One of the perks that helps justify that high annual fees on the American Express Platinum cards is the lounge access that is granted with US Airways, American Airlines, and Delta. Airline lounges aren’t generally magical places in the US, but they are a place to get a snack, a drink, a slightly more comfortable place to sit, and utilize some WiFi while waiting for your next flight. They also have agents that can help out in the event of a delay or other flight related issue.
Platinum and Centurion Cards Losing Complimentary Access to AAdmirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs:
Several months ago it was noticed that the American Airlines AAdmirals Clubs were being left off some marketing material for the Platinum cards. That looked like an ominous sign, but there was nothing else concrete to to indicate if or when access to the AAdmirals Clubs would be deleted as a Platinum Card benefit…until today. Today American Express has started to notify card members that Consumer, Business and Corporate Platinum and Centurion Card Members will no longer have complimentary access to the American Airlines Admirals Club and US Airways Club lounges as a benefit of their Ccard effective March 22, 2014.
Other Lounges Still Accessible:
The loss of access to American Airlines and US Airways is a very big blow to the benefits attached to the Platinum cards for frequent travelers, however there are still avenues to access many airport lounges. The Delta Sky Clubs will still be accessible via a Platinum card and a same-day Delta ticket. The Airspace Lounges and Centurion Lounges will also still be accessible as a complimentary benefit of the Platinum card, as is complimentary membership in Priority Pass Select.
The Delta, Centurion, and Airspace lounges all allow a spouse and children under age 21, or up to two traveling companions to go in with the Platinum card holder without an additional charge. The Priority Pass Select membership charges $27 per additional guest.
Accommodations for Those Who Frequent AAdmirals or US Airways Clubs:
To soften the blow for those card members who frequent the AA and US Clubs, Amex has been sending out targeted emails offering $200 – $500 of statement credits for incidentals fees from either of those airlines March 22, 2014 to December 31, 2014. They advertize you can use those statement credits to pay for:
- Membership fees in the Admirals Club program and US Airways Club
- One-day passes to Admirals Club lounges and US Airways Clubs
- Other American Airlines and US Airways incidental fees like baggage fees or flight change fees
My husband has the Amex Platinum Mercedes Benz card, and thus far has received no email statement credit offer. When chatting with Amex via his account today he was told that his offer would be presented in January, and they refused to say more than that when he expressed displeasure about this change. While I don’t think we have used his card yet to access a US or AA lounge, we did just add his parents at authorized users as they often travel on AA and would frequent the clubs. From online reports, the amount of statement credit you are potentially offered does seem to be tied to some degree to usage at the affected lounges, though not in a direct relationship sort of way.
Centurion Lounges Expanding, and They Are Much Better Anyway:
There is (almost) always a silver lining to changes like this, at least for some segment of the population. In this case, the good news is that American Express’ network of Centurion Lounges continues to grow, and those lounges are far better than US and AA lounges. Currently there are Centurion Lounges only in DFW and Las Vegas, but San Francisco was already announced as under construction, and The Points Guy reports that Amex confirmed a location to come at LaGuardia. There are many other airports that are also in the rumor mill for future Centurion Lounge locations.
Lounges are nice anywhere, but are most useful at connection points where you have a layover and time to kill. So, if Amex is able to open Centurion Lounges at a reasonable pace at the big airport hubs in the United States, then I think that will be a better benefit to most over the AA and US lounges in the long run…assuming the quality of the Centurion Lounges stays high. Places like Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, and Houston would be high on my priority list.
I’ll take more Centurion Lounge locations with a kid’s room, decent food, quality drinks, and special amenities like spa services at the DFW location a million times over some pretzels and low quality wine at traditional domestic airport lounges. Of course, in a perfect world I’d like access to both!
No question this is a blow to the card, and one that hits AA and US frequent travelers the hardest. It is just the one of many changes that will come as a direct or indirect result of the merger. Something like this may or may not have been in the works already for American, but the timing to lose both together is absolutely merger related. The good news is a potential statement credit to offset the blow in the short term, the expansion of higher quality Centurion lounges, and the reality that if you really frequent AA/US lounges, that the Platinum American Express card will no longer be the best product for you after 2014 in terms of lounge access. That award will go to the American Airlines Executive AAdvantage card.
I’ll be waiting to see if our Platinum card gets any sort of accommodation due to the loss of this benefit, and I certainly hope that it does. It won’t cause me to have some sort of nervous breakdown if Amex offers nothing to our account for this, but it will play into the decision to renew or not next year.
How does this impact your Platinum card strategy?