Lounge Access on the Amex Platinum Cards Ricky March 4, 2019

Lounge Access on the Amex Platinum Cards

This is a post I originally published in October 2017, although much of the information has changed since then. Here’s an update for 2019.


The American Express Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card are marketed as premium travel rewards cards, and one of the benefits that make them worth their salt is the airport lounge access that cardholders can enjoy.

However, the lounge access rules on these cards can get quite confusing to people trying to make use of these benefits, so I thought it’d be helpful to run through the eligibility rules, access fees, and guesting privileges. It’s definitely more complicated than it needs to be, so hopefully you’ll be able to use this article as your one-stop shop on making the most of your lounge access benefits on the Canadian-issued Amex Platinum cards.

The complicating factor is that the benefit isn’t simply “lounge access”, full stop. In reality, the Platinum cards bestow many types of lounge access, all of which are treated as part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection:

  1. Priority Pass
  2. Plaza Premium lounges
  3. American Express Centurion Lounges
  4. International American Express Lounges
  5. Delta Sky Club
  6. Miscellaneous lounges (Airspace, Escape, Swissport, YQB Jean Lesage)

1. Priority Pass

I wrote an in-depth guide to Priority Pass a while back, so read up on that if you want more details about the program itself.

But the big idea is that both the Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card provide you with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which grants free unlimited access to worldwide Priority Pass lounges, along with free guesting privileges for one guest per lounge visit.

As of the time of writing, the “prevailing retail rate” seems to be US$32 for every additional guest, which will be automatically billed to your credit card.

There’s over 1,000 Priority Pass lounges worldwide, so this perk should guarantee you some form of lounge access on the vast majority of your travels, especially if you don’t always fly in business class. If you’re a Platinum or Business Platinum cardholder, be sure to get in the habit of looking up which Priority Pass lounges you’ll be able to visit prior to your trip!

Tyrol Lounge Innsbruck, a Priority Pass lounge

Tyrol Lounge Innsbruck, a Priority Pass lounge

In addition to lounges, there’s also a few airports (mainly in the US) where Priority Pass has partnered up with airport restaurants in order to give members an allowance off their bill. You can get excellent value from this, particularly if you “double-dip” your allowance by adding a guest, or hit up multiple such establishments within the same airport.

For example, at Portland International Airport, you can visit the House Spirits Distillery for its whiskey tasting menu, the Capers Cafe Le Bar for some lunch, and the Capers Market for some jams and spreads to bring home with you. By maximizing your guest allowance at each venue, you can unlock US$168 in value, and if you go along with a partner who also has a Priority Pass membership, that’ll get you US$336 in value!

Capers Market PDX

Capers Market PDX

2. Plaza Premium Lounges

If you hold either the Platinum Card or the Business Platinum Card, you have unlimited access to Plaza Premium lounges within Canada and internationally, for yourself and either one guest or up to three family members.

What are Plaza Premium lounges? While Priority Pass is a global lounge network, Plaza Premium is more like a “franchise” or a “brand” of airport lounges, which started in Hong Kong back in the 1990s. You can think of it like the Maple Leaf Lounges, if the Maple Leaf Lounge “brand” didn’t have an affiliation with Air Canada and instead just set up its own lounges in various airports.

Confusingly, most Plaza Premium lounges are also a part of the Priority Pass network. (I swear, half the confusion surrounding this topic could easily be avoided if these two names didn’t both abbreviate to “PP”.)

Plaza Premium Lounge Winnipeg

Plaza Premium Lounge Winnipeg

How good are the Canadian Plaza Premium lounges? Well, they’re certainly not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re solid enough lounges and usually stack up against Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges quite well.

For example, while neither lounge in Toronto Pearson Terminal 1’s transborder departure hall can be considered world-class, the Plaza Premium lounge at least serves hot food for dinner, whereas the Maple Leaf Lounge scrapes by on chips and salsa. 

Internationally, Plaza Premium lounges can be quite competitive indeed. I once visited the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow, where there was even a complimentary à la carte lunch menu!

Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic)

Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver (Domestic)

3. The Centurion Lounge

American Express is a global company, and in order to reinforce the premium image of their Platinum line of credit cards, they’ve opened special lounges in airports worldwide specifically for Platinum cardholders, known as Centurion Lounges.

Holders of Platinum or Business Platinum products, issued in any country, can access these lounges. Most of the Centurion Lounges are located in the US, although Amex has recently opened one in Hong Kong, and have plans to launch many more Centurion Lounges globally over the coming years.

Centurion Lounge Hong Kong

Centurion Lounge Hong Kong

Alongside some of the top-tier Priority Pass locations, the Centurion Lounges are probably some of the best lounges that your Platinum credit card can unlock. In general, you can expect top-quality food and drink inspired by regional tastes and stylish interiors drawn from local design principles. Centurion Lounges are typically very pleasant places to spend time and relax prior to your flight.

The best part about the Centurion Lounge benefit is the generous guest policy: each Platinum or Business Platinum cardholder is allowed to bring in two guests for free! 

This is fantastic for families travelling together, although the downside is that the Centurion Lounges can get rather crowded during the peak hours of the day. 

4. International American Express Lounges

In addition to Centurion Lounges, there are also a handful of lounges around the world that are operated under the American Express banner, but are not part of the Centurion Lounge network.

You can find the full list of these lounges on a dedicated page on the American Express website. I’ve visited a couple of them, including the American Express Lounge by Pontus in Stockholm Arlanda Airport, as well as the location in Buenos Aires.

The Pontus lounge in Stockholm was quite memorable in particular, since it offered a generous complimentary à la carte dining option to lounge guests, despite being housed in a makeshift partitioned-off area within an airport restaurant.

Meanwhile, I recall that the Buenos Aires Amex lounge had ice-cream sandwiches as well as plenty of liquor, but it didn’t have any hot food, so we soon left in favour of the Star Alliance Lounge next door (also available on Priority Pass).

There are about a dozen locations in total, mostly spread throughout Latin America, India, and Australia, with the odd one out in Sweden. In general, I’d expect the international American Express lounges to be relatively high-quality lounges, although perhaps a step below the flagship Centurion Lounges in the US and Hong Kong.

Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders are allowed to bring at least one guest into the international American Express lounges – the exact guest policy varies from location to location. For example, while the Stockholm location allows one guest only, the Buenos Aires lounge actually allows one complimentary guest plus any children under the age of 16.

5. Delta Sky Club

American Express Platinum cardholders enjoy complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when in possession of a same-day boarding pass with Delta Air Lines.

All but two Delta Sky Club locations (Santiago and Tokyo) are in the United States, and they generally offer some light snacks, beverages, and lighter food options, as well as TV, newspapers and magazines, and free wi-fi. In general, Delta Sky Clubs aren’t going to blow your socks off, but are pleasant enough places to kill some time before your flight.

Delta Sky Club Atlanta (Concourse B)

Delta Sky Club Atlanta (Concourse B)

Since Delta Sky Clubs are primarily meant to cater to Delta and SkyTeam elite members, the guest access policy for Platinum cardholders are stricter than the other lounges. While it’s not specified on the Canadian Amex Global Lounge Collection page, the US version specifies the following guest access policy:

It seems safe to say that as a Platinum cardholder accessing a Delta Sky Club before your Delta flight, you’re not entitled to bring in any guests for free, but rather have the option of paying for their access at US$29 per person. Note that any guests must also be travelling on a Delta flight departing on the same day.

6. Miscellaneous Lounges

Lastly, there’s a handful of miscellaneous lounge networks that are also signed up with American Express to provide access to Platinum cardholders. These include:

  • The Airspace Lounges in Cleveland (CLE) and San Diego (SAN)

  • The Escape Lounges in Bradley (BDL), Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), Oakland (OAK), Ontario (ONT), Providence (PVD), and Reno-Tahoe (RNO)

  • The Swissport Executive Lounges around the world

  • The VIP Lounge at Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport

Aspire Lounge Calgary, by Swissport

Aspire Lounge Calgary, by Swissport

These are basically additional contracts that Amex has secured in order to provide high-quality lounge access at a few airports where Priority Pass’s coverage is relatively lacking. Notably, Platinum cardholders only have access to the Escape Lounge locations in the US, and not the ones in the UK.

As you can imagine, the guest policy varies for each of these lounge networks, and you can find them as below:

Conclusion

To summarize…

Lounge type

Access rules

Priority Pass

Cardholder + one guest

Plaza Premium Lounge

Cardholder + one guest OR spouse and two children under 21

The Centurion Lounge

Cardholder + two guests

International American Express lounges

Cardholder + at least one guest (policy varies by location)

Delta Sky Club

Cardholder only; can bring up to two guests for US$29 per person

Airspace Lounge

Cardholder + two guests OR spouse and any children under 21

Escape Lounge (USA)

Cardholder + two guests

Swissport Executive Lounge

Cardholder + one guest OR spouse and two children under 21

YQB VIP Lounge

Cardholder + one guest OR spouse and two children under 18

With so many different lounge providers, the lounge access policies on the American Express Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card are definitely more opaque than they need to be.

I’d recommend keeping the American Express Lounge Finder around as a handy bookmark, which should help you identify the lounges at a certain airport that you have access to as a Platinum cardholder, as well as the relevant access and guesting rules.

Top Offers

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  • Points transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan & British Airways Avios
  • Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access
  • $699 annual fee, offset by $200 annual travel credit
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33 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Ryan Yeung

    Following up with what Mark said, I looked all over and it seems like that part has quietly disappeared. Disappointing.

  2. Avatar
    Mark

    Hi Ricky, Plaza Premium no longer allows a spouse and two children under 21 as guests while using the amex platinum. It has disappeared from their website and I called one to confirm.

  3. Avatar
    LGB

    Outstanding help! Thank you so much!!

  4. Avatar
    Mike Hills

    Just wondering whether I have to be traveling with the person who wants to use the lounge or whether they get access if I book the flight on the Platinum

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Hi Mike:
      1) Yes, you need to be traveling with the person, the cardmember must be present to gain lounge access (either using the Platinum card or Priority Pass).
      2) No, you don’t need to book the flight using the Platinum card. You get lounge access no matter how you’re flying (be it a cash fare booked with the card / without the card, points or an unmarketed fare class sold by some rewards programs).

  5. Avatar
    Ed

    Hi Ricky,

    Thanks for this post.

    Just noticed a typo in your paragraph for Priority Pass:

    "free guesting privileges for two guests per lounge visit"

    Should be for 1 guest not 2 guests.

    1. Avatar
      Jon

      I received a letter from Priority Pass in my membership package for Business Platinum cardholders indicating I am allowed complimentary entry for myself plus two travelling companions.

    2. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for catching this!

  6. Avatar
    Abid

    Hey Ricky,

    Interesting post specially the part about partnering with airport restaurants. 2 questions for you related to that:

    Context:

    We are flying from YYC to IAH as a stopover. In your lounge locator, there is a Landry’s Seafood that we can leverage in Terminal C (where we land in IAH). This restaurant eligibility is stated here: https://global.americanexpress.com/lounge-access/the-platinum-card/IAH/Landry-s-Seafood-Terminal-C-4DsprUcQsd

    Mainly, me and guest have an allowance of US$56 and we need a boarding pass.

    1. Can we use a restaurant/lounge when we land at an airport?
    2. I have 2 platinum cards (business and personal). Can I use one card (business plat.) to register me and my wife for the $56 and then have my wife use the other card (plat.) to register her and me for another $56?
  7. Avatar
    Jay

    SEA’s Sky Club is one of the best lounges in North America… definitely worth booking through Delta just for that option.

  8. Avatar
    John Bucher

    I have been a personal platinum member for some time and of course a priorty pass member also.
    I have recently taken out a business platinum card. Is it possible to get a second priority pass membership with this card? I really cannot think of a reason that I would do this except if I decided to cancel my personal plat but it would be interesting to know!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, it would be possible! Interesting thought as well – technically if you visit the Priority Pass restaurants in the US you should be able to use up as many Priority Pass allowances as memberships you have. The restaurant doesn’t care since they get reimbursed anyway, so it’s just a matter of getting the wait staff on your side…

      1. Avatar
        Sean

        when I called in to enroll my priority pass today I asked this question, the rep said I can have two priority passes from personal and business platinum but only can use one of them per visit since they are under the same name.

        1. Avatar
          Frank

          "Per visit" hmmmm
          At the end of day, it is the restaurant that decide whether they’d like to allow you using more than one PP right?

  9. Avatar
    Shawn E

    I recently had an annoying experience at he Plaza Premium lounge in Rome.
    I have the Canadian Amex Plat and my wife has a supplementary card. This gives us both the card benefits. As explicitly stated in the T&Cs for Plaza Premium each card holder is entitled to one guest or spouse plus two children under 21. However this lounge insisted that only card holder plus one guest. We are a family of 5 (3 under 18) so the 1+1 policy left us having to pay the 28 Euro for our third child. I have called American Express, explained the issue and they acknowledge the family policy and that between our two cards we should have not had to pay and are issuing a credit for the charge. I gave them feedback that they should probably educate their Plaza Premium partner on the policy.

  10. Avatar
    Lily

    Hi Ricky,

    I will be traveling with two friends, and I hold the AMEX Platinum and of course Priority Pass. We’ll be visiting Plaza Premium lounges throughout our travels (and many of these lounges also belong to Priority Pass) , and since Priority Pass allows only 1 guest, can I use my Amex Platinum to allow access for the 3rd guest? Do you know if this "doubling-up" strategy is allowed?

    Thanks,

    Lily

  11. Avatar
    Bill C.

    Ricky,
    Thanks for this site and commentary about the Platinum card. It’s all very helpful. My wife commented that she’d read some comments somewhere about ‘black-out’ periods where the lounge access was restricted or not available. The times when this happened was usually afternoons and early evenings – peak times.
    Can you share any perspectives or comments on whether this is true.
    Thanks
    Bill C.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Bill, this only happens at certain Priority Pass locations where they genuinely have an overcrowding problem. If you do access the lounge at these times, you probably wouldn’t be able to find a seat and it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience anyway. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, since it’s only done at a handful of lounges that I’ve heard of.

  12. Avatar
    Gary

    "SPG Gold translates into Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status due to the impending merger, and Marriott Gold does grant you executive lounge access. For example, I recently made full use of the wonderful executive lounge at the JW Marriott Hong Kong, just from having signed up for the Platinum Card earlier in the year. "

    Do you need to sign up with the mariott program too? I have signed up for the SPG Gold from Platinum card membership.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, create a Marriott Rewards account and link it with your SPG account. Your status will be automatically transferred.

  13. Avatar
    Michael

    A couple of questions I couldn’t find the answers to:

    • Do supplementary cardholders also receive a separate Priority Pass card of their own, with unlimited lounge access for them and a guest?
    • Does the primary cardholder still get 5,000 bonus MR points for adding a supplementary cardholder for $175?
    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Michael, sorry for the late reply on this one. Yes, supp card holders DO get a full Priority Pass for themselves (unlimited, guest access).

      For the 5,000 MR offer for adding a supplementary card, I believe the offer is still around but you might have to sign up through a certain link that’s advertising the offer. Poke around your Amex online dashboard to look for it.

  14. Avatar
    Jon

    Hello Ricky,

    Do you have any information about "lounge-hopping" with a guest with regards to the personal plat and the priority pass lounges? My understanding is that it is completely fine if you’re travelling alone, but if I have a travelling companion, will he be able to lounge-hop for free with me as well?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes absolutely, the Personal Plat + Priority Pass is ideal for lounge-hopping!

  15. Avatar
    Christina W

    Headed to SFO later this week. Will send you some photos from the Centurian lounge there when we return.
    Thanks for the tip on Marriott – didn’t realize those would translate as well.

  16. Avatar
    iv

    What lounge can one access in YUL with Platinum Business Amex? Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Avatar
      Jf

      Hi iv,

      If not mistaken, you can have access to SERVISAIR loung in Montreal.
      There is only one and is in the international section (the National Bank one)
      See Servisair website.

  17. Avatar
    Michael

    Can you confirm the Amex (Personal) Platinum still has the 1 free guest per visit for Priority Pass? I know it did before…but just reading this doesn’t make me think it does anymore…

    Footnote 5 from: https://www.americanexpress.com/ca/en/charge-cards/the-platinum-card

    Priority Pass – Platinum Cardmembers that are enrolled members of Priority PassTM have complimentary access to airport lounges participating in the Priority Pass program worldwide. Renewal terms and conditions are at the discretion of Priority Pass and American Express. Lounges participating in the Priority Pass program may change from time to time. To access a lounge, the Platinum Cardmember must show a valid Priority Pass membership card (or Digital Membership card), along with a boarding pass for travel on the same day and government-issued I.D. each in the name of the Platinum Cardmember. Participating lounges allow entry to accompanying guests, as described in the Priority Pass Lounge Listing. Platinum Cardmember’s accompanying guests are subject to a usage fee at the prevailing rate – currently US$27 per person per visit, which is subject to change with prior notice. Charges for accompanying guests will be calculated based on Priority Pass visit records signed at the time of the accompanying guest visit by the Platinum Cardmember and will be billed to the assigned Platinum Card provided by the Platinum Cardmember at the time of enrolling for Priority Pass. Priority Pass members agree to abide by the Conditions of Use listed in the Priority Pass Lounge Listing provided at enrollment. For complete Conditions of Use or for a listing of participating lounges, please visit: http://www.prioritypass.com. Enrollment is facilitated by completing and returning the Benefit Enrollment Form or calling Platinum Card Service at 1-800-263-1616. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery of the Priority Pass membership card and Lounge listing.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Eagle-eyed observation, Michael! This gave me quite a scare so I gave Amex a call to confirm. They verified that you can indeed still bring a +1 for free, and that the "currently US$27 per person per visit" portion of the footnote refers to additional guests beyond the one free guest you are allowed.

      So all is well for now. Let’s hope the Platinum Priority Pass benefit remains generous!

      1. Avatar
        Michael

        Thank you for confirming! This gave me a quite a scare too. On the referral page footnotes, the wording is different and mentions the +1 free guest, but this was directly from their standard offer.

  18. Avatar
    Bernard

    Very helpful

  19. Avatar
    Jerry

    I believe Biz Platinum also lets you use INTERNATIONAL Plaza Premium lounges, see below.

    Footnotes 30.
    Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit – Holders of eligible American Express Cards (“Eligible Cardmembers”) may access participating Canadian and International airport lounges (“Participating Lounges”) on a complimentary basis. Participating Lounges may change from time to time. For a complete listing visit americanexpress.ca/platinumlounges. To access a Participating Lounge, Eligible Cardmember must show a valid, unexpired eligible American Express Card, airline ticket for travel on the same day and government-issued photo identification in the name of the Eligible Cardmember. Eligible Cardmember’s spouse and 2 children under the age of 21, or one travel companion, may enter a participating lounge as complimentary guests. Guest must accompany eligible Cardmember; show a valid airline ticket for travel on the same day and government-issued photo identification to access a participating lounge. International Plaza Premium Lounges, maximum of 2 hour stay. Québec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport VIP Lounge, eligible Cardmember’s children must be under the age of 18. House rules, terms and conditions of Participating Lounges apply. Use of Participating Lounges is subject to availability. Unless otherwise stated, Participating Lounge access cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or benefit and is subject to change or cancellation at any time.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for pointing this out, I didn’t realize!

      I called Amex just to make sure, since the link in the footnotes doesn’t seem to work. They confirmed that the Business Platinum Card does indeed allow you to access international Plaza Premium lounges!

      I’ve updated the post to reflect this. Thanks again, Jerry!

Ricky

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