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 5 years but it hasn’t solved the problem.
Starting in February 2023 Platinum cardmembers who spend less than $75,000 per year on their card will no longer get free guests into the lounge. My wife has an authorized user Platinum card on my account and can get into the lounge without a fee, but I cannot get an authorized user card for my daughter until she turns 13.
At the same time, American Express – which has been chasing Delta’s tail for at least half a dozen years – allows premium Delta credit card members to use Centurion lounges now too. So it isn’t all about limiting crowding.
The current approach is to limit Platinum and Delta Reserve cardmembers to access on departure (not after a flight without an onward connection) within 3 hours of flight time. Still, these lounges can get crowded, though I’ve found the Charlotte lounge to be less crowded.
American Express Centurion Lounge Charlotte
American Express will turn people away and put them on a waitlist when lounges are full. Often they ‘clear the waitlist’ after they’ve boarded their flight.
Zach Griff writes that the American Express app now offers real-time capacity indicators to let you know if the lounge is full before you trek over.
These capacity indicators are built right into the “Find an Airport Lounge” section in the membership tab of the Amex mobile app.
When you’re at the airport, you can open the app and search for your preferred Centurion Lounge for a real-time status update on crowding, ranging from “not busy” to “a little busy” to “very busy” to “almost full.” If you see the “almost full,” you’ll likely be placed on a waitlist to return at a later time once you arrive at the lounge reception.
Bar at the American Express Centurion Lounge Charlotte
The feature isn’t available yet for Centurion Studio partner Escape lounges but that’s apparently coming.
Showing full lounges is better than turning people away from lounges, but it’s all still a recipe for member disappointment. And that’s why I was long ago an advocate of offering a limited number of free visits per year rather than imposing limits on guests under age 13 and various and sundry other restrictions.