July is upon us and that means both Mastercard and Visa Canada are now officially utilizing DragonPass as their business class lounge access provider. Earlier this year Rewards Canada was first to break the news of this unexpected switch for both brands. Mastercard began making the switch throughout April and May while Visa officially launched with DragonPass on July 1st. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with DragonPass’ Andrew Harrison-Chinn about the programs for both issuers and what Canadians can expect from them in the near future.
What is DragonPass?
Most Canadians are familiar with Priority Pass, which is a third party business class lounge program that you can buy annual memberships with or receive that annual membership from their credit cards. Virtually any credit card in Canada that has or had business class lounge provided as a a benefit used Priority Pass until this year.
Recommended reading: Rewards Canada’s Guide to Business Class Lounge Access
DragonPass is basically the same, it is a lounge access program that competes with Priority Pass however by virtue of Priority Pass having held a near monopoly in Canada the DragonPass name was unknown. That changed in 2021 when Plaza Premium lounges, who happen to operate the most third party lounges in Canada, announced a split from Priority Pass to join up with DragonPass. While some Plaza Premium lounges did remain in Priority Pass after some negotiations, none of the 13 Canadian lounges were part of that negotiated outcome so now it makes more sense as to why as DragonPass has now become the de facto credit card lounge access program in Canada.
The new lounge access programs are known as:
|Once you register your eligible card you can use the Mastercard Travel Pass app as your
membership card and to access the lounges or avail of any of the other benefits provided
Canadian Lounge Additions
When the news came out earlier this year of DragonPass taking over the programs for Visa and Mastercard there were a couple of notable lounges and dining options in Canada that were missing from DragonPass. Those notable lounges were the Aspire Salon Lounge in Ottawa and WestJet’s Elevation lounge in Calgary.
This was one of the first questions I posed to Andrew as to whether we could expect these lounges to be added and he was quick to let me know that Ottawa has recently joined DragonPass, so both Visa and Mastercard members flying out of or via Ottawa do have lounge access at YOW now!
As for the WestJet Elevation Lounge, Andrew told Rewards Canada that DragonPass is working hard for it as they would love to have the lounge as part of their network so there is a domestic travel option in YYC..
|You can always check the app or the Mastercard Travel Pass
website to see which lounges are available for you to access
Some of our readers stated they were not happy with the switch to DragonPass as they really enjoyed using the Priority Pass restaurant options in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Andrew informed me that Priority Pass has recently removed nearly all their restaurant options in Canada. I double checked this and Andrew is correct, in Toronto and Vancouver there are no longer dining options with Priority Pass, however the program does retain a trio of restaurants in Montreal..
In Canada, DragonPass only had dining options domestically in Calgary, whilst offering many dining options globally. Andrew told me they are consistently having discussion with operators about adding more dining options within Canada. The launch of Visa Airport Companion in July will see the first restaurants made available in Canada. While DragonPass were the ones who pioneered dining options being added to these lounge access programs, Priority Pass followed suit and seemed to have eclipsed them in that effort – particularly stateside. DragonPass is aware of the popularity of this option so they are looking to grow it as much as they can although lounges are still their number one focus.
Lounge Access in the United States
I also asked about U.S. lounge and dining options seeing that the U.S. is the second most popular travel destination for Canadians after domestic travel and Andrew also stated they are making a big push in that market as well. They recently added more Virgin Clubhouses to the program since those are now managed by Plaza Premium and also have Air France and Lufthansa lounges stateside but the program is still noticeably weaker in the U.S. than Priority Pass. Andrew did say he knows how big of market the U.S is for Canadians and they are working diligently to make their program stronger south of the border and thus are working on adding even more lounges and dining options.
Mastercard Travel Pass and Visa Airport Companion are more than lounges & dining
Andrew let us know the program they are operating for Mastercard and Visa Canada will be more than lounge access and dining as they will tapping in to their existing and upcoming partnership and agreements from around the world. For example, Canadian World and World Elite Mastercard holders will have access to some of the global DragonPass benefits beyond lounges. One of which is priority security access, launching on Mastercard Travel Pass towards the end of summer at over 60 airports, most of which are in Europe and APAC. This feature allows holders of eligible cards to pay to have fast track security access. Andrew did mention they are looking to expand this benefit to Canada however with Amex and Visa having a lock on it at several Canadian airports it is a tough benefit for them to crack here.
You can expect other benefits and features to come to both programs as well.
|The Visa Companion app not only provides details on lounges
but also dining and retail benefits that are part of the program
How has the reception been to DragonPass?
DragonPass has been really busy at getting these programs up and running in Canada with a lot of work taking place behind the scenes and now more of it will be directed towards the consumers. Andrew mentioned the Mastercard uptake by mid-June could be considered soft but this is/was due to many credit card issuers still listing Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey. That is quickly changing however in all of the issuing bank’s marketing efforts and with Visa just launching we can expect the numbers of cardholders to increase significantly over the coming months. I would believe once it does take off we’ll see DragonPass add even more options and benefits for Canadian cardholders.
DragonPass for those who don’t have premium Mastercard or Visa cards
Just like Priority Pass, travellers can also buy a membership to DragonPass if they don’t receive membership via their credit card. This is the pass you want if you want to discounted or unlimited
access to Canadian Plaza Premium lounges. With these paid memberships you have
access to over 1,300 lounges around the world.
Tip: Sometimes you can purchase single entry passes for Plaza Premium via DragonPass with prices lower than Plaza Premium themselves!
The three levels of membership that DragonPass provides are as follows
- Classic Membership – full annual fee US$99
Classic Membership includes 1 visit up front.
Additional visits are charged at a cost of US$31 per person per visit.
Guests are charged US$31 per visit.
- Preferential Membership – full annual fee US$219
Preferential Membership includes 8 visits up front.
Additional visits are charged at US$31 per visit. Guests are charged
US$31 per visit.
- Prestige Membership – full annual fee US$399
Prestige membership Includes unlimited lounge visits for the member. Guests are charged US$31 per visit.
Website for purchasing memberships: en.dragonpass.com.cn
Wrapping it up
Prior to 2021, DragonPass was a virtual unknown in the North American market even though it was available to residents here with a program comparable to Priority Pass. Thankfully for DragonPass they were able to make the agreement with one of the world’s largest third party lounge operators in Plaza Premium and the largest in Canada that would set the ball rolling for what we see in the market today. Enter the Dragon – DragonPass has now taken over as the primary lounge membership program in Canada and I only believe this is the beginning. I feel like they will be going after the U.S. and other North American markets after this once they get a real good feel for things here in Canada.
Click here to learn more about the credit cards in Canada that provide business class lounge access.
All images courtesy of DragonPass