The Party Is Over: American Express Plans To Permanently Limit Centurion Lounges, No More Arrivals Access & New 3-Hour Rule

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American Express apparently goes for the nuclear option and will soon start to implement new access rules for the popular Centurion Lounges including prohibiting members to access it upon arrival beginning 22nd March 2019.

Centurion lounges are very nice but also suffer from overcrowding during peak hours at almost all locations and Amex is now trying to pull the screws tighter on the access requirements.

Many location have already implemented measures for capacity control during peak hours including limiting access to those cardholders who depart within the next three hours (San Francisco), refusing to let arriving passengers in (Las Vegas) and at times denying the entry flat out due to overcrowding (Seattle).

What’s problematic is that none of these restrictions are outlined on American Express’s website where they have a description of their Centurion Lounge benefit for Platinum & Centurion card members. The Platinum Card comes with a US$550 annual fee which is quite steep so retroactively cutting back on the benefits one expected when applying – and paying – for the card is sort of nasty.

I never heard of an actual Amex Centurion member being turned away and they (Centurions) will be exempt from the new rules as well but there aren’t really many of these big boys around.

Several blogs including Travelingformiles have now reported about new rules that American Express will allegedly implement these new rules on March 22nd 2019 even though there has (once again) been no publication about this on Amex own website and we weren’t able to get a statement from them yet either.

Edit (24th January 2019):

Amex got back to us with an official statement and explained why they implemented these new rules:

As our Centurion Lounges continue to be one of our Card Members’ favorite travel benefits, we are updating our Centurion Lounge access policies to ensure that we continue to provide our Card Members with a relaxing and spacious environment to visit before they head out on their travel journeys.

Beginning on March 22, 2019,

o    The Centurion Lounge will welcome Platinum Card Members who arrive within 3 hours or less prior to their original scheduled departure time or can provide proof of a connecting flight. Card Members who arrive at the Centurion Lounge as their final destination will no longer be permitted entry.

o    Children under 2 years of age will be admitted free of charge and will not count towards Platinum Card Member’s 2 complimentary guest count, so long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian who is able to produce a “lap infant” boarding pass or proof of age.

o    These changes only impact Platinum Card Members and do not impact Centurion Members’ access policy.

What is going to change now?

  • No more access for arriving passengers without an onward boarding pass
  • Access is granted for flights within the next three hours based on scheduled departure time
  • Children under 2 years of age will receive free access and not count towards the limit of two guests.

All in all a bunch of baloney. Instead of severely limiting the amount of people a single member can tow into the lounge (especially children) they are now restricting the paying card member that is traveling solo. This is absolutely nuts.

Does this really affect me?

Well that depends. I wrote before that there can be multiple reasons why someone is at the airport way earlier than the flights departure. Long layovers are common, trying to go standby on an earlier flight as well. I have also on occasion visited the Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas upon arrival simply because it was too early and I can’t check in at the hotel at 10 am or be it just to use the restroom and grab an orange juice.

Here is how American Express currently advertises their Centurion Lounge access policy:

To still advertise this without restriction – just show the card and walk in – is blatantly false advertisement and pretty outrageous considering the have people shell out US$550 and then cut down their benefits in two months time.

Am I overreacting – Is there still value in this card ?

The Amex Platinum is pretty much a travel card to book flights with. The earnings in terms of Membership Rewards points based on everyday spend simply suck, even the Gold Card is better. I know plenty of people who have the Amex Platinum but don’t put any spend on it apart from airline tickets that earn at a 5x ratio.

You get $200 airline credit p.a. as well as Priority Pass and US$50 credit for Saks 5th Avenue every six months (calendar year based). During your first year of card membership you can make the fee cost neutral, beyond that it depends. For me the value is ok, $300 can be extracted as gift cards (cash equivalent) and $250 remaining value are alright for Priority Pass, Centurion Lounge access WHEN AVAILABLE and the ability to earn 5x on ticket purchases. Forget about the bling factor the card once had, I can’t remember when I used my Amex Platinum the last time for a non-online purchase and even if – who really cares about hat card you pay with? Nobody!

Conclusion

What irks me most about this is the contempt Amex has for their members, displayed by not communicating anything ever. That drives me nuts to be honest. Why do I have to learn such things from blogs or in the worst case when I get denied access at a lounge that was advertised to me as “always accessible”? They should have cut down on the guests and not the original member.

To be honest, should I ever be in a situation where I really need the lounge access but Amex is difficult then I’d book a random ticket, check in to generate a boarding pass and cancel again free of charge once inside the lounge.

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