Priority Pass Background
This is my review of using Priority Pass (PP) at PF Chang’s at LAX. If you just want to read the review, feel free to skip down because first is a little background on Priority Pass and the strategies I use. Priority Pass changed flying for me. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, Priority Pass is a membership that gives you access to over 1200 airport lounges around the world. These havens away from the clamor of the terminals make travel much more enjoyable and most provide free food and drinks. Score! You can pay for a Priority Pass membership outright, or you can get it for free through various credit cards. I have mine through my favorite credit card of all time, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR). This provides free Priority Pass Select membership which allows the user and up to two guests access into their network of lounges, free of charge.
One of the exciting additions to the program is the growing number of restaurants that are being added. If you use your Priority Pass card at one of these restaurants, you usually get something like a $28 credit. And it stacks with guests. Bring a friend and get $56. This option often adds better value than a lounge as it provides real food, not just the veggies and hummus you get at some of the less than stellar lounges. You can visit multiple lounges on one day, so you could grab dinner and then head over to the lounge to get a free drink after.
LAX Lounge Strategy
I was very excited when Priority Pass added PF Chang’s to my home airport of LAX. I fly out of LAX for a majority of my trips, and I’m always excited for more options for what I like to call #loungeLife.
On my latest trip, I was flying to Canada for Christmas, so I arrived extra early to have lunch at PF Chang’s.
The only challenge with grabbing lunch at PF Chang’s is that the restaurant is located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). I was flying on United out of terminal 8, the opposite end of the airport. The good news is that TBIT through Terminal 8 is all connected airside, that is, past security. The bad news is they’re not connected conveniently, it’s a maze of underground tunnels, but you can walk the whole length.
Here’s a tip if you want to check out PF Chang’s but are flying American, Alaska, or United. Instead of going through security at your airline's terminal and having to walk to TBIT, go through TSA at TBIT and head straight to PF Chang’s. Then after you’ve spent your free $28, you only have to walk back to your terminal, saving you half the walking. Note, this only works if you just have a carry on as you do have to check your bag with your airline. You may already know this, but you don’t have to go through security in the terminal you’re flying out of. LAX also has a general “Same-day boarding pass” policy that lets you go through security in any terminal, regardless of what's on your boarding pass. This is cool in theory, but it only really works on the south side of the terminal. If you had hours to kill and wanted to use your Priority Pass at Rock n Brews in Terminal 1, but were flying on American, you could, by all means, go through security at Southwest’s terminal. But since the terminals aren’t connected, you'd have to go through security again at American (or a connecting terminal) to get to your gate.
Another fantastic feature of the CSR is the $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. I opted for the Global Entry as it also includes PreCheck. The Precheck line at TBIT at the time of writing was at the south side of the terminal. Or, as you’re walking in, in the left corner. There are agents at the escalators checking boarding passes so if you’re not sure if you're in the right spot for PreCheck, they can point you in the right direction. Hardly anyone was inline at Precheck. TBIT has also recently added the newer style checkpoints with conveyor fed bin stations. This idea is so much more efficient than what most American airports have I hope it gets adopted quickly.
PF Chang’s at LAX Review
Once through security, you head into the central TBIT atrium: a vast, open space full of shops and dominated by a gigantic LED wall to the west and a large LED “clock tower” to the north. PF Chang’s is a little hard to find, but as you enter the atrium, head north, your right, and walk towards the clock tower. There’s an escalator on the left of the clock tower that takes you up to a mezzanine where the restaurant is located.
Once you’re at the top, there should be a hostess stand where you register your Priority Pass card. It is also a traditional restaurant that seats non PP members too, but if you want to use your Pass, you have to register it with the host to receive your $28. Because it was Dec 20 I knew the airport would be getting busy with Christmas travel, so I arrived about 2 hours before my flight departure. It was lunch time, and there was quite a line waiting to check in at the hostess station.
It took 15 minutes till it was my turn and the hostess explained their card reader was broken. Indeed, it took a minute or two after she scanned my card to validate. She gave me my receipt for $28, and I headed to the large bar so I wouldn't have to wait for a table. I often travel solo, and I always like to sit at the bar if possible. This bar isn’t great if you're wanting to get work done or charge your devices. There are no chargers under the bar, but near the back wall there a counter with outlets that you could use to charge.
The menu is somewhat paired down from the normally extensive PF Chang’s menu and is divided into Wok Fried Entrees, Rice and Noodles, Market Sides, Soups, Dim Sum, Street Fare Sushi, Salads, Kids and Drinks. There are several vegetarian and GF options and a couple that are Vegetarian and GF. You aren’t limited to spending only $28, you can spend as much as you want, but you’ll have to cover anything over $28.
I chose the always classic Lettuce wraps ($15.99) and to try to come in as close to the $28 as I could, the Spicy Tuna Roll ($14.10). These prices are definitely airport inflated, as at my PF Chang’s in Pasadena they’re $11.50 and $11.95, respectively. I don’t know if it was the lunch rush or what, but it took 20 minutes for my lettuce wraps to come out. I was glad I had arrived extra early. The lettuce wraps are a standby for a good reason. I was on a low carb diet at the time, so they’re a great option for protein without the carbs. The chicken was nice and warm, and the lettuce was fresh and crisp and separated into nice, wrappable pieces. The flavor is teriyaki and peanut-y. They taste best with the zingy ginger sauce that is served on the side. 15 minutes later, my sushi roll still hadn't come out. I was starting to worry about my departure, so I asked several times to make sure it was actually happening. It could have been the lunch rush, the Christmas rush, and the bartender said they were short staffed, but it seemed like a very long wait time, and no one was especially apologetic.
When the sushi roll came out, it was very disappointing. I guess I shouldn’t expect much from airport sushi, and maybe one shouldn’t order sushi at PF Chang’s. The roll felt old and dry, not very cool or fresh. It seemed like it had been sitting out a while. The roll wasn’t served with any soy sauce, just a small dollop of wasabi, some pickled ginger and surprisingly, a few dots of sriracha sauce. The rice was dry and lacked flavor. Didn’t seem like they used sushi vinegar. The tuna itself was decidedly fishy, but I rolled the dice and ate the whole roll without any ill effects.
By now my 2-hour early arrival was almost all used up, and I wanted to cash out. The bartenders handle the bill at the bar, but mine was either constantly preoccupied or nowhere to be seen. Since my bill was slightly over the $28 I left cash to cover the rest and provide a tip. A good point to note is the $28 can’t be used towards gratuity, but please tip your servers just like you would at a typical restaurant. If you don’t have cash, you can always try to go over your $28 and use a card to pay for the rest so you can leave a tip on that. Or if you’re going to be under, ask your server for a drink or something small that you can pay with your card and leave a tip on that receipt. You’re getting $28 for free, so please be kind to your servers who are dealing with grumpy travelers all day.
I didn’t have the best experience at PF Chang’s, but for a free meal, I won’t complain too much, I just won’t order the sushi next time!
PF Chang’s is located in TBIT on the mezzanine level by the LED tower.
Arrive early, budgeting at least an hour for the meal and then extra time to walk back to your terminal.
It took about 20 minutes of brisk walking to make it from PF Chang’s to my gate in T8
Don’t order the sushi
A free $28 lunch is always worth it, just tip your servers.