American Express recently announced that it will open Centurion lounges in Hong Kong and Philadelphia later this year. That will increase the number of these exclusive airport lounges from seven to nine. Find out what they have to offer and how you can get in.
Amex’s proprietary Centurion lounges are the real deal. They’re several steps above most domestic airport lounges, with amenities and atmosphere on par with the upscale lounges offered by foreign carriers, such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates and Virgin.
The new lounges are scheduled to open in the third quarter of this year. Hong Kong International Airport will have the first international Centurion lounge built from scratch, and it is rumored to be over 8,000 square feet. It’ll be located in Terminal 1. Philadelphia International Airport’s new lounge will be located in Terminal A West.
Both Hong Kong and Philadelphia were chosen because they serve as major travel hubs among Amex cardholders.
The smaller Centurion Studio in Seattle will also be upgraded to a full lounge this year. All of the standard amenities will be added, including a new bar and showers.
What Makes Them So Good?
It’s all in the details. In addition to the standard premium bar, high-speed Wi-Fi, comfortable atmosphere, quiet workspaces and shower suites, each location has a unique menu designed by a celebrated chef.
To go with your gourmet meal, you can choose from a variety of cocktails crafted by famed mixologist Jim Meehan or from a list of wines handpicked by wine guru Anthony Guiglio. Some locations even have site-specific luxuries, such as spa treatments and wine-tastings. Perhaps best of all, everything, even top-shelf liquors and massages, is complimentary.
Let’s take a look at what each lounge has to offer.
San Francisco: Opened in 2014, this was the first Centurion Lounge. The menu was designed by the James Beard Award-winning chef of Alta CA, Daniel Patterson. Locally inspired items include the Hippie Breakfast Bowl, Eggplant Miso Soup and Braised Tofu with seaweed and brown rice.
This location has a unique automated wine-tasting bar featuring California wines. Just push the button on the wine dispenser and enjoy free samples.
The lounge is located airside and can be accessed from Terminal 3 or International Terminal G.
Miami: James Beard Award winner and Miami local Michelle Bernstein created the menu for this lounge. Try the Shakshuka or Chorizo and Kale Quiche for breakfast, and the Minty Pea Soup or Watermelon Greek Salad for lunch and dinner.
The highlight of the Miami lounge is the in-house spa offering a variety of complimentary services, including massage treatments and manicures. Note that the spa is only open from 9 am to 8 pm.
The lounge entrance is airside on the fourth floor of the Concourse D, which can be accessed from any terminal.
Dallas Fort Worth: This location’s chef, Dean Fearing, is known as one of the founding fathers of Southwestern Cuisine. Fearing’s local restaurant located in the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas was ranked number 1 in hotel dining by Zagat. Breakfast offerings include Egg Frittata and Texas Migas with chorizo and tortilla strips. Give the Texas Mole topped chicken and Wild Kale Arugala Salad a try for lunch and dinner.
Like the Miami lounge, Dallas features an in-house spa with complimentary services that include massages, facials and manicures. The well-appointed shower suites are a great way to finish a relaxing spa treatment.
Located on the mezzanine level, the lounge is airside in Terminal D. Access is available from any terminal via the Skylink train.
Las Vegas: Cedric Vongerichten, one of Zagat’s top 30 under 30 chefs, designed the Las Vegas menu. He’s worked at a variety of top-end restaurants around the world and is currently based out of Perry St. in New York City. The menu includes Eggs Benedict with Sriracha hollandaise sauce, Fried Chicken with scotch bonnet sauce and Arancini Fontina Fritters.
In addition to the standard amenities, you’ll find a conference space, semi-private workspaces and a family room. You can access the lounge airside from Concourse D.
Houston Intercontinental: Justin Yu is a Houstonite who has worked at Michelin-star restaurants in Chicago and New York before opening local-favorite Oxheart. His breakfast menu includes Griddled Johnnycakes with strawberry and pink peppercorn jam and a Three Grain Breakfast Porridge featuring coconut milk, dried fruit, cilantro and mint.
Lunch and dinner are veggie-friendly and include a Mushroom Broth, Beets served with savory granola and spiced yogurt, Chickpea and Egg Stew, Quinoa with dried fruit and spiced pumpkin seeds and a Black Pepper Panna Cotta for dessert.
The Houston location features a tranquility area with daybeds, dedicated workspaces, a family room and a children’s play area.
You can find the lounge airside in Terminal D via the elevator in the Duty Free Shop near gate D6. The SKYWAY train offers access from anywhere in the airport.
New York LaGuardia: Cedric Vongerichten, who created the Las Vegas menu, also put together the New York dishes. There are some unique offerings, including Udon Noodles with vegetable broth and green chilies, Roasted Baby Brussels Sprouts with pistachios and basil, and Ginger Rice with seasonal vegetables and pickled chilies. The cocktail menu features the fantastic Manhattan Beach made with local Tuthilltown Rye, gin liqueur and grapefruit juice.
Note that this lounge is located before security on the third floor of Terminal B between Concourse B and C. Other terminals can be accessed via the airport shuttle.
Seattle: Currently this location is a Studio instead of a full lounge, though that will change this year. It’s smaller and has fewer amenities. Food options are limited and there isn’t a celebrity chef-designed menu, but there are healthy snacks, as well as locally sourced soda, craft beer and wine. There is not a premium bar.
The Studio is located after security in Concourse B.
How to Get In
Platinum and Centurion members are allowed to bring two guests or their immediate family, including a spouse or domestic partner and children under 18, into the lounge for free. Day passes include children under 18, but additional adults must pay.
The rules are different for the Studio in Seattle. Due to limited space, Platinum and Centurion cardholders are allowed only one guest and you cannot purchase day passes.
The Platinum Card
The Platinum card is your only real option for getting into a Centurion lounge for free. While Centurion card members also get in for free, it’s nearly impossible for an average citizen to get. The invitation-only charge card is typically offered to very wealthy individuals who charge huge sums of money to their Amex cards. The initiation fee is reportedly $7,500, and the annual fee is an additional $2,500. To be sure, the card comes with a dazzling array of personalized benefits, but it’s out of reach to most of us.
The Platinum card is a much more obtainable luxury. While notable, its $450 annual fee is a far cry from what you’d pay for the Centurion card. Plus the annual $200 airline fee credit can take a bit of the sting out of the cost if you use the benefit.
Unfortunately, that benefit has its limits. You can only use the credit for incidental costs incurred on one airline selected by you. Also, incidental costs only include airline fees, like baggage and change fees, as well as in-flight purchases. It does not cover other travel expenses or airfare.
The biggest perk, and likely the reason you’d get the card, is the free lounge access. Not only do cardholders get access to Centurion lounges, but they can also get into International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges. If that’s not enough, cardholders get a Priority Pass Select membership which includes complimentary access to over 900 lounges worldwide.
The Platinum card comes with many other perks too, including a 40,000-point sign-up bonus, a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, various other discounts and credits at select hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors Gold status, free Boingo WiFi and more. If you use the benefits, the card is worth the annual fee.
A Few Other Options
If you can’t justify the cost of the Platinum card, consider getting one of Amex’s other cards and paying the $50 fee for a day pass. The Premier Rewards Gold card is popular among travelers because of its decent sign-up bonus, excellent bonus earning categories and reasonable annual fee ($195, waived the first year).
Better yet, get the no-fee Amex EveryDay card and buy nine Centurion lounge day passes a year with the money you’ll save on annual fees by skipping the Platinum card.