An Exception To The Centurion Lounge 3 Hour Rule

Filed Under: American Express
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One of the best perks of The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (review) is access to Centurion Lounges. These lounges are for the most part significantly better than what’s offered by US airlines, as the lounges offer complimentary cocktails, hot food, and a couple of them even have spas.

The problem is that these lounges have faced serious crowding issues, so over the past couple of years American Express has tried to add some restrictions to limit crowding. For example:

  • In March 2017 they reduced the number of free guests each card member can bring into the lounge to two
  • In October 2017 they stopped selling access to Centurion Lounges for those who don’t have a Platinum or Centurion Card (previously other Amex card members could buy a day pass for $50)
  • In March 2019 they limited Centurion Lounge access to those with flights departing within three hours, and restricted access to those using the lounge upon arrival

As it turns out, that last point isn’t quite as strict as it seems. As noted by Frequent Miler, the Centurion Lounge three hour restriction doesn’t apply to layovers. Here are the terms (bolding mine):

NOTE: FOR PLATINUM CARD MEMBERS ONLY
The Centurion Lounge is a day of departure lounge. We will not admit arriving Platinum Card Members with boarding passes for flights that have just landed. We will admit Platinum Card Members with layovers or connecting flights who produce proof of confirmed connecting flight (connections pertain to same airport).

I actually wasn’t aware of that prior to now. So you can only access a Centurion Lounge within three hours of departure at your origin airport. However, if you’re connecting then you can access a Centurion Lounge more than three hours before departure.

My guess is that it’s fine if you’re on separate tickets — presumably all that matters is that you can provide both an inbound and outbound boarding pass.

Admittedly this is a nuanced point, though I imagine there are people who would benefit from this.

Has anyone noticed a decrease in crowding since the new Centurion Lounge access policies were put into place?

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Comments
  1. Has anyone had success getting in within three hours of boarding time rather than three hours of departure time, for when it is not a layover? This would be useful for getting some work done and having a meal at LGA, where the lounge is before security and the new United and Southwest gates are a longer walk than the old ones.

  2. This is true – make sure to screenshot your boarding pass for your arriving flight or save to wallet (disappears on AA app). This did not work for me on an overnight layover at DFW, even on the same ticket.

  3. I have not noticed any decrease in overcrowding at the Centurion lounges. Still as packed as ever! I frequent the lounges at LGA and SEA.

  4. Similar crowdedness level across the locations. But I also primarily travel on the weekends.
    The need to limit to cardmembers only or 1 guest.

  5. In LGA, the Centurion lounge let me stay for about 6 hours when my 9am flight was cancelled and I was booked on a 5pm flight later that day.

  6. @Y:

    Same at SFO – still crowded as ever with folks hovering, waiting for seats. Though I feel there’s been a marked decrease in children lately. Am I just getting lucky or has anyone else noticed this? And I wonder if it’s a direct result of the stricter rules or if I’m just not there at kid-friendly hours the past several visits.

  7. Seattle gave me this “courtesy” when I arrived within 3 hours of boarding time. (Outrageous to me that it’s not based on boarding time instead.) It seems these efforts along with a hefty annual fee increase only serves to unite cardmembers to join forces with AUs. Huge misfire, Amex!

  8. Meh. The overcrowding is caused entirely by Amex’s choosing to sell more “tickets” (platinum cards) than they have space to accommodate. If they can’t handle the crowds they should take the card off the market until they can — and, going forward, limit the number of cards issued to whatever level they are able to support.

  9. I’ve generally bypassed Centurion lounges recently for SkyClubs and even Priority Pass lounges (we skilled the LAS Centurion Lounge recently for “The Club,” which was located right by our gate). For me at least the Centurion Lounge is more of a fringe benefit…

  10. Yeah, SFO was definitely less crowded. It was easier to find a seat and get a shower in a reasonable time. Also, yes on a layover I was asked to show proof and was allowed in before the 3 hour mark.

    Haven’t noticed any less crowding at SEA though but it’s never been super terrible

  11. I always wondered wether these benefits only apply to cards issued by american express themselve or if they also apply to amex platinum issued e.g. by miles and more or third party banks? Also: do they apply to partner cards as well? Thanks for helping out a newbie <3

  12. I already cancelled my Amex Gold this year. After switching back to the CSR, I’m considering cancelling my Platinum in January before the annual fee hits in February. The FHR benefits that I love seems to work with any Amex card, I get Delta Lounge/ free checked back with with the Delta Skymiles Card. No more giftcards for the Airline credit and not a fan of the Saks credits. Also really hate that the Centurion is LGA is pre-security.

  13. I see some in the comments saying they’ve been excepted from the three-hour rule on layovers, but I don’t see at all how the language Lucky quotes supports there being any exception to that rule. (It obviously is an “exception” to the no-use-as-arrivals-lounge rule.)

    It does not, for example, say “We will admit Platinum Card Members with layovers or connecting flights *the same day, even if they depart more than three hours after the Member’s arrival.*”

  14. @shza

    The language quoted is not the best. You have to read the full terms, which go on to provide that the 3-hour limit does not apply to connections:

    “We will not admit Platinum Card Members more than 3 hours before the departure time on the Platinum Card Member’s same-day, confirmed boarding pass. This does not apply to Platinum Card Members with a connecting flight.”

  15. Their plan to eliminate members by raising the AF worked on me…no more can I afford the $595 AF. But then it’s confusing they’ll offer a 100k signup bonus to attract customers. AMEX is making little sense lately.

  16. I actually was asked for an ID for the FIRST time @ IAH (I am a Centurion card holder btw and have used the centurion lounges all over for the past decade ). She took my boarding pass,\ and centurion card. She had a very nice “welcome Mr. xxxx”, but then said, “I’m really sorry but I have to ask for ID. You have no idea how many cardholders use their brothers, fathers, etc card”. I found it very funny as it clearly says who I was on my boarding pass. I didn’t make a fuss out of it (I don’t normally like to speak to anyone while flying and keep my interactions with others to a minimum). She did apologize profusely, but found it odd. It is in the t&c’s? not a big deal, but never had it done to me before.

  17. @Matt – thanks. What you quoted is clearly what Lucky should have quoted. (I’d assume it’s what he meant to quote, but given that he added editorial bolding to the off-topic language he did quote, who knows.)

  18. @troy, it’s actually a good thing it is before security at LGA because if it were not, you may not always be able to use it, depending on who you fly most often, and where your gate would be.
    I haven’t noticed a huge change at the LGA lounge, but it was never problematic to begin with, at least whenever i have used it, which is primarily in the morning (all times), and sometimes early afternoon. I have no idea what it is like at 5pm or something.

  19. Often book refundable flights to access these lounges. Good place for a nice lunch. 3 hour limit is a bummer but good to see there are still workarounds

  20. No, I have seen NO DECREASE in people since the implementation of the 3 hour departure rule. This is a totally bone headed decision by some bean counter who probably travels 2X a year to see Momma! Looks good in the board room, however, totally sucks when you see it in practice. I say cardmembers + 1, no kids under 16 years old.

  21. I think I might be the only Amex Platinum card holder who has never been to a Centurion Lounge

    That said, I think it should be restricted to either one guest only, or each card member should be allowed to bring a certain number of guests per year.

  22. Yes. I still avoid the AMEX in MIA for the Admirals Club next door. The Amex lounge is to small with too many groups of families.
    All I need is a protein, a drink, and peace and quiet. All are available at the Admirals and not so with the Amex.
    The LGA lounge in the morning is different albeit without the drink. But now I travel via JFK due to all the construction chaos at LGA.

  23. No free food is worth going to these overcrowded hell holes. I’d much rather spend $20 and sit in a spacious open terminal like DFW-D or LAS. Many airports have nicer terminals now than the centurion lounges. The food is not that good anyway. They don’t believe in chicken breast and most the options are not healthy.

  24. No guests, period.

    If you want to be in the lounge, you should pay.

    Period.

    I see hordes of people in the lounge and you can tell they are tag alongs.

    It totally diminishes the experience of these smaller lounges.

    Please pay too join. Period.

  25. If you want to up the experience
    Maybe instead of cutting down on guests, the should have a minimum annual card spend say, 100k pr year
    To (earn) the privilege instead of just filling out a cc app.
    I’d be all over that
    That will weed the freeloaders out.

  26. Appears The Clubs now have a three hour rule as well. Historically used as an arrivals lounge on occasion – crap!

  27. Def no less crowded than before at DFW. Today, I couldnt enter 3 hours prior to boarding time and had to wait another 30ish minutes to enter. I did utilize the exception at MIA last month when I was there for a 5 hour layover on separate reservations. No problems with entry.

  28. CL always crowded and with a lot of folks who are truly heinous about being loud, tacky and getting/eating/taking as much as they can in the shortest amount of time.

    Perk of being a Key is always-on access to AA FSL. I use it on almost every flight being based out of DFW. It’s a lifesaver from atmosphere of the CL.

  29. Two visits to the CL in DFW in the last 30 days were awful; left quickly just to escape the crowd. I think it was a better layout pre-relocation.

    Skipped CL at LAS today; they had the same problem as DFW where the lines to get in are so long you need an extra 15 minutes just to enter. They may be trying to slow down access as one wa y to control the overcrowding, but it is annoying.

  30. We cancelled all our AMEX products as 21 year members after they changed the rules to the lounges and discontinued the $28 credit for Priority Pass restaurants. The platinum card just isn’t with it anymore.

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