American Express Further Limits Centurion Lounge Access

Filed Under: American Express
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One of the best perks of the American Express Platinum Cards 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. Amex took steps to limit lounge crowding earlier this year, reducing the number of free guests each Platinum cardholder could bring with them to two. That wasn’t a terribly popular move with families, as a family of four would no longer be able to access the Centurion Lounge if only one parent was a card holder. If both parents had cards, however, they could of course each guest in two people.

It’s easy enough to add authorized users (or apply for a card separately for the perks and bonus points), so we at OMAAT were skeptical that this would actually do anything to alleviate crowding.

Well, it looks like we may have been right, as American Express is announcing additional measures to help with crowding.

The Points Guy has a full statement from Amex:

As part of an ongoing commitment to giving Card Members the best experience while in the lounges, American Express is actually making changes to its Centurion Lounge access policy. Starting Monday, October 2, access to the Centurion Lounges will be an exclusive benefit for our premium customers – Platinum Card and Centurion Members. Other American Express Card Members will no longer be able to purchase day passes for the lounges.

The guest policy for Platinum Card and Centurion Members remains the same. Platinum Card Members can enter any Centurion Lounge with up to two guests, and Centurion Members may enter with up to two guests or immediate family at no additional charge. Platinum and Centurion Card Members can continue to purchase day passes for any additional guests.

We understand having a place to relax and recharge in the airport is essential to our Card Members, and we continue to evaluate ways to address any crowding concerns and provide a best in class experience for our Card Members.

For this reason, we are continuously exploring opportunities to expand upon our Centurion Lounge offerings to accommodate more Card Members, including the introduction of new locations, such as the upcoming Hong Kong and Philadelphia locations, and the expansion of our existing spaces, as we plan to do in Dallas.

Like the reduction in guests this Spring, I’m a bit skeptical that this will have any significant impact. I’ve spent a lot of time in Centurion Lounges over the years, and I’ve never actually seen anyone paying for access.

My suspicion, much like the “Reserved” placards strewn about tables for Centurion card holders, is this is more about perception than anything else. If the lounge can only be accessed by certain members, that adds prestige to both the lounge and the card. Of course, I’m sure Amex has data on this, and maybe this will actually do something to alleviate crowding, but I’m skeptical.

If you have been accessing the Centurion Lounges with a non-premium Amex card, you’ll want to add either a personal or business platinum card to ensure continued access.

Personal and Business Platinum cards offer Centurion Lounge access

Bottom line

As of Monday, those with the Amex Platinum and Centurion Cards will be limited to two guests for Centurion Lounges, and other American Express cardholders will no longer be able to pay for access.

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, but I’m not sure how often non-premium cardholders were really accessing these lounges anyway.

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?

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  1. most of my experience is at MIA , LGA
    Crowded , not worth the effort, unless you fly low season on a Wed at noon.

    If my gate is nearby , why not. Plus I enjoy the stores next to it. But I am not going to wander into D12 when my flight departs from gate D41 !

    And kudos to the ladies st the front desk. Poor souls who have to deal with some nasty traveling characters out there.

  2. They are managing this the correct way. Next step will be to restrict guest to one per cardholder and after that the Delta policy of no free guests.

  3. Most of my experience has been at SFO and there I have seen couples buying their way in that had Gold cards. I’m glad it’s being restricted. It’s at SFO that I also saw huge groups going in off of one cardholder, so I was happy when they made the other restrictions. Hopefully one or NO guests is around the corner.

  4. I think one guest would still be an entirely reasonable policy to implement – my recent experience in MIA saw me leaving the Centurion lounge and heading over to the Admirals Club where I was able to take a shower in a fantastic shower suite, and relax in a very spacious lounge. One could argue that the Centurion Lounge had a better food selection, but the crowded ambiance was a deal breaker for me.

  5. Can a card holder guest in 2 family members for let’s say 30 mins., then exchange them for 2 other family members? I.e., 2 entries, 2 sets of 2 family members, sequentially over an hour period?

  6. @ Nick — Previously any Amex-issued card would let you buy access for a fee, even the cards with no annual fee like the Amex Everyday and cobrand cards like the SPG/Hilton/Delta cards.

  7. I recently saw people walking in, bypassing busy front reception. FrontD was so busy that they couldn’t leave to chase down trespassers or decided to ignore them. Easily done in some Amex Cent Lounges. Crazy.

  8. Only Platinum holders and one quest is
    Fair. All others out side!!!
    I spend aloton my amex plat. And expect premium benefits over other amex card types.

  9. I also am based out of SF and have also witnessed instances where customers without the platinum or centurion have paid for lounge access at SFO. It’s not a whole lot of customers, but hey, sometimes a few less passengers make the difference between finding a seat vs. not.

  10. Crazy. Down here in Australia, premium (A$400 annual fee) Amex card holders get 2 lounge pass to Centurion Lounge in SYD each year, I’ve wonder this one going to eliminated or not.

  11. Way to go!!! Next step is to limit to cardholder only. When you buy a ticket to watch a game or a concert you are not allowed to bring a guest with you. Want to access the lounge? Pay for the card.

  12. I’m all for limits. I was in an airport lounge in Istanbul and saw a guy with one lounge membership bring nine people into a small lounge. Totally unacceptable, especially when seating was already limited. Also, not really a fan of people bringing the whole fam in either. I go into airport lounges to avoid screaming kids in the terminal. Last thing I need is to have them in the area where I go for peace and quiet.

  13. Keep cutting access. I am paying the fee and so far the lounge is consistently too crowded to use. There is no amount of access reduction that they could make that would give me less access than I have now.

  14. This is a great move and will hopefully enhance the club experience for plats and centurion cardholders. I’m usually at SFO at that lounge is a zoo.

  15. Next step is requiring a large, substantial minimum monthly spend on those cards, or else entry costs $25-50. So many people hold the cards just for the lounge benefit. I don’t think having it work like a $300-400/year club is a sustainable model given how many thousands of newly minted travel hackers are out there now

  16. A step that would really help would be to limit access to Centurion card holders, not Platinum – after all these are CENTURION lounges. That would rule me out, and probably 95% of the current users. Plenty of space for those that remain!

  17. Lol. Limit to Centurion members only. That would be great for centurion card holders. They will have so much space to fine, drink, sleep and shower!

  18. Lol. Limit to Centurion members only. That would be great for centurion card holders. They will have so much space to dine, drink, sleep and shower!

  19. The Amex lounges are great but they have all been built quite small. Seattle, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston..they are all pretty tiny relative to an AA Club. Dallas is the only one that hasnt felt too crowded but maybe Ive just been lucky.

  20. Limiting the lounge to centurion card holders only would make them completely cost ineffective to continue operating…

  21. The problem here is not with secondary benefits of the card.

    The problem is with the primary benefit of the card:
    – Amex Platinum card is one of the most advertised cards on travel hacking sites,
    – Everybody and their mother has this card – literally!

    So too many people with premium cards.

    My wife and I recently visited the SFO lounge: at arrival and departure, and we each have our own card.

    I was once in a grocery line at Whole Foods (short line), and the 3 millennials in front of me each had a Platinum card.

  22. @Rikki YES, your 2 month old infant does count as a guest. I asked at the Centurion Lounge in Dallas about bringing in my then 4 month old daughter and I was told all guests count, even infants. Luckily I had signed up my wife for an additional card and they were able to look up her account because we didn’t receive her additional card in time before we departed.

  23. Two years ago, Centurion Lounge access was totally worth the Platinum card fee. My girlfriend and I used to plan our flight connections around airports with AmEx lounges: the staff were over-the-top amazing (in particular, kudos to the DFW team then), the food and drink were excellent, and we could actually relax comfortably for a while between flights.

    Nowadays, it’s a harder decision: we now debate whether it’s worth long walks/train rides to get from our gate to an AmEx lounge, when we know there’s a good chance that we’ll arrive to a chaotic environment, the staff may be grumpy, and there probably won’t be any available seats (especially in MIA).

    I’ve been questioning whether it’s worth renewing the card. (To @atxtravel’s point, FWIW we channel “substantial” spend through AmEx – which is admittedly in the eye of the beholder.)

    It’ll be interesting to see how this new policy influences things.

  24. YES!!! Limit the number if guests.
    I love the Lounges, but overcrowding usually ruins the experience.
    Especially at Miami’s Airport.
    Love the Las Vegas lounge though.

  25. Why not limit access to platinum and centurion cardholders (and one guest) where at least one annual fee has been paid? Amex would be rewarding loyalty and cutting the crowds down to the demographic they truly should be targeting.

  26. They should limit it to cardholder only also, and if the cardholder bring in more guests/family members, the cardholder can pay for guests on per-person basis. Why should single travelers subsidize family travelers, as the current policy suggests? When you buy tickets for museums, you don’t get “guests” for free. Children might get a discounted rate.

  27. Tiffany, I’ve seen plenty of people paying for Centurion Lounge access based on having an Amex card, but not Platinum or Centurion. I think you have not been in Centurion lounges that much if you have never seen this. In my experience it is not all that uncommon.

    The other side of it is that Amex has sold the Platinum card to anyone with a 700 FICO score and the willingness to pay the annual fee. That’s not very premium.

  28. Tiffany – as always your brilliant! Here in NY at least I am seeing many commercials – almost to the point of the number of drug and car adds – about American Express Platinum Cards. The gist of the commercial is how exclusive it is. Your hypothesis seems to fit right in.

  29. LOL, I love all those Platinum card holders shouting “Way to go, Keep those suckers out of MY lounge!” when in fact the main reason for overcrowding is too many Plat members i.e. themselves.

  30. I wouldn’t be surprised if people who pay for access tend to stay a lot longer in the lounge. They’re not likely to pay $50 for a quick drink and email check a few minutes before the flight. Twelve customers who stay 15 minutes each in the lounge have the same footprint as one customer who camps out for 3 hours.

  31. We avoid the AMEX lounges as they are too small, too overcrowded. The Admirals Clubs are much nicer and more prolific.

  32. In my experience centurion lounges are vastly overrated by the bloggers who talk about James beard award winning chefs etc but the food, for whatever reason, is glorified buffet food. Granted it’s nice to be able to get a meal IF you can find a place to sit. Way too overcrowded. I prefer the route PP is taking and incorporating restaurants. I would much rather have a meal with a couple of beers and keep my sanity than deal with centurion lounges. Platinum cards going to be canceled.

  33. Completely agree with Rob. I’d much rather eat my cheese cubes and bud light at the AA clubs and do so in peace. The only way I would keep the platinum card is if you’re a serious delta traveler or you’re home airport is a centurion lounge location.

  34. Amazing people are all about only cardholder should be allowed.

    The same goes for popping out kids. People should be penalized for popping out kids, instead of being incentivised.

  35. So are platinum authorized user cards (3 for 175) still receiving the lounge benefit?

    Honestly, this one benefit is worth far more than $550/ year to me. I’d pay twice that to get rid of the rif-raff. Anyone can get a platinum card these days.

    Why not raise the cost of the platinum card since nobody actually charges anything but airfare to it if they have any sense.

  36. Get a grip people. It’s a freaking lounge not your home. These comments are ridiculous and clearly from people who have no friends or family or family that would be able to stomach them long enough to want to travel with them. The problem is not platinum card holders it’s people abusing the access by inviting their entire entourage into the lounge. That needs to come to an end. I also agree with a certain amount of complimentary passes per year vs every time they travel. I don’t have kids yet but feel like your spouse or kid should be allowed I mean geez what is supposed to happen….the spouse with the card leaves their family at ticketing and says….see ya! Give me a break. As long as the kids are not acting out and running around there shouldn’t be a problem. Lastly are you people purposely scheduling your flight times around lounge access!? I travel roughly 10-15 times per year and am lucky to go to both priority,centrion or delta 5 times. Who has the time? If people are seriously planning their travel around lounges that’s a huge contributor to the crowding not to mention pathetic.
    And if they raise my card on the platinum especially after removing the 50% points per preferred airline I’m gone and now there will be one extra seat for everyone to fight over. Lol

  37. much ado about sysco food and cheap furniture. if you really want a peaceful place to wait for a flight, shell out for the aadvantage exec from citi and get an admirals club membership. that continues to be the best option, just don’t expect much.

    i have had the plat for years and have worked for amex. this is not some unforeseen outcome. they want the most cardmembers possible and they have sold this card very well in the U.S.

  38. I prefer the way Priority Pass is going – restaurant credits. Most lounges are vastly overrated and not worth visiting. For those saying they’d rather go to the AA Club than the Centurion Lounge, why not just hang out in the terminal? Most large airports nowadays have terminals with far better options than the lounges, Centurion included.

  39. It won’t be long before the Platinum card will be renamed the “Plastic” card, and the fee will double. $550 or whatever it costs now is not what it used to be. Even uncrowded, I’d never go out of my way for any lounge. I had a 5-hour layover at JFK from business Singapore to first Virgin America, and neither of them have a lounge. (How do they get away with that?) I ended up in the PP lounge, very crowded with people screaming into their cell phones while wolfing down movie theatre food. After a hour of listening to the entire family sequentially squeal over their phones to the rest of their family on all 7 continents, I left and sat quietly at the gate (until boarding started). JFK is a dismal pit: never again.

  40. $825 annual fee. That’s what we pay for the Amex Plat over here in the Netherlands. New applicants receive a staggering 20k MR.
    Imagine that limits the amount of users, not to mention the ‘premium’ aspect of the card.

  41. Big thanks to everyone here stepping up for restrictions with such clarity.
    Our main airport: SFO.
    Centurion Lounge: As someone aptly put it, it’s a zoo. Overcrowded to the max.

    If the rest of the world is full of wailing kids, and full of parents who have no clue how to handle that, for god’s sakes gimme some respite if I pay for a big Amex card.

    And YES, by ALL means, exclude those that don’t have plat or centurion cards.
    Maybe your spouse as a guest. But that’s it. ONE spouse !!

    There’s plenty enough noise from all the rich retired guys, flashing their rolexes and entertaining the whole lounge about the times when they could still throw a ball.

    Maybe, after all, it would actually be possible to create a haven for those travelers that do realize there’s other people on this planet, and that stillness is a source of relaxation …

  42. @Eric

    You don’t need an 700 FICO score to get a Platinum card, heck I don’t think you need it for the Centurion Card.

  43. AMEX doesn’t really know what to do with their lounges! These decisions could further isolate AMEX lounges. The next news that we would hear is that they plan to shut down/sell all of them…

  44. i use mostly SFo and hope the food gets better(chicken thighs-ugh) most lounges are not easily accessible to delta fliers!!

  45. Anyone planning their trips around a lounge is crazy. When will people stop going gaga over an airport lounge.

  46. Tiffany – great report and information. However, I have to take issue with your statement, “I’ve never actually seen anyone paying for access”. Trust me, as just a regular AMEX cardholder, they have gladly taken the daily fee money from me the few times I’ve accessed the Centurion Lounge at DFW and Las Vegas. Sad to see the option taken away.

  47. Crowding in the Centurion Lounge is one of the reasons why I cancelled my Platinum Card. Since they increased the fee, I found little value and did not see the point in keeping it (I do not use Uber).

  48. haven’t been in a Centurion for a couple months, but I think one of the problems is most of them seem to be undersized. The SFO lounge is way too small, so is the one in LGA…. and MIA also was pretty tight And why isn’t there a Centurion Lounge in Chicago??? The one in DFW is really nice and even with a good crowd it seems fine.

    I was in the United Polaris lounge the other day in Chicago; on the way to Singapore it was very uncrowded, but on the way home from HKG it was packed! Though still found a place to sit. And it’s rather large (but probably a lot of huge planes landed around the same time). If you fly Polaris business class on United it’s really wonderful.

  49. @arbitrage those millennials with Platinum cards….actually they are probably consultants at large consulting firms that give the standard AMEX card. The trick is that AMEX will let you upgrade the card to platinum for the fee. Once they get the card, they downgrade, get the fee refunded, but the Platinum card still works.
    …not that I’ve done that. Just saying I heard…from a friend…

  50. As a centurion holder I don’t understand why the plat holders are complaining. I spend 150k plus a month on my personal card (not business exp) and pay a fee 4 or 5x what you do so am happy and I feel I deserve to take the appropriate perks.

    Much mis-information here as I have never been asked to pay for extra guests.

    If your complaining give your 500 dollar card up or suck it up.

  51. As a centurion card holder I don’t understand why the plat holders are complaining. I spend 150k plus a month on my personal card (not business exp) and pay a fee 4 or 5x what you do so am happy and I feel I deserve to take the appropriate perks.

    Much mis-information here as I have never been asked to pay for extra guests.

    If your complaining give your 500 dollar card up or suck it up and move on.

  52. @Ejc Just curious, without going into details, but in general, how does one manage to spend 1,8 million dollars per year on personal expenses?

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