Solo travelers rejoice: Why I'm in favor of new Amex Centurion Lounge guest rules
Lounges can be a refuge from the hustle and bustle of a busy airport terminal. But there are times when many others have the same idea and the refuge concept gives way to yet another busy spot in the airport.
Credit cards that provide lounge access have grown in popularity in recent years, but the supply of lounge space hasn't quite developed at the same pace. The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express are two such cards, providing access to popular (and sometimes crowded) Centurion Lounges.
The result is that a lounge may not be any more relaxing or hospitable than the terminal itself. In fact, the Centurion Lounge has been getting a reputation of late -- high quality but highly trafficked.
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Amex has a new plan to reduce the number of travelers in its lounges and preserve cardholder's experience. Instead of two complimentary guests, Amex has announced that starting Feb. 1, 2023, most Centurion Lounge guests who enter with a cardholder will be charged $50 each.
As a frequent solo traveler with an Amex Platinum card, here's why I'm looking forward to this new policy.
Related: Dear Amex, please don’t charge little kids $50 for lounge access
Lounges should be relaxing
Picture this. You're navigating a congested mass of travelers in the terminal while struggling with a lack of power outlets and good Wi-Fi. Thankfully, there's a lounge that could be a respite to work, eat and freshen up before boarding a flight.
The problem? You find it to be just as crowded as the terminal below.
This isn't just a hypothetical example; it's what I've experienced at many airports, including those with a Centurion Lounge. The Miami Centurion location, even with its expanded footprint, suffers from this issue often. Amex is also expanding its San Francisco (SFO) lounge and building a new lounge in Seattle (SEA), which quickly outgrew its Centurion Studio space.
Whether it's an airline lounge, a Priority Pass lounge or a Centurion Lounge, I hope for these spaces to be somewhat peaceful where I can relax or stay productive -- such as this American lounge in Dallas (DFW) pictured below.
Related: Your complete guide to Amex Centurion Lounges
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I'm grateful that my Amex Platinum card -- with Centurion Lounge access -- has been able to provide that on dozens of occasions. But when it can't, it makes me wish Amex would do more to figure out a solution.
And come 2023, they will go through with one of their most drastic measures yet.
Related: Is it time for Amex to extend Centurion Lounge opening hours?
I often fly alone
The fact of the matter is that while I travel often, that travel is typically solo. Or, at the very least, I'm flying solo to meet friends or coworkers elsewhere.
This Centurion Lounge policy change benefits solo frequent flyers and business travelers the most. Even now, after a six-month pandemic-related closure, most locations are again operating at capacity, with many cardmembers being asked to join a waitlist for entry.
More space to spread out and work
I appreciate the thoughtful variety of seating arrangements that Amex set up in its lounges. From chaise lounge chairs to sofas to high-top stools, there is an assortment of options to choose from.
Before the pandemic, finding a simple table with an outlet was sometimes a challenge.
By reducing the number of people who can access Centurion Lounges, I stand a better chance of getting access to the things that I need to do what I need to do on the road. After all, one of my biggest pain points of a terminal isn't usually the crowds; it's actually finding a flat surface where I can place my laptop and access both power and Wi-Fi.
Related: How to maximize benefits with the Amex Platinum card
$50 is worth the occasional guest
In the occasional instance when I need to bring a guest into the lounge, paying $50 could be well worth the cost.
After all, even one-time passes at more bare-bones airline lounges usually cost just as much -- if not more.
For instance, a one-time pass to any United Club is $59. From premium food to an open bar, spending a few hours at the Centurion Lounge for $50 seems valuable enough for the rare times I'll need it.
However, if others have this same idea, the crowds may return.
There are definitely winners and losers with this new policy adjustment. On the one hand, solo travelers will benefit the most, while families, especially those with young children, fare the worst.
Keep in mind, authorized Amex Platinum card users won’t be subject to the $50 per-visit guest fee. You currently can add up to three Platinum authorized-user cards to your primary personal Platinum account for a total fee of $175 per year (see rates and fees). However, children younger than 13 can’t be added as authorized users, so this is a noticeable devaluation for families.
The surge in popularity of premium travel credit cards, such as the Platinum card, has meant more people eligible for lounge access than ever and Amex finally took a hard stance on its access policy.
Thankfully, we're getting a nearly two-year notice about these changes and plenty will likely change within the lounge and premium card landscape before then.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.