Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex’s Recent Policy Changes
Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - New Guest Access Rules Start September 2023
One of the most significant and controversial Centurion Lounge access policy changes taking effect September 2023 is the overhaul of guest access rules. Historically, Platinum and Centurion cardholders have been able to bring in two guests per visit to Centurion Lounges completely free of charge. However, as of September 1, 2023, that will no longer be the case.
Instead, the only guests who will be able to access Centurion Lounges for free are those traveling with the Platinum or Centurion cardholder on the same itinerary. Any other guests will have to pay a per-person fee, which is expected to be around $50 based on fees charged by other lounges.
This is a major shift from the very generous guest access policy that has been in place up until now. For many Card Members who frequently travel with family or colleagues not on the same itinerary, it means the lounge access they previously enjoyed will now come with a hefty price tag.
On FlyerTalk forums and Reddit threads, Card Members have widely panned the upcoming policy as being far too restrictive. As one Redditor put it: "This completely defeats the purpose of having lounge access as a benefit on the Platinum Card. I regularly travel with family and colleagues who are not on the exact same flights, so this renders the Centurion Lounges useless to me."
Others have taken a slightly more moderate stance, acknowledging that some tightening of the guest policy makes sense with how overcrowded the lounges have become. But most seem to agree that limiting free guests only to those on the same itinerary goes too far.
In particular, those who frequently travel with a spouse or partner not on the same booking will be stung. As one FlyerTalk member explained: "My husband and I like to travel together but we don't always book the exact same flights. If I can't even bring him into the Centurion Lounge with me for free anymore, I'm not sure the Platinum Card is worth keeping."
Some speculate that this policy shift may have been spurred by overcrowding issues in the Centurion Lounges. Images of packed lounges with nowhere to sit have circulated online, suggesting demand exceeds capacity in some locations. So limiting guest access could be Amex's way of trying to reduce crowds.
But most critics of the new policy say there must have been better solutions than restricting guests so severely. Suggestions floated include charging for all guest visits instead of just non-traveling companions, capping the number of visits per year, or designating certain peak times where guests are not allowed.
While it's possible Amex could walk back some aspects of the guest policy before September, they have not indicated any willingness to do so yet. Unless something changes between now and then, this will be the new normal as of September 1 2023.
For now, the best advice seems to be taking maximum advantage of the existing guest access while you still can. If you have an upcoming trip where you were planning to bring guests not on your itinerary, try to schedule that trip before September.
It's also worth being strategic about which card you use for lounge access between now and September if you have both the Platinum and Centurion Cards. Since Centurion still allows two free guests, use that card over the Platinum to get a last hurrah of free access for companions.
What else is in this post?
- Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - New Guest Access Rules Start September 2023
- Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - Which Cards Still Get Free Entry?
- Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - Paying for Day Passes with the Platinum Card
- Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - International Lounge Changes Coming Too
- Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - What About Delta Sky Club Access?
Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - Which Cards Still Get Free Entry?
One obvious question on many Card Members' minds is which specific Amex cards will retain free Centurion Lounge access once the September guest policy changes go into effect. Thankfully, Amex has provided clarity on this aspect of the new rules.
Previously, authorized users on the Platinum or Centurion Cards had the same full lounge access as primary users, including guest access privileges. As of September 2023, free entry remains for authorized users, but they will not be able to bring in guests who are not on their same itinerary.
"As an authorized user, I paid the same annual fee as the primary user to have the same lounge access benefits. Yet now Amex is telling me I can bring fewer guests. I understand restricting access for those without the Platinum Card paying the fee. But to restrict me differently than the primary user seems wrong and arbitrary."
The only other remaining card that grants completely free Centurion Lounge access with no changes is the invite-only Centurion Card. As the top-tier 'black card' in the Amex portfolio, it will continue to provide unrestricted access to Centurion Lounges.
Cardholders will still be permitted to bring up to two guests free of charge. There are also no limits on the number of visits Centurion Cardholders can make per year.
Many Platinum Card holders who frequently visit Centurion Lounges with guests have debated upgrading to the Centurion for this reason. But with its $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 minimum annual spend requirement, the card remains out of reach for a majority of consumers.
"I decided to get the Platinum Card primarily for Centurion Lounge access since I travel weekly for work and often bring colleagues along. Now realizing those colleagues will soon cost me $50 a pop, I explored upgrading to Centurion but there's no way I can swing that annual fee. So as much as I looked forward to the lounges, I'm planning to cancel my brand new Platinum Card application."
However, the invitation-only Corporate Platinum Card will retain its full lounge access privileges. Like the personal Centurion Card, there are no guest restrictions for Corporate Platinum Card Members or their authorized users.
"So corporate cardholders can still fill the lounges with as many guests as they want for free, no problem. But loyal Platinum holders who pay the same annual fee get slapped with restrictions. It's clear Amex values its corporate accounts over individual customers."
Only the Platinum Card and Centurion Card will continue granting Delta SkyMiles Reserve members entry when flying Delta. Of course, any guests would need to be traveling on the same reservation as the cardholder to enter for free.
Reaction among Delta Reserve cardholders has been decidedly negative. For those who paid the card's $550 annual fee primarily for Centurion Lounge access on Delta flights, this change greatly devalues the card.
"I mainly got the Delta Reserve for Centurion access when flying Delta, since I'm on Delta weekly. Now losing that perk makes me want to cancel my Reserve and just use the Platinum Card. Flying Delta a lot, I saw Centurion access as the biggest difference-maker for paying Reserve's high fee. Now that's gone."
In summary, outside of the personal and corporate Centurion Cards, the only other card where little changes in terms of Centurion Lounge access is the personal Platinum Card. But even Platinum will see new guest restrictions take effect September 2023.
Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - Paying for Day Passes with the Platinum Card
One option Platinum Cardholders will have once the September guest restrictions kick in is to pay for day passes to bring companions into Centurion Lounges. But how much will these day passes cost, and are they worth it compared to alternatives?
Amex has not formally announced day pass pricing yet, but leaks suggest it will be in the $50 per guest range based on fees at other airline lounges. While that may seem steep at first glance, context is needed to evaluate if it's a fair price.
The first point of comparison is regular airline lounge day passes, which often run $59-$65 for major domestic carriers. Many hotel club lounges and independent lounges like Plaza Premium also fall into the $50-$60 range. Compared to those benchmarks, $50 for Centurion seems generally reasonable and market-priced.
"Even $50 seems crazy to me for a day pass when I'm already paying $695 a year for the Platinum Card. With my family of 4, 1 visit to bring them in with me would cost $200 extra vs. the $0 I pay today. Hard to swallow."
On the other hand, those who really value the Centurion Lounge experience over regular airline clubs report they'd gladly pay around $50 per guest to access the superior food, drinks, amenities and atmosphere. As one FlyerTalk member noted:
"I've gotten completely spoiled by Centurion Lounges. Stuff like cooked-to-order meals, top-shelf complimentary drinks, spa treatments, and unique designs you just don't find elsewhere. So even having to pay $50 per guest seems well worth it compared to a crowded United Club with pre-packaged snacks."
But there's another important comparison point beyond airline lounges - the increasing number of pay-per-use independent airport lounges. Lounges like The Club Airport Lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges, and The Club at SEA offer pay-as-you-go access for around $40-$50 per person.
Many of these lounges now offer enhances food and beverage options, more comfortable seating, and better ambiance. So some have questioned whether Centurion Lounges will still be able to justify charging a premium. As one blogger put it:
"With pay-per-use lounges rapidly improving, are Centurion Lounges so much 'nicer' to warrant paying $50 vs. $40 for an independent lounge day pass? The gap seems to be narrowing based on my experience, making the value of paying for Centurion access less obvious."
On balance, Centurion still generally has an edge over independents in lounge features and service standards. But the gap does appear to be shrinking as competition heats up. And for certain locations like Denver where the independent options are newer and more luxe, Centurion's premium value is less clear.
"As a corporate card authorized user, I'm outraged I'll have to pay ~$50 for guest access when before it was free. My company pays the same $695 corporate Platinum fee, but we're being treated as second-class citizens."
Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - International Lounge Changes Coming Too
While most of the attention has centered on changes to Centurion Lounge access policies in the US, Amex card members abroad should know they are not immune to the coming restrictions. Centurion Lounges located in international destinations will implement similar guest access limitations starting September 1st 2023.
This means those entering Centurion Lounges in places like Hong Kong, Melbourne and London will also only be able to bring in companions on the same trip booking. Any other guests not traveling with the cardholder will incur a day pass fee estimated around $50 USD per person.
According to loyalty blog One Mile at a Time, response to the international lounge policy shift has been "overwhelmingly negative." Those who frequently visit Centurion Lounges in destinations outside the US rely even more heavily on the lounges as an oasis from often chaotic and uncomfortable airport conditions.
As one Australian Platinum Card member explained on FlyerTalk: "I’ve come to depend on the Centurion Lounge in Melbourne ahead of my frequent long-haul flights to the Americas. It’s leagues ahead of the Virgin Australia lounge and especially the overcrowded Qantas business lounges. Now being told I’ll have to pay $50 per person to bring my wife in is awful news. The Platinum Card takes a big hit in value for me."
Travel bloggers who focus on maximizing perks while minimizing costs have been particularly scathing. Given lounge access is a primary selling point for premium cards like Platinum, dramatic cutbacks to the benefit undercut their utility.
In the words of famous miles-and-points guru Gary Leff of ViewFromTheWing: "Amex has severely devalued the Platinum Card value proposition with the forthcoming Centurion Lounge guest restrictions. Along with other recent Platinum downgrades like eliminating airline fee credits for many flyers, this continues a troubling pattern of Amex cheapening benefits while leaving the annual fee untouched."
Meanwhile, some Platinum Card members abroad speculate overcrowding due to high guest volumes may have played an even bigger role in the international lounge rule change. Says one Hong Kong-based FlyerTalk user:
"I’ve visited the Centurion Lounge in HKG multiple times where finding a seat was nearly impossible, with large families camped out for hours. In that context, I reluctantly understand why Amex had to limit lounge access primarily to traveling cardholders. But only allowing those on the exact same itinerary goes way overboard in restricting access."
"In the US, authorized users tend to be family like spouses or children. But many folks internationally add authorized users strictly to gain guest access privileges. So preventing those users from bringing in companions really cuts against why they added the users in the first place."
Of course, posh lounges in far-flung destinations also represent the highest-value use cases for Centurion Lounge access. With paid lounge day passes often $80+ overseas and alternatives far fewer, the opportunity cost of lost lounge access abroad feels especially painful.
Miles-and-points expert Gary Leff again sums it up: "Centurion Lounges are most highly prized when heading into long-haul international flights abroad. Losing lounge access in Sao Paulo heading to New York or in Hong Kong before boarding for Seattle stings hugely compared to domestic locations."
"I take 4-5 long trips to the US and Europe each year out of Singapore, usually bringing my wife and young son. Being able to relax and refresh in the Centurion Lounge before 20+ hour journeys has been a godsend. Having to leave them behind or cough up $150+ in lounge fees will dramatically cut the value I get from the Platinum Card."
In another sign of the immense value international Centurion Lounges provide, some have explored applying for US credit cards while abroad just for global lounge access. But as Million Mile Secrets warns, this strategy brings risks:
"Applying for credit cards abroad opens a can of worms with potential tax implications and other issues. Do ample research beforehand and be cautious. Losing Centurion Lounge access stings, but getting hit with unexpected taxes could sting far more."
On the whole, the impending Centurion Lounge guest restrictions have ignited significant backlash among Platinum Card members internationally. With high-value long-haul travel at stake, consternation runs especially deep in far corners of the globe.
Centurion Lounge Access in 2023: What You Need to Know About Amex's Recent Policy Changes - What About Delta Sky Club Access?
While the main focus has been on Centurion Lounge changes, many Delta flyers are just as concerned about how the new Amex rules will impact their access to Delta Sky Clubs. Delta and Amex have a close partnership, allowing certain Amex Cards and Delta elite status to grant entry to Sky Clubs. Could restrictions be coming here too?
Thankfully, Delta has stated outright that no changes to Sky Club access are planned. Those who currently can enter through their Delta or Amex status will still be admitted free of charge after September 1, 2023.
However, children under 2 who previously got complimentary access when accompanying a parent will soon only be admitted free into Delta Sky Clubs if listed as a confirmed passenger on the same reservation as the parent. Otherwise, the standard $39 per child fee will apply based on Delta's updated policy.
"As a Delta flyer with a toddler, I’m relieved I can still access Sky Clubs without paying for my son if we’re on the same ticket. Travel is stressful enough without more fees!"
"My 3 year old has visited Sky Clubs with me for free countless times on separate tickets without issue. Suddenly being nickeled and dimed $39 will add huge costs for families like mine who want to fly Delta."
The other area of concern around Sky Club access involves how guests are treated. Delta does allow authorized users on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card to enter clubs when flying Delta. However, while authorized users used to be able to bring in two complimentary guests just like primary users, that will end September 1st.
This mirrors the new Centurion Lounge dynamic where authorized users lose guest access privileges. But reaction has been more muted on the Delta Sky Club side. Since Delta never allowed free guests for authorized users on lower tier Delta Amex Cards to begin with, restricting authorized user guests for the Reserve Card is not seen as a major devaluation.
"Unlike with the Centurion Lounges, stopping authorized users on the Reserve from bringing in guests really doesn't bother me. I'm just glad authorized users still get free individual access to the awesome Sky Clubs when flying Delta."
But some authorized users counter that their $550 Delta Reserve annual fees should entitle them to the same full guest privileges as primary users. In the words of Reddit user u/deltaboy7:
On the whole though, sentiment among Delta frequent flyers around Sky Club changes remains much more positive than with the Centurion Lounge. Delta appears to be staying the course on access policies, with the only tweak being a crackdown on lap infants not on the same reservation as their parent.
And unlike with Centurion, authorized Sky Club users on the Delta Reserve Card never had more open guest access privileges to begin with relative to the primary user. So while some authorized users are unhappy about changes, it's nowhere near the firestorm brewing on the Centurion side.