American Express Starts Limiting Access to Centurion Lounges

American Express Centurion Lounges are great. They’re stylish, offer complimentary real hot and cold food items and a complimentary tended bar. The Dallas Fort-Worth and Miami lounges have complimentary spas. There are kids rooms, showers in most. And customer service is great.


Houston Centurion Lounge Bar

The challenge is that, to borrow from Yogi Berra, they’re so good I don’t go there anymore. I used to make an effort to spend time in the lounges before flight. But I find lounges where I have to scramble to find a table and dodge and weave other customers at the buffet not to be respites from the terminal.

It’s worth noting that the new Houston Centurion lounge has remained peaceful and quiet when I’ve been in, likely owing to its location. And also that there’s a secret to always finding space in the Dallas lounge.


Dallas Fort-Worth Centurion Lounge Entrance

It looks like American Express is doing something about overcrowding.

Reader Ross K. shared this morning that member services at the Miami Centurion lounge stated, “New rules at centurion lounge. Can only bring in one guest. Children are not free even infants have to pay $50.”

There was a little bit of confusion because he was describing one guest in addition to the cardmember’s spouse. It turns out that’s a bit of a misunderstanding. (And more than one guest was in fact admitted, the agents were describing a future policy.)

The Centurion Lounge access page hasn’t been updated. It still describes the old guest rules.

Centurion® Members and Platinum Card® Members who receive complimentary access may enter with either up to two guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner, and children under 18) at no additional charge. Guest or family access is per Card Member, not per Card. Family and guests may not enter or remain in the lounge unless accompanied in the lounge by the Card Member.

If you purchase a one-day pass, your children under 18 may accompany you at no additional charge. You must purchase a one-day pass for any additional guests.

However Stgermainparis reports a sign at the Dallas-Fort Worth Centurion lounge:

  • Effective March 30
  • Platinum cardmembers can bring 2 complimentary guests into the lounge
  • It’s no longer going to be or immediate family
  • So a cardmember and spouse plus two children will need to spend $50 to bring in the second child.

Apparently “the policy will be across the network and ‘will match the [new] 2-guest access [offered to Platinum cardmembers for Priority Pass lounges]’.”


Miami Centurion Lounge

My own preferred solution would be limiting the number of visits each Platinum cardholder can have for free, rather than limiting the number of people who can be brought in on each visit. Charge cardmembers for visits after their first 20 in a year.

However since it’s generally not possible to simply get more space in airports than American Express already secures, and the lounges aren’t large enough to accommodate demand, they do need to do something. This is something, we’ll soon see what effect is has and whether it will make access to the lounges as sublime as when each one first opens and no one yet knows about them!

Update: Remember you can get an authorized user card for a spouse, pay that fee, then you each get 2 guests.. if you travel as a family often that may be a worthwhile strategy, and your spouse gets card benefits like lounge access when they are alone too.

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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  1. Couple points:
    1. Limiting number of visits per year penalizes folks who travel a lot (us) and who really enjoy the benefits of these nice lounges. I’m in favor of the +1 rule because, if we are honest, its generally the families who bring in 4-6 people that make these places crowded.

    2. Personally, I’ve found the IAH lounge to be the worst of the four I’ve visited, crowded and lack of food/ dodging people at buffet. YMMV

  2. This change seems kind of dumb to me. I use the DFW lounge all the time and very rarely see families, so why punish them? How about limit it to one guest or immediate family? Most families have 4 people. They shouldn’t have to pay $50 to get a kid into the lounge.

  3. I am supposed to be traveling with my spouse and children in early April. For the first time ever, I was planning on taking a guest with me to the centurion lounge. It just happens to be that my first time at the lounge with a guest was going to be with my wife and children. I specifically made plans to travel through an airport that had a lounge accessible to the family.

    I can understand the need to make changes to the offering but making changes with little to no notice (less than 30 days) is unacceptable! While I understand Amex trying to maintain a profit and value prop for all, they continue to degrade the value I anticipated after paying their annual fee (oh then they raised the fee to boot).

    Changes are acceptable. No notice is unacceptable. I will be calling Amex to complain and I would recommend others do the same!

  4. I don’t bother with the lounges at all anymore. They are over rated and SUPER crowded. I’ll take a walk through the airport and get some exercise (look at planes ) or setup a laptop anywhere in the airport at DFW and feel liken I have more space.

  5. Amex has also quietly blocked anyone traveling standby on airline passes citing you need a “confirmed seat” to enter even if you have a valid Platinum card. Everyone needs a confirmed seat to enter the checkpoint except airline employees/nonrevs so this policy of prohibiting entry is targeted just at airline staff/nonrevs. My spouse works the corporate HQ at an airline so we travel standby on weekends but Amex turns us away even having been a platinum member for over ten years. Year by year the benefits keep losing their value…

  6. The policy should be +1 guest for platinum and +2 for centurion. Have a family? Get your spouse an additional card and problem solved.

    Overcrowding ruins the experience for everyone.

  7. @JMM, I find it amusing when people complain about changes to things when it effects them. Are they silent when the changes don’t effect them?

    AMEX has the right to make changes to their program and this change is understandable. If you’ve been to the DFW lounge lately, you know it can be a madhouse. I especially welcome the fact that kids are not free anymore. (And, yes, I’ve got kids and, yes, I’ve got flights scheduled through a lounge city in early April…so this *does* effect me.)

  8. So since AMEX is changing the terms at our expense I assume we will see an annual fee decrease?
    After all, adding an “enhancement”(cough, cough, Uber) with a fee, a take away should carry a commensurate action.
    Yes, I’m being facetious…sorta….

  9. I agree with @Kyle – why penalize families here? I’m often in the DFW lounge and my past visit I was HAPPY to see some kids in the family room playing a video game; I rarely, if ever see families in that lounge. It seems apparent that AMEX hasn’t scrubbed their data very well to see that families are not the problem here. And I really doubt that guesting has very much to do with it either, I typically see biz travelers like me, alone.

    As for the state of the lounges, I was appalled at DFW last week. Broken door handles. Stained and disgusting carpet. Bland food that looked tired and picked over (sad to have to add salsa to a BBQ chicken entre just to get some flavor in it). Poor service at the bar. Employees who clearly didn’t want to be at work. Admittance staff that let in 10 Japanese tourists on one card just because they couldn’t communicate the limit on guests. Other than a dirty seat at a dirty table next to a wall outlet there wasn’t much use in the lounge for me, I can easily find power in the terminal now. This change to family admittance will just cause me to really review whether or not the card is worth it to keep. And I have the biz version of the card, if I had the personal version this would push it right out of my wallet…

  10. MIA has been a joke since day 1 with it being overcrowded and 1? Shower . Wouldn’t be shocked if they keep restricting access . Some people live there for hours .

  11. @Nonrev’r – minor note that “Everyone needs a confirmed seat to enter the checkpoint” is not accurate. 🙂 That doesn’t change the broader point.

  12. I think a quote from Gary and some words from an article he featured recently are appropriate for Amex managers to consider:

    My frequent refrain, “I am not my fare” is accompanied by the reminder that “business travelers are leisure travelers,” the same people buying premium tickets for work during the week may book the cheapest tickets with their families over the weekend.

    “You can’t have a [frequent] business-class traveler [who is] traveling in economy with his family being treated like an economy traveler,” says Holi. The next time the frequent business traveler books a flight, which might be the week after he or she traveled with an entire family of young children in coach, that traveler may well remember any poor treatment by the airline in the economy cabin and book business class seats on another airline from then on.

    The same is true with my experience with Amex! The next time I am starring at a renewal fee, I will remember the [bad] experience.

  13. I take my six year Orly into Centurian lounges 20+ times per year. Can I get him an authorized user card?

  14. Agree with Omar. I’m okay seeing the policy updated and families or large groups “penalized”. It’s not that I dislike children per se, but the whole “immediate family member” portion is a loophole-of-sorts around the guest policy that AmEx is merely closing to ensure those who actually *do* pay for access receive what they pay for. Want more access for your clan, pay another annual fee.

  15. @Mike Authorised User cards age minimum varies by country. For EU I believe all AMEX products are 18 years old minimum. But, other countries have more lenient rules. For example, my 15 year old has an AU Chase Sapphire Preferred.

  16. Not in a agreement that it would be “fair” for Amex to limit number of annual visits for main cardholder. You’re saying that guests” should take priority over high spending, card carrying road warriors? Offspring/friends are not adding to Amex’s bottom line. Yesterday I observed a very unhappy, crying infant in SFO bar area. Parents kept drinking/eating. Baby kept crying and sometimes, screaming. Was a challenge to hear on my conf call. Just saying.

  17. @Allison: “Was a challenge to hear on my conf call. ”

    If you were on a speaker phone like so many idiots in the lounges these days, I hope that baby drove you absolutely crazy!

  18. I do have a question – has anyone brought in one person on their personal Amex plat and then brought in 2 more with their business Amex plat cards?

  19. On balance, and selfishly, I am okay with this particular change. Okay because the added benefit of the two free users on Priority Pass is huge to us, and of much more benefit than the rare times when we travel through an airport with a Centurion lounge and w more than 3 people- and because if it helps with overcrowding that is a plus. On the other hand, AFAIK, AUs must be age 18 or older, the $175 fee is steep (and I was planning to drop my wife and adult child as AUs next year due to the addition of 2 free guests for main user) and it does seem pretty unfair to count an infant who does not even eat solid food as a guest. I realize a young child takes up space and makes noise but will s/he really be able to consume $50 worth of food and booze or massages from a lounge :-)? Anyway, on balance I agree the overall changes at Amex in no way justify the fee increase and the Uber credit is pretty worthless. Seems they don’t do much (or don’t do very good) testing/research on what people really want and are willing to pay for before making changes. And their 5% back on Amextravel bookings is totally worthless.

  20. This is why I see the AMEX card as poor value. Who wants to pay $500 or more for a card that the biggest benefit is the lounge access. Priority pass already denied me at the Seattle Alaska boardroom because “its too crowded” last month. Other cards do better for everyday spend too.

    This spring break I am flying with the family through Seattle (won’t be able to use boardroom or priority pass probably, will see about the Amex lounge, then on to Dallas and was excited to use the AMEX lounge where I may now need to pay a fee then on to Mexico. YIKES that sucks.

    AMEX is worse then DELTA with changes without notice! YUCK How is this not illegal bait and switch. Make you pay for a card with Centurion lounges for $$$ then tell you that NO, you now have to pay more to use the benefit.

    Thanks for the heads up. Appreciate your news stories which keep us in the loop with changes. Would really have been upset to be told this as I walk in the door.

  21. Family of 4 travelers here – the AF went up by $100 and now this? Just another reason to cancel the card when the AF comes up.

  22. Putting aside whether this will actually fix the overcrowding issue I agree this is the fairer approach. If the alternative to “penalizing” families is to limit the number of visits by the card holder who is paying the annual fee to Amex then I think that is far less fair. Why penalize the cardholder who is paying the annual fee to Amex?

  23. Wow… I will be cancelling my Platinum card… Travel a lot w/ wife and 4 kids.. not worth the extra cost… additionally, from my experience there are rarely families there… Most of the time we go, we are the only family in the lounges…. this will be a very ineffective effort

  24. DFW location has been overwhelmed with kids running everywhere especially around those blind corners. Sorry but something had to give, recently watched their poor manager spend an hour trying to corral children back to the playroom. Unbelievable how the parents will be off sleeping on the day beds while the herd runs wild.

    I’m looking for peace & quiet mentally prepping for international flights, not a 3-ring circus. Go run your sugared-up kids out in the terminal, it’s massive and open.

    I have 3 Amex plats (different accounts) in my wallet and visit 10-15 times per year.

  25. @Greg, I wish there was more we could do legally. It has an air of unfair and deceptive practices even with their right to change access, policies and fees. I would recommend you call Amex to complain because the issue at hand today is family access to centurion lounges, tomorrow it will be another change with little to no notice. Amex need to know that they have to provide fair notice of changes.

  26. El,

    ‘Limiting number of visits per year penalizes folks who travel a lot (us) and who really enjoy the benefits of these nice lounges. I’m in favor of the +1 rule because, if we are honest, its generally the families who bring in 4-6 people that make these places crowded.’

    but families rarely travel more than a couple of times a year. why penalize them and favor folks like you who use the lounges every week?

  27. Also a family of 4 traveler here,

    T&Cs clearly state “Guest or family access is per Card Member, not per Card” however you’re claiming an authorized user gets additional guests. I’m confused

    Either way this is crap and Amex will be hearing about it.

  28. About time! It should be just +1 guest no more. A family of 4 should get an additional card. Those of you cancelling, please do.

  29. @Michelle S – if you check in separately I don’t think they cross-check to make sure that another card on the same member’s account hasn’t also entered the lounge, have you ever seen reports otherwise? Perhaps they will build in such functionality in the future!

  30. For my family to see value in lounge access at the current price of an AMEX card we would need to travel much more than we do. It is not like we have the time or end up in the right locations to hit an AMEX lounge every time we go on vacation as a family. Having to pay an additional user fee to get the our children in just makes it a non starter, never mind the times I travel with just the kids and no spouse to use as an AU. I think that those who think eliminating our family from making the five or six possible lounge visits per year will help reduce overcrowding will be disappointed. I agree overcrowding can be an issue, we have had trouble finding a single table on many occasions, but on those occasions there were never more than two or three families in the lounge. Making travel harder for this group will not help. A different solution is needed.

  31. @Thomas #Truth !!!! If anyone needs the # to cancel I will happily provide …

    “Thomas says:
    March 9, 2017 at 10:23 am
    About time! It should be just +1 guest no more. A family of 4 should get an additional card. Those of you cancelling, please do.”

  32. @Gary,

    Don’t give them any ideas! As for the checking in separately, pretty sure one or both kids will out us if we tried anything sneaky. “Hey look, there’s my mom”. Hopefully AMEX will clarify this policy further.

    We mostly frequent the SFO and SEA locations. While we have seen other kids in SEA on occasion, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen kids at SFO which seems to be one of the more notoriously crowded clubs. I really don’t think families are the ones causing the issue here.

  33. I am in the same camp as the “don’t limit my usage” folks. I paid for this card like everyone else, and should have access any time I want it regardless of how much I fly. To be clear-this doesn’t even affect me, but I see it as wrong. I also don’t see it reducing the number of lounge visitors by any substantial amount. If it was to have an effect, it wouldn’t be until sometime later in the year before those using it accumulated the max number of uses. So what does that do for the lounge until then?

    Has to be a better way…

  34. I don’t have the data on number of guests at different times, families versus frequent business travelers. American Express certainly does, they collect the data and analyze it. Presumably THEY think this will make a material difference. We’ll see next month!

  35. @Michelle S, I think an AU counts as another cardmember (and thus he/she can bring additional guests). What the rule is saying is that you don’t get additional guests if you have two cards in your own name (like if you have a personal and a business platinum card).

  36. I’ll also go with the “selfishly this benefits us” refrain I’ve seen above. We have no kids, so it’s just us. We fly out of SFO often, flay AA, so are at DFW often. We visit Vegas and have family in south Florida. We hit these clubs on a regular basis. And we have also seen unruly kids in the lounge more than a few times. So, from the self-serving standpoint, I welcome this change.

    Cheers.

  37. My wife has an AU card on my Platinum Account. We did that because we fly Delta frequently, and did not want to pay the guest fee at Delta’s Sky Clubs when we travel together.

    So, this change benefits us. When we travel with another couple, we can use our separate cards to get one of them in for each of us. It’s far better for us than limiting visits, and avoids the inevitable “Now what?” when the limit (wherever it is set) is exceeded.

    I guess, like everything else, where you stand depends upon where you sit.

  38. Playing with fire here. This is the only meaningful, discernible bonus benefit left to the Biz platinum card. Gold status at Starwood? Give me a break. Fine Hotels Collection? Woo-hoo, its never even remotely a value compared with other public rates and packages. Does anyone even talk about the laughable business class and up companion ticket … etc etc.

    What I think everyone is missing is that Amex always touts itself on its vast database and knowledge of its cardmembers, etc. They have tons of history on the card usage in Delta lounges, experience in launching the early Centurion lounges; tons of money; and airport authorities that are desperate for revenue. While obtaining sufficient space may be complicated, I reject the notion that the airports are “sold out” – anything can be done for a price. IMO they have no excuse for building lounges (and executing a greater lounge program) that don’t sufficiently support the cardmember base. I have exactly no sympathy.

    Further – Points airline tickets are becoming next to impossible to find, so the transferability of points is less compelling than it once was. Hotel points programs are a joke, I have yet to see a redemption that I needed where I was getting at least $.02 redemption value per dollar of spend.

    Add to that some substantial sales on international business class from time to time, and its becoming harder and harder to convince me that I should spend on Amex vs. say the Cap 1 Spark where I get can redeem any travel purchase at $.02 – spending those points is virtually always a better deal these days vs. a hotel or airline point redemption. Exception is the international business class routes that don’t really come down in price that often – ie Australia.

    And if you’re an American flyer, the Citi World Elite is so much more valuable.

    Amex constantly taking no steps forward and two steps back.

  39. With husbands and wives not necessarily sharing the same name nowadays I’d be interested to know how Amex ensures that it really will be card holder + spouse + 1 guest.

  40. I just got off of chat and a follow up phone call with Amex. More confusion abounds.

    That chat agent was sure that notice had gone out earlier to all card members with proper advanced notice. I asked when that notice had gone out. He stated March 2nd. I did not have record of this notice so I asked more. The notice was supposedly sent out via email but the agent was unable to provide reference to the email text nor the email subject it went out under. He encouraged me to contact the Platinum Customer Service for clarity.

    The agent on the phone with Platinum Customer Service (800-492-8468) stated that the family policy was NEVER a benefit of the Business Platinum Cards but was only available to Personal Platinum Cards. I then read to her the information from the my password secured Business Platinum Card account that stated, “The Centurion Lounge: Business Platinum Card® Members may bring immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and their children under 18) OR up to two (2) companions in with you.” She proceeded to tell me that no matter what the website said that it was never a benefit of the Business Platinum Card so I shouldn’t be concerned with the change.

    I noted I was concerned and that the way that Amex is operating and making changes with less than a billing cycle notice was communicating strongly that Amex does not value good communication with its cardholders. To top it off, the agent hung up while I was still asking her a question.

    As a 11yr Amex member, I think this may be the end of the line.

  41. I believe that a nominal fee for Platinums ($5/person) would be the simplest and the most effective…. just enough to keep people from “going there because they can”. It would also help sustain the operation, which I believe is currently unsustainable. Lastly, I would rather deal with a $5 copay than a $100 annual fee increase.

  42. I guess it will help eliminate some crowding; if I’m traveling with my family, this policy will send us to the Admirals Club instead so I don’t have to pay anything extra…so for me, it essentially makes the Centurian Lounges only worth using when I’m traveling by myself.

  43. People with kids feel entitled to bring their kids in free. This is really going to tick them off. I don’t have the Amex Plat. The more I learn about the Amex Plat, the happier I am that I don’t have it–I don’t need the hassle and the expense seems to be less and less worth it. No wonder AMEX is struggling..

  44. Something must be done to add a touch of exclusivity to the Centurian lounges and thin the herd.
    I don’t even bother at SEA, it’s a joke. I’ve stopped going to DFW and endure the so-called first class dining facility at the Admirals Club since I know at least I’ll get a seat somewhere.
    The Centurian Lounge isn’t a card benefit if it’s unavailable due to overcrowding.

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