Why Aren’t Centurion Lounges Re-Opening?

All American Express Centurion lounges have been closed since March 21. Zach Griff argues at The Points Guy that American Express hasn’t re-opened Centurion lounges because “there’s little demand” and because given the importance of food and beverage to Centurion lounges, “Amex likely couldn’t reopen its lounges with a similar offering as they have had in the past” due to covid precautions.

I’m not buying it. First, airline lounges are re-opening, and they’re providing bar service. Second reduced travel numbers make it easier to offer upscale food individually portioned rather than via buffet. (They’ve even had a special section for Centurion cardmembers to have this in their Hong Kong lounge since it opened!) There are restrictions to deal with in some locations, and that might restrict opening or change the product in that location. But there’s no reason to keep all lounges. closed.


American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong

Suggesting that travel needs to return to normal levels and/or we need to be past the point of worry over the pandemic misses the point that brands need to work harder than ever to deliver the best possible experience within current constraints, rather than choosing not to do so.

Most cardmembers don’t use Centurion lounges for months at a time during normal circumstances, it’s a benefit that Platinum and Centurion customers know they have when they do travel through airports with the facilities – a benefit they know right now they do not have.

Griff also argues ‘but new temporary card benefits have been introduced’ like statement credits for wireless phone service and streaming services. These are ways to provide some value towards a card’s annual fee when someone isn’t traveling, to get them to keep the card rather than cancelling, and to get customers to use it for spend they otherwise wouldn’t. That’s not a replacement for the card’s core benefits, it’s a bridge to the point where American Express can bring those back.


Houston Centurion Lounge

That’s why American Express needs to speak to when they’re bringing back core travel benefits like Centurion lounges, something their competitors from independent lounges (including those participating in Priority Pass) to airline lounges have already been doing. And they need to do this as quickly as they possible can, even offering a reason for delay. Cardmembers will be patient if there’s a clear timeline to a return of benefits. Cardmember uncertainty around future benefits is bad for the business.

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. Airlines are reopening lounges to give frequent flyers an incentive to get on a plane.

    American Express doesn’t have much incentive to induce air travel.

  2. Bottom line, when it is to their financial advantage, CV-19 is the catchall excuse for all organizations right now. We are way past the point where I, personally, have any patience for it.

  3. 1) In some jurisdictions (LGA, SFO), indoor dining ins’t allowed, so the lounges can’t operate

    2) In others, these lounges will have to operate at limited capacity (25% or so)

    3) Amex has already given cardholders hundreds in benefits (including the $200 travel credit)

    I don’t see Centurion Lounges reopening until March/April 2021. (This is when travel will start to get back to normal broadly)

  4. American Express has perfected the art of giving its card members less and less while raising fees. Centurion lounges are merely another example of where Amex has failed to provide members with the value they advertise.

    Exclusivity and benefit are older, outmoded concepts of American Express, today it is apparently more about the nickels and dimes.

  5. Cent lounges weren’t usable when they were open because they were so crowded…vaporware that fits well with the Delta partnership.

  6. People shouldn’t be breathing each other’s maskless air anyway so I don’t see what the fuss is about. Good on Amex.

  7. @ Gary — Because AMEX can’t be trusted. We are closing our cards as net annual fees come due. Sure, if they will give us enough points or miles to keep it open,we will, but this is only offered every other year with AMEX cards. When we reach the year with no offer, we will close. We will go from about 12 AMEX cards in our household to 5 or 6 .

  8. We here at American Express have one thing to say to those customers who are whining shut up and pay your annual fee.Your lucky we let you be a cardholder ;):)

  9. In the last three months, have been traveling domestically every other week. With the connection time less than one hour, I am not missing Centurion Lounge. Now, when I begin traveling internationally, I would hope Centurion Lounge will be open again. After all, my renewal fees is $5k.

  10. Centurion Lounge staff have all been redeployed to other departments and some have even quit since the closures due to the fact that they are not being told anything. Seattle and Denver are hiring for staff but considering how long it takes for their hiring practices (expect 2-3 months) I wouldn’t expect them to reopen until the new year more than likely.

  11. I agree with the majority of comments and thank you for the insights and shared knowledge.
    Stvr’s comment “People shouldn’t be breathing other people’s mask less air’” should possibly ask his science teacher or another informed person (parent?) about the facts before he or she makes such a baseless and juvenile remark.

  12. I will say that I am willing to travel however I want to have the same benefits I had previously such as excess to all lounges with full benefits and going to hotels where I have house keeping daily. I am not going to spend the same amount for less benefits!!!

  13. @Paul
    Not sure why everyone is down on Amex. As a Amex Platinum card holder, I will get over $800 in benefits this year from the $550 card. And that is without the points I earned 2 years ago.
    $200 airline credits – Used
    $200 Uber credits – will use all
    $100 Saks credits , used
    $100 Dell credit used (I spent $129 and got $100 back)
    $140 mobile phone credit ($20/month June through December) will use
    $60 Netflix DVD credit ($10/month June through December) will use
    $49 Disney+DVD credit ($7/month June through December) will use

  14. Annual fee $725

    $ Mobile phone credit used, gave up insurance coverage with another card
    $ Streaming credit used
    $ 1/2 Saks credit used

    No $200 addn’l travel credit offered
    $ Airline credits unused
    $ Uber credits unused
    $ Dell credit unused

    Without Centurion lounges, this is costly paper weight without other valuable uses….

  15. Agreed. People have the plat card with the idea that that is one of the core benefits. Its not acceptable that Amex is not opening the lounges. There is no excuse for them not to when other lounges are opening.

  16. Second quarter earnings showed an 86% loss in their share value. I’m cancelling my Platinum beause there might not be a Platinum card next year.

  17. @Andy C

    Their second quarter earnings (not share price) were down 86% but the company is still profitable. There is very limited (if any) concern of AmEx going bankrupt.

    The “share value” (i.e. share price) is only down ~20% on the year which is reasonable given the global pandemic. AmEx will likely be fine so I wouldn’t factor that into any decisions on keeping/cancelling the Plat.

  18. Seems before the virus they indicated to us that only out-bound travelers could use the Club. We enjoyed going in after a flight to refresh and grab a bit to eat on the backside of our flight going somewhere. They indicated that they had too many people coming in and that is why, I think that they were looking at the food/drink costs and wanted to reduce the numbers all around. Now not being open at all is a shame since it is a place we went to rest, especially now with reduced flights and longer layovers. Call AmEx and indicate that you are thinking about dropping your card and after getting to the right group, ask for a $200 to $400 credit to you account, yes they do this!

  19. The $200 Change fee will no longer be as significant as it was in the past, as most change fees are being removed. The Lounges should always have been limited to Card Holders only, with additional charges for Family Members and Friends. e.g. Miami, where they also have to accommodate Kids plus Winnie The Phoo, Shamu and other over-sized stuff from Orlando.

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