Look, I don’t hate banks. I spent a decade and a half working for banks. I get free stuff from banks. I understand the constraints under which they operate and I have reasonable expectations of banks.
With that said: American Express’s latest changes to its Platinum card benefits are asinine. Starting at the end of the month, Amex Platinum cardholders can only bring two guests free of charge. The wording from the Centurion website:
Please note: Beginning March 30, 2017, The Centurion® Lounge guest policy for Platinum Card® Members will change. All Platinum Card® Members will be limited to two total guests at no additional charge. One-day passes for any additional guests, including immediate family members, may be purchased.
What that means is that if you have more than one kid, you are no longer going to take your kids into the Centurion Lounge on a family trip unless you’re willing to fork over $50 per kid for the privilege that you thought you had for free when you paid the annual fee.
I understand that airport lounges are expensive to operate. I understand the Centurion lounges are crowded. But there are good and bad ways of handling these issues and Amex picked a bad way.
First mistake: the short notice. I just signed up for a Platinum in December. Centurion lounge access wasn’t a primary consideration in my decision to get the card, but I certainly was looking forward to the possibility of a visit to the DFW lounge on our family trip this summer when I signed up. Amex could have grandfathered in cardholders under the old policy until their next annual fee was due, or they could have announced that the new policy would take effect much further into the future… but nope! March 30 it is.
Second mistake: the half-assed change. Are kids really why Centurion lounges are overcrowded? Are the Duggars gaming the system? Why not just say “No children under 18 allowed”? Or why not cap the number of free guests per year? Honestly I’d be less pissed about this if they’d just put in a blanket prohibition on children. Believe me, I’m well aware that kids can be annoying sometimes, especially kids that aren’t mine. But no, Amex instead decided to deliver the message that if your family’s fertility rate is replacement level or above, you’re not welcome. It’s perplexing.
Third mistake: the failure to differentiate between kids and other guests traveling on the same reservation. Kids in lounges are an all-or-nothing deal. When traveling with a group of adults you can say, “Sorry, but the policy is only two guests. We’ll draw straws to see who gets in, duck into the lounge for a bit, and meet you at the gate.” But you just try treating kids unequally and let me know how that goes for you: “Okay Little Timmy, I’m going to take you into this place where they have all the free desserts you want! Little Sally, we’ll meet you at the gate.” That doesn’t work too well.
I don’t know if Amex is hurting for money or hurting for talent in their corporate operations but either way they are hurting right now. They really botched this one.