America Express has had a huge conundrum with its Centurion lounges. They promote access to acquire premium credit card customers, but customers show up and have a subpar experience because the lounges are too crowded. They’ve been battling this over the past half dozen years and nothing has worked.
When you build a nice airport lounge it’s going to be busier than you expect even after accounting for the knowledge that it’s going to be busier than you expect. People come to the airport earlier. They stay longer. They go out of their way to reach the lounge by changing terminals. Add in that the food and drink is actually pretty good in American Express Centurion lounges and they’ve become so busy nobody goes there anymore.
American Express has been imposing access limits of various kinds for the past half dozen years but it hasn’t solved the problem. They limited who could buy guest access. They limited access to departing passengers only within 3 hours of their scheduled flight. Those didn’t make much of a difference.
So in February Platinum cardmembers who spend less than $75,000 per year on their card lost the ability to bring in any guests for free. My wife has an authorized user Platinum card on my account and can get into the lounge without a fee. We cannot get an authorized user card for our daughter, since she’s under 13, so we’d have to pay to bring her into the lounge with us.
Each change makes some incremental difference in crowding, but American Express keeps adding more people with access to these lounges.
- Aggressively acquiring new cardmembers
- Expanding who has access, with Delta’s premium cardmembers gaining access to Centurion lounges when flying Delta to reduce crowding in Delta’s lounges
Sadly even after limiting guests of those who aren’t big spenders with Amex, there are still lines to get in. Here’s the queue to get into the elevator up to the Centurion lounge in Denver, to wait in line to get in upstairs. (HT: Douglas)
I cannot imagine putting $75,000 spending on the Platinum Card – most spend earning merely 1 point per dollar – in order to get free guest access so that you can stand in line to get in. I haven’t bothered to head over to a Centurion lounge in the past six months.