A quartet of new American Express Centurion Lounges offers a perfect opportunity to test how to best limit crowding.
American Express recently announced it will open a new Centurion Lounge in Charlotte. AMEX also plans to open lounges in Denver, Los Angeles, and New York JFK. Each one of the new lounges presents an opportunity to find the right balance to avoid overcrowding.
Visit any of the Centurion Lounges across the USA and you will run into crowding issues, depending upon time of day. At times the crowding is so severe that there is not a single seat available in the lounge.
Lounges in SFO and SEA have responded by limiting access to departures only, and only within 2-3 hours of your flight departure, when the lounge gets too crowded.
I’ve argued before why I think that is a terrible idea. My opinion has not changed. The cardmember should never be turned away. There are many valid reasons to arrive early before a flight or stay late after one. That does not represent a “mooch” who should be deemed suspect.
But with four new lounges opening, American Express can now test out new polices in hopes of striking the right balance. My suggestion is for two trials:
- One guest only
- No guests
If American Express reduces the number of permitted guests from two to one (or zero), it should offer Platinum cardholders 4-5 electronic guest passes per year. These should be valid at anytime and solve the problem of the annual trip with children or an infrequent trip with a spouse who does not have his/her own card.
Crowding issues may vary by airport, but only in terms of time. Every AMEX lounge fills up and the severe overcrowding issues seem to be getting worse. American Express should view its new lounges, from opening day, as an opportunity to finally solve the overcrowding issue.
> Read More:
- Another Attempt to Control Crowding in American Express Lounges
- American Express Makes a Foolish Mistake in Limiting Centurion Lounge Access
- American Express Cracks Down At SFO Centurion Lounge
image: American Express
Most overrated thing in travel. More overcrowded than the terminal and bad buffet food. Plus a greater share of insufferable folks.
I carry the Plat Amex but usually make a quick exit when I go to the Centurion lounge desk because of the crowding.
Upside is it’s made the SFO United Club a nice haven.
I hate the overcrowding at SFO, but disagree with you on the buffet. I’ve always found the food excellent (especially when compared to SEA Centurion Lounge or the United Club).
But how about families with 5 people?
AMEX lounge isn’t for them.
Agreed. 1 guest at the most per card holder. Family of 5 clogs up the lounge and frankly the first priority should be getting people in who pay the $550 a year.
I’ve been saying this for a long time (in concept): “4-5 electronic guest passes per year” – makes perfect sense to me. Let cardholders have access, with no guests except via guest passes. Allow passes to be good for a guest or immediate family travelling together. For sure, make them electronic and linked to your card. Realistically, how many should have to “guest” people into the lounge more than 4-5 times a year? If they are “guesting” more often than that, the guests should probably consider a card product that allows access.
I tried to go to the Centurion lounge at SEA a few days ago (20 mins before my flight was scheduled to board) and was denied entry because they said the lounge was getting too full. They put my name on a waiting list and asked me to come back in 15 minutes.
Access to that lounge is the main reason I got my Amex card, and if this happens again, I’m closing it. $550 is too much to pay for a perk I can’t use.
Glad I’m not looped into the whole Centurion Lounge craze. Since they haven’t had one at my home airport (LAX) and getting to and from it when its done will be a PITA from most other terminals, its not a big deal to me.
The few times a year I have an extra person or two with me for access to a lounge absolutely make sense to have an electronic guest pass system to help reduce crowding. +1 should be a standard policy with limited additional passes per year.
Agree that guests are the killer and cardmembers should never be denied entry , but….. need to make an exception for family.
For most families , while the primary card holder may be one whose name is on it , the family is paying the $550.
An easy way to do accomplish this is Primary Card holder + 1 Adult Family member +children
Most of the crowding in SEA -SFO is adults and adult guests , not children
“Most of the crowding in SEA -SFO is adults and adult guests , not children”
We typically use AA or Delta lounges but I agree with the above observation. When travelling thru SEA in July, the Centurion lounge was absolutely packed. There weren’t more than five minors in the lounge, mine being one of them. Both my husband and I have plat. cards and my son will have one in the near future.
Restricting time in the lounge might be the solution. At SEA, guests looked like they were camped out for the long haul.
I don’t wholly disagree but I would add that a distinction needs to be made for family – specifically for children. I’d say anyone over the age of 10 needs to be considered a “guest” and requires a guest pass for entry. While minors can’t consume alcohol, they still take up space and consume food, beverage, and other resources. So maybe Cardholder + 1 Guest (aged 11+) + 2 Children (aged 0-10), or something akin to that.
I think restricting arrival/dpt is fine. As is your idea. Why not do both? Of course, even at zero guests, you can still run into overcrowding issues.
Counterpoint, not all of us are business travelers, I pay my $550 a year (and my flights) out of my own pocket, if my wife and daughter can’t come with me in the lounge then that takes away a huge reason to have the card at all.
I used to share your viewpoint and I still pay the $550/year out of pocket. But the crowding has grown out of control.
My solution is just one of many, but I am against, saying, giving a member 20 passes per year that can be used all at once or one at a time…
Membership benefits page
here you will find information for access to lounges ( Centurion)
* Card holders may bring two guests at no additional cost ( total 3 )
I agree with your proposed solution, but in LA I’m not sure that would do the trick. Of the people in my life who are regular travelers, I don’t know of one that doesn’t have a platinum card in their wallet.
I hope the LAX and JFK lounges will be large enough to accommodate the outsized crowds. I’m happy to see the CLT lounge will be over 13K square feet.
It’s not wise to isolate/discriminate against those with families (i.e. children), especially when these lounges have “kids rooms.” I think cardmember plus 1 guest and/or spouse and immediate children 12 and younger is appropriate as Amex only allows ages 13 and older as authorized users. The common theme these days on blogs is Amex is for the business man “company paid,” which is not the case, isolate those in their 30s and your preventing card holders for life and such views will be passed on to the next generation.
The product on paper is great, but the actual product in motion is not, gifting access as is popular on certain forms, bring work colleagues to get wasted for free, hanging out at the lounge for hours on end without a layover is abusing and diluting the product offers, but to each their own, but we can continue to blame families and their children.
It’s important enough to me that my husband have access that I would cancel the card immediately if one could not bring a +1. I would have no problem, though, with guest passes beyond that (like maybe 2 per year, which could be used at once or on two separate visits.)
The guesting privileges are best utilized in inviting the crew of your flight to chill during the rolling delays. 🙂
I like the idea of trying to combat overcrowding, but if you’re proposing inconsistent/experimental admission rules by location, that is going to frustrate cardholders. I shouldn’t have to consult a matrix to determine varying admission rules by location.