American Express has its Centurion lounges, and its smaller ‘Studio Partner’ longes which are Escape Lounges. Previously you could use an American Express Platinum card to access Escape lounges, but they’re now branded by American Express and more cardholders know about the benefit.
Like Centurion lounges, these Centurion Studio lounges have become more crowded. I rarely bother to visit Centurion lounges because they aren’t as much of an escape from the terminal as they once were (and I’ve found that the food on offer has been cut back since earlier times as well – I haven’t seen beef in a Centurion lounge in quite some time).
I certainly do not want to queue or ‘come back later’ to use a lounge that is fully packed when I’m finally allowed entry. The lounges are nice by the standard of U.S. domestic airport lounges, to be sure, but they aren’t large enough to meet passenger demand.
Next year American Express will be limiting guest access as a way of controlling demand, and encouraging spend on their cards (to earn the ability to bring in complimentary guests). Yet we see these Centurion Studios selling access cheaply, bringing in more people.
The Phoenix locations, in fact, are selling entry at half off on Groupon.
That’s fine for them as incremental revenue, but it also diminishes the value of a card benefit. On the other hand for those of you without an Amex Platinum card, visiting the Phoenix airport, all you need is $24. And the food and drink options usually aren’t bad.