Amex Will Begin Limiting Centurion Lounge Access For Families

Filed Under: American Express

One of the best perks of the American Express Platinum Card is access to Centurion Lounges. These lounges are for the most part significantly better than what’s offered by U.S. airlines, as the lounges have complimentary cocktails, hot food, and a couple of them even have spas.

However, there’s no denying that these lounges are often overcrowded, to the point that they’re almost unpleasant to be in. As much as I love Centurion Lounges, I’ve sometimes found myself walking in, realizing there weren’t any empty seats, and then just going to a nearby emptier contract lounge, because at least they’re a quiet place from which to work. To me the most basic lounge amenity is a quiet place with wifi and an outlet, and everything else is a frill.

As far as U.S. locations go, there are Centurion Lounges in Dallas, HoustonLas Vegas, MiamiNew York, San Francisco, and Seattle, and one should be opening this summer in Philadelphia.

Amex-Centurion-Lounge-Houston - 13

American Express is making some major changes to the Amex Platinum Personal Card and Amex Platinum Business Card as of March 30, 2017, and it looks like on that date they’ll also be making a change to the Centurion Lounge access policy, as View from the Wing wrote about earlier.

As of March 30, 2017, Amex Platinum members are limited to bringing two guests into Centurion Lounges. Previously they could take two guests or immediate family members, meaning that you can no longer bring the whole family into the lounge (well, at least not without paying). You can pay $50 per additional guest beyond the first two.

Here’s how the change is described:

As our Centurion Lounges have quickly become one of our Card Members’ favorite Card benefits and continue to increase in popularity, we have increasingly heard from our Card Members that our lounges are becoming overcrowded at times.

Our new guest policy is intended to help alleviate the overcrowding issues and ensure that more of our Card Members are able to continue to enjoy the great space and amenities that our Centurion Lounges have to offer.

Under the new policies, Platinum Card Members can enter our lounges with up to two family members for free, as well as continue to purchase day-passes for any additional guests or family members.

Please also note that the two family member policy applies to all our lounges (with the exception of Delta), so it’s now consistent across most of our 1,000 plus global lounge collection.


So the timing of these change is rough. Amex is raising the annual fee on the personal card, and at the same time is reducing lounge access for some, so that’s an unfortunate move.

I’m sure Amex has data on this, but I’m very surprised to hear that this should alleviate lounge crowding. When I think to the people I see in Centurion Lounges, it’s rare that I see a family with four or more people. Maybe I just travel during unusual times, but I’m not sure the degree to which this will alleviate crowding. Furthermore, in many families you have two people who have the card, meaning they can still bring in six people.

However, I did write a post a while back about the overcrowding issues at Centurion Lounges, and noted four potential ways Amex could go with lounge access:

  • Keep the status quo. Continue operating fantastic lounges with great amenities, which will continue to be overcrowded.
  • Change the guesting policy. Right now you can bring in two guests or immediate family, which I find most people take advantage of. Then they could either give a certain number of guesting passes for cardmembers to bring in others, or otherwise charge a reasonable premium for guests (maybe $10-20 per guest)
  • No longer allow authorized users in. While the card’s annual fee is $450, on the Platinum Card you can add three additional cardmembers for a total of $175. In turn they can use the lounges and also guest in people. Lounge access could be limited to primary cardmembers, which would presumably decrease the number of people who have access to these lounges.
  • Limit the number of free visits. Maybe those with the Platinum Card could be limited to a certain number of lounge visits per year, making it “fairer” for all cardmembers (I assume there are some people who use the lounges 100+ times per year, while others use them maybe a few times)

So it seems they went with the option of changing the guesting policy. I guess we’ll find out soon if this limits crowding problems.

Amex-Centurion-Lounge-Houston - 5

Bottom line

As of March 30, those with the Amex Platinum Card will be limited to two guests for Centurion Lounges, rather than being able to bring in the immediate family. It’s unfortunate that this comes at the same time that Amex is raising the annual fee on the personal version of the card.

I do think crowding in Centurion Lounges has been a major issue at times, and something needed to be done. I think the issue here is that any possible solution will frustrate members, since ultimately something will be taken away.

I don’t think this is the solution, at least based on what I’ve seen in lounges. While I’d hate to see it (on one hand), I think a much more effective solution would be limiting people to one guest each, or eliminating access for authorized users. On the personal card you can add three authorized users for $175, which is an average of ~$60 per person per year for access to those lounges. I imagine that’s causing a lot of crowding in Centurion Lounges.

Again, I don’t want to see any negative changes, but at the same time, the overcrowding is a very real problem, in my experience.

What do you make of the changes to Centurion Lounge access? Do you agree lounge crowding is an issue, and if so, what do you think the solution is?

  1. Change guesting policy – one guest per CM (or family) and you can only purchase access with a platinum or centurion card.

  2. Hey Ben… my wife holds a platinum and so do I (one membership rewards account)… we’d like to visit the centurion lounge in MIA with our 3 year old and my mom-in-law… should remain free of charge right?!

  3. Agree with Captain Obvious, and would offer up these additional rules to fight crowding at my home lounge, SFO:

    – Only Platinum and Centurion cardholders.
    – 1 guest per card-holder…NOT Authorized User…for Platinum
    – 2 guests per card-holder for Centurion
    – $75 per additional guest, up to 2 additional, paid guests per card-holder
    – All non-card-holders are considered guests, regardless of familial ties or AU status
    – No children under 16 years of age

  4. They should have considered raising the annual fee AND requiring an additional annual fee for lounge access. They don’t have a space problem, they have a pricing problem.

  5. @Raj they did raise the annual fee for Platinum (550 according to a previous post by Lucky), if they raised it more or charged extra for lounge access they would price themselves out of the market to far superior cards from Chase and Citi. Yes I get those cards don’t have access to the same quality of US lounges but still. These lounges are the only thing that still makes sense about the personal version of the Amex plat card.

  6. Amex lounges are a zoo. Something had to be done to change that. Limiting family members is tricky. Immediate family members (wife and kids) should not be limited. Unless someone has a dozen of kids usually wife/husband and kids would not make a huge difference then limiting to only two family members. In my case I have two kids so I cannot bring my wife and the kids to a Amex lounge. What they should do is to not allow guests. Delta does that. If you are an adult that can have a credit card and want to access the lounge than get the Platinum card. Now, increasing the fee by $100 and not allowing me to bring my wife and two kids then Amex is making very hard for me to justify keeping this card.

  7. Centurion Lounges are now a joke. At all hours San Francisco, Dallas, New York are all stuffed to capacity. Half the space in each appears to have been leased to Gymboree. Food always runs short. Chairs are hard to find. Tables are dirty. Bar lines are long. If Centurion Lounges were all the Platinum card had to offer I would not carry the card. Many Priority Pass lounges are superior. In fact, because of smaller crowds I usually end up in the American of Delta lounge.

  8. Yeah! While we are at it, lets kick more people out. It needs to be exclusive. But only to the demographic that we are in. Right guys? Who wants to start a list.

  9. I am a frequent American Express Centurion user, love these lounges and I have never brought anyone inside as a guest. And yes, I’ve had many times recently where I entered an Amex Lounge only to find 1 person sitting at a table for 4 and another group of 4 not finding a table. Life in the fast lane.

  10. @Santastico

    Not everyone has kids and not everyone travels with them. So I don’t understand why guests should not be allowed but others can bring in their entire family. Your wife can be added as an authorized user and your family can continue to use the lounge.

    I think the change is encourage more families to add spouse as an authorized user.

  11. I’m not a cardholder, and this doesn’t make me much less likely to get it (no kids), but it is strange that this seems to be solving the wrong problem. Obviously a lot of people in the lounges would like fewer kids, but it sounds like Amex knows what people would really like is a real solution to the overcrowding, which most seem to think this is not.

    Also, all the recent changes to the Amex benefits seem like someone came up with a list of pretty mediocre ideas and pitched them with a really snazzy power point.

  12. @Charles S

    With lounges bulging at the seams… they’re leaving some money on the table somewhere. Seems like a lounge-specific membership exclusive to Platinum Card holders would make sense. Three visits per year included, or opt for unlimited visits (including standard guesting) for $199 extra.

    It’s obvious that it is currently not TOO expensive, or else fewer people would use it.

  13. Agree with AdamR,
    No kids under 16! Hoping the new policy and price increase will thin the ranks at these clubs!

  14. DFW’s lounge is filthy and dilapidated. Now I can’t bring my kids in with me? Buh Bye Plat Amex…

  15. The current guesting policy by which I mean guests and family members is simply far too wide. Most real airline lounges in the world only allow one guest with membership. At the moment one card could allow in say a family of seven etc. Madness.

  16. I hold the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum. Since I pay 2 annual fees for 2 platinum cards, can I bring in a total of 4 guests?

  17. if the penniless peons who cant afford / keep complaining about the $100 plat annual fee increase can just cancel their cards, it will reduce like 50% of the ppl crowding the amex lounges.

  18. They should just keep it really simple – cardholder with one free guest. If a family want it then make the other adult the additional cardholder on the account and they both get to bring a guest.

    Amex Plat UK does it this way for Priority Pass and it works well (plus we pay way more than the US card as we get no rebates, plus still have forex fees to pay!)

  19. As if Amex hadn’t already bungled the price hike on this card, now this…

    The same idiots at Amex who let the Costco deal fall through had to be responsible for this mess too.

    Seriously, at this point what benefits does Amex Plat offer over anyone else’s card at this point? I’m sure it won’t be long before the Delta SC access is withdrawn as well.

  20. They just don’t want my business. Thanks for the 100,000 mile sign up bonus though. My family can eat a lot of food for $550 elsewhere.

  21. Frankly, I wish AMEX would increase their annual fee and restrict Centurion access even more. The card is incredibly valuable to those who want reservations at nice restaurants, tickets to shows, lounge access, the AMEX shopping specials, etc.

    The people who jam their families into a lounge to save $20 bucks on a meal are not the ones I want in my lounge or that Amex Platinum is targeting.

    Make the annual fee $1,000. Increase the benefits for urban living people as well as high net worth travelers/entertainers and limit the lounge to card holder plus one. That will shake out the losers who just want the bonus, but aren’t the target market.

  22. Has anyone seen anything about them changing the children under 18 inclusion policy for those paying the $50 day pass fee?

    I wrote a whole analysis of the situation and then realized it comes down to seat usage over the average of the year. They can easily increase food and drink availability but adding seating is exceptionally expensive, so we can consider an infant to be equally as expensive to serve as a 50 year old alcoholic who only drinks off the top shelf.

    I have to give Amex the benefit of the doubt on this, that their data is showing that the immediate family inclusion is being used primarily by less valuable cardholders (lower spending and Plats not Cents), and that a family of 6 is equally expensive as a single business traveller travelling 6 times as much.

    It’s a tough reality but since I’m spending my own money, I’m not as valuable to Amex as a traveller as an expense account and shouldn’t be expecting to be benefitted at the business traveller’s expense.

  23. I had to use the Platinum to gain access to the Sky Club last weekend. To my surprise, Delta no longer gives Sky Club entry to the for those traveling in domestic first class. Is this new?

    I used the Platinum to gain entry for myself; had to pay $29 to get my wife in. Our nine month old son got in gratis. Guess they figured he wouldn’t eat the whole spinach frittata. And no, he was not a nuisance to the other guests.

  24. Like someone said above, limit the number of visits per year. For instance, 5 per year, and then for any future visits you fully pay the fee. I don’t think limiting the amount of individuals a cardmember can bring is the solution. Lounges will still be crowded in April. The solution is to limit the number of visits per year for every single card member. My 2 cents.

  25. Wow!amex What they could do is put that hundred on the premium gold reward card and throw in that lounge access. Just a thought right?

  26. @Grant, access for F domestic flyers hasn’t been available since I started this game in 14. I think they used to make an exception for transcontinental F flyers, but now it’s strictly international. : (
    FWIW, Canada, Mexico, and most Caribbean islands are included in “international.”

  27. When will the large financial institutions start issuing food and beverage credits in lieu of actual lounges for a segment of their card holders.
    Link the credits to the purchase of tickets on the same account.
    The card issuer would also get the benefit of the 30 day billing period.
    There will always be a segment that pays for premium lounge benefits thru the price of their ticket and membership fee as evidenced here but the benefit of lounge can be maintained thru the general membership by giving others exactly what they want in food and beverage which also commands seating at most airports.

  28. It makes sense….probably nouveau riche business travel types think it is their right to bring their precocious broods into the AMEX Lounge when taking their flyer miles supported mega summer trips. Selfishness and pretentious behavior go hand in hand.

  29. I think they should charge 75 Dollars to enter the lounge if you don’t have the centurion card or the platinum card, or maybe even just only allow platinum and centurion cardholders to give it more of an exclusive feel.

    When I went to the one in Seattle with my mom and little brother on a trip it was so crowded and messy we went to delta skyclub.

  30. if those freeloading generation millennial stop wanting everything for free and spend some money on what they want American Express won’t have this problem. they want Millennial business so bad, they are willing to sacrifice the quality of their BRAND. NOT everyone are Platinum card quality, the majority of the bottom feeders I see in the Centurion Lounge I just walk out. Kids everywhere parents with no control of them.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *