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.
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.