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The Amex Centurion Lounge network has certainly made air travel a little more fun for my family as we like to visit the lounges before or between flights whenever possible thanks to having a Platinum Card® from American Express. These lounges offer a nice full bar, friendly service, a hot buffet of totally decent food, have comfortable seating, and some even have family rooms or included spas.
I don’t always visit the one in my home airport of Houston since it is in a bit of an awkward location for most of my flights, but I keep the Amex Centurion Lounges on my radar when plotting out flights and connections. Of course, I’m not unique in that, and some of these lounges have gotten pretty darn crowded. Personally, I haven’t really experienced this over-crowding first-hand since I usually travel when business travelers aren’t traveling as much, but there is no question that spots like Miami, Dallas, and more do have crowding issues at times.
We’ve heard that Amex knows about this and is working on a fix, but if today’s rumors are true, I am not at all a fan of the fix.
Amex Limiting Family’s Complimentary Access to Centurion Lounges?!
Based on some signs up at some locations, rumor has it that beginning at the end of March, Amex will be limiting complimentary access to the Centurion Lounges to the Platinum cardholder + two guests. Period. Currently the Platinum cardholder can bring in two guests or their immediate family members (defined as spouse or domestic partner and their children under 18) for no additional charge. Note that the rules for the Centurion Studio in Seattle are different as only one non-immediate-family-member guest is permitted.
This has historically meant that the cardholder, their spouse, and two (or more) minor kids would all enter under one Platinum card for no additional fee. However, if a hard limit of two guests is set, then a family of four would have to pay $50 for the fourth family member (aka their other minor kid) to enter…which seems sort of nuts.
Color me unimpressed. I’ve reached out to Amex for clarification with fingers crossed that this isn’t truly what is intended, but in my opinion this is not at all the way to address crowding in the Centurion Lounges. Yes, families visit these lounges (many even have family rooms!), but it is not young children who are over-crowding the lounges during peak periods, yet it is families who periodically use the lounges to make their leisure trips more fun and comfortable who will be nailed by this.
A much more effective and fair approach would be to simply limit the number of complimentary guest visits each year per cardholder. If a Platinum cardholder had say 20 complimentary guest visits per year they could decide how and when to use them whether it is for their little kids, their friends, their coworkers, or whoever. Another approach could be to limit the non-family complimentary guests to just one other person per visit.
Amex should have plenty of good data on how, when, and why the lounges are over-stuffed, but in my travels there are rarely more than one to two families with young kids in the lounge at a given time…and the young kids are usually in the family rooms, other than when it is time to eat since food and drinks aren’t permitted in the family rooms.
My family won’t be impacted by this either way as we have my husband’s main Platinum card and then three authorized user cards off of that main account held by myself, one of my parents, and one of his parents. This means that one kid could enter with him and one with me for no additional charge. If you have a kid who is at least 15 years old they can also be an authorized user with Amex. The Amex Platinum card charges a flat fee of $175 per year for up to three authorized user cards, so this is a good way to be able to get around this potential new rule, as well as allow some family members to access the lounges without the primary cardholder having to be present.
We don’t always visit the Centurion Lounges on our family trips, but when we do it is a special treat. I hate to see families with more than one kid who use the lounges only a handful of times each year have that taken away as an included perk, especially since I highly doubt that will move the needle on the crowing issues.
I’ll update when I hear back from Amex with any official policy changes. In the meantime, my family will be visiting a Centurion Lounge or two on our upcoming spring break travels, so I’ll be sure and do a head count as to how many small children are or are not clogging up the lounges.
What are your thoughts on this potential policy change? How would you recommend that Amex handle the over-crowding at some lounge locations?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.