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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Million Mile Secrets is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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1 year ago

Do they check if your outbound flight is international? It seems most of these are near gates for international flights. So if you are on a domestic flight and decide to trek it, you may not be able to get in (as shared by a friend).

1 year ago

Would limit some Centurion lounges for Centurion members with designated areas and increase the daily rate for non centurion members who pay way less yearly membership fees

Aaron Toczynski
1 year ago

How about making the lounges bigger? Just a thought.

1 year ago

Stopped using the one in Seattle. It is way too small and crowded, in fact I gave up when I was asked to wait at the entry until someone else left. The Delta Skyclub right around the corner is excellent and my Platinum card gets me in there too.

Andrew W
Reply to  Chris
1 year ago

Sorry to hear of that experience, Chris. But I’m glad you had access to another airport lounge!

1 year ago

I have been in the miami one several times and it is always jammed. It is far too small a space -a long and narrow room and not nearly as nice as the admirals clubs

Andrew W
Reply to  Ann
1 year ago

Hi Ann!

That’s unfortunate. I’ve been reading more and more reports online of over crowding at Centurion lounges and I’m a bit bummed. I was really hoping the restrictions to Platinum and Centurion members would help but it seems like it hasn’t.

I guess this is where having access to multiple lounges comes in handy. If the Centurion lounge is too crowded, just head on over to another one in the airport.

1 year ago

We just spent one hour at Amex Centurion lounge at LAS. While there was a line to get in, and a separate line to get seated, the folks were very nice and apologetic and we were seated quickly. No issues with service or getting drinks, but they did check to ensure you were flying out within three hours.

1 year ago

The day that they begin regularly restricting access to a certain number of hours or just the cardholder is the day that I drop American Express platinum.

My evaluation of the value is largely predicated on this perk. The card, for me, does not have sufficient value from the other hodgepodge of similarly restricted “perks” such as $50 towards shopping or $15 towards Uber for a restricted $200 worth next to nothing on airlines

Andrew W
Reply to  Mark
1 year ago

I was sad too when they started implementing the restrictions, but I actually still find great value in my AMEX Platinum card and plan on keeping it long term.

I always use the full $200 airline incidental credit, and since the $200 uber credit also works for uber eats, I always max that out as well. And since they added an annual $100 credit to Saks, I basically see it as a $50 effective annual fee for me.