AMEX Centurion Lounges Are a Victim of Their Own Success

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Airport lounges are a great place to unwind and enjoy plentiful seating, free drinks and snacks, and fast Wi-Fi – until they’re not.  And that’s what AMEX is facing with their ever-popular Centurion Lounges, which you can access if you have AMEX cards like the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Despite adding new locations at a rapid clip, and expanding others, it’s not enough.  The lounges are so popular, it’s hard to get a seat.  Or even get through the door!

Even newly-added restrictions aren’t enough to thin the crowds.  So what’s AMEX to do?

A Rare Glimpse of Open Seating at an AMEX Centurion Lounge

Let’s take a look at the current state of these popular lounges.

AMEX Can’t Keep up With Demand for Centurion Lounges

Link:   How to Find AMEX Platinum Airport Lounges

Every business wants to create a product they run out of because demand is so high.  But in the case of AMEX Centurion Lounges, when does the popularity begin to damper the experience for cardholders?  We might already be there, unfortunately.

Some lounges are limiting entry by timing a visit based on departure, charging for extra guests, and only accepting outbound boarding passes.  But it isn’t enough to improve the experience.

Finding a Seat Can Actually Be Stressful at Peak Travel Times.  That’s NOT What a Lounge Is Supposed to Do!

I give them credit for recent openings in Philadelphia and Hong Kong, and planned locations next year for Denver, Los Angeles, and New York-JFK.  They’re doing their best to keep up with the ravenous demand.

And I understand why folks want in.  They serve full meals, buffet-style, in most locations.  And serve fancy craft cocktails for the low price of $0.  Throw in a few other perks, like a mini spa treatments and oversized comfy chairs, and it’s easy to see why folks love spending time in an airport oasis.

Last time I was at the Centurion Lounge in Miami, it was standing room only.  I grabbed a drink and finished it while hunting for an open seat.  After circling a few times, I gave up and went to my gate to get some work done.  The noise level was comparable in both spots.  I lamented how popular the lounge was.  And how it was no longer a peaceful place to unwind, but actually a source of stress before flying.

Had a similar experience at the New York- La Guardia location, too…

What’s AMEX to Do?

There was talk about letting cardholders book a spot in advance via the AMEX app.  But that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

They’ve already limited entry to folks with The Platinum Card® from American Express, one of its personal cards, or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.  If you have another AMEX card, they won’t even sell you a day pass any more.

One solution would be to simply limit the number of visits for cardholders.  Because right now, you can get unlimited visits (if you can get through the door).

The Easiest Solution Would Be to Put a Cap on Visits

Someone who travels every week for work could theoretically use the perk 100+ times per year if they visit the lounge before and after each flight.  Adding a weekly, monthly, or even yearly cap would prevent folks from popping in and taking up a seat for quick visits.

And if you went over your number of allotted visits, you could get entry if space allows, or pay a fee to get in.

As it stands, I don’t mind that AMEX is limiting entry to within 2 to 3 hours of a flight’s scheduled departure.  That prevents people from holding seats and tables for several hours.

What else could AMEX do to prevent overcrowding in their lounges?  Have you had a good or bad experience at a Centurion Lounge lately?

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