American Express Centurion Lounge Real-Time Overcrowding Monitor

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 yearsallows 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 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<
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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Totally disagree with you, Gary. As somebody who travels almost weekly, the major selling point of the Platinum Card is the ability to access Centurion Lounges, not the Equinox or Walmart+ credit. If they were only going to give me a limited number of visits a year, I’d strongly consider a different competing premium card and dropping the Platinum Card (i.e. CSR with its better Priority Pass membership, or the premium Capital One card now that they are opening their own premium lounges).

    I’d love to see an age restriction on entering the Centurion Lounges as I could do without the screaming kids running wild throughout the lounge. And while it does affect me, limiting adult guests does seem a reasonable and necessary move, too. Perhaps there is where there could be a “limited visits” exception (i.e. when a business traveler is traveling with their family, etc.).

  2. I’ve experienced the overcrowding and reached out on Twitter to them, couldn’t find a good contact to provide detail in writing. Anyways I’m ready to quit $695, and now I can’t bring a guest, I don’t give a crap about all the other alleged benefits, I want lounge availability and it stinks now and is only getting worse.

  3. Does the American Express Centurion Lounge real-time overcrowding monitor count a husband and wife Centurion member with four free-range kids in tow as six people? Or, a mother with a lap child as two people? If so, this could explain why the Centurion lounge turns other cardmembers away (except for the invite-only Centurion Card) to put them on a waitlist claiming their lounge is at maximum capacity.

  4. A lot of frustrated people at SEA on Sunday evening when I went to use the lounge. There was a long line just to check in and get on the waitlist, and as I waited to clear in the gate area across from the lounge, the line never stopped. Ended up taking about 15 minutes for me to clear, but I assume the wait time only grew longer. I had to rush to enjoy some pre-flight food before boarding time, any longer and it would have been pointless for me to go in. I do appreciate the moves Amex are making to limit access, as it’s getting to the point where this becomes an inaccessible benefit, and makes this perk, which used to be compelling, obsolete.

  5. “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.”

    I love how everyone’s idea on the perfect way to restrict access to the Centurion involves keeping their own access as easy as possible.

    If someone’s primary purpose there is solo travel, they love the new restrictions. If leisure trips with family, then a limited number of entries per card/account. If both, unlimited for the cardholder plus limited number of guest passes each year. If they with friends, keep it as-is today. If they go with multiple kids, keep it to cardholder and unlimited immediate family members. If they only travel with their partner and don’t want to shell out for an AU card, limit it to 1 guest rather than 2.

    Everyone has these great ideas to limit capacity, and it is amazing how big of a coincidence it is that everyone’s idea keeps their access fairly open while limiting use cases that they don’t have!

  6. The whole point of a lounge is to relax and recover before and between flights.
    When it becomes a hassle, what is the point?
    I say “no thank you” until AMEX can expand capacity and properly accommodate travelers.

  7. looks like to me that American Express has all types of side hustles to keep that passive income coming in. Who would ever think that American Express would have an AMEX centurion lounge in an airport as a way of diversifying their income potential from airline passengers?

  8. “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.”

    This would do nothing for capacity control when everyone decides to use their allotted visits during holiday periods.

  9. I’ve no problem eliminating guest access even though I’ve used that in the past. Hopefully this will reduce congestion.

  10. Whether children should be allowed to access Centurion lounges is a different question than whether they materially contribute to over-crowding. In my limited experience visiting the Denver and Las Vegas Centurion lounges, I have not seen many children at all. Perhaps it is different for other Centurion Lounges.

  11. To me sitting in uncomfortable seats to get a few $ of food, not worth it. I’ll just go to a restaurant and pay for it even though I have access. Plus it’s always in the wrong terminal, so there’s that. So put me down for helping the overcrowded situation, or never being a part of it.

  12. It’s like inflation. Print more money, the money will be worth less. Issue more credit cards, the benefits will be worth less. Maybe it’s time for AmEx to increase the annual fee or dump the free booze. That would probably eliminate a good number of people. I’m also a huge proponent of nobody under 21 in any lounge with booze. There should also be a dress code.

  13. As a Centurion Card holder paying the freight; I wish they would CUT OFF ALL access to NON Centurion card holders.

    Pony up! and get access.

  14. Ugh! Here comes the snob in me but traveling with children should be banned altogther. When I see a kid under twelve occupying a seat I think does this kid even know how lucky they are? NO. Mostly I’m surrounded by lousy parents or the hovering mommies who want you to know they’re perfect at their role. Maybe an all adult airline? Children should not be subjected to situations for which they are unable to cope. But letting them in the lounges–it’s supposed to be an escape from the terminal.

  15. Unlimited access to cardholder. Then 10 guest visits allowed per year. If you have partner and 2 kids, that is 4 guest visits used up. People will not use guest passes if only have about 30 minutes before outbound plane starts boarding. I also think the time to “check in” some of these clubs is too long (often 2 minutes – to record the card and also ? the boarding pass).

    If one’s gate(s) are 10 minute walk away, not much use to go to a Lounge if only a 50 minute connection time.

  16. I am 100% with @UAPremierGuy, esp. on the chiirruns.
    Frankly, if one person pays the $500+ for a Platinum card then that person is the one who should get access. Extra Platinum cards on that account aren’t free, are they?
    And @Gary is right. This benefit (sic) from Amex is essentially worthless. The fact there has to be an overcrowding app say it all. Now how about a long lines to use the restroom app?

  17. “Member since before the Flintstones.”
    Have not had a pleasant Centurion Lounge visit in the last 18 months.
    Crowded, long lines to eat or drink.
    Overwhelmed staff at the front desk’.
    Not sure I want to pay $695 for this…

  18. @Woofie… just read what you said and its so “apt” on the APP
    really?! overcrowding app on your phone!?

  19. If you didn’t know at least at the CLT club if you miss a flight and are on standby you can’t enter the club unless you have a confirmed seat

  20. They had this back in September when I was at the PHL lounge. It was wildly inaccurate: said “almost full” and there were maybe 20 people in the entire lounge.

  21. Card holder is granted access. Period. No guests; no family.

    Have a spouse? Get them a supplementary card (~$195 a year). They then get access.

    Same with kids.

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