Amex Limiting Family’s Complimentary Access to Centurion Lounges?!

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Update: You can move this from rumor to confirmed. Amex has now confirmed with me that beginning March 30, 2017, the Centurion Lounge guest policy for Platinum Card® Members will change. All Platinum Card® Members will be limited to two total guests at no additional charge. One-day passes for any additional guests, including immediate family members, may be purchased for $50. All individuals, regardless of age, will count towards the 2-guest-maximum for Platinum.”

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.

Amex Centurion Lounge in Houston

Amex Centurion Lounge in Houston

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.

Miami Centurion Lounge Bar

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.

Miami Centurion Lounge Family Lounge

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.

Miami Centurion Lounge Plugs

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.

Centurion Lounge breakfast of baby champions! @americanexpress #travel #iah

Eating in the bar area before heading to the family room

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.

Comments

  1. The limit should be ONE guest. Period. Whether it’s immediate family or just a guest…the limit should be ONE.

    Overcrowding at Centurion Clubs has been rampant.

    • I don’t know that I agree totally, but I will say that it seems totally off base to target over-crowding only by going after, essentially, minor children. That will not fix over-crowding. The lounges are over-crowded by business travelers during peak business travel times.

      • But many of us don’t want overcrowding in any sort. I specifically don’t want minor children in a lounge. I’ve been in the MIA, LAS, SFO, and LGA lounges at all times of day and have found them overcrowded. It’s not just business travelers at “peak business travel times.” Again, I’m not targeting your minor children, but there should be a limit of ONE guest. As a side note, I detest children in clubs, but I’m not singling them out. I’m focusing on a proposed ONE guest limit no matter the age of the guest.

      • Is Amex really targeting overcrowding? The Amex proposed solution is a great way to drive spousal card sales. My immediate family is 3 people, so i’m not affected by this change. But if I had a family of 4, I would replace my wife’s regular Amex card with a Platinum spousal card.

  2. Unfortunately, the lack of notice means we won’t even be able to use the lounge on our already booked spring break trip at the end of the month without paying even more. I have 3 platinum cards (and already paid $450×3), but since they are all in my name, not my husbands, we’d be on the hook for an extra $100 for each lounge visit. Not sure I’m willing to pay more then the $1350 I’ve already paid.

    I have no problem with whatever rules they decide. I do have a problem with only a 3 week notice. At least the prestige card let us know about AA lounge changes months in advance.

    • You could add your husband as an authorized user and have him bring two of your kids in and you bring the other two. Yes, that costs more to add him as an AU, but then again you should probably cancel one of your platinum cards anyway. That results in a net savings.

    • What’s the problem with spending $175 to get up to 3 additional cards which will each allow the card holder plus a guest into the lounge? Each additional card can then get the TSA pre or GE credit plus Gold status on SPG and Hilton. That beats the $100 per lounge visit you’ve calculated.

    • Why do you have 3 platinum cards? I could see having one personal and one business for the different perks but why 3? Am I missing something?

  3. I don’t know of a good solution, but families are not the ones who crowd it up. I’m already really on the fence with the fee increase. I could care less about uber. Thanks for the warning.

  4. I agree that the lounges can get quite crowded but I don’t see many children. Often, my children and I are the only ones in the kid rooms. I got my Platnium Amex because of the lounge benefit so if they do make this limit, I will most likely cancel or downgrade my card.

  5. And us families that go are typically with our kids in the Children’s room. The Centurion lounge is such a necessity for us as travellers. This is a huge dissapointment if true.

  6. waaaaaaaaah at all the “mommies” whining they can’t overtake the lounge with their four children on a credit card they’re going to cancel when the annual fee comes due and they’ve already milked the card for all it’s worth

  7. Hallelujah! This is awesome news! I’m sick and tired of the overcrowding and loud kids in what is supposed to be a quiet ‘haven’ away from the terminal. Despite the comment above, most families DO NOT go and stay in the family room in my experience. The extra added benefit is that this restriction will likely steer large families away from the clubs altogether since they can’t get there 5 kids in free.

  8. Overcrowding has been a constant theme when blogs discuss the Centurion lounges. It’s basically a space issue and when you consider luggage, baby bags, car seats etc a family of five can take up the same space of five business travelers. Of course, I don’t think a family of five will use the same amount of amenities (food & booze) and 5 business men.

    I would be okay with them limiting it to 1 or 2 guest(s) for free. For people wanting to guest in non-family over the free guest limit, i would say charge $50 per guest. For people wanting to guest in their entire immediate family, have it be $50 for the immediate family group (under 18). So if a family of 5 comes in, mom and dad are free and the 3 kids are $50 total. I think that’s a pretty fair compromise.

  9. AMEX should just give each card holder/member a limited number of free visits per year (say 10 or 20) that you can use anyway for yourself and/or guests. If you want to bring your family of four, then you use up four visits. Once you exceed your limit, then you have to pay $50 per person.

    • I think one problem with this is that it could lead to some serious overcrowding. I’m single and might guest in 3 or 4 people a year. I could see me going to Vegas on a bachelor party and inviting a group of 15 guys in before our flights home…since i’d never get to 20 guests in a year. Although these seems like am extreme example, think of how many times large teams of employees/co-workers travel together.

    • It’s all economic, isn’t it? This is a premium card, for which the price is rising, and the kinds of people who would personally come more than 20 times a year are exactly the kinds of people AMEX wants carrying its premium cards. It seems to me extremely unlikely they would go out of their way to address the overcrowding issues by filtering out those people.

      On the other hand, when one person brings several guests on a given visit, AMEX is realizing much less revenue per visitor per card, and in the case of children is not even gaining the bar sales.

      It seems the way AMEX has devised its new policy makes sense economically. However, I fully agree that ethically they should either give much more notice, or grandfather in people who can show itineraries booked before the change was announced.

  10. Thank goodness they will start to limit guests. I’m tired of trying to relax in the lounge while kids are running around like a daycare center.

  11. Not a heavy user to date of Centurion locations, but during my visits I saw little indication that families with children were a meaningful part of the crowding issue. In fact my ballpark guess is that children might be somewhere from 1% to 5% of the lounge population at a given moment.

    Maybe related: the new Priority Pass guest policy for Amex Platinum might do a little to ease the crowding issue, since there are times when a PP lounge is more convenient but cardholders didn’t want to pay the $27 guest charge. Now that two guests are going to be permitted (related to the $100 AF increase!), I expect some of the Centurion crowding may go away. Maybe.

    • Agree, when I use the lounges I very, very rarely see more than two families with kids present at the same time and we are one of them. Then those families are usually in the family room once they are done eating…which can’t be done in the family room.

  12. Families could be contributing to lounge overcrowding because of the amount of time they spend in the lounge compared to non-family lounge users.

    When I travel sans family I spend at most 30-40 minutes in the centurion lounge. However with family I will spend 1-2 hours in the centurion lounge.

    One alternative that Amex should consider is placing time limits on when a card holder can enter the lounge. I would suggest starting with a 2 hour before departure time limit together with restricting cardholders from using the Centurion lounge as an arrival lounge.

    • Good luck enforcing a time limit. What will they do, issue color coded wristbands and make an announcement telling everyone when their color has expired?

      • Admittedly, limiting lounge access to 2 hours before departure would not solve overcrowding issues during IRROPS. However, introducing time limits would address some of the abuse of lounge privileges that could be associated with families. As stated in my original post, I think there is a correlation between length of stay and inclusion of families.

  13. As much as I dislike seeing lots of rugrats in a lounge when I’m trying to work, they’re USUALLY no more distracting than any other occupant. I’d lean toward limiting card holders to one guest plus any minor children – $50 for a toddler is ludicrous, and keeping families out when they’ve paid the same fee as the business traveler who uses the lounge much more frequently seems unfair as well.

    And if you allow families to enter with the main cardholder, it seems to me that authorized users could be limited to NO guests (e.g., $175 to allow both of your sets of parents unlimited access is a pretty steep discount to the standard fee).

  14. I take my children in the lounge. I get the sentiment of not liking unruly or loud children there. I completely agree. Mine are well behaved and just sit with me and eat a snack or watch a movie on their kindles. If my children were to get loud, whiny, or start trying to run around like I see other kids doing I would immediately remove them. I wish other parents would do they same so this public sentiment about not having kids in lounges or BC, etc would not be so decisive. I completely understand the sentiments though because it really annoys me when I am in the lounge and some parent is sitting there surfing the web while their kids treat the area like a playground or create a bunch of noise. I also think that if lounges allow them that if parents wont do their jobs then lounge staff should confront the parents about it.

  15. Another way to divide people and families. Americans are some of the loneliest people. These lounge club policies just help to reinforce this feeling. Also, You NEED noise canceling headphones if noise is a problem for you when you travel. Because you don’t control your environment anywhere.

  16. I don’t think this will make a dent. The issue is not families. I see one, maybe two families in a lounge at any given time. Amex is targeting the wrong demographic to address this issue.

    • 100% agree. Those who really don’t want kids in lounges will like the change regardless, but it is not going to move the needle on the real crowding issues IMO.

  17. I am not thrilled about the new Amex changes – this included. While I understand that overcrowding is an issue, I don’t think this is the way to handle it. I only have 1 child so this isn’t going to effect me personally, but it sucks for those with larger families. The funny thing is, I rarely see families with children in the lounges. I would say 80-90% of the people I see at the lounges are solo business travelers, so I personally don’t think this is going to do much to help the overcrowding issue. I think the $550 annual fee will probably do more for overcrowding than this policy – I will not be renewing my card at $550 a year – just not worth it anymore.

  18. Update: Amex has now confirmed with me that this is true.
    “Beginning March 30, 2017, the Centurion Lounge guest policy for Platinum Card® Members will change. All Platinum Card® Members will be limited to two total guests at no additional charge. One-day passes for any additional guests, including immediate family members, may be purchased for $50. All individuals, regardless of age, will count towards the 2-guest-maximum for Platinum.” I have asked some follow-up questions, but for most of us the bad news has been confirmed.

  19. Well. Amex has made the judge-y people quite happy, I see.

    Maybe the several dozen times I’ve visited the Centurion Lounges in LAS, SFO, and DFW have been exceptions to the “kids running amok” concerns but I think I’ve seen children in them a handful of times. Never have I heard screaming from kids (over-served adults getting loud is another matter). From my experience, the Centurion Lounge overcrowding is caused by, well, lots of cardholders using them.

    I also have seen Amex cardholders who don’t hold either Platinum or Centurion cards buy day passes to the lounge because they can 1) afford it and/or 2) expense it to a client or their company.

    Frankly, I think the Centurion Lounges are growing in popularity — and Platinum and Centurion cardholders are now more aware of them than they used to be. More people using them = overcrowding.

    A parent — who pays a minimum of $550 a year to hold a card — traveling by him or herself with three kids in tow, this is really kind of a smack in the face. I don’t have three kids but can imagine that these folks need a play space and cocktail more than anyone (cue the outraged and prohibitionists 😉 )

    My wife and I each carry Platinum cards (primary + additional) so it won’t be a problem, even if we expand our family more than what we currently have planned. But I can totally understand how families

    (On a side note, that LAS lounge is so freakin’ small)

  20. Whoops. Premature submission there — sorry. 🙂

    I meant to say. “My wife and I each carry Platinum cards (primary + additional) so it won’t be a problem, even if we expand our family a little more than what we currently have planned. But I can totally understand how families who truly appreciate the Centurion Lounges and pay the annual fee feel slighted.”

  21. I think that this is a lot less about overcrowding and a lot more about making the “kids should be neither seen nor heard” crowd happy. It is much more palatable for AMEX to talk about overcrowding than to say they don’t want children in their lounges, especially after they built family rooms into their lounges.
    And for those of you who think children shouldn’t be in a business lounge, these are not business lounges, they are airport lounges.
    I travel with my 4 children about three times a year and usually end up in a centurion lounge two of those three times, so even with my large family, I only use up a dozen slots a year and I would think that this is pretty typical. On the other hand, a typical road warrior would likely use the lounge 30-40 times a year, often with a guest, so I would guess probably uses 4-5 times as many slots as we do. No way families are the cause of overcrowding.
    I also have to think that the road warrior that they seem to be happy to welcome when she is alone is not going to be happy when she can only use the lounges when she is alone, not when she is with her family.
    AMEX just keeps making their platinum cards worse and worse.
    I held a platinum card for at least 4 years in a row, paying the annual fee, but now it is a pick up a new card each year to pick up the double airline credit, if I get it at all.

    • Agree with your assessment. I am very observant of other families in the lounges I visit, and while I know there are always bad apples or bad days for good apples when kids could be less than perfect for a period of time in the lounge, I have personally never seen a Centurion Lounge “over-run” with kids or with disruptive kids. These lounges weren’t made for families, but they were made with families in mind ie the family rooms, so this policy shift really baffles me. It won’t fix the over-crowding issues, but if the goal is simply fewer kids then it probably will have at least some impact there. Coupled with the other changes, I can see how this is a hard pill to swallow.

  22. Is there an age at which they will start charging the $50? Seems like a lot for a one year old thatwont eat anything…

    • No, they were very clear with me that you have two guests regardless of age and then anyone else has to pay the $50 fee. It is a lot for a one year old. Or a ten year old. Or a 15 year old. Or really anyone who won’t be belly-up to the bar for an extended period of time.

  23. 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.

    • I made my first Centurion visit at DFW last Sunday and it was exactly as John H. described above, except no long line at the bar. In the future, I’ll take $15 out on the concoure and find better food and a more tranquil atmosphere. (Probably better furniture too).

    • I don’t disagree that they are in that state sometimes, but aside from the Gymboree mention those things are not really because of kids, just because they are crowded in general. Crowding is absolutely an issue, I’ll just be shocked if this really fixes that. It is funny that the lounges we once skipped to go to the Centurion lounges are again looking a bit more attractive.

  24. Easy answer. Get the Morgan Stanley version of card with a free authorized user. Or if you have over $1 million in total assets in a joint account they will pay for both spouses to have a primary card and the each can have a free authorized user.

  25. Some of the comments here…pure ignorance.

    The Centurion Lounge isn’t a traditional airline lounge where business people have to rack up miles to gain status entry. You get access to Centurion by holding a credit card, so get over yourselves and your “elite” entitlement.

    I have not one but two AMX Plat. cards and fully plan on bringing my two kids in with me anytime I travel with them.

    Thanks.

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