Amex Moving to Further Restrict Centurion Lounge Access During Peak Periods?

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Amex Centurion Peak Travel Entry Restrictions

Amex Centurion Peak Travel Entry Restrictions

The American Express Centurion lounges are among the best of their kind in the United States. As a Platinum or Centurion card member you get access to a full buffet, premium drinks, comfortable seating, showers and even a spa in a couple of locations. To say they are popular is an understatement.

This popularity has lead to overcrowding at many Centurion Lounge locations. Amex tried to fix this problem by restricting Platinum card member guest access, but that hasn’t helped a ton. My family and I were in the SFO Centurion Lounge a few weeks ago and it looked and felt like a warzone. It was far from the pleasant and comfortable experience many have come to expect from lounges.

Amex Centurion Peak Travel Entry Restrictions

Seattle Amex Centurion Peak Travel Restrictions

Considering the Centurion Lounges keep getting more crowded, it seems that Amex may be testing some policies to further restrict access during peak times. Yesterday at the Centurion Lounge in Seattle, they limited Platinum card members from accessing the lounge on arrival and restricted when they could come in during departure. (HT: Amex Platinum Card Aficionado Group)

A sign on the lounge’s door laid out these new peak travel period rules:

  • Access is limited to 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure time of your flight
  • Inbound boarding passes are not accepted for entry

Considering boarding begins about 30 minutes before departure, this is restricting card members to 1-1/2 hours of lounge use immediately before a flight. The Seattle Centurion Lounge is quite small and often fills up, but I could see this type of policy spreading to other locations as well.

Amex Centurion Peak Travel Entry Restrictions

 

Other Options in SEA

One thing to note is that Platinum card members do have quite a few choices of lounges in Seattle. When flying Delta they can access the incredibly nice and new Delta Sky Club and there are also 5 Priority Pass lounges which are accessible as well. A couple of years ago I actually left the Seattle Centurion Lounge and moved to another one because of overcrowding.

New Rules at Other Centurion Lounges?

Given some of the experiences I have had in Miami and San Francisco, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amex move towards further restricting access to the Centurion Lounges during peak travel periods. Airport space costs a lot of money and I don’t see them expanding many of these lounges. They need to find another way to provide a great experience for card members and this might just be the best solution. Lounge space is a finite resource and there seems to be incredible demand.

Conclusion

While this was just a one-time (so far) thing at their smallest lounge, I suspect we will see peak travel restrictions at other overcrowded Centurion Lounges. As a long time Platinum card member I have seen the Centurion Lounge experience go from something that was unique and luxurious to something that is far from that. While I would miss access on arrival at my home airport, I think I would enjoy lounges that weren’t bursting at the seams even better.

What are your thoughts on these restrictions? Let us know in the comments!

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26 COMMENTS

  1. I’m pretty sure I was told (by one of the agents) the SFO lounge is expanding at some point. It obviously should. American Express makes a ton of money, they should have no problem leasing more space in 5-7 airports. They did expand SEA and it has helped some. I no longer go to the lounge in SEA or IAH because of overcrowding and underwhelming food sections. SFO is still worth braving due to the awesome food and beverage selection in my estimation.

  2. Interesting. My wife and I used the LGA lounge last week. Landed at JFK and then had a separate (Spirit) flight booked out of LGA in the evening. Arrived just before 12pm for a departure at 6:30pm. In my half-sleepy stupor, I had forgotten I’d need a boarding pass and hadn’t yet checked in for the Spirit flight. As I was fumbling with my phone to check us in, the agent said she could take our arriving boarding pass from JFK and they let us in no problem. That lounge is also small, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar policy extends there in the future….

  3. Restricting access is fine. As long as cardholders now get less for their annual fee I would expect a commensurate reduction in said fee.

  4. After missing access to the Seattle centurion lounge so many times because of delayed Alaska flights connecting in Seattle I thought I’d finally be able to go there when I have a connection of five hours in September from 5am to 10am and they do this. And just when I thought I would keep the card beyond one year too. Last year I got my first platinum and they increased the annual fee by $100. Then I got the business and they decreased the 50% rebate on points redemption to just 35%.

    You mentioned “It was far from the pleasant and comfortable experience many have come to expect from lounges.”

    I found complaints of overcrowding going back six years. I’ve only been to the SFO lounge at 9pm and that was overcrowded. So when exactly was the last time these lounges were not overcrowded?

  5. Thank so for the update. It’s likely we’ll be swinging through SEA tomorrow.

    We’re a family of three and we usually are traveling with our 11yo. We prefer the Amex lounge most visits if it’s convenient time/location wise because Alaska used to charge for guests. If you have several hours to kill, as we often do as we connect to fly to our home regional airport, we prefer one where we don’t have to move so I see us favoring the Alaska lounges more moving forward. The food/snack options at the Amex lounge are better than the Alaska ones though.

  6. Does the inbound restriction only apply if it’s your final destination? I can understand their not wanting people to loiter at the lounge and instead leave the airport and get on the road, but if it affects Seattle layovers too, that’s pretty bad.

  7. I was in SEA(for a departure) yesterday and I saw the sign. I’m a bit annoyed because I like using the lounge on arrival in SEA. I was allowed to use it on arrival last Friday at least.

  8. 2 hours before a flight just isn’t sufficient for long layovers. Suppose I’m coming in on an international flight and have a long layover of 4 to 8 hours+- what the heck am I supposed to do? Aimlessly wander the terminal until I’m in my 2 hour window?

    I think if your originating airport is at a Centurion Lounge it’s ok to impose a 2 hour rule- I can comfortably time my arrival at the airport so I’m through security with less than 2 hours to spare. But if I’ve got a long layover, a lounge really needs to accommodate me the whole time I’m in the airport.

    • That is a good point. They will probably say you can use the PP lounge instead which is a perk of the card too but it is still a bad move.

  9. So if I agreed to pay the annual fee based on getting access to the lounge, and now they’re restricting my access to the lounge, does that mean they’ll refund my fee if I cancel the card?

    • Most likely not but you may get courtesy points if you frequent the Seattle lounge…worth a call if that is the case. If you have never been there then they will probably tell you to pound sand.

      • I do live in Seattle and frequent the lounge, so that’s not a problem, but I’m not sure why is should matter. I agreed to pay the fee for access to the lounge under certain conditions, and they’re unilaterally changing them. It seems to me if they’re going to change the deal halfway through my membership year, they should have to give me the option of a refund.

        It’s similar to when they devalued the 50% point rebate on flights. They continued to give it to current customers for the remainder of the year they paid for, because they can’t just change the deal halfway through.

  10. If they give me $15 every time I’m turned away or restricted, then we’re cool. Otherwise arrival is my favorite time to use (to clean up, prep before heading into city) and I don’t bother going on outbound usually unless it makes sense to arrive much earlier to beat traffic or something.

    Very uncool for everybody to roll over and accept an indeterminate fate. You only encourage Amex! I’d rather get a 2nd card to become “elite” or something than water this down. It’s the only thing left I enjoy about flying.

  11. Fk them!! Seattle Centurion has already set up LoungeBuddy sign in kiosk at front desk, they will start selling access in no time!! They are not running out of space, they are just trying to make more money!!

  12. hahaha @ the guy whining about not being able to spend 8+ hours in the lounge.

    this is exactly why it’s being limited.

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