17 Aug Guesting Amex Centurion Lounge Access to Strangers – Your Thoughts?

During a recent trip with friends to Napa, California (via San Francisco), I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite airport lounges – the American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO!

The lounge is located in Terminal 3 near Gate 74, which happened to be just across from our departure gate – perfect.

I love American Express Centurion Lounges.

And if you’ve ever visited one, I bet that you love them too!

Cuisine designed by James Beard Award-winning chefs, cocktails developed by the nation’s top mixologists, wines handpicked by renowned wine authorities, and spa therapies by Exhale!?

Yes, please! I mean, what’s not to love?

Well, I can think of one thing in particular…

OVERCROWDING!

The whole point of an exclusive airport lounge is to escape from the cramped craziness that is the airport terminal, and yet, that is exactly how the Amex Centurion Lounges feel during peak travel times! And this guy’s generosity, while good intended, was NOT helping the problem!

In the U.S. there are Centurion Lounges in DallasHoustonLas VegasMiamiNew YorkSan Francisco, and Seattle, and soon to be Philadelphia.

While I have only visited 4 of the 7, I have seen enough of these lounges to know overcrowding is an issue.

Amex knows that the overcrowding is an issue, and has taken action to bring the # of guests down…

As of March 30, 2017, Amex Platinum members were limited to bringing two guests into Centurion Lounges. Each additional guest will run you $50 per person.

Prior to this policy change, members could bring in two guests or immediate family members, meaning a large family (2 adults and 3 kids) could enjoy the lounge together without any additional charge.

This change upset a some folks, but selfishly, I was OK with the change, since it didn’t affect me directly and would hopefully result in a fewer loungers. We have no kids, and even if we did my wife and I both have Amex Platinum cards so I wasn’t too worried about the whole thing…

Enough about overcrowding though, and back to my actual experience at the American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO…

Guesting Amex Centurion Access to Strangers

As we made our way up the staircase and to the front check-in desk, my wife and I observed an interesting human interaction between the woman working the front desk, a group of 5 adults traveling together and a complete stranger.

The front desk agent explained to the group that guesting privileges were limited to 2 guests per Cardmenber. The group was bummed that they had to split up and leave a couple friends outside the lounge, but accepted the policy.

That’s when 2 people turned around to make their way back out of the lounge. It was just as they turned that another Cardmember, whom they have never met before, offered to include the strangers as his guests during his visit.

“Are you sure?” they asked.

And the stranger came back with, “No problem at all… enjoy!”

With all of the crazy things that have been happening in and around airplanes this year, it was refreshing to see some empathy and generosity for a change.

Yes, the Centurion lounge is overcrowded.

Yes, these 2 additional guests would be taking up space and using up amenities, possibly impacting the experience of other Cardmembers, and contributing to my biggest Centurion Lounge complaint…

But, a little kindness goes a long way… right?

Final Thought

American Express did it right when it comes to the Centurion Lounge. It’s no wonder these things are always packed to the brim with air travelers.

Selfishly, I would love to experience an empty Centurion Lounge, hogging all food, drank and amenities to myself, but there is enough selfishness in the world of air travel… it’s refreshing to see an act of kindness every once in awhile!

Seriously though, let’s really keep this to “once in awhile” so the lounge is spoiled for the people who actually pay an annual membership fee on the Amex Platinum to use it!

What are your thoughts on Centurion Lounge overcrowding? Would you provide guest privileges to a stranger? Or would you be a selfish jerk laughing at others dejection on your way to herb crusted chicken and a martini (kidding, of course)?

Happy Travels!

DW

 

10 Comments
  • Michael
    Posted at 13:31h, 17 August Reply

    I assume you’re being sarcastic. I don’t understand how not bringing strangers along puts you in the “selfish jerk” category. Those aren’t the only two options. Personally while I have occasionally offered access to acquaintances, co-workers and others, I generally disapprove of the practice of bringing random strangers just to pat myself in the back. Amex has already restricted access because of overcrowding, precisely because of stuff like this. It isn’t fair for those cardholders who are paying $550 for an annual fee to just bring random people in who can potentially cause future restrictions. Now, if it is a uniformed service member, then all bets are off. I’ll bring them in, no question about it.

    • DW
      Posted at 13:35h, 17 August Reply

      Haha! Dead on with your assumption… I agree that the lounges are crowded and if every cardholder brought in strangers, it would make the problem worse. In this one of case I thought it was a nice gesture and appreciated seeing someone actually express kindness while at an airport/on an airplane.

    • Richard W.
      Posted at 17:28h, 21 August Reply

      So what if it’s a uniformed service member? They’re someone who applied for and was accepted for a job. That’s all. Your hero-worshiping fetish need not interfere with my paid for benefits. If you insist on feeling good about yourself, take them to an airport restaurant, let them order the steak and YOU pay for it out of your wallet.

  • 2K
    Posted at 17:45h, 17 August Reply

    I frequently guest access to people and it’s not about patting yourself on the back, more like spreading some good karma around. I’ve guested access to families who had 1 too many in their party several times, as in your story. I’ve guested access to a friendly and overly stressed traveller after chatting in TSA security line. I’ve guested access to someone just for wearing my favorite soccer team’s jersey. My doing so is within the terms and conditions of the same card everyone else has and I’m entitled to do so as I see fit.

    As for your claim of exclusivity… HAH! This is a US lounge that limits people based on a piece of plastic in their wallet. Get real, there is NOTHING exclusive about this. I think of Qatar airways with their first class and business class lounges as being exclusive – they don’t even accept a top frequent flyer status for access unless you’re actually flying business or first. So as long as Americans with a bunch of plastic in their wallet fly through airports, there will never be anything exclusive about lounges offering access based on credit card membership. Overcrowding will always be the case, but it sure is a lot nicer than hanging out in the terminal.

    • DW
      Posted at 17:57h, 17 August Reply

      Thanks for the note and I agree with your first paragraph – it is within the T&C, so guest away!

      On the second paragraph, consider exclusive is in the eye of the beholder… not every traveler can have an Amex Platinum, whether it be due to credit score or inability to swallow the annual fee. The Centurion Lounge is not the most exclusive, but it is more exclusive than any Priority Pass Lounge and for sure more exclusive than the terminal!

      Lastly, and sadly, you are correct – overcrowding is and will continue to be an issue for the Centurion Lounges.

      DW

  • Everybody Hates A Tourist
    Posted at 21:10h, 17 August Reply

    I’m actually in the SFO Centurion Lounge right now. It’s so crowded that people are standing waiting for seats at the bar. I can’t imagine those people would be too happy if they learned random people had been allowed in. I hope that 2K has to stand next time he’s in a lounge. Now that would be some karma.

    • Everybody Hates A Tourist
      Posted at 21:12h, 17 August Reply

      I will note that I have zero problems with bringing someone in if there’s space – but these lounges are often at capacity.

    • 2K
      Posted at 23:37h, 17 August Reply

      Standing room only/100% capacity only proves yet again there is nothing exclusive about these lounges. They are always going to be operating at capacity when anyone with ‘a decent credit score and the ability to swallow the fee’ is allowed to use it. Isn’t part of the reason you get this credit card specifically for the lounge access and the points? If one doesn’t find value in it, stop paying for it.

      There tends to be less overcrowding in FF lounges as opposed to credit card membership ones.. If it’s at capacity, I’d personally move on to another lounge. AAdmirals Club, British, Cathay (DAN DAN NOODLES!!!!), JAL, whichever is closest and not at capacity. However, I will continue to invite whomever I please (where allowed within the T&C) to share a cocktail with… even if we must stand to do it.

      • Michael
        Posted at 09:21h, 18 August Reply

        No one is arguing you’re breaking T&Cs. That’s understood. I just feel like it’s not a smart practice and it contributes to the degrading of the quality and the lounge experience, but to each its own.

  • Rich D
    Posted at 02:15h, 19 August Reply

    “Piece of plastic”? Ckearly 2K has not received his metal card!:)
    Get over it. I know this is the one place pathetic losers can go to feel important so they can’t allow this sanctuary to be contaminated with normal people. So you have to stand while sipping on the scotch order only when you are at the lounge. Hit a nerve with anyone yet.
    Helping making someone else’s day be a little more enjoyable will not hurt this world.

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