$28 Free Food on Every Trip is the Best Advance in Travel in Years

Whether it’s Timberline Steaks in Denver or Corona Beach House in Miami, or Capers in Portland there are numerous airports where you can eat for free with a Priority Pass card. To be sure in some places the $28 per person credit you get covers gratuity and in others it doesn’t, but it’s still an incredible value.


Timberline Steaks Denver


Corona Beach House Miami

I love a great airport lounge, a quiet and uncrowded place to work with power outlets, comfortable seating, and that’s well-provisioned with food and beverages. That doesn’t describe most lounges in the U.S., at least most US airline lounges other than United’s Polaris and American’s Flagship lounges.

On the whole the lounges that you can access via Priority Pass are fairly mediocre though there are exceptions. However if you’re going to be in a crowded lounge without much food, wouldn’t you rather be in a restaurant if you didn’t have to pay for the food and drink?


Smoked Salmon Bagel from Capers Market in Portland

I really do like the increased options that Priority Pass provided when they started adding airport restaurants to their portfolio. It was a brilliant business move. They’re being paid for each use, so they make more money if they can boost usage. More airport coverage boosts usage, and people love free food. Here’s how much Priority Pass pays restaurants for your meal.

I think my favorite Priority Pass restaurant option is Bobby Van’s at JFK. When you get through security in New York JFK’s Terminal 8, which houses American Airlines and several other oneworld carriers (Qantas, Cathay Pacific, LATAM, Royal Jordanian, part of Qatar) immediately to your right is Bobby Van’s Steakhouse.

It’s actually quite a large facility, with a bar and tables near the entrance but an additional full room back behind the bar. As a result (and also because American’s terminal never seems that busy, even on a Thursday afternoon between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.) in my experience there’s never been a wait for a table.

The thing about this place is they know Priority Pass. Surely about half the customers there are using a Priority Pass to provide a $28 credit (and in many cases, $28 per guest up to 2 guests). They know all the variations, too, including Lounge Key showing your credit card and not a separate membership card. They are familiar at the host stand, and the servers all know the drill too.

They even have a pre-printed set of directions.

That said they actually have a detail wrong here. Their sheet says Priority Pass comes with one $28 credit plus one $28 credit for a guest. Some Priority Pass cards may charge for a guest, and some come with more than one guest credit included.

Contrary to rules noted on the Priority Pass website they don’t check for a same day boarding pass. That could be useful for airport and airline employees. In fact I am shocked that I almost never see airline employees taking advantage of Priority Pass restaurant benefits. You’d think that a flight attendant based at JFK could eat here on the way out and on the way back in.

To be sure though they’re trained to offer details on their own airline’s cards they may not be expert on the cards that come with Priority Pass, and they may not be in the market for the sort of premium cards that bundle Priority Pass (although they aren’t all $450 cards).

Credit cards aside though a flight attendant could easily come out incredibly far ahead with a paid Priority Pass membership purchased directly.

Menus:

Appetizers and Salads


Sandwiches


Entrees


Entrees and Sides


Breakfast


Breakfast

I haven’t ever had a steak here. Usually I just want something to pick at, while I grab a seat by a power outlet and work on my laptop using the American Airlines Flagship Lounge wireless internet (the airport has free wifi as well, and it’s provided by Boingo, several American Express cards come with premium Boingo access).


Burger and Fries


Tuna burger


Chili


Fried Calamari

I do wish there were more seats with outlets, though very few seem to ask for one and as I say the place never seems to be completely full. Walking up to the restaurant recently I was behind a woman who was clearly confused. She knew she got to go to Bobby Van’s with her Priority Pass card, but she didn’t entirely understand it was a restaurant and not a lounge. They were seating her and she kept asking “where the lounge area is?”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I wish PIT had restaurants in priority pass now that they let people without boarding passes go airside. I’d crush this perk (parking is free for the first hour and just $2 for the second hour).

  2. While I appreciate the restaurant benefit – BV at jfk has HUGE hamburger (12 oz – who but men and teenagers eats this much?) and the fries/onion rings IME were soggy and inedible. The calamari was’t available. I’d love to be able to utilize this for something I can actually eat – but still – I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth – as they say. Still a children’s burger instead of a $45 steak?

  3. It would be great to have a complete survey of this benefit to include all credit cards providing the benefit and all participating restaurants.

  4. @Stvr: I agree. Adding restaurants is good for Priority Pass in the short run but bad for credit card members in the long run. Banks will find a way to cut this benefit. It must be costing them a mint.

  5. The first blogger to announce this to airline employees will literally END the program for everyone. Isn’t there a way for you to blog without telling everyone everything?

  6. Corona Beach House in Mia sucks. Lousy service and food, overcrowded. It’s back to the Centurion Lounge for me next time. Yes, many PP lounges are mediocre but at least they are fast and functional. The few restaurants I have tried have been slow, stressful experiences with food that I would not otherwise ever want. Great to have this option but for me I’d rather see more/better lounges

  7. Why does nobody talk about the Rocky Mountain Oysters at Timberline whenever we talk about PP at Denver? I can’t understand why there isn’t a more refined sense of gutter humor from this audience.

  8. I am very uncomfortable with you encouraging flight attendants to use the Priority Pass restaurants. Obviously, the program is intended for passengers — who will only occasionally visit the restaurants — and not airport employees who are there every day. Priority Pass obviously can’t afford daily visits from staff. Indeed, in Miami, the Corona Lounge used to allow the credit to be used on takeout. Last time I was there, they told me they stopped it because employees kept grabbing to-go snacks.

  9. Love this new benefit. I eat at the Cafe von Mise en Place regularly at TPA, and the food / service is consistently very good to excellent.

    In fact, I find myself going here now instead of to the AAdmirals club next door since a proper meal or a nice single malt (or two) is much more enjoyable than the lounge (though TPA AC is quite good).

    Hope to see more restaurants join – I’m a fan.

  10. How is the good at Bonny Vans? Couldn’t tell if you liked it just because of the relative tranquility, or you actually like to eat there. Something to pick on isn’t a rousing endorsement

  11. @Beachfan –Bobby Van’s steak is good, especially for an airport restaurant. But it’s also quite expensive. If you’re travelling with someone, use 2 credits and split one that includes a side (they let you do that). It’s enough food for 2. I’ve had the hamburger and, like others, have been underwhelmed (but it’s obviously still decent “free” food).

    Personally, I like the Timberline at DEN more. The steak isn’t quite as good, but the prices are so much lower that you can get a better meal for your PP credit.

  12. Timberline in DEN is s much nicer than any of the lounge options for food. Plus I enjoy their window seats, it’s nice to see outside while waiting at an airport.

  13. As for flight crews eating at PP restaurants ,aren’t they limited to so many passes per year ? If so this would limit the amount of overcrowding caused by them to insignificant .
    Also Miracle Lounge at DMK , post security , was not bad , quiet and not crowded.

  14. There are better options than Corona Beach House (which is OK, but not great) in MIA – Air Margaritaville, for one. Very nice breakfast here. Of course, outside security, so only works if MIA is an O/D airport. Viena is also quite nice.

    Cheers.

  15. I don’t know if Chase is working on this, but I love how the Amex app alerts to me lounges when I land and turn my phone on. Was in STL and didn’t realize PP had restaurants there.

  16. How does one find a list of airport restaurants that participate? I cannot find anywhere on the Priority Pass website.

  17. Caper’s Market is the best I’ve found so far, and there’s 2 locations at PDX. Also use Yankee Pier and SF Clubhouse at SFO and Timberline Grill at my home airport in Denver. Only downside of Timberline is it’s in C concourse (Southwest only) so I have to show up super early and eat in C then take the train back to B for my flight.

    I laughed at your story at the end with the woman asking where the lounge was. I love how poeple get Priority Pass and think they are part of this special secret club, like, no lady, we all have it and you’re just the same as everyone else.

  18. So can you eat at one of the restaurants and then still go into a Priority Pass Lounge if you have time to kill?

  19. @Juli,

    Yup. We’ve gone to as many as two restaurants (for snacks and drinks) and a lounge. We each have a card, so we did use separate ones on a couple of occasions, but wouldn’t have had to.

    Cheers.

  20. So I recently noticed 2 things for the first time at SFO….
    1) they asked for my boarding pass, hasn’t been down previously. The rule is same day, but nothing about departure. Curious if anyone has experienced pushback from restaurants if attempting to go in UPON ARRIVAL and showing your same day BP? I guess taking a red-eye flight will technically elimate passengers from doing this since you would be landing on a different calendar date vs. departure.
    2) I saw an airline captain come in for a to-go/take out order and they didn’t ask her for a BP. So are they giving special allowances for airline personnel?

  21. All the places I’ve looked at the indicated a BP say “confirmed same day travel.”: They don’t specify departure, so the red-eye would be valid on arrival. The times we’ve used a lounge on arrival, they never did ask for a BP, but I would not expect to be challenged since we do have “confirmed same day travel.”

    Cheers.

  22. If my priority pass doesn’t allow guests, can I still bring a guest (or even two) in but only order $28 worth of food to share? Will they still charge me for the two guests (and in turn the bank will charge me)?

  23. Went to Bobby Van’s twice in the last two weeks flying to/from Australia. It is interesting they never seem to check boarding passes. Also the PP credit can’t be used for the gratutity. But when I was there Tuesday, I did see a woman in an AA uniform and her friend sitting at the table next to mine. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight attendants only make an average of $44860/year. So while it’s true the math would work out in the long run, I don’t see most of them justifying a $450/$550 annual fee for the perk.

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