Wonder Why American Express Centurion Studios Are Crowded? They’re Selling Access On Groupon

American Express has its Centurion lounges, and its smaller ‘Studio Partner’ longes which are Escape Lounges. Previously you could use an American Express Platinum card to access Escape lounges, but they’re now branded by American Express and more cardholders know about the benefit.

Like Centurion lounges, these Centurion Studio lounges have become more crowded. I rarely bother to visit Centurion lounges because they aren’t as much of an escape from the terminal as they once were (and I’ve found that the food on offer has been cut back since earlier times as well – I haven’t seen beef in a Centurion lounge in quite some time).

I certainly do not want to queue or ‘come back later’ to use a lounge that is fully packed when I’m finally allowed entry. The lounges are nice by the standard of U.S. domestic airport lounges, to be sure, but they aren’t large enough to meet passenger demand.

Next year American Express will be limiting guest access as a way of controlling demand, and encouraging spend on their cards (to earn the ability to bring in complimentary guests). Yet we see these Centurion Studios selling access cheaply, bringing in more people.

The Phoenix locations, in fact, are selling entry at half off on Groupon.

That’s fine for them as incremental revenue, but it also diminishes the value of a card benefit. On the other hand for those of you without an Amex Platinum card, visiting the Phoenix airport, all you need is $24. And the food and drink options usually aren’t bad.

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. Didn’t know Groupon was still a thing. Doubt many people are buying lounge access on there.

  2. I used the Centurion Lounge at both DFW and DEN this past month. Neither has a wait to get in, and the lounge itself was comfortable. The lounge in DEN did have a 9:00 pm closing, which was problematic given my flight departure of 11:59 pm.

    I felt the food offering was on a par with a recent visit to the AA Admiral’s Club in PHL, but neither were anywhere close to the DL Sky Clubs in DTW and LGA.

  3. Funny, I was in an Escape lounge last week and the staff was all in a huddle because “the Groupon code isn’t working.” And I was thinking, surely I misunderstood that?! It absolutely devalues the Plat card. I honestly can’t recall the last time I was in a Centurion or Escape lounge that wasn’t packed to the rafters, or I just skipped because there was a waiting list or long line.

    And yes, Groupon is still a thing! I have several friends who live life on Groupon. It’s not my thing but they do find some amazing deals.

  4. Was in DFW Centurion two weeks ago. Crowded as heck and quality has dropped. Downed a bourbon and immediately left for Cap One. Nothing but pasta and regular salad types for food. Only good thing is full bar access and they added a beer/wine stand. Miss the Dean Fearing chef days.

  5. Will check to see if Logan is included. Could go well with the extra Groupon discount from Chase.

  6. I almost always have airline lounge access. Escape is useful if no airline lounge is available. I haven’t been in an actual Centurion lounge in years.

  7. Post-COVID most airline lounges except the ultra-premium lounges have become a crowded mess. It’s rare to find a lounge anymore that provides a relaxing, premium experience, much less one that hasn’t cut back dramatically on the quality of the food and liquor. Unless I am on a connection with time to burn I rarely use clubs any more and certainly do not make a point to arrive at the airport early anymore.

    As for AMEX lounges, during peak travel times they are a hot mess. Crowded, screaming kids, loud adults boozing it up. Long lines to get in and at the bar. It almost feels like Spring Break in Panama City. I no longer see them as a value-add.

  8. Was in the IAH Centurion a week ago in late afternoon and they had staff monitoring seating and directing people coming in to the available seats. I got a seat right away, but it was fairly crowded. I also went by the UA lounge in the E terminal and it had pretty good food by UA standards. I do sense the UA lounges are trying to up their game.

  9. I have been to 3 Escape loungs this year and all have broken Expresso machines and very limited food selections!! The one last week only had muffins as there is No staff to make hot foods

  10. I honestly wonder why Amex Centurion Lounges are so crowded? I see a lot of bloggers talking about how crowded the Amex Centurion Lounges are, but no one talks about the “why”. Just look at the factors that lead to the crowding: 1.) People need an Amex Centurion or Platinum card (or authorized user of one) and 2.) People need to be traveling within 4 hours of departure or be connecting on a flight. So what has caused so many more people to get an American Express Platinum or Centurion card and/or what has caused so many more people to be traveling during lounge access eligibility times? (i.e. flying in general). How high does everyone here think the annual fee/authorized user fee needs to go until less people get/keep the card? (Maybe there is no “too high” of a number?) Maybe I’m off and there are other reasons for the crowding? I’m genuinely interested in hearing from everyone else!

    Additionally, do folks here really think that the crowding will noticeably decrease when the new changes go into effect next year? I personally don’t – I absolutely see people paying the $50 per additional person as applicable. I’d love to be wrong though!

  11. I was in the DFW lounge not long ago, and it was exactly as BonvoyedAgain described it. I stayed for a cappuccino and left immediately for the American lounge. I was first in the Cap1 lounge before the Centurian, which was also busy, but their layout made it feel less crowded. The food selection at the Cap1 lounge was much better than Centurian, which I used to love, and now it looks awful. I was also in the LAX Centurian lounge recently; they have two dedicated areas for Centurian card holders, unlike other lounges where they may have one to two tables. Still, the food did not look so great, but there was more room.

  12. I think one thing not discussed enough is that military get the Platinum card for free since Amex does not charge military for annual fees. I think this has picked up popularity and a lot of military are witting of the “free” card and thus lounge access as well. Most military folks I have spoken with have the card and always use the lounges when traveling.

  13. @Jeff

    My theory is that, given the delays (both flight delays and check in, security, etc) there are more people getting to the airport hours early, or more people stuck between flights (or with longer connections).

  14. Nope, got nothing to do with Groupon. Military gets the card for free, no annual fee any card actually. I travel twice a month and I typical travel with at least a handful of military from my specific work group. Half our a320 is military on any flight heading to Dallas. Every single active duty from enlisted on up has this card. We travel in regular clothes not in uniform so don’t go off not seeing uniforms in lounge. Only way to solve the problem is actually lower the AMEX annual fee and make Centurion a paid benefit. Something like the card is $400 and once you have card if you want Centurion it’s an extra $295. AMEX gets it’s $695 from real paid Users. Military will get $400 waived but they will have to pay $295 and the majority won’t, they just want the Free benefits.

  15. This is really misleading. Escape Lounge is its own company that partners with Amex for access. At PHX, the Escape Lounge and Centurion are literally next to each other. You can’t buy access to Centurion. You can to the Escape Lounge. If you’re so elitist that this is really upsetting you, just go across to the other lounge. I’ve never had issues with capacity at PHX for either lounge.

  16. They have to do something drastic. At this rate the lounges will become inaccessible for most and no longer considered a perk. The Centurion lounges esp in my hub Sea are over crowded with terrible hours.

  17. Have been Centurion lounges in SFO, SEA, PHX, DFW, JFK, and PHL in past few months (all but JFK in past 6 weeks). It depends on the day if wait list, have had to wait in PHL, PHX, SEA on Fridays, Sundays, Monday mornings or afternoons which makes sense with everyone back to traveling and kids not in school. The Fall may change things. If AMEX wants to not make users upset and go to others options people have mentioned and IF airlines up there food (doubtful), then have to up usage to $10k/.month or $200k+/.year. Charging a fee to get in most users will pay if only travel a few flights a year. Those of use who travel more or use the card for $50k/month or more than $$250k/year will continue us to be annoyed as “Membership will not have its privileges”.

  18. Visited Miami Centurion three weeks ago. Completely jam packed but no wait. JFK Centurion was a 15 minute wait for the second time in a row. Buenos Aires was also jam packed but no wait. LA Centurion has been closed all three times I have visited. Just got the Chase Sapphire Reserve again. Will definitely downgrade my Platinum to Gold if not offered a good retention offer in November. Too many people allowed to come in with one card. Even this will change in January, Centurion lounges have dropped tremendously in quality over the last 4 years.

  19. The Centurion lounge in PHL used to be something special and a great perk of an expensive card. Now there are entire families coming in at the same time and unreasonable waits. The alcohol and food selection has diminished in variety and quality. It is becoming no longer a special feeling for the traveler, yet the cost for the card has gone up. This should be an embarrassment for the management of AMEX, yet I am not sure that it is of concern to them.

  20. At PHX Centurion Lounge yesterday they were waiting to get in. My wife and I made it in no problem…the lounge seemed a bit crowded but we didnt’ realize some of the loungers might have been in from a groupon.

  21. Read Groupon offer carefully. For $7 you get free membership so you can pay per visit. Or for $7 you get membership and one visit for $63. Or for $7 you get membership and 10 visits for $223.

  22. Arrived at LAS Centurion lounge at 8:45 and was denied access. Was told the location was closing in 15 minutes, no food, and the staff needed to go home. Published closing time is 9PM. I thought they were in the hospitality business!

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