Yesterday’s discussion on children in lounges spiraled into a territory I was hoping it would not go. Exchanges became nasty and comments incendiary.
So let’s try to reset today with a more even-balanced discussion. Here’s what I want to focus on: should all dependent minors be counted as one guest or each one counted separately? This gets to the crux of the issue. As an aside, hopefully this will be my last post on the issue but I feel our previous discussions have left us without any sort of collegiality.
Indeed, yesterday’s post was a deliberately triumphant rebuke to those who appear to be hostile to children in lounges. I am no stranger to airport lounges, having been in one close to 100 times last year. It is true that I routinely observe poor behavior from adults, not from children. In fact, I did not witness a single incident of loud children last year. On many occasions I witnessed drunkness and poor social etiquette from adults, almost always males between 25-50. Thus, when I witnessed exactly that in my first visit to an American Express lounge since my original article, I could not help but to gloat just a bit.
But I’m just one person reporting my own observations. I hope that those who feel so strongly on the other side base their opinion on actual observations and not just unfounded antipathy toward children. I don’t doubt that children can behave horribly and that there are many poor parents are out there.
The moment my son acts out in a lounge is the moment we leave. My wife and I are in agreement on this point and we will not tolerate his acting out in public. But we will see if we have the resolve to actually follow through on our agreed-upon plan. For every screaming toddler or rambunctious child, I do have to wonder how many parents avert this by taking their child out. I have to imagine there are many.
Augustine acted up in a restaurant while we were in Germany. Rather than let him cry and disturb others, we took him out to the car, turned on two-way FaceTime, and returned to enjoy our meal.
Should All Guests Be Considered Equal?
Now we come to the point of the post: should all guests be considered equal?
One side reasonably argues that yes, American Express’ limit of two guests per cardholder should be blindly applied. This will reduce crowding and preserve the integrity of lounges by not turning them into family reunions.
The other side argues that children are different than colleagues, friends or even other relatives. Most pointedly, because young children cannot be left outside. Thus, lounge access becomes a Hobson’s Choice. One option is to pay an exorbitant fee for junior to have a glass of orange juice and some bread. The other is for the entire family to miss out on the lounge benefits you pay $550/year for. One cannot realistically stay outside while the others enjoy the lounge.
Reader Greg pointed out that American, Delta, and United all allow in immediate family members or up to two guests. This is a logical policy, to me. By not separating families, lounges think on a long-term loyalty basis rather than a transactional basis. Keeping families together encourages loyalty and acclimates children to the benefits of lounges from an early age, building future customers.
But is it fair when a family of nine pays the same for membership as a solo business traveler? In the case of single transaction, I understand those who say no. But think about how logistically difficult it is for large families to travel together. Realistically, it does not happen more than few times per year. We are not talking about a family of road warriors hogging lounge space on a weekly basis. It may be that lounge membership is justified just for a few special occasions per year.
Limit Uses Per Year?
Imagine if American Express structured its lounge access policy differently. What if instead of allowing in the member plus two guests, it provided each member 25 lounge passes per year. Would this be more amenable to those who believe they are being cheated by large families?
A road warrior could visit up to 25 times for “free” or a family of five up to five times.
That would not work out to my advantage because I already visit the lounge more than 25 times per year, almost always alone. If my family does grow from three to four, I cannot imagine us visiting a lounge together more than four times per year.
American Express’s new guest rules (up to two guests, regardless of familial relation) is fair in the sense that it can be evenly and non-discriminately applied. But the disparate impact of this policy will fall on the back of families who logically cannot justify $50/child for lounge access even if they can afford it. For all the arguments that this is fair, it still strikes me as quite unfair to those couples traveling with two or more children.
Let’s hope we can talk about this today without resorting to name-calling. Is there anything left to talk about it or are there simply two camps that will never see eye-to-eye on this?