I don’t know about you, but American Express Centurion Lounge crowding has been particularly bad lately for me. Sadly, it may not even be feasible for American Express to take more drastic action to curb the crowds. But it should try.
On a recent trip, I entered the American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International at about 3:00PM. There was a line to enter the lounge and most guests seemed to be traveling alone. I waited about five minutes to enter, only to find there was not a single seat available. Not a single seat anywhere in the lounge! I waited 10 minutes!
I tried again on the way back and ran into the IDENTICAL issue. I literally stood in the middle of the main seating area for a few minutes and again found not a single seat available. People were even camped out in the children’s play room.
And while in past recent visits I’ve been able to find seats, I’ve noticed every Centurion Lounge I’ve visited this year has been packed.
Now perhaps that has always been your experience, but it has not been mine. I primarily connect through SFO so that is the one I am at most often, but I’ve historically found no problem finding a seat in IAH, LGA, or LAS as well. But this year has been different.
Over the years as crowding has worsened, I’ve turned almost 180º from my initial position about how to handle it. When American Express limited the guest count to two in 2018, I came out swinging. When American Express restricted Platinum members from accessing the lounge after their travel, I came out swinging.
> Read More:
- American Express Makes a Foolish Mistake in Limiting Centurion Lounge Access
- New American Express Lounge Policy Is Absurd
- Another Attempt to Control Crowding in American Express Lounge
- A Warning to American Express
- American Express Cracks Down At SFO Centurion Lounge
- A Timely Suggestion For American Express
Enough Is Enough
But now I’m tired of it. Some may say the easy solution is just to head to the gate area to work, but SFO is rather weak when it comes to power plugs in the gate area, at least in Terminal 3 and the International Terminal.
There’s also two decent Priority Pass restaurants, but neither one has power ports available (for good reason, I suspect). Plus, AMEX cut that benefit earlier this year (though I still have my Chase-issued card). That must be driving the crowds too. And frankly, I find the food, drinks, and even coffee at the Centurion Lounge to be better than in the restaurants.
> Read More: AMEX SFO Centurion Lounge Is Better Than Both Priority Pass Restaurants
Consequently, I prefer to eat, drink, and work in the Centurion Lounge. As a cardholder, I think the $550 annual fee on the card should guarantee I have a seat in the lounge when I travel.
Let’s Try Guest Passes
With the lounges still packed, perhaps American Express can issue each Platinum cardholder 10 guest passes per year. Say they can be used up to three at a time (so larger families can enter together a couple times per year during vacation) and expire at the end of each year. Outside of those passes, charge $30-50/person for each guest of the cardholder.
As I mentioned above, it seems many travelers use the lounge solo…my plan may make make no impact on crowding if that is the case. But I think it is worth a try.
And if that doesn’t work, then eliminate complimentary guests all together, charge $50 for each Platinum guest, and only allow guests when the lounge isn’t crowded. Others have suggested upping the price for authorized users, which currently stands at $175/year.
Of course AMEX could just open more lounges or expand existing lounge space, but that it not a very practical suggestion considering how limited airport real estate is and how American Express seems to be in a cost-cutting mode.
I felt so bad for the American Express staff at SFO. On my way out, I mentioned (nicely, of course) that there was not a single seat available and I wasn’t going to wait any longer. One agent sighed and apologized, adding that she would pass my feedback along. And I wasn’t the only one to leave disappointed.
All I know is that the lounges seem more crowded than ever before, I waited ten minutes and could not find a seat during my last trip, and if the crowding does not improve, AMEX should eliminate that benefit or raise the annual fee of the card. There is simply a supply/demand imbalance here that is most annoying…
Usually when I write about lounge crowding, many commenters say they never bother to use the lounge anyway. That may be true, but there’s still a huge number of people who use (or attempt to use) these lounges. AMEX should value not only offering nice lounge amenities (which I give it great credit for), but creating an environment that is also relaxing and conducive to work.
Maybe have limit visits for primary too? 20? 25 per year? Have a buyup option to unlimited? If someone is traveling weekly and using the lounge weekly $550 per year plus the other plat card perks makes the card a steal. Delta, AA, United lounge cards all have worse benefits beyond the lounge access.
Sorry, I’m a little lost. It’s a Centurion longe so shouldn’t they start by limiting entry to non-centurion members? Not directed at this post directly, just generally.
Maybe so. But they let Plats in too.
Hi Matthew. I’m a regular reader of your blog and enjoy your blog. I commented on your 10-31-19 entry about the AF increase on the Centurion card that I would be in favor of an increase in AF on the Platinum card to $2,500 too if it came with upgraded benefits. The side-benefit I perceive is that I suspect many current cardholders will cancel their card, thereby helping to (hopefully) significantly reduce crowding in the Centurion Lounges. I also think that the benefit of Centurion lounge access for additional cardholders should be reduced or completely eliminated or at least AMEX should increase the cost of adding an additional cardholder to $250/card/year, with a maximum of 1 additional cardholder per primary account.
Hi Steen, agreed.
Make 70% of the lounges available only to Centurion card holders. If it is empty then so be it. The Platinum get access to only the remaining 30%. When it’s filled then that’s it. The lounges will be quieter and more relaxing.
I mostly use LAS lounge and after the recent changes, I find that it is not overcrowded anymore. I agree with you that limiting guest access should also be considered. I think the most fair would be to give 5 to 10 passes each year that can be used however you like. It would give families the opportunity to use the lounges, but limit crowding by those who would chose not to use their passes for shorter visits.
The reason for overcrowding in my opinion is obvious. Anyone else see that the clientele more and more resembles that of the USO? Members of the military get the Platinum card for free. That has to be a driver in the overcrowding.
Member of the military here- I suspect you’re right.
This is absolutely true – former military here but still tied to DoD – and know lots of folks that use(d) the fee waiver, including me as long as I could. That coupled with the fairly generous guesting policy means we’ve got an entire segment of the card-carrying population that’s specifically incentivized to get this card to the “detriment” of those paying the AF. Of course there’s also non-military families and folks bringing it all allowed guests all the time, but they still pay the AF. I think the guest pass scheme is the best bet. Or maybe add more stand-up pub tables without chairs so you still have somewhere to place a plate but takes up fewer sqf.
They had a way to relieve stress…..PP restaurants.
You are right, and AMEX showed it is in cost-cutting mode. But if people aren’t cancelling the card and just walking away and using their Chase-issued PP cards at airport restaurants, then I guess AMEX will continue to cut until people start cutting their cards up.
This happened because of travel blog site… ” Savvy traveler” I’m just saying. Lol
I had a similar experience at SFO. However, the overcrowding situation at IAH makes SFO look like recess. Like visible fire hazard overcrowding upon entry. I like your suggested solutions. As an extreme measure, I would perhaps even make lounge access an add-on fee. I would pay $300-$350 per year for unlimited access. Perhaps just give 1-2 annual passes for the rest like the Chase Hyatt card used to do.
I have also noticed this within the last year. The lounges did not seem to be so crowded a year or two ago.
LAX. With AA as my chosen airline, the new changes (Nov 1) restricting day pass purchases and Alaska lounge not allowing Priority Pass holders access… idk, I can’t justify keeping this card any longer.
They could always start charging active duty. There’s always been that untapped resource. Yes I served, calm down 😛
Worst card ever
Packed Centurion Lounges was one of the many reasons I canceled Platinum after decades as a member. Decreasing value, increasing cost, duplicative benefits of other, more useful and cost-effective cards I have. A shame, but a logical choice for me.
Dress code. My flights originate out of DCA, so the lounge is very convenient to the gates. I have never experienced overcrowding at this airport, probably due to my early departures, but I have seem passengers dressed like they have just rolled out of bed. Just a thought….
Lydia, not sure what lounge your go to at DCA but it’s not a Centurion Lounge. There are no Centurion Lounges at DCA – Ronald Reagan National Airport or IAD – Dulles. As a platinum cardholder that is unbelievable to me that the Washington DC market is not served. At least the folks at SFO have a lounge, for our area a lounge is not even in the planning stage for 2020.
There’s a recently-ish remodeled SkyClub at DCA that’s accessible with the Plat AmEx. That might be what Lydia’s mentioning.
100% agree, when I still had the PP restaurant benefit I only visited the Centurion lounge to use the restroom, get water, and grab a cookie to go.
Wow! You waited 10 minutes! That’s atrocious! You LITERALLY stood in the middle of the lounge and couldn’t find a seat, so you came out swinging. Have you seen this? You fit right in:
Indeed! Great point Tim!
Thanks Tim. This article was a bit disturbing. First world problems. On the flip side, if the lounges did in fact change prices or limit access there would be an uproar as well. It’s a lose-lose situation.
In addition, as frequent travelers we are cognizant of the ebb and flows of traveler volume due to seasonality. I’m sure that this is not a daily or weekly occurrence. That being the case it may not be worth the investment of additional charges to their customer base.
As a consumer it’s a good idea to have multiple options for days like these.
There are a number of problems, all of which can be managed. Firstly you cannot allows family of six into the club. Kids under 16 get in free… all of them!
I was in the MIA club. There was a family of 5- 2 parents and 3 kids. Each person took up their own table. An entire table- 2 seats taken up by a first grader. They were there for the 2.5 hours I was in the club… I was sharing my table.
Secondly, everyone has the card. There were two kids… freshmen in college +/-.. that came into the club. I want to the desk to complain And the agent Said that he had a platinum card. How can a kid have a platinum card- he’s on daddy’s.
As a single traveler it’s not fair that a family of 4 or so can get in at the same cost as an individual
Matthew: typical smug elitist. This is a joke article. No more restrictions, and devaluations. I like the current setup -liked the original better – and Amex should change nothing. If you don’t like it, cancel your card. Terminal 3 at SFO is my home airport too, and the Centurion Lounge is a great perk for cardmembers. If anything, Amex needs more Centurion Lounges.
I’m glad you’re there at 5AM or 11PM! For the rest of us, the crowding is very frustrating.
Stop complaining and better still stop flying my mother can not even afford lounge access and she never complains. You say you speak for us but actually you only have selfish reasons for these articles. Personally I say to Amex as far as I am concerned the lounges are great and I understand it may be busy at certain times after all we live in a world of 7 billion. If people like Matthew complain by all means cancel his Platinum card or charge him 10× as he will just put it on his expenses but the rest of us actually work hard and the fees are acceptable just after the recent increases but no more please.
I thought the article was a fair summation of the extent to which a perk, that used to be a great inducement to pay a lot of money for a higher level Amex card, has now become virtually worthless. My last flight thru SFO I ran into the “3 hour” limit, so I went to the United Club. It’s not nearly as pleasant, but it was available, and closer to my gate — so when I hit the magic “3 hour” mark I just stayed at the United Club. So, maybe this is a “first world” problem — but it’s still fair comment to observe that Amex is losing an opportunity to cement loyalty from high-spending cardholders.
for Platinum card holders, there should be a $25 entry fee per person every visit at the point of entry. provide some credit system, like the $200 annual airline incidental, to rebate some of these charges. AMEX can offer further incentives, perhaps based upon spend, to earn more entry credits. there is no one effective and practical way to limit a scarce resource and that is ability to pay. same as it ever was.
Same crowded lounge in Seattle, had to be wait listed for 20 minutes, not a good experience.
What they should do is lower the annual fee on the Platinum to $295, eliminate the lounge as a card benefit, and just sell the lounge membership separately for $300 – $500. They can play with the lounge pricing over time until they find the right market clearing price where the lounges are at desirable occupancy levels.
I think the issue is not guests, as most users seem to be solo visitors. The bigger problem is squatters.
Personally I feel that the solution is to limit the time of a single visit. As you can’t ask a guest to get up and leave, what you can do is restrict lounge entry to not more than 3 hours before your flight (check the boarding pass).
That way, everyone gets a couple of hours which is enough time to grab food and drink, charge your phone. I’m sure frequent visitors will appreciate this, over having to pay a fee per visit.
They’re already limiting access to the 3 hours before flight — with notable lack of success in reducing crowding.
They can’t d0 this because the Amex Platinum offers Delta SkyClubs as a benefit – and I would bet Platinum members use SkyClubs significantly more than Centurion lounges (or Priority Pass for that matter)
I think the problem is the waived $550 fee for active service members. A lot of the people I’ve talked to are active military and use the lounge often on personal travel. This caused a big bump in membership and lounge use (why not it’s free). I’d limit/remove that perk.
You’re not wrong. I’m active duty and greatly appreciate my benefits with amex, but I’d cancel the card in a heart beat if I had to pay that annual fee.
However, I like another suggestion that argues a reduced annual fee, and a separate lounge access fee. Perhaps $350 for the card and $200 for annual lounge access. Wave the first to active duty, and adjust the 2nd to balancing maximizing profits against overcrowded lounges. I only worry that the vast majority wouldn’t pay for it.
Maybe restrict access for complementary card holders? One of my friends uses other top tier credit cards but he pays his friend $175 CAD a year to get a complementary platinum just for the lounges. Almost like sharing a Netflix account except space is physically limited.
Of course they do because Centurion Lounges are extremely limited and seem to only exist in Elite heavy airports. Airport lounges in general are becoming extremely crowded and overrated. I travel about 105 night a year. I have since decided to just find a decent restaurant at an airport that is priced right outside the limits for most average folks and especially those with kids.
The food is usually better and due to cost, most families with kids aren’t dining there. It sucks but it’s a win. And was just in ATL a couple of days ago…the Delta SkyLounges are getting worse as well.
Well , we don’t have this issue as it cost 6000 usd per card per year and our airport is new and big ,, and many many Charing point ,, you should tell the government to build. New airport
I like the guest pass idea but I’d limit it to two per year and allow people to use their incidental airline credit towards additional guest passes.
First world problem. I suggest raising the annual fee to $1000. I bet that will help with overcrowding.
The near snobbery that you display here is comical. I laugh that buying a credit card gives you a special previlage and now that more people have the right. Get over it, you are not special, anyone can buy a credit card. Stop your whiny grown man.
Err, the whole point of the blog is to discuss things like this.
Why are you here if things like lounge access (or lack thereof) is something you find too unpalatable to discuss?
I rely on lounge access to have a shower between long flights and arrive ready to hit the ground running, or to have a quick bite to eat while getting some emails done. I pay for the AX Plat annual fee which is steep and the lounge benefit program is one of the single biggest reason I’m willing to pay that fee. Not being able to avail of these benefits is certainly a valid concern.
If you purchased an international business class ticket and were told you couldn’t use the lounge due to overcrowding, would that also be snobbery and unfair criticism??
This author is the definition of an entitled rich white elitist.
You two have met?
I agree with your assessment . Military members fly a lot, often in groups and often with long layovers. I am a 30 year Vet and can “spot” military members quite easily:) We have a look:) The perk of the waived fee was a generous concession to the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act…the unseen consequence is with so many military members qualifying these days, the lounge sometimes resembles a high end USO. I obviously support our military but AMEX is shooting itself in the foot, at least in the non military customer service department. On a recent flight from Seattle, the lounge was so crowded they would not even allow my wife and I to sign up on the waiting list because I had my two paying teenage daughters with me…we went to the far more spacious Sky lounge. So perhaps, remove the club access to non paying card holders and honestly, increase real estate…more and more people want lounge access, and are willing to pay for it.
@tim.. really? Way too easy… God knows we should take advice from a borderline sexual predator. You’ve totally missed the point and it’s not even worth trying to explain what the issue is.
Agree re guest passes. I will probably get rid of the card as it just doesn’t have the value anymore
Guest passes could work. I would be fine with no guests, except you can’t add a child as an AU until age 13 (or maybe 15?) even if you have an open slot (3 for $175). Families should have a way to all get in once or twice a year on vacation. I would make guests under 13 free, but no more than one adult guest per visit and charge or do the pass thing for that adult guest.
I think a simple $10-20 “copay” per person per visit (primaries included) would be a reasonable and efficient way to ease overcrowding & remove those who don’t value the lounge as much. Perhaps allow the $200 airline credit to go towards these fees.
I also would get rid of the card it is for the lounge access that makes it if value otherwise it is just another card !
IMO, lounge access that is tied to business class or higher tickets and airlines and partners does better to head off overcrowding.
So Amex has tried in the past to help alleviate the overcrowding problem, but because you personally hadn’t been affected by that particular issue you came out Swinging!
Now, you had to wait because of overcrowding and now you want to coming out Swinging! because Amex must alleviate overcrowding right now!
Simply. Raise the price of the card 100-200 and give us back priority pass restaurants. No guests and let you use the airline credit to pay for it. Most people I know with the card have status and never use it anyway. I end up buying drinks for all the people around me.
They just raised the price of the card and removed the Priority pass benefits !
Or build a bigger lounge. The SFO lounge is tiny for the market it serves. It’s San Francisco, everyone has an Amex Plat, and they are mobile. Stop blaming users for a corporate failure.
Agreed. The lounges are a service offered. It is NOT the fault of the card holders who choose to use them. AmEx should have captured the active military demographic BEFORE waiving the fee. Then the company could have made adjustments to lounge size, occupancy time limits, guest allowances, etc.
I am not a Platinum member but I am a veteran. I applaud AmEx for doing anything to give back to servicemembers. Veterans are supremely under-appreciated in this spoiled country. This is a hiccup for them and I think, with continued and appropriate feedback, changes will be made.
@Matthew –These lounges have been horrible for years. Why keep returning? Just get a UA memebership and use those. Much better experience to me.
I would suggest 12 passes per year per card and 1 pass is good for 1 person only.
If someone wants to bring a guest, then use an additional pass.
If the crowding is so bad, why don’t you stay your ass out of there? All you do is bitch and whine.
Actually, I’m trying to offer constructive feedback so AMEX can solve this problem once and for all. But thanks for your valuable opinion.
Whaaaa! Sorry you had to stand solo. I’m sure you jumped in a seat asap. screw those families with kids! The things people complain about these days is absurd.
If you’d like a seat you could buy the $5000/yr Amex Centurion membership. It is a Centurion lounge, after all. You get better liquor too in LAS.
Alternately try having kids — the children’s room at SFO and IAH is generally pretty empty, though no food is allowed, and it’s got pretty solid play options.
I was at SFO lounge this past Wednesday. I entered around 3PM, no line. It was fairly full, but I could find a table for myself in the dining area. And just 2o minutes later, a few more tables freed up. This has been my experience in the past 2 months at SFO location. It was much better than last year, when I had to sit on an ottoman along the wall a few times. Sorry to hear others still experience overcrowding problem.
Dude, do you not proofread your articles? I gave up reading after two grammatical mistakes
Don’t forget general sloppiness:
“And frankly, I find the food, drinks, and even coffee at the Centurion Lounge to be better than the coffee in the Centurion Lounge.”
I love people who whine all the time!
Well they just doubled the annual fee on the Centurion.
What’s next for Plat…
I agree they oversold cards vs the size of the facilities they built. Now time to fix it.
Imagining the mob scene of entitlement when the JFK lounge opens in the Delta terminal – in a location far more convenient than the SkyClub.
Matthew & others: Why are you advocating further restrictions and fees on Platinum Amex cardmembers who have already been chiseled out of the non-lounge restaurant benefits of Priority Pass in recent months? (Which had been a kinder, gentler way of spreading out people wanting to use amenities at the airport and easing lounge crowding, but I digress) MORE fees for entry? Even
LESS access for fellow travelers? Is this site a false front operation for the company or a shill? I was at SFO, Centurion, Terminal G Domestic on October 22, 2019 in the afternoon from about 4 to 6, and it was very sparsely populated, although the two men’s toilets should be increased to 3 or 4. (Please note the advocacy for cardholders) And I dutifully paid the $50 for an extra guest who had a Platinum card, but did not carry it in his wallet, and waived off the very polite apologies from the host at the desk and just handed over my card and paid. The family room was empty, there was no line at the bar, and one gentleman customer even asked the surrounding other guests before putting the game on a screen, which was both civilized and appreciated. Why don’t we all ask for EXPANDED LOUNGES, GREATER cardholder benefits, and perhaps more and better partnerships with other airlines and lounge operators? What kind of advocate for travelers and cardholders invites management to restrict our benefits to get satisfaction when the company miscalculates demand? Seriously? Please do not speak for the rest of us if this is your solution. You will also be overtaxing the good folks at the Amex cardholder retension department. What I don’t agree with from others of the peanut gallery is that you should just grin and bear it if there is overcrowding: just please do not self-immolate when we are all just a bit flammable and sitting next to you.
Hank, I’m just trying to be realistic. I agree with you in theory, but don’t see it at all as a practical suggestion. AMEX is in the cutting mode.
Totally agree with you Hank ! Is Matthew on the Amex payroll ? Hardly speaking for us ! But maybe too used to all the perks from airlines etc as a travel writer that he has forgot what it is like to earn a wage from hard work to pay for his Amex card rather than traveling for fun all the time. Matthew get a real job and then ask for restricted services and fee increases ! I think not.
Totally agree with you Hank ! Is Matthew on the Amex payroll ? Hardly speaking for us ! But maybe too used to all the perks from airlines etc as a travel writer that he has forgot what it is like to earn a wage from hard work to pay for his Amex card rather than traveling for fun all the time. Matthew get a real job and then ask for restricted services and fee increases ! I think not.
Amex either needs to expand the current SFO lounge (although I’m not sure if that’s even feasible given the space constraints), or build a second Centurion lounge somewhere else within the airport, perhaps in the International Terminal, A gates side.
I’m looking forward to seeing how undersized the LAX Centurion is going to turn out be from the outset.
I agree with the 10 annual guest passes being issued. I personally am still upset about no access on arrival and feel they should at least allow 30 min to grab a drink and a small plate. I think that departing from a city in which the cardholder lives should be limited I mean if you live in SFO and you get to the airport hours before taking off just to access a lounge when you could have just gotten some food and a drinks from home then you are super tacky anyway. Amex needs to be mindful of people and their travel habits and customize what best suits them. They could even have reservations where people choose either departing or arriving but not both on any non stop round trip flight. It’s unfair for people like me and my spouse who both have platinum cards and travel around 7 times annually. There’s a big difference in customers where one person has a platinum and they are bringing in their entire family. I think I just may look into chase reserve at this point. Still debating.
You also need to be mindful of people and their circumstances as well. Suggesting that travelers shouldn’t use the lounge in their home city is quite shortsighted. What happens when your flight is delayed 4 or 5 hrs? Are you suggesting that if I visit the lounge to pass time that I am being super tacky or that I should return home to grab a bite and not use the lounge. This is a capacity issue which Amex needs to rectify, not its card members.
Good point….However, I’m not talking about flight delays at all. I’m referring to people that have flights leaving at 10am and they get to the airport at 6am so that they can access a lounge. Yes that is super duper tacky. Especially when in all honesty you are leaving out of your home city where you could eat and drink at home. Unfortunately I know of many business associates that do this. It’s stupid and a shame what people will do for free drinks and food.
Or increase the fee for authorized users? Right now, one Platinum card can spawn 5 additional unlimited access lounge goers for less than a day pass each. If AMEX charged half the annul fee per AU card, it would still be a great deal but probably make a few people reconsider.
How is this a good suggestion as if $550 plus $175 is peanuts. We pay the $175 to at least get those same benefits otherwise I would just have an extra gold card , all these elitist comments from people advocating for higher fees and what not for additionals or families are ridiculous. Yes we have families yes we paid the fee for the extra card so yes we deserve the same damn benefits. Blame amex this is what they sold us , I’m not paying for this card to have less benefits , we already have worse points than the gold and this is the reason… Benefits . We pay the same as everyone else and more for addtionals
It seems Amex is not very Tech savvy, first they should develop an app for reservations which would tell you if it’s full second they should develop an algorithm to understand the customer flow so that it can mitigate the overcrowding. And maybe just maybe they should reconfigure the lounge setting. I suspect it’s a design flaw in the setting configuratuon
“There’s also two decent Priority Pass restaurants”. But Amex killed this alternative in August.
Overcrowding is only get worse in January when Delta reserve card holders will gain access to Centurion lounges (even if not flying on Delta). I’m no longer waiting for vaporware Centurion lounges at DIA, LHR, etc.
Because of the PP restaurants move, the CL overcrowding and soon to get worse in Jan 2020. The onerous one domestic airline incidentals credit. Changes to ancillary card benefits and extended warranty.
It was hilarious listening to the card retention person who actually believed that all the devaluations were a benefit when we I called into cancel Platinum card last month.
SEA/SFO are often hubs we often have to transit for Intl flights as well as a mix of east coast domestic flights with PDX as our home hub.
@Matthew, “And frankly, I find the food, drinks, and even coffee at the Centurion Lounge to be better than the coffee in the Centurion Lounge.”
I take it that you meant to say that the CL F&B is better than the PP restaurants.
As for your guest pass suggestion, I think that’s fine, but I’d say each pass should be valid for 1 person only. Maybe 12/year? That way, a family of 4 could benefit from 2 round trips. Seems fair. But I agree with the others that they really need to expand the lounges, which isn’t practical at most airports.
Thanks Tennen! Fixed.
Easy solution. Double the annual fee to $1100.
At the end of the day, your $550 fee doesn’t guarantee you a seat or a quiet environment. Millions of people pay that $550 fee, it’s not an exclusive set of people. Lounges are at overcapacity because many more people are flying and many more people have premium credit cards. This issue isn’t limited to Amex, I have run into mobbed AA and Delta clubs as well, Changed around the edges will not alter this. Card companies are not going to kick customers out of their card programs. The only way to solve this is a global recession. Lounges were very quiet in 2009.
They need to expand and add multiple lounges in airports. The issue in San Francisco is more card holders per capita coming through the airport. Lounge access is a great benefit, people know it, and it expands their customer base. They need to keep up with demand rather than gut the benefit.
For those that complain and ask American Express to put restrictions on who can use and who can’t or to further devalue their membership fee. American Express has built into their business model on their membership fees to take into consideration a certain number of members using the service to break even. With your request to restrict usage, you are encouraging American Express to make you and everyone else pay more. I’m disappointed that American Express has gone through significant cost cutting measures by divorcing their relationship with airlines and trying to bandaid their mistakes by pissing off their customers. I’m a member for over 15 years and am asking myself with the reduced value of this $550/year membership, why I continue to be a high grossing customer to them. American Express should use their buying power to renegotiate with airline clubs, Priority Pass, or add more capacity to their lounges instead of looking at limiting their offerings. We the customers should not pay or penalized for the failure of their leadership to effectively execute a business strategy.
That’s all this blog is about. An escape from life to complain about things that don’t really matter and enjoy nice things for cheaper than most.
But they do matter to normal people Matthew that is the point.
Not being funny, but the platinum card has gone up to £575/year here in the UK, so you guys are getting everything very cheap!
First paragraph of the conclusion you misspelled ‘sighed’
Houston is about the only one not crowded ;-).
If there isn’t seating, they shouldn’t allow you to enter. I’m sure the fire marshal would love to learn about it
You’re absolutely right! This is ridiculous! We are paying $2500 per card for the black card and this is what we get?
Your site run affiliate with Amex. How about stop marketing Amex cards? That should reduce some of the applications.
It’s nice that we all have ideas about this, but its frustrating that Amex you would think would have the best data and ideas about this, but seem to have no awareness or no ability to control it. Another denial of entry and I’ll reconsider my annual fee next year.
Platinum card holders are increasing. Amex does have the money to expand the size or creating new lounges. The problem can easily fixed, but Amex is too cheap to solve it while happily keeping the profits of membership fee. Btw… if you feel annoyed about it, imagine what the centurion card holders actually feel
Hey Matthew, maybe the lounge isn’t for the elite like it once was. We’ve had a pretty stable economy, travel has become more accessible both business and leisure. The Amex Platinum card has great benefits which is probably why you chose it. All these factors have led to more Amex platinum memberships which has ultimately led to crowding in Amex lounges. The only way to reduce crowds is to make the card less accessible, and that would not be in Amex’s best interest. So be patient or drop your membership.
I started skipping the SFO location all together and head to the Rotunda United Club. Sure the food is nowhere near as good. But I can find a seat and get a self serve diet coke.
Ten minute wait! Wow!
Sad commentary on today’s society. This post is so full of entitlement stench it’s disgusting. Gives millennials their bad name.
We are talking about a seat in a lounge. Not a retirement nest egg…
Exactly, get over it.
Then get over it. The article reeks of man-baby whining.
Pull up your big boy pants.
Disturbing and disgusting, and also for someone who has traveled to over 120 countries, you’d think that he’d be aware that there are situations much more unfortunate that his lounge experience. This article reeks of entitlement and privilege – everything that is wrong with the world.
I’ve started passing up the Centurions altogether and used Delta’s. I also pay $550.00 and fear that will be going up soon if it follows the AMEX Black card.
I don’t think I’ve been in the Amex lounge at SFO since United rolled out the Polaris lounge.
The Amex lounge in HKG usually has plenty of room.
When one has to have a caretaker why does the caretaker have to pay
Agreed. If your’e going to be in the lounge business, do it properly. If the small elite feel is what you desire, then don’t offer the access to us mere $550 annual platinum card peasants:)
Do disabled veterans have to pay
If only Amex would limit the travel bloggers to 3 visits a week there would be plenty of space for everyone.
Frankly, I think Amex should make their food more to-go friendly.
Generally speaking, you come to the lounge for 4 things:
1. A nice seat.
2. Some good food.
3. Shower. Or some cleaner toilet.
4. Some alcohol.
Clearly, space (i.e. 1) is scarce. However, 2. is not. They should just make it simple to take food out and hang out elsewhere. It’s win-win, really. People feel like their membership is worth something. Fewer people will stick around in the lounge, so more space for others. (Shower can be handled by a waitlist).
The real problem is the Platinum card is no longer an exclusive card. Everybody who wants one gets one. I’m in the military and even brand new officers, 22 years old, fresh out of college, with little to no credit history and certainly not a massive salary are getting the card. Get it back to where it is only offered to folks with exceptional credit and after a few years of pretty decent spending on another AMEX card and all of a sudden fewer people have it and the overcrowding stops.
Wow. You really hit a nerve. I can’t remember the last time I saw this many comments! Ok. On to my official comment:
Pix or it didn’t happen! Also “leeave???” You may not have bought Grammerly but did you deactivate spell check too!?!
All observations spot on. I was there last week. In addition to crowded conditions, I noticed poor maintenance with electrical connects pulled out fo the wall, worn furniture and poor attention to cleanliness during my 2 hours stay last Tuesday.
If Amex is in cutting mode. Cut the lounges all together. I’ve tried SFO twice. Packed both times. Went to an outside restaurant instead. Paying for an unusable perk makes me annoyed.
Maybe have it be an opt-in perk?
Probably the major reason for overcrowding is the card is given at NO annual cost to the military. As a Veteran I don’t agree with this and if you look closely in the lounge you can spot the military folks and they are plenty of them.
I am tired of seeing people bring others with them into the lounge. These are not under age people that cannot get their own credit card. These are people that can afford a credit card. Thus, it should be very simple: only the cardholder can get into the lounge. Period. No guests allowed. I still think Amex should allow one children under the minimum age to get a credit card with one of the parents to access the lounge. In my case me and my wife both have our own cards.
Think your approach is flawed, yes there may be high traffic however their are a multitude of reasons on why.
1) American Express themselves have pushed this card heavy not just to travelers but to younger crowds with exclusive experiences at events blah blah blah. Part of it is the more people who have the card the more yearly card fees they get (exception active military) and the high swipe fees they charge vendors.
2) People who travel especially out of or two hubs that have these lounges may be more driven to get the card. In my own experience I found myself flying delta more often due to experience I get having access to lounges. My main status is with southwest and my secondary is with united through Marriott however lately been doing more Delta for lounges even having status on another airline lounge experiences still top that for me.
To me a blanket tax on lounges is not going to solve this problem. The data needs to be collected on who or whom is going to these lounges. Maybe something like a check in and checkout and if you stay over two hours during peak times then you’re charged a fee. You should want to work with your customers within the confines of the rules you have set. Not keep changing them or restricting them because of a few not optimal experiences.
Appreciate your articles however do feel like you’re off on this one.
The economy is booming and more people are traveling. More people can afford the perks. All the reasons for crowded lounges listed here are exacerbated.
It’s not just a United States of America problem. The lounges in Europe and Asia are facing the same overcrowding. Welcome to a global economy.
I’ve been a long time reader and greatly appreciate your travel insights and reviews, but I strongly disagree with you on this rather unexpected 180, Matthew. I also didn’t see it coming from you, frankly. Obviously, your recent lounge experiences weren’t pleasant, but giving up your consumer advocacy stance in favor of some corporate talking points strikes me as odd, given the overall tenor of this blog.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t your entire conflict with Aeroplan predicated on the very principle that a company shouldn’t get away with breaking their contractual agreement at the expense of the customer? How is this different? Amex Platinum card holders have signed up and paid for this product in order to receive a clearly pre-defined and widely advertised set of services (including unlimited Centurion lounge access). Now, customers are supposed to quietly accept the elimination/significant reduction of said services, and suck it up, just because as you state it “Amex is in the cutting mode”? So, what? Let them go into ‘un-cutting’ mode. We are dealing with corporate policies, not with laws of nature.
Amex has beat earnings and revenue estimates in 13 out of the last 15 quarters, and is expecting record earnings of close to 7 billion dollars in 2019, in part due to a steadily growing customer base, and a growing market share. Obviously, the overcrowding you describe is one of the unintended side effects of this growth strategy, but how is this the consumers’ fault? More importantly, why should the onus be on the consumers to find solutions to this problem?
I find it absurd that a blog geared towards helping people travel better would actually advocate the opposite: Taking services and benefits away from travelers. I couldn’t agree more with Hank, Neil, and other comments above: It’s up to consumers to voice their dissatisfaction with a flawed product and demand improvements, not to provide Amex with suggestions as to how to best screw its customers over.
Quite a few options have already been mentioned here: Add airport restaurants to the Amex lounge portfolio; further expand existing lounges; cooperate with other third party lounges; reduce the annual card fee and offer Centurion access as an add-on. Another suggestion: During peak hours, proactively offer Membership Rewards points to customers in exchange for not entering the lounge. Since Amex values lounge access at $50 (guest pass fee), and since 1 cent per point is the most common redemption option, this would translate to a 5,000 Membership Rewards points bonus or reward for people who are willing to turn around at the door.
Again, we are not dealing with an ailing company here. Amex is highly profitable and pursing a deliberate growth strategy, which results in lounge overcrowding, among other things. Disgruntled customers are better served by speaking up rather than sucking up. There’s consumer power in numbers.
1. First world problem
2. It’s a Centurion lounge, maybe the best option is to limit access for platinum card holders
3. Our experience in SF was excellent. As Centurion card holders a table was found for us (it was busy) and the service was excellent. I’d picked up a glass of sparkling at the bar but our waiter, as soon as he realised, exchanged it for French.
4. The service was exceptional and part of the reason we continue to pay the Centurion fees. (One of the other reasons is that our concierge service is unbeatable.)
Completely agree. We have the same trouble every time we fly through Miami. It is just as you described…people camping out on the floor, everyone looks haggard and stressed, etc. It’s at the point where I just go in to get the better quality food then leave because I find the airport itself less stressful.
I flew through DFW consistently from 2015-2018. 2015 was very nice, the lounge was fairly new and rarely over crowded. 2016 and 2017 had slight increases in traffic but still manageable. 2018 was a disaster, rarely seats were available. Add to that the fact that there was only one changed menu during those years and it just got stale.
Several times through SFO and it was MUCH worse than DFW.
Centurion Lounge access was the primary driver to my choice to drop the Plat AMEX card when the fee increased last year. It just wasn’t worth it. Amusing thing was AMEX didn’t even give me a retention offer.
Transferred at SFO on my way to SNA on an international domestic flight via Virgin / Delta First. I found the Delta Sky Club to be much more sane and quiet compared to the AMEX lounges.
Was in LAS yesterday (12/16/19) and couldn’t get in. The number of people who could enter was at a “max”. However, saw many empty seats. The line to get in behind me was about 8 or 9 people. I was head of the line and I was told 15 to 20 mins wait…but basically you can’t go in until someone leaves. This may be fire code? Anyway, not even being able to get in has been a problem for me lately. Usually room at the Priority Pass but that is gate D33…