Pass membership.
Multiple Priority Passes
The following cards grant you a Priority pass membership at various levels and they stack, meaning you will get a separate membership by owning each card: Amex Platinum, Hilton Aspire, Hilton Surpass, Bonvoy Brilliant, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ritz Carlton, Citi Prestige, US Bank Altitude Reserve, and the Luxury Card Black and Gold Cards. You would think that one is enough since you only need one way to access a lounge in the network, but you’d be wrong.
Seemingly to combat the lack of CONUS lounge availability in the Priority Pass network, Priority Pass decided to offer a restaurant credit in addition to their lounge network. This credit is $28 off your bill, per guest, at participating restaurants. Typically, your membership will have a limit of yourself plus two guests, giving a max benefit per visit of $84. That’s a pretty sweet bill credit that can be exploited by asking random travelers in the airport if they’d like a free drink with you. Unfortunately, Amex nixed this benefit on all their Priority Pass memberships on 01SEP19, so your options for eating free are now Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, Ritz Carlton, and US Bank Altitude Reserve.
Multiple Restaurant Benefits
So, this begs the question, if you have 4 Priority Pass memberships that allow the restaurant benefit, can you just cycle through the memberships and eat for hours for free? It depends. I think a lot will, but the Timberline Lodge in Denver, which has seen a massive influx of patrons from their acceptance into the Priority Pass network, only receive $23 or $24 (depending on the source you read) per $28 credit from Priority Pass. It must make sense for them to be in-network if everyone only gets one credit though because I’ve tried before using multiple memberships and broke their system. From the Priority Pass side, you can cycle one membership every 2 hours and use multiple memberships without restriction. From the Timberline Lodge side, you as a person can use one $28 credit per 24 hour period.
This brings me to why I’m currently writing this article from a United Club lounge. Since Priority Pass doesn’t care that I have four memberships with the restaurant credit, I can use them all at the Timberline Lodge as long as the Timberline Lodge doesn’t remember me from earlier and swipes my next in line Priority Pass card. The names will be the same, and I will look the same, but the memberships will be different and thus I can cycle my membership credits so long as no one recognizes me from earlier. Thus, I have left the Timberline Lodge to write this article in the United Club for an hour and will be hopping the tram back over to Timberline for credit number two during my 7 hours of layover today.
Wish me luck.