If you’re a frequent airport lounge guest, have you noticed that they are getting uncomfortably crowded at times? The providers of those lounges certainly have, and they’re changing their policies this year to limit lounge access, even for members who pay the big bucks.
American Express has been actively expanding its network of Centurion airport lounges for premium cardholders, but it seems demand has been exceeding supply even as more locations open. Many months ago, AmEx cut back on Centurion Lounge access by limiting it only to Centurion and Platinum cardholders; before that, members with less expensive cards had been able to buy day passes. In 2018, it started setting time limits for Platinums (but not Centurions) at a few busy airports (including SFO), declaring that during peak periods, they couldn’t get into the lounge more than two or three hours before their flight time.
This year, AmEx is taking it up another notch. Effective March 22, the company said on the Centurion Lounge website, those facilities will be “day of departure” lounges only – cardmembers holding boarding passes from flights that have just landed won’t be allowed in. “We will admit Card Members with layovers or connecting flights who produce proof of connecting flight,” AmEx said. What’s more, cardmembers won’t be allowed to enter any Centurion lounge more than three hours before the departure time shown on their same-day, confirmed boarding pass (that doesn’t apply for those with connecting flights).
Later this year, both United and American will also put new restrictions on their United Club and Admirals Club lounges respectively.
United said that effective November 19, United Club members and their guests, as well as one-time passholders, can’t come through the door unless they show a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, on a Star Alliance partner airline, or on non-Star Alliance carriers that United has partnership agreements with. (Apparently United’s growing roster of Polaris Lounges for international long-haul business class passengers hasn’t siphoned off enough demand from its regular United Clubs to make a difference.)
American is matching that policy change. AA said that to gain access to an Admirals Club starting November 1, it will require travelers to show a boarding pass for same-day travel on American, a Oneworld partner carrier, or Alaska Airlines. Good that both airlines are providing plenty of notice about the change.
Delta put a similar new policy into effect a few weeks ago. As of January 1, Delta Sky Club members and guests must be traveling on a same-day flight operated by Delta or its partners (i.e., SkyTeam member airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Gol and WestJet). Also, in mid-November 2018, Delta stopped selling $59/5,000 mile single-entry passes to its clubs.
And Delta Sky Club members no longer have access to the airport lounges of its partners Air France, KLM and Virgin Australia (exception: Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion SkyMiles members can still use partner lounges when traveling on a SkyTeam member flight). Holders of the Platinum or Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express will have to ante up $29 for club admission, but those with an AmEx Platinum, Centurion or Delta Reserve Card from American Express still get free Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta or WestJet flight; for travel on other partner airlines they can buy a one-time pass for themselves and up to two guests for $29 per person.
In Seattle, Alaska Airlines no longer allows Priority Pass members to access its three lounges at SeaTac, citing overcrowding. Only paid first class passengers, Alaska Lounge members or those paying a $50 day fee (when available) are permitted.