U.S. American Express Platinum cards come with access to Delta and American Airlines lounges, provided that the cardholder is flying that airline same-day.
Last year American added US Airways lounge access as well, with no requirement to be flying US Airways same-day for access. This was done in advance of their expectation that they would be losing Continental Airlines as a partner, until September 1 you can still transfer Membership Rewards points to Continental Onepass and also access Continental Presidents Club lounges.
The loss of the Continental relationship was a foregone conclusion when United and Continental merged, Chase has the concession for co-branded credit cards with both United and Continental and holds tremendous sway with United. The issuer of the United co-branded credit card (then First USA) provided debtor-in-possession financing for United’s bankruptcy. Chase (which acquired First USA) provided United’s exit financing from bankruptcy. And they pre-purchased nine-figures worth of miles to provide extra liquidity.
Chase has been known to play hardball, preventing other card issuers from offering reasonable earning deals for United miles. United is no longer a transfer partner of Diners Club, for instance, and the airline used to even allow transfers in both directions. And United and Continental both have poor transfer ratios from Starwood Preferred Guest (2 SPG points to 1 mile instead of 1 to 1).
So naturally Chase wasn’t going to stand idly by and let Amex Membership Rewards be a great deal for earning United miles post-merger.
Amex did also introduce a benefit to reimburse up to $200 in expense with a single preferred carrier each year for ancillary charges like baggage fees or lounge membership. (Here’s a Milepoint discussion of recent successful reimbusements from Amex under this benefit.)
Now American Express has added a new benefit, complimentary Priority Pass membership. Though it’s Priority Club Select which excludes access to United and Continental lounges after September 30. That’s geared to financial institutions which compete with Chase and provide the benefit.
Now, lots of cards have provided free Priority Pass membership. I used to get it with my Citi American Express Platinum card, I loved the card before the last Thank You Points devaluation in February 2009 and I no longer have that card. I currently have a free membership through the Hilton Surpass American Express card, but that doesn’t come with any free lounge visits — I have to pay for each one.
The Amex Platinum version of the card comps lounge access for the cardholder, and guest access is $27.
So what does this add? Domestically in the US, very little, since United and Continental lounges are ineligible and Delta, American, and US Airways lounges are already offered. You get Alaska Airlines Boardroom access. And now that it’s $45 for a day pass to a Board room, instead of $25, paying the $27 for a guest is a reduction in cost for the second person to access their lounges, too. And since they’ve got that pancake machine in the Seattle Boardroom in the morning…
The real benefit is international lounge access, and access to international carrier lounges in the US. The Amex benefit to US cardholders really didn’t provide much international lounge access in the past, since US carriers have a very limited number of lounges. So this is a real improvement to the card for international travelers (at the same time that the Platinum card no longer adds foreign currency transaction fees to international spend).
Enrollment is required to receive the benefit, and additional cardholders on an account cannot enroll online.