Amex Centurion Lounge Overcrowding: Time for Changes?
I am a huge fan of the American Express Centurion Lounges. Ever since they opened up the first one in my hometown of Las Vegas, I have enjoyed the food (for the most part), drinks and most importantly the comfort. The seating options are diverse and the atmosphere is among the nicest among domestic lounges. The free spa services in Dallas and Miami ain’t bad either.
Since the Vegas lounged opened, the network has grown rapidly. The second lounge to open was at DFW and it was followed by lounges in New York (LGA), Miami, San Francisco and a smaller “Studio” concept in Seattle. All of these lounges share similar decor and characteristics, but offer different menus which makes it nice to visit each one. (Full disclosure I have not yet been to the lounges in LGA or SEA.)
Which brings me to the topic of this post. The Centurion Lounges are getting CROWDED. I first noticed this a few months ago on a day where my wife took me to the airport here in Las Vegas on her way to work. I ended up killing a couple of hours that day before my flight and found the lounge way too full. It wasn’t just crowded either. The trash bins in the bathroom was overflowing and the buffet was overrun. It was dirty despite the staff working very hard to accommodate guests.
Since then I have seen similar circumstances in the Vegas lounge several more times and have made visits to the lounges in San Francisco in Miami where I noticed similar issues. The SFO lounge isn’t terrible, but it is small and was near capacity both times I was there. If you are traveling by yourself, be prepared to share seating spaces too. On my last trip to SFO I allowed someone to share my dining table, because there was no more space.
Then there is Miami. Oh Miami. The Miami lounge is simply too small. I have been there four times over the past six weeks because of my mileage runs down to Panama and each time it was full at some point during my visit (i.e. no seats). The other day PDX Deals Guy and I had to literally stand near a group of tables and claim a dirty table as “ours” when someone got up. I seriously wonder why they put a spa in that lounge considering the lack of space. (But I did enjoy my free massages. 🙂 )
I am not an insider when it comes to American Express and thus have no knowledge if they are even aware of the overcrowding. (Although I am sure they are.) Since the existing lounges most likely won’t grow, what are they going to do? I think the only answer is to implement tighter restrictions on access.
Currently Platinum members can bring two guests or their immediate family into the lounge. Might we see that number reduced? Could they limit Platinum members to a certain number of lounge visits per year? Before you yell at me for giving them ideas, keep in mind they have experts working for them. I’m sure they have already considered all of these options & more.
Would You Give Up Some Access For a Better Experience?
The Miami lounge is not a pleasant place to be in my opinion. I don’t want to have to fight for a seat and it is loud and cramped and not comfortable when full. Would you give up unlimited access for a set number of visits where you have a better expectation of it being less crowded? I think some people would. I really do love my lounges so that would be a tough decision for me.
One of the things they can do is hire more staff. I do want to say that the staff at the Centurion Lounges has always been a high point for me. They work hard and are friendly. I have always been impressed. With that said, they are often running around and at busy times it is clear there aren’t enough of them. Remember the full bins in the Vegas bathroom I mentioned? I have seen that numerous times now and the staff in that lounge works hard! They can only do so much.
I just wanted to put this topic out there since I have noticed some of the luster of the Centurion lounges has worn off for me. I do understand there are economics involved when choosing the location and size of a lounge and fully respect that American Express is putting out a product that is superior to other domestic lounges, but it isn’t as nice a product as what we saw two years ago.
Hopefully as they bring new lounges online in Houston, Chicago (rumored) and Los Angeles (rumored), the company considers the true capacity needed. Miami is clearly a debacle and I have heard the Seattle lounge is often closed due to being full. Even the larger Dallas and Las Vegas lounges seem to be overrun during peak times. Is this a problem you have noticed? What do you think American Express can do to make the experience better?