American Express Centurion Airport Lounges Are Becoming Too Crowded – What Should Amex Do?

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In recent months there are increasing complaints about the American Express Centurion Lounges at various Airports becoming way too crowded so we want to have a look at the situation.

American Express Centurion Lounges are available to Platinum and Centurion card members at select airports in the U.S. and some international locations.

As these premium cards come with a premium annual fee of several hundred up to several thousand dollars the customers expect a clean and relaxing environment but this can’t always be guaranteed considering the size of many of these facilities.

Amex has a variety of Lounge access options attached to these premium cards (the U.S. benefits are listed here):

American Express Global Lounge Collection programs and partners:
– The Centurion® Lounge
– International American Express Lounges
– Delta SkyClub®
– Priority Pass Select*
– Airspace
– Escape Lounges

While Amex has no influence over lounges outside of their own management portfolio (such as Priority Pass and Plaza Premium Lounges) the Centurion Lounges are actually the ones that became the point of contention.

Following debates about crowded lounges with only standing space I can’t help but wonder if Amex has underestimated the demand and designed their lounge facilities too small. Maybe it’s also a point that the Amex Platinum Card despite it’s US$550 annual fee has become a mass market product that’s also way too easy to get. Contrary to popular belief Amex charge card products can be obtained very easily and often with a credit score in the mid 600s which is very low for a premium product. It also provides enough value throughout the year that makes the card almost cost neutral if you can milk all the benefits.

Or maybe the entire matter is simply that Amex is simply too generous with their guest policy, still allowing guests to be brought into the lounge. Whatever it is there should be a reconsideration of how Amex will handle the customers in the future.

Yesterday I decided to have a look for myself at the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge, knowing I’d want to write about this topic today. I was arriving on an Air Canada flight from Vancouver and visited the lounge as an arrival passenger (also something that shouldn’t be allowed in my opinion). I used the bathroom where one of the toilets was out of service. Inside the lounge itself it was a mob, though I was able to spot one small table with open seats. I walked around quickly to have a look and then left to go to my hotel. The hot food was decent, people seemed to enjoy the free drinks from the bar very much judging by the amount of glasses around.

It was the end of the long Memorial Day weekend but Vegas is a very busy location in general. Some folks in Facebook groups reported that the Centurion Lounge at Seattle had a sign out limiting the stay to two hours. Seattle is also the location where Priority Pass ‘partner’ Alaska Airlines always has a sign at the door saying they don’t accept Priority Pass guest today. Not sure why they not just kick this location out of the directory entirely.

I have written about the plans of new Centurion Lounges in Denver and Los Angeles last month – let’s hope these locations will have a bit more generous space for their guests but airport real estate is very expensive.

Conclusion

There are multiple layers of this problem and two of these are especially problematic in my opinion. Number one being the option of still taking guests into the lounge. If you want a guest then issue an Authorized User card (for a fee) to this person such as your significant other and older children. Otherwise guests cram the lounge over capacity and that’s horrible.

The second issue would be to restrict the Centurion lounge to a ‘Departures Only’ lounge and no longer allow guests who are just arriving to actually stay at the lounge. If someone arrives and wants to use the washroom maybe they can wave the person through and keep the baggage in the front but definitely no long stays and consumption of F&B.

What is your opinion about the state of American Express Centurion Lounges, especially in the U.S. ?

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