Posted by William Charles on May 30, 2018
Credit Cards

Published on May 30th, 2018 | by William Charles

57

American Express Centurion Lounge Overcrowding Issues – 2 Hour Rule Clarity & Possible Solution

In yesterday’s recap we shared a story from Miles to Memories about American Express limiting entry to the SEA centurion lounge over memorial day:

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

OMaaT then shared a similar notice went up in Miami as well. American Express then clarified that this was a pre-existing rule and is only put in place when a lounge reaches capacity. I’m not saying American Express is lying, but I do find it hard to believe there are precisely zero reports of such a notice even being put up before at any centurion lounge and then two lounges hit capacity and the same sign was put up on the same day. American Express has tried to put other measures in place to reduce lounge congestion, day passes were eliminated for non premium cardholders & guests were limited to two (previously immediate family members were also allowed) but obviously this hasn’t done enough to curb lounge use especially in locations with smaller lounges.

The easiest way for American Express to deal with lounge overcrowding would be to simply limit the number of guaranteed entries you have per year. For example somebody using the lounge twice weekly is obviously more of a overcrowding issue than a family of four using it twice per year (104 visits vs 8). You’ll notice I said guaranteed entries, rather than entries. The way I see it is that most users know when their flight is and what time they are likely to leave, there is nothing stopping American Express from allowing you to prebook that entry and be guaranteed access. If there is still room when somebody arrives, of course they should be allowed entry as well. If you’re given a certain amount of these entries annually (e.g 10 or 20 or whatever number you like) then it stands to reason immediate family should be allowed as well.

I know some readers will hate this suggestion, but the alternative is being able to access the lounge for two hours before your flight meaning you’ll likely be accessing the actual lounge for one hour to one and half hours total and that assumes that this will fix the overcrowding issue as well. I’d be interested to hear other readers suggestions on how to fix this problem as well, because it certainly is going away anytime soon.



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Yoni
Yoni

I think that just like you have to lock down the domestic airline, the option to choose yearly:

1.) Guaranteed X# entries per year with reservations for Premium card holders who may only travel with family a few times a year (but perhaps still business owners that do considerable business spending on the card, but only travel a few times a year with family for vacation)
or
2.) Unlimited but without guaranteed access and the risk of being turned away due to capacity issues but do more business travel (without family in-toe) and do less business travel on peak holiday times.

Either way someones going to be unhappy

frogger
frogger

10 total entries per year. If you want to use all ten at once that is fine. Or come in 10 different times by yourself.

Tall T
Tall T

I personally like the solution you propose. It’s very straight forward.

MSer
MSer

2 hours prior to boarding is a reasonable fix. If you want to sleep, or while away hours, go find a day room at the local airport hotel.

Way too many people abuse “free” – it’s why we can’t have nice things.

justintime
justintime

It is far far far from free though. It’s $450 annual fee. AMEX should either make the lounges bigger or do what DOC recommended.

J
J

This doesn’t work, especially for international travel, when boarding is typically 1 hour prior to departure time.

Dave
Dave

Limiting card member access should be the last resort. I’d rather see guest privileges eliminated or severely restricted before it came to limiting card member entry.

Bigtenis
Bigtenis

+1 limit guests when they’re busy, I’d be less annoyed looking around at other card-carrying members like myself than all the friends and families taking up space.

Rene
Rene

Which practically means the business guy traveling alone uses the lounge twice a week, families and couples are turned away.

I think limiting the number of prioritized entries is a reasonable and fair approach. Could be something like # of passes — whether you use them for yourself or use them to bring guests is up to you.

Gareth
Gareth

I think the two-hour restriction is stupid. Those who have long layover between flights are the ones most need the lounge. Who would go to the lounge if he knew the flight is about to board?

Yoni
Yoni

Agreed, I also think that restrict inbound lounge access would help some overcrowding issues -unless you have a same day connecting flight or your arriving after a long international flight, I can see wanting to stretch or nosh for 30-45 minutes before heading through customs – unless its inbound to a US airport that CBP has already setup Mobile passport entry.

Master Allan
Master Allan

This comment is not based on statistics but I would be surprised if inbound access is a real problem. 2/3 times flying to LAS I stop at the centurion after disembarking but the duration is nothing compared to my outgoing usage. Maybe people are abusive and contrary to my actions of getting a quick bite to eat, some WiFi access, and then bolting for the car rental facility.

WR
WR

No sir I don’t like it. They should turn away guests before they turn away cardmembers.

TomT
TomT

I like this suggestion too although I have yet to run into an access issue with any Amex Centurion lounges.

I wish that there was some way for LoungeBuddy to inform users of lounge restrictions, especially in regards to Priority Pass acess. For example, I dragged my family from lounge-free Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 in LAX on Sunday, so we could visit the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. After clearing security and reaching the lounge, we were turned away due to their very restrictive 5am – 10am access limitation for Priority Pass members. Hardly worth even listing that as an accessible lounge.

Kai
Kai

Agreed. Not a fan of 2 hour rule. I personally like the ideal of limited number of guaranteed entry since I don’t travel that often.

However I can see the two sides of this. You are basically pitting frequent business vs leisure travelers. Amex doesn’t want to alienate business travelers with the idea that they may be putting a lot of spending on their cards. Then again some leisure travelers may actually be amex’a Biggest spenders.

I’m not suggesting the following. But if amex really wants to think about ROI. Then maybe cardholders can earn guaranteed entry or reserved table for extra spending threshold. Basically like earning elite status at hotels and airlines.

frogger
frogger

At a certain point just eliminate the lounges.

Gary Leff

As far as the policy having been in place since the beginning, in Seattle when they were packed full they used to give out Starbucks gift cards rather than limiting how long someone could stay in the lounge:

https://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/08/22/the-american-express-lounge-in-seattle-gets-jam-packed-youll-never-believe-what-they-had-to-do-last-night/

David
David

Who the fuck in their right mind goes into lounges all day every week? I only go to a lounge when my flight gets cancelled/delayed and I have to take a flight 3+ hours later…

Are you that cheap that you just want to crappy free drinks? I guess I’m a little bias, since I travel for business and don’t pay for expenses, but whatever. I think some people TRY to find time to go to the lounge instead of avoiding extra time in an airport like sane rational people.

chaseaholic
chaseaholic

>Are you that cheap that you just want to crappy free drinks?

between 2 people at an airport, a meal and a drink is ~$50-60+, I’m paying $550 for the AmEx Plat per year and the card has limited upside otherwise (terrible earnings, no minimal trip insurance compared to CSR/Prestige, limited Priority Pass) I 100% expect to snack and relax at an airport.

>I travel for business and don’t pay for expenses,

I guess that sums up everything.

Gareth
Gareth

I think David has a point. Some people do have a very strange decision making process.

zalmy

I like lounges prior to boarding because it allows me to come a bit early to the airport, giving me peace of mind that I won’t be held up, while still giving me a quiet place to sit down, work, drink, and nap.

David
David

That’s funny, the ones I’ve been to thus far have been stock full of people standing around everywhere at all times… people on calls everywhere. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve found more quiet in the airport restaurants.

Obviously, just my opinion and only relates to the airports I frequent out of.

Chris
Chris

>I think some people TRY to find time to go to the lounge instead of avoiding extra time in an airport like sane rational people.

100% agree.

Rene
Rene

Yeah, I don’t get it. I also only used lounges for cancellations/delays.

Even when I travel on my own dime, it never occurred to me to waste more time at the airport just to use the lounge or — as the restriction seems to imply — stay at the airport AFTER you arrived at your destination.

I guess I just hate airports and flying more than others 🙂

VB
VB

Here’s a logical type of person who uses lounges a lot: me. Though we don’t have Centurion access.

1. We don’t like to be late for flights. In fact, travel days are *very* stressful for my wife all around. So instead of arriving 2 hours early, we get there 3 hours early and relax in the lounge.

2. The last day at a hotel isn’t “relaxing”. We’re packing (wife is stressed again), and either have to check out hours before our flight or have a morning flight. Sitting in a hotel room waiting to leave isn’t better than sitting in a lounge. Plus, we may have to worry about how long it takes to get to the airport or through security. Lounge time takes that out of the equation.

3. As mentioned earlier, 2 ppl at the airport for drinks and a meal easily = $60. Am I “too cheap”? Well, not in my eyes, and I don’t have an expense account when I travel with my wife. We like to have extravagant adventures on a budget; I’d prefer to spend that $60 on something better than mediocre airport food.

4. Seeing a new lounge can bring a little variety to a long trip. We can either spend time in the same hotel we’ve been in for days, or spend an extra hour or two in a new and interesting space. Our last lounge was the Velazquez lounge at MAD, which was quite enjoyable and spacious.

So yeah: when we travel, we usually plan on spending maybe 2+ hours in a lounge. I feel no guilt nor shame; I paid for my access through airline status, my ticket, or my CC. I always find it weird that so many people think lounges should be reserved for those who claim to never want to spend time in them.

David
David

American Express made a decision to offer lounges at these airports as a business decision: It’s part of the perks offered by their credit cards.

Now, if a lounge is so packed that its becoming a problem, then it is one the business should solve: Expand the lounge, or eliminate the perk.

These 2 hour before departure “solutions” are laughable. Really? Do I decide what time I get to an airport and how long do I have to wait before I get on my connection? The reason I pay $450 a year to use these lounges <4 times a year since I am based out of a non Amex hub (ORD) is that because I know I have the option to find a place to chill just in case if I'm stuck in SFO for 9 hours. My AmEx is there to give me a reasonable, comfortable "bunk in" option, rather than getting on some revolving door of sad airport food that I'd have to scram 75 minutes into it since boarding would've been taking place by then.

If you offer this as some sort of a advertised perk (and they sure got their marketing department to be pumping this feature out the yazoo) then it is up to the business to deliver an acceptable quality of service. Otherwise, you are just baiting and switching. If Starbucks started selling coffee at $1, then they better either A) deliver at a reasonable speed. Or B) get in the fetal position from the negative flak they are about to endure from how mismanaged the whole idea just became. We will see if AmEx can adapt their busier hubs fast enough with the local airport authorities.

And sidenote, I have no qualms moving all my spend to Chase. If AmEx can't deliver on a perk they promised, then perhaps I don't need two $450/year cards either.

Bob Jones
Bob Jones

“Bunk in”? Loser…selfish people like u r why these lounges are like 3rd world countries now.

David
David

Did you even read my post? Or did you just find your trigger word and now got all butt hurt?

My point is that Amex should have adapted and expanded their facilities to meet their demand. SFO hasn’t been expanded. LAS hasn’t been expanded. SEA is undergoing an expansion.

Expecting your customers to act a certain way is just naive. If they want to market their lounges as a perk of their card, then they better should be increase their investments at the troubled hubs. AmEx is a business.

Thankfully it’s highly unlikely I will ever run into you. You sound like a real pleasant judgmental type. I fly F/J. Judge me. The Cent lounges are my backup lounges that I only give a damn about because I hate a bait and switch especially from a credit card company. If they want to put limits on the lounge access? Fine. Then hopefully the lost revenue from the drop in retention will be less painful than expanding your lounges and meeting the marketing promises.

VB
VB

If you think a catered lounge with showers, comfortable seats, and free flowing alcohol is like living in a 3rd world country, you are far too pampered in your life.

Mike
Mike

I like your suggestion. I would either do that or limit guest privileges.

Ultimately, AMEX has the actual data about usage. They know how much overcrowding is due to a ton of business travelers (either single or in groups) versus families. On my usage of the Dallas lounge, I have observed a lot of parties of two who appear to be colleagues. It would appear that (at least in Dallas) a lot of frequent flyers may be bringing in a colleague, which would contribute to crowding issues.

I really, really like the AMEX lounges. I *may* even keep my Platinum card with the $450 annual fee primarily because of this benefit. If they change things such that the lounges make less sense to try to access (e.g. limited to “2 hours before flights” or similar, which would suck for international flights), I will drop the card.

P
P

Personally, if they’re going to limit to 2 hours, it should just be 2 hours period so at least people with more than 2 hours of lay over can still stay full two hours before they’re flight.

Gareth
Gareth

I agree. It should be the other way around: only those with boarding time >2hours can get in. It’s easier to find a place to kill an hour or so.

P
P

I’d also like to know how they’re counting 2 hours – whether it’s the original departure time or if they take into account delays. I’d hate to be in line when my flight is leaving in 2 hours and when I get to the Amex counter, my flight is delayed for 2 hours so it will leave in four hours and I’m told I have to wait another 2 hours until I can get into the lounge.

Rene
Rene

Seems impractical — how do you keep track and kick those people out after the 2h are up?

Tae
Tae

It’s pretty simple. Increase the annual fee to $800. For me, the other benefits are trivial compared to lounge access.

Rene
Rene

In fact, that would increase the issue. Everybody who doesn’t use the lounge extremely often would drop the card and only the heavy users would keep it. You’d lose the rare users who just keep for the 2 times a year they enter a lounge — who are effectively subsidizing the heavy users.

The problem is already that people overuse the lounges: they make irrational decisions — showing up early or stay at the airport to take as much advantage of the fixed fee.

A model that has proven to reduce congestion is a usage-based fee. Doesn’t need to be a lot. Just enough to be not “free”. Humans are irrational and free makes people do irrational things — like deliberately head to the airport early or stick around after they reached their destination.

There have been a ton of experiments on how irrational people react to “FREE”.

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