Is Airport Lounge Access Upon Arrival Really Necessary?

“I wish there was room for everyone, but many cardholders have a legitimate reason to use the lounge upon arrival”, according to this article written by Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly. “If AMEX wants to limit ‘camping’ in its lounges, fine. But don’t totally take away arrival access. How about for 1-2 hours after arrival? That seems like a fair compromise that limits ‘abuse’ by cardholders.”

Is Airport Lounge Access Upon Arrival Really Necessary?

Aspire lounge Schiphol airport Amsterdam

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

The aforementioned statements from Matthew Klint refer to the new policies announced from American Express for access to its Centurion Lounges for holders of certain American Express Platinum cards, which become effective as of Friday, March 22, 2019 and are expected to mitigate overcrowding in the lounges:

  • American Express Centurion Lounge access will be limited to up to a maximum of three hours prior to the originally scheduled departure time of a flight
  • Centurion Lounge access will no longer be permitted upon arrival
  • Children under two years of age will be admitted free of charge — the current policy is that a member is allowed up to two guests, which included including babies
Aspire lounge Schiphol airport Amsterdam

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Let me immediately start off by saying that I am not against using an airport lounge once arriving at a destination airport — and I am not counting lounge access at an airport when connecting between flights, as I am unaware of any policy by any airport lounge which does not permit access to qualified members who are connecting from one flight to another…

…but as a person who does not want to waste any time arriving at his final destination, I can only think of a few times when I wanted to access an airport lounge upon arrival. One of those times was actually recently, when I arrived at Barcelona–El Prat Airport earlier in the morning than scheduled; and the counter at which I had a reservation for a rental car waiting for me was not scheduled to open for another couple of hours. I attempted to access an airport lounge — but I was informed that only passengers with boarding passes who were awaiting departure were qualified to use the airport lounge.

I never use lounges to shower, as I prefer to do that in the privacy and comfort of a hotel room once I arrive — or at home, for that matter — so that is not important to me. Perhaps I am hungry and would want to eat something prior to a long road trip upon arrival at the airport; but as I already said, I much prefer to arrive at my destination as soon as possible than defer that goal by an hour or two spent in an airport lounge. I have already been sitting aboard an airplane for hours; so sitting and relaxing in an airport lounge is not exactly at the top of my list of things I prefer to do when arriving at the airport. Rarely do I have work which I need to do that cannot wait until I arrive either at the hotel at which I am staying as a guest or at home.

I can see wanting to grab a quick bottle or can of water or soft drink — or perhaps two — for the road; but many lounges already have a policy with which food or beverages cannot be taken out of the lounge.

As for use of a toilet — well, I am not too good to use a public one at the airport or otherwise. Most are adequate at a minimum for my purposes.


Aspire lounge Schiphol airport Amsterdam

French mustard soup with croutons and crispy fried onions, with a whole wheat roll and a croissant filled with chocolate. Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

This article is based solely on my perspective. I am certainly not advocating that additional airport lounges should adopt the policy that they cannot be used by qualified members upon their arrival — although if the lounge does have a consistent problem with overcrowding, I can understand why such a policy would be implemented…

…but I personally would be virtually unaffected by the upcoming policy that Centurion Lounge access will no longer be permitted upon arrival at the airport. Again, that is simply my point of view.

I would like to read the reasons as to why you would use a lounge upon arrival at the airport — as well as why the new policy is considered “fairly draconian” and “absurd”, according to the aforementioned article by Matthew Klint.

All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

12 thoughts on “Is Airport Lounge Access Upon Arrival Really Necessary?”

  1. UnitedEF says:

    Shower upon arrival after red eye before heading out to a meeting? Eating in the lounge while you wait for traffic to die down before hitting the road? Waiting for business associates in the lounge so you can head out together? Lots of travelers don’t have the luxury of checking into a hotel first prior to meetings. These situations were ones I have personally encountered. The policy just forces me to do an extra step to get around it so won’t really affect me.

    1. FreqTraveler says:

      I totally agree with the scenarios.
      I’ve personally encountered several of these for business travel so the restriction upon arrival is a big negative on AmEx’s part.
      Hope they can make it limited on time or even limit the number of times it’s available every year.

      I don’t need it every time, just when I’m arriving early somewhere

  2. Jose says:

    Yeah, it’s necessary. After a long flight or an overnight flight, I like to have a shower prior to a business meeting.

  3. DaninMCI says:

    Shower before meeting or after long haul in morning arrivals is very important but….many lounges have no showers or limited.

  4. Shaun says:

    I agree with you on this. There’s always a subset of the mileage/points game crowd that tries to derive as much benefit out of travel and credit card companies as humanly possible. They see things only from their perspective and no matter what compelling argument you make, it doesn’t sink in because any policy that negatively affects them will always be “absurd”.

    I’d have to guess that Amex has data on the percentage of people using the lounge on arrival or who enter at 9am for a 5pm flight. It’s probably pretty high. They only have so many seats. They need to have a reasonable turnover of each seat or it gets crowded. So I’m okay with them limiting the people who use the lounge as an office or who want as many free meals of coffee as they can get.

    If I was Amex I’d probably take it even further. I’d only allow the primary card member or authorized user in. Each card member would get 4 guest passes in per year. Card members would be able to earn more guest passes based on spend put on the card. The more people spend, the more passes they get. That way they are rewarding card members who are making Amex money. Too many people think because they pay a $550 a year fee they are good customer…..that just isn’t true

    1. Mike Apo says:

      What exactly is wrong with trying “to derive as much benefit out of travel and credit card companies” ? Those Companies charge plenty for their products and/or services and should be expected to provide value for that customer’s patronage. If I give a Company $550, I AM a good customer and I want good value for my hard-earned dollars. (Maybe $550 isn’t a lot for you..but for most of us, it is.) If AMEX wants to limit access to guests, that is a condition they could set. BUT, Mickey Mouse rules about when MEMBERS can use the lounge are unacceptable. “Reasonable turnover” ain’t my issue or concern. AMEX should be concerned about ME and not vice versa. Your point about limiting guest access is not unreasonable, but defending the stopping of members’ access on arrival is absurd…unless, of course, you’re an AMEX manager.

  5. Levy Flight says:

    Response by UnitedEF captures it. Most people don’t need this service and I expect don’t use it. But, for those that do it is welcome. I assume though that Amex have run the numbers and expect it to make a difference st key times. I am skeptical until see the data.

  6. Kyle Hawkins says:

    Limit it to a 30 min stop and if you don’t “check out” with your card by then you get charged $30. Easy way thru technology to weed out the campers from those like me who often need to print that last minute presentation document or grab a quick bite before heading out. I agree with you that I don’t ever shower but also don’t take long international flights.

  7. Gizmosdad says:

    Like other comments, a few times a year I have a long flight and then a several-hour drive to my destination, so having a shower and a chance to reset myself before continuing with the journey is part of the reason why I purchase lounge access.
    There are several times a year when I do duck into the lounge on arrival just for the “free” wifi so that I can send emails i was working on during the flight.
    Having said that, I would be okay if I was time-limited for my arrival visits (eg no more than 1 hour) or limited to no more than 6 arrival visits a year

  8. Debit says:

    This is the best place to have a secret tryst without either of the spouses knowing about it.

  9. Jon in NYC says:

    When I take the red eye in business on American back from San Francisco to JFK, I like to use the lounge to take a shower. Even though I live in New York, it saves me over an hour to do this versus going home to take a shower and then head into the office. The reason I don’t take Mint is that there isn’t a lounge to take a shower when I arrive in JFK.

  10. Mike Apo says:

    These sort of “policies” are just another example of Corporate “Bait and Switch” and Corporate greed. And it’s part of the nicklel and diming air travelers have faced for years. If I pay AMEX to access the lounge, then I should be able to access the lounge BEFORE or AFTER my flight. For the 44 years I flew UNITED (before they abandoned JFK- i now belong to a different “club”) , many times i would stop in the lounge on the way out for coffee or a snack and to check e-mail and early messages while awaiting my flight AND I would visit the lounge on arrival for coffee, maybe a snack, and to ask some questions about the city i was visiting from the generally friendly and helpful staff. If I had business, I would use the lounge upon arrival to confirm meeting times, confirm or change reservations, and check e-mails and return phone calls. And maybe grab a snack or a drink for the next leg of the trip. Full use of the lounge (when I want to) is what I pay for for membership. If the Company or Airline thinks the lounges are too busy then add more space. They could also limit access to the member, charging for all guests. All of the Airlines and many of the credit card companies offer deals, and then change terms with little or no warning. And those changes never benefit the members. If this is the way AMEX wants to control its lounges, it’s easy to take our business elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.