The greatest airport hack we’ve ever seen: Portland International Airport

AHHH, Portland; the land of bridges, pine trees, IPAs and dirty, dirty hipsters. We love you, Portland! We love your donut culture, your beautiful green spaces and your weird affinity for tater tots. And as if we needed another reason to love this city, Chrissy and I stumbled upon a BIG Priority Pass airport hack at PDX that ended up getting us over $140 worth of airport food and drinks – for free. This one might even rival the drink-your-face-off airport hack we found at the Singapore airport. Sit tight people, this one’s a doozy!

Before we get to the hack, we need to share some context on the Priority Pass. The Priority Pass is a travel membership organization that allows access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. Each lounge is slightly different, but for the most part they offer free snacks, coffee, booze and a comfy place to park your butt. Membership ordinarily comes at a cost of between $99-$399 per year with additional costs (usually $27) per lounge visit depending on the package you choose, not a particularly good deal if you ask us!

Priority Pass Membership Options

Enter: the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

A credit card sent down from the travel gods to bless our safe (and cheap, and comfortable) passage. Chrissy and I both applied for the Reserve during their 80k sign up bonus special a year ago. Besides the crazy sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a cornucopia of additional free travel perks including Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check and, you guessed it, PRIORITY PASS! That means Chase foots the bill for any of the Priority Pass mischief we get ourselves into, including “lounge hopping” at LAX (another story for another time).

Okay, back to Portland. While fishing through the airport website for the locations of the airport’s Priority Pass lounges, Chrissy discovered something that we had never seen before: A number of establishments at the PDX airport offer a credit of $28 per person ($56 for you and your companion) for each Priority Pass holder. Since Chrissy and I both had Priority Pass, that means that we had the potential for $112 worth of free shenanigans at the airport (Did I mention there’s no sales tax in Oregon?!). You’d sooner find me drinking out of the toilet than shelling out $4 for a bottle of airport water; so for me this was HUGE.

Upon reviewing the Priority Pass site for PDX, we found that there are THREE places in the airport where you can redeem this credit:

  1. Capers Cafe Le Bar (Concourse C): Cafe serving pastries, pastas, sandwiches, salads, soups and even wine-to-go!
  2. Capers Market (Concourse D): small market with a selection of to-go food, wine, beer, and boutique-y food products like jams, sauces, etc.
  3. House Spirits Distillery (Concourse C): Yes, a #$%^ing distillery! Whiskey flights, spirits flights and craft cocktails.
Capers Cafe in PDX Aiport – Concourse C

Chrissy and I sat at the Capers Cafe for nearly an hour deliberating how we were going to deploy our credit. We could get a big lunch and a bottle of wine at the Cafe, then grab a to-go dinner and some travel beers from the market; Or lunch and a to-go dinner from the Cafe and a healthy drinking session at the distillery; Or lunch and a to-go bottle of wine at the Cafe, and to-go lunch and beers from the Market. With $112 to spend, the permutations were seemingly endless!

The $4.40 bill at Capers Cafe.

While we deliberated our options, we wondered if we couldn’t double down and redeem $112 at each establishment, which would bring our total airport credit to a whopping $336. After all, administratively we were able to lounge-hop at other airports, and the $28 credit per person at PDX roughly matched the $27/person single usage fee for the Priority Pass. Ultimately we chickened out and just used Chrissy’s Priority Pass at the Caper’s Cafe to get two pasta dishes for lunch and a hummus/pita plate and chicken Caesar salad to go for dinner on the plane (Total: $60.40, $4.40 out-of-pocket). We then moved on to the Market at Concourse D (only a short 5 minute walk away from Concourse C) to get two waters and four bottles of delicious Oregon beer and cider to take back home (Total: $55.80, $0.00 out-of-pocket) – this time using my Priority Pass.

The spoils of travel hacking (that one one the left is a $22 beer!)

Technically, each Priority Pass member is only supposed to redeem their credit at PDX once per day, but with only 10 minutes left before boarding, I couldn’t help wondering “what if?”

So I said screw it, and hopped into the Distillery on the way to our gate to see if my pass would work a second time. Lo-and-behold, not 1-minute later I was sitting at a table with a flight of four craft whiskeys in front of me. If we wanted, we could have each gotten a flight and two cocktails all for free! 

$28 Sampler flight of 4 whiskeys plus 2 cocktails.
My flight of 4 whiskeys – for free.

That means, that two people, each with a Priority Pass, there is the potential to have as much as $336 worth of food and fun at PDX each day. If I lived in Portland I’d seriously consider heading to the airport once a week with a refundable ticket just for the insane travel credit. At the very least, I plan on budgeting ample time on both inbound and outbound flights to take full advantage!

You better plan your Portland trip soon, because it probably won’t be long before Priority Pass catches on to this and does away with the airport credit all together! Happy Travels!

2 thoughts on “The greatest airport hack we’ve ever seen: Portland International Airport

  1. I’m totally blown away with what the two of you always seem to come up with and love the fact that you always share !! Love you guys and sorry that Bec and i didn’t get to see you both when you were up in our neck of the woods !!

Comments are closed.