On Top of Awful Customer Service and Expensive Food, I Couldn’t Use My American Express Platinum Card at the American Express Centurion Lounge Mexico City
I recently redeemed some Smiles miles to try out Aeromexico’s short and medium-haul premium products within Mexico and North America. In addition to trying out Aeromexico’s Boeing 737-800 business class product, this trip (in theory) would allow me to visit a variety of lounges in Mexico City’s Terminal 2. One lounge I had been looking forward to visiting for months was The Centurion Lounge by American Express in Terminal 2.
After checking in for my flight to New York City, I made my way through the security checkpoint. I opened LoungeBuddy (Promo Code: xeDiiDxI3q) on my phone to refresh my memory to which lounges I could access. I decided to visit the American Express Centurion Lounge first as it had recently been renovated, features an extensive drink menu, and offers guest a free spa service.
The American Express Centurion Lounge Terminal 2 at Mexico City International Airport is located between the HSBC Premier Lounge and the Aeromexico Salon Premier on the third level of the terminal. It’s somewhat easy to miss as there’s a poorly marked staircase and no easily accessible elevator. I didn’t realize that there was an elevator to the lounge until much later in the evening. This was after I had to lug my bags up the steep staircase. The entrance to the lounge was certainly not the best first impression.
An Awful First Impression at The Centurion Lounge MEX T2
If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a few Tweets about my experience at the lounge. Upon checking in, I decided to snap a few photos of the American Express logo backlit behind the check-in desk. Per my own policy and is typically the policy of airlines, hotels, and lounges, I never take photos of employees or other guests.
As I lowered my camera from my eye, I noticed I was next in line for check-in. As I approached the agent, the agent looked up at me and in a confrontation tone said to me, “No pictures, no pictures, there are no pictures allowed.”
Fully aware that this was in fact not a stated policy online or on any placard around the lounge, I sort of chuckled. Tired and not in the mood to be barked at by an unhappy lounge attendant I responded, “No that’s not actually a policy. I can’t take pictures of you or guests but I can photograph the lounge.”
She responded, “You just try that.” She took my card, passport, and boarding pass and kept to herself for the remainder of check-in. I asked for her name but she would not give it to me. Finally, as I was leaving the check-in desk, she gave me her name. She did not inform me of any of the amenities in the lounge and instead handed me a Platinum drink coupon and pointed toward my entrance.
Cornered By Lounge Staff in the Spa Area of The Centurion Lounge Mexico City
I don’t want to make this post a rant about the legality of taking photos in an airline lounge but this was a reoccurring issue throughout my visit. I was able to get some pictures of my overpriced dinner (yeah, this Centurion Lounge charges for food) and the dining area but when I left my table to explore the lounge and take photos, I was cornered by a concierge team member in the back of the spa area.
During this confrontation, the American Express representative kept speaking into his walkie-talkie. I didn’t understand his Spanish as he was speaking rapidly and quietly. He kept me from moving towards the exit of the hallway and interrogated me in Spanished. I kept telling him that I didn’t speak Spanish. Finally, he asked me if I was taking photos. I responded, “Yes.” He explained to me that taking photos was illegal. I explained to him the American Express policy and my purpose for taking photos. He then interrupted me and said, “Oh, do you work for American Express.” I informed him I didn’t and try to explain to him additional details pertaining to my visit but he cut me off. He ordered me to provide my name. A security agent was standing at the stairs. I told him my first name and he left the area without comment.
At this time I remained in the quiet and secluded part of the lounge to complete a call to American Express customer service who was extremely apologetic and understanding After my call to customer service, I spoke to the manager/supervisor on duty who sided with his employees. Frustrated and worried I might end up being escorted out of the lounge by security, I left the lounge to check out the Aeromexico Salon Premier.
Returning to the American Express Centurion Lounge Mexico City
After my visit to the Aeromexico lounge, I returned to the American Express lounge with the sole purpose of getting a glass of champagne. None of the other lounges served champagne and some of the other lounges were closing their doors for the night. When I checked in, the agents began communicating via their walkie-talkies and gesturing towards me. I decided I wouldn’t take any photos and would mind my own business during my visit so I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about.
I took a seat near a row of comfortable booths that were set back into the wall. I sat down, took a few deep breaths, unwinded, and plugged my devices in to charge them.
First, I made my way up to the bar for a glass of champagne. Still a little hungry and craving some flan, I gestured towards a waiter and ordered the flan as well as a cappuccino.
Cash-Only For Food Purchased in the American Express Centurion Lounge
This might come as a surprise to frequent visitors of the American Express Centurion Lounges in the United States but the food offered at The Centurion Lounge Mexico City isn’t included. Every item on the menu is available for purchase. It is worth noting that American Express Platinum Cardholders can choose some very basic menu items for free. There weren’t, however, any complimentary dessert options.
Full aware that I would be paying $4 for a piece of caramel flan, I still ordered the dessert. (I really wanted to try some authentic flan and $4 wasn’t going to stop me.)
As I inched closer and closer to my posted 11 PM boarding time, I stopped a waitress and handed her my Platinum card. I explained to her, “My flight leaves soon, here is my card, I ordered a flan, I would like to pay.” I then told her my last name. She returned my Platinum card and in broken English responded, “cash only.”
Shocked to hear that I had to pay cash at the American Express lounge, I figured there was a translation error. I gestured towards another waiter who also informed me, “Cash only, credit card has no internet.” I assumed this meant the credit card readers were down.
I explained to both servers that I couldn’t pay for my meal as I don’t carry foreign currency unless I am spending an extended amount of time in that country. They looked at me and told me to pay cash. I did my best to explain my situation again. They informed me they would get their supervisor. After a brief conversation with their supervisor, they informed me that it was cash only. After the servers left to serve other guests, another server, fluent in English approached me with my dessert and told me that it was “On the house.” He then apologized for any confusion.
Though a minor detail, the flan lacked any distinguished taste and the texture wasn’t uniform throughout. It certainly wasn’t worth $4. Still, I managed to consume the entire piece. After finishing my glass of wine and my cappuccino, I stood up and began walking towards the bar. At this time, a server stopped me. She said, “Card working now, I need your card.”
I explained to her that another serve said the dessert was free due to the issue with the credit card readers. I was holding my Platinum card in my left hand at this time and the server took it from my hands and walked off with it. I was shocked but decided not to make a scene noting that $4 wasn’t worth being escorted out by security.
The server returned to my table and handed me my card. She said, “Nevermind, please wait, card still not working.” I took this as the perfect cue to head to the bar for a pre-flight shot of tequila and then to get the heck out of the lounge.
Overall, The Pitiful Centurion Lounge Mexico City
I’ve already called American Express Platinum Cardholder customer service to escalate this issue. The agent whom I spoke to at customer service was extremely apologetic and informed me that she would look into the service offered at the Mexico City lounge.
Additionally, I spent the next morning at The Centurion Lounge at New York-LaGuardia. The receptionist at the LaGuardia lounge noted my visit to the Mexico City lounge and asked me about my visit. I gave her the play-by-play of my visit. Though she had played no role in my experience at that lounge, the LGA rep was extremely apologetic and ensured me that she would make my visit to the LaGuardia lounge as enjoyable as possible.
Throughout my visit to The Centurion Lounge LGA, the agent from the front desk made sure I was comfortable and enjoying my visit. She joked about the experience with me and overall, provided some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced at a lounge.
As for The Centurion Lounge Mexico City, I have found out that it’s still considered part of the Global Lounge Collection and is managed by a third-party entity, not American Express. Essentially, the American Express lounges at Mexico City International Airport are contract lounges that use the American Express name and branding. This is likely why the experience is so different from the service provided by lounges in the United States. Nonetheless, the service I received at the Mexico City lounge was unacceptable and I am continuing to share my comments with the American Express team.
Have you ever visited the American Express Centurion Lounge Mexico City? What has been your experience with lounges in American Express’ Global Lounge Collection?