American Express announced fairly draconian new Centurion Lounge access restrictions yesterday. I view the policy change as a huge mistake.
First, I note that American Express has recognized the problem of overcrowding and is attempting to ameliorate it. That is commendable…and necessary.
But as far as I am concerned, it is going about it in the wrong way. Totally in the wrong way.
As of March 22, 2019, American Express will make two policy changes across its Centurion Lounge network for Platinum cardholders:
- Amex Centurion Lounge access will be limited to three hours or less prior to the originally scheduled departure time of a flight
- Centurion Lounge access will no longer be permitted upon arrival
- Children under two years of age will be admitted free of charge
- Previously, a member was allowed up to two guests, including babies
Centurion (Black) cardholders will still be able to access Centurion Lounges after a flight.
So AMEX will make its lounge more child-friendly but far less business friendly. While I am principally opposed to limiting member access, I could accept these changes if not for one thing: restricting access on arrival.
Don’t Limit Cardmember Access Upon Arrival
As I wrote last year:
The solution remains to limit guests, at least during peak periods. Of course this will cause outrage as well. Who doesn’t love taking their friends or loved ones in as a guest? Who wants to sit in the lounge alone while your spouse waits outside? But isn’t that better than telling a cardmember, key word being member, s/he cannot have access? It is not an ideal solution, but it strikes me as a better solution.
Every time I fly up from Burbank or LA to San Francisco, almost always in the morning, I like to go into the American Express Centurion Lounge for a cup of coffee and light breakfast, sometimes a shower, whether I am connecting or ending my travel in SFO. To take away this benefit is to take away where I derive tremendous value on my Platinum card, which is hardly cheap at $550/year.
If AMEX wants to limit “camping” in its lounges, fine. But don’t totally take away arrival access. How about for 1-2 hours after arrival? That seems like a fair compromise that limits “abuse” by cardholders. I don’t believe cardmember access should be scarified for infant access. The babies may not take up an extra seat on a plane (and usually behave much better than the men who have had too much to drink or yap on their mobile phones), but they do take up extra space in the lounge. I am not opposed to children in the lounges: just not at the expense of actual cardholders.
I wish there was room for everyone, but many cardholders have a legitimate reason to use the lounge upon arrival. Taking away this benefit eliminates a big advantage to maintaining the American Express Platinum card. That certainly will not prompt me to cancel the card, so perhaps that is the true bottom line…
image: American Express