American Express has a real problem on its hands: lounge crowding. The network of Centurion Lounges in the USA are routinely so full that it is difficult to find a seat. But new access restrictions American Express is testing are the WRONG way to handle them.
Miles to Memories reports that American Express is adding the following two lounge access restrictions during peak hours in Seattle. Other reports indicate the same restrictions are in place in Miami.
- Access is limited to 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure time of your flight
- Inbound boarding passes are not accepted for entry
First, I was against the initial guest access restrictions added last year. At the time, I argued that nickel and diming children was a ridiculous move.
> Read More: Another Attempt to Control Crowding in American Express Lounges
> Read More: A Warning to American Express
In one sense, I still feel that way. On the other hand, I continue to observe very crowded Centurion Lounges and have become more accepting of these restrictions. While I’d never pay $50 to bring a young child in, the lounges are simply and constantly too full.
However, I think the card member herself or himself should be sacrosanct. In other words, sometimes I like arriving at the airport early in order to work. Sometimes my connection is longer than two hours. And sometimes, often actually, I like to use the Centurion Lounge upon arrival. For example, several times I have taken an early flight from Burbank to San Francisco and enjoyed breakfast in the lounge after landing, before I went into the city.
I would rather have American Express eliminate the second guest or eliminate guests all together before limiting when/how cardholders can use the lounges. I would also rather see American Express raise the annual fee again before imposing these restrictions.
I view my Platinum Card as a lounge membership card. It is hardly that if access is restricted to departures only and even then only two hours before my flight. What do you think about the new access restrictions American Express is trialing in its Centurion Lounges?
Agreed. AMEX Platinum charges $27 for a guest at a Delta SkyClub. No reason why a superior Centurion Lounge would be free.
I agree completely. The first step to address overcrowding (and they need to do something) is to eliminate guests. It’s not fair that a cardholder is denied entry while non cardholders are allowed in.
Guests should be eliminated. Each cardholder should get 12 guest passes a year to compensate when traveling with family or friends. Im sure there are cardholders who bring in 100’s of non cardholders a year. And AU’s should not have access. They want access, get your own card.
“What do you think about the new access restrictions American Express is trialing in its Centurion Lounges?”
In a nutshell, it reinforces that I made the right decision in not giving in to the hype and staying away from the Amex Plat. Setting that aside, I agree the better solution would be to restrict guesting instead of these restrictions. The 2-hour limit is especially dumb. Where lounges have always provided the most value to me is when I have a long layover. Telling me I can’t get in until 2 hours before departure significantly devalues the benefit.
I also think AMEX needs to re-design their seating in some of their lounges. A lot of their seating is meant for couples, and it can be awkward seating in one of those green couches with a random stranger. Just have more seating meant for solo travelers…
Barring long haul travelers from using clubs on arrival even where they could physically access it (e.g., Star Alliance CDG) seems a common practice, so I guess that is where that comes from. And I generally don’t use Centurion lounges on arrival anyway. The 2 hour limit could be a problem on a long connection. But I guess we will see. They have gotten very crowded. Though I must say I’d rather be in a crowded Centurion lounge than an empty domestic AA or UA lounge any day.
Why is it fair that a couple who travels two or three times a year has to pay for an extra guest, but someone who travels regularly for business gets to use the lounge two or three times a week?
It’s the road warriors, not the leisure travelers, who clog up the lounges. I’d be happy with a limit of 2 visits per month with one guest allowed. Authorized card users would be allowed in, but not allowed guesting privileges.
The first round of limiting access was in my opinion a good one. Too many times I walked into a lounge to find countless rowdy kids and adults taking up room. One card member would bring his whole family in making a pure mess of the buffet, I mean really how many people want to see kids touching everything? You know we have become an entitlement society and want everything free. I have been a member for over 20 years and it’s not a lounge card to me, sorry. I burn 30K a month and the rewards are a nice perk. After all “Loyalty has it’s rewards” not hacking.
As for the second round, whats your solution just throw the doors open to anyone with a card with all their families? I am sure that if one walks in and shows a valid boarding ticket outside the 2 hour limit especially international then they should be allowed in.
In the 40 years of business travel it has become less enjoyable and essentiality no decorum with all the hackers and wanta be “writers
Stop allowing guests in the lounge!!!!! Do you want to access the lounge? Get a Platinum or Centurion Amex card. That is easy!!! Now, it might be selfish from my side as I have two young kids but I think that Amex should allow the cardholder to bring at least 1 child under age since they cannot get an Amex card themselves. I have an Amex Platinum and my wife has one. As Matthew said we would never pay $100 to bring two kids in the lounge with us. Seriously, Amex Platinum is becoming less and less attractive to me.
Seattle most likely gets overcrowded with AS emoyees using the lounge and Miami because CBP takes forever so everyone misconnects and has long layovers.
If you factor time to walk from the lounge to the gate and boarding beginning 30 minutes before departure, 2 hours before departure time effectively limits you to about 1 hour 15 minutes in the Centurion Lounge. For your $550 annual fee.
I think that “…sometimes, often actually, I like to use the Centurion Lounge upon arrival.” is probably one of the reasons they are restricting the usage inbound. The lounges were intended to make the wait for a flight easier, not a free meal on your way into the city! I think that going along with this thinking, they don’t want you to arrive 6 hours before your flight, so that you can have a nice place to work ( although this also hurts travelers who have a legitimate stopover).
I also agree with another comment , that I would rather them limit the number of visits per year as opposed to eliminating children/guests.
As someone who travels for work weekly (without guests), limiting the amount of visits per year or quarter is a disaster. Why would you want to punish someone for how often they travel?
Your not being punished. The point is that there is obviously a monetary value and cost to the lounge. It only makes sense to limit that cost per member. Say one was to peg the value of the lounge visit at $25, then by visiting weekly you are costing $1300. That is significantly more than the person who travels 4 times a year and brings a guest. Perhaps the best solution is to have x number (12-20?) of passes per cardmember that they can use throughout the year on both themselves and guests. Anyone cardmember who needs it more than that amount, can pay the $25 fee. I think if one would cancel their card over this Amex would be glad to see them go.
AMEX is absolutely doing the right thing here. Who needs to sit in that lounge for more than 90 minutes. Most domestic connections are less than that. I’d rather be in the lounge for 1 hour than not at all since I have been avoiding those over crowded disasters. And to those who get to the airport early to sit in an AMX lounge. That’s just sad and unfair to those using it properly.
Eliminate guests, end of story. If people really want to invite family, then simply add them on their platinum account (3 for $175 annually). I don’t understand why this is so difficult to comprehend.
LOL, eliminate guests so you can use the lounge 2-3 times a week? Cardholders such as yourself that disproportionately use the lounges compared to others are the reason lounges are overcrowded. Amex needs to limit the number of annual visits for platinum card holders. I think twenty four passes issued annually that could also be used on guests (one guest per visit) would be more than fair. Frequent travelers could access the lounge twice a month and large families could still access the lounge a few times a year.
Could not agree more!
You’re a whinny. Stop “ME ME ME ME ME!” Get over yourself. Glad Amex intro this policy. If I was Amex I would cancel your acct and not doing biz with bloggers/churners/abusers like you.
If you provide a service with limited supply and are too busy, you should raise the price incrementally until you’re no longer too busy. Simple stuff. AMEX could ‘raise the price’ in a fair and reasonable way by simply limiting the number of times a card member can visit per year, along with issuing a limited number of guest passes. Anything beyond that, you pay. Something like 40 visits and 20 guest passes per year. Maybe less.
Two hours is too short. Four is about right.
As to arrivals, if you are a cardholder, you get in.
When connecting internationally to domestic, I schedule 2+ hours on purpose and sometimes I have no choice. This gives me time for a customs delay and maybe a shower in the lounge. Sometimes, the next available flight to my destination is at least three hours. The two hour policy is just dumb, in my opinion.
While I think in a perfect world if you have a stopover, a 4 hour limit makes sense, there are too many people who view the lounge as a destination and not as a pit stop, and arrive at the airport 3-4 hours before their flight. I dont think it’s the end of the world if you have time to take a shower and get something to eat, and have to join the unwashed hungry masses for an hour or two.
Agree with you that two hours is too short. But the MUST do something about the overcrowding and I am with the majority here in that they need to eliminate guests. Eliminating family is tricky, but that too seems to be overly abused, so it should become a member only card in my opinion. I quit going to these lounges because they are a terrible overcrowded mess – an embarrassment to the brand – in my humble opinion.
Amex has not made any permanent changes to the Centurion Lounge access policies.
This was a holiday weekend which also coincided with the start of the Alaska cruise season from Seattle. The Seattle lounge only has about 100 seats and was filled to capacity. It was a temporary measure due to that crowding. Can’t say it may not recur but it was only done because there was no room. It seems reasonable to not permit arriving passengers in that condition and to prioritize those passengers who have imminent flights and can then turn over their seat.
Thanks for this data point Carl.
According to other blogs, the same restrictions were put in place at the MIA lounge.
At first I thought no big deal 2hours, but then it dawned on me that no arrivals use. I for one often prefer arrivals over departures especially if I didn’t get fed on a flight or to get water as I am always thirsty after a flight.
Finally, does this also apply to priority pass? That would for me be the bigger issue. I am not as fond of the Amex lounges. I find them generally OK but some other priority pass lounges I find better. In Seattle for example, I much prefer the Delta lounge over the Centurion. Centurion they may have some fancy named food but its not that good. To make a sandwich in the Seattle Centurion lounge I need to take about six of them, take the meat out to make 1 sandwich and am left with a plate of bread. If only a Centurion lounge could have sandwiches as tasty as subway.
I don’t think this problem will be solved by purely limiting guest access or putting time limits on when card members can enter. The fact is, while very few people can afford to be a platinum card member, this minority is very disproportionately represented within those who travel via air (especially the road warriors).
I believe there is a real opportunity here for United (in the case of SFO) or anther carrier who shares a terminal with a Centurion lounge to offer a discounted annual lounge pass. Matthew, as you said, you are already paying $495 per year for what is essentially a lounge pass — why not pay $450 for a United Club Pass? I appreciate that the service offerings (read: food and drink) would not compare but UA has improved quite a bit and to not have to deal with overcrowding is a huge plus in my mind.
Please forgive me as I’m not up to date on their current policies. It’s my understanding that all OPEN members can get in free. Even gold card OPEN members. It is also my understanding that all American Express card holders can spend $50 to access the club. I’ve seen plenty of people do this.
In my opinion:
At minimum –
1. keep the inbound no access rule
2. Platinum and centurion card holders only
Then wait and see if it helps.
All out what I’d do:
1. Disallow corporate Amex platinum holders; business and personal only
2. No inbound access
3. Only platinum and centurion
And if that doesn’t work, the big kahuna: only centurion has complimentary access (after all it is the CENTURION lounge). Then allow platinum members the option to enroll in the lounge plan. Maybe $150 per year. And go up from there…
They need to restrict access. One way or another. I’m radical with my idea though.
I want AMEX to restrict Centurion Lounge based on income. Why? The Centurion Lounge was designed for Centurion guest and marketed as exclusivity. Not to be mean, but, how is it exclusive and luxury when you allow low-income guests to go into the Centurion Lounge? Seriously? A Centurion Lounge with people making sub-50K? Getting the AMEX Plat is super easy. I know people that barely make over 30-40K with it – they just need a good credit score.
Restrict it by income – make sure the income-level start at 100-150K and you’ll notice the Centurion Lounge guest drop like crazy.
Note: If AMEX doesn’t change this, they aren’t offering you luxury. They are offering you faux luxury. They are advertising a Ritz-Carlton but in reality – its a Residence Inn.
In the Centurion lounge at SFO right now (02/15/19 5:25p). People are sitting on the floor and standing. I am sharing a tiny table with a stranger. The food that was really fabulous before has gone down in terms of quality and selection is limited to chicken, veggie, rice and salad. Booze is still running like before.
If you are looking to get the Amex Platinum primarily for lounge access, beware, this perk is absolutely NOT worth it any longer. Amex needs to significantly extend lounge spaces or increase annual fee to eliminate members.