American Express is expanding existing airport lounges and building new ones, partnering with airlines and other lounge operators, in order to keep up with exploding demand for lounge access, according to Josh McKay, vice president and general manager of global benefits and services for Amex.
The group is also looking to technology to manage lounge demand as premium card membership grows.
Since 2013, the multinational financial services corporation has built airport-based Centurion Lounges in Las Vegas, Houston, Hong Kong, and Dallas Fort Worth, New York LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Amex is already planning to expand several of these (Dallas, Miami, and Seattle), and has announced plans to build new lounges at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, LAX, and Denver by the end of 2019.
The lounges are exclusively for the use of Amex Platinum and Centurion card holders.
“Premium card members tell us lounge access is the number-one benefit of membership,” said McKay during an interview at the popup American Express Centurion Suite during the recent US Open tennis tournament in New York City.
“They’re all very popular, but we want our card members to have access. It’s something we think about all the time.”
The 15,000-square-foot Centurion Lounge at JFK, the next to open, will be the largest built by Amex to date, said McKay. Like every Centurion Lounge, the design and amenities will reflect its setting, including classic New York food and drink offerings.
McKay promised a “very distinctive” look and feel in the JFK lounge, which is being built out of the walls of Terminal 4 and will thrust toward the airport runway. It will debut in the first half of 2019.
McKay said Amex is hoping to give cardmembers the ability to check into lounges with the Amex app beginning next year, which also would help the company manage lounge demand.
He added that the company’s focus on travel goes beyond lounges, aiming to enhance the “traveller experience” from start to finish through such benefits as concierge service and a $200 Uber credit offered to cardmembers.
“We’re trying to figure out more opportunities on that journey to help our customers,” he said. “We want to take the friction out of the airport experience.”
McKay said lounge access and other benefits have helped drive “rapid acceleration” in signups of new card members over the past 15 months in the US, the vast majority of whom are frequent travellers — and a growing proportion of which are millennials.