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Anytime you bring up the topic of American Express’s Centurion Lounges, you will get lots of differing opinions, which will include the good, the bad, and the ugly. And with the seemingly never ending changes to the various versions of the American Express Platinum Charge Card, both personal and business, including higher annual fees and reductions in rebates on Membership Reward Point tickets, there are even more discussions than usual about whether or not the cards are worth keeping.
But I’ve decided to keep mine, and the American Express Centurion Lounges are a big part of that decision. I also use these card benefits:
- $200 airline fee credit, for incidental charges such as baggage fees, on a single airline of the cardholder’s choosing.
- Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Gold Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status.
- Airport lounge access through an expansion of the Global Lounge Collection. This includes Delta SkyClubs, Priority Pass lounges, and American Express Centurion Lounges.
First, let’s make sure we’re clear on just who is eligible to visit the American Express Centurion Lounges. Access to the American Express Centurion Lounges is complimentary for Platinum Card and Centurion Card members. To access the American Express Centurion Lounge, the cardmember must present the lounge agent with a valid card and a boarding pass showing a confirmed reservation for same-day travel on any carrier, and a government-issued I.D. There is an alternative way to access the lounge if you don’t have your card with you. Grant found this out the easy way! (read Access Centurion Lounges without your American Express Platinum Card)
Do you know how many American Express Centurion Lounges there are? I had to check because even though I’ve been to, and regularly use, 5 of them in the states, I wasn’t sure. There are currently 7 in the states: Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), New York LaGuardia (LGA) and San Francisco (SFO). A new lounge is set to open in Philadelphia shortly. There are three lounges in Mexico, one in Argentina, two in India (though the one in Mumbai is closed), one in Australia, and Hong Kong is scheduled to open soon. With all that out of the way, let’s get to why I think the lounges are worth keeping the card for. Here are all the current and scheduled to open American Express Centurion Lounge locations.
My first experience at an American Express Centurion Lounge was back in 2013 when the DFW lounge was relatively new. It was a breath of fresh air and many steps above what other lounges in the U.S. were offering in terms of services and food. Shower? Coming right up! Real food… salad? Yup. An espresso machine that works? You got it. The lounge at DFW was, and still is, spacious with many seating options and good light. I also found the staff there to be welcoming, helpful, and good at remembering who I was. I often had long hours there when I was transiting to South America. And in those mileage running days, I was there a lot. In fact, many of the lounge staff are still working there today, and when I go in, they remember to put me on the shower list right away!
Of course, it wasn’t as crowded as it is now. This seems to be the chief complaint of many people who have been using the Centurion Lounges as long as I have. They do get crowded. However, I think this is true, but it’s been my experience that the crowds depend on the lounge and on the time of day. Sure, these days I don’t always get my favorite table, but I’ve never been there when I couldn’t get a shower or there wasn’t something fresh and healthy to eat.
I use the SEA lounge quite often and am glad they remodeled it. It’s well-located so no matter what gate you arrive or depart from, it’s never a very long walk. I’ve never found this lounge to be too crowded, I like their wine selections, and let’s not even discuss the great local chocolate they put out for dessert!
The SFO lounge can get crowded. People in the Bay Area like to travel, and like Grant, they must all have American Express Platinum Charge Cards :) I find myself there mostly later in the evening, often transiting from overseas. Recently, I arrived there overly tired and in dire need of a shower. When I get off a long flight I LONG for a shower. It wakes me up, which helps me handle the last leg of my trip. The lounge staff let me know the waiting list for the shower was long but that since I had about 90 minutes in the lounge, she’d do what she could and come get me ASAP. I must have looked really messy :) I had given up hope, when she came running through the lounge to get me for my shower time. Great timing, and boy was I appreciative. I also like the food at the SFO lounge. They always have fresh salad and I’m partial to their chicken as well.
I mentioned before that one’s lounge experience is framed and influenced by the time of day and travel patterns of an airport. I recently had two experiences where the lounges were just about empty.
I was really excited to try the lounge in Houston because, frankly, the lounge scene there was awful. As much as I never minded transiting through DFW, that’s how much I didn’t like having to transit through Houston. I landed at IAH so early that I was actually at the lounge when it opened for the day. The staff was friendly and funny, asking me where I had come from and offering me the shower even before I asked. The lounge was on the big side for Centurion Lounges (insert joke about everything is bigger in Texas), seating was well spread out, there were lots of interesting and healthy choices for breakfast (which means not just sweets and bread), and a working espresso machine. I keep saying “working espresso machine” because too many lounges have machines that don’t work, or in the case of one non-Centurion Lounge I was in recently, they’ve given up and gone back to regular coffee urns. So the Centurion Lounge in Houston is off to a great start!
The only international Centurion lounge I’ve visited was in Buenos Aires at EZE. It was early in the day, about 10am and it was empty except for myself and two guys. I was told that the busy time there is early evening. The lounge was huge with three main seating areas. I did not use the shower because I had just come from my hotel. I did look at it though and as expected, it was fine. The brunch spread was filled with typical South American choices of meats, cheeses, fruits, assortments of bread, cereals, yogurts, and cut up vegetables. One bin that caught my eye was what looked like an ice cream freezer. And it was! There was an assortment of gelato cups and pops. No way could I resist! I had two and decided against a third :) All in all, another Centurion Lounge worth checking out.
If we do some simple math and figure the fee on my American Express Platinum Charge Card minus the $200 airline fee credit which I always use, that’s $350 a year ($550 – $200). I don’t have all my travel for the year booked yet, but I will have had at least 9 visits to the Centurion Lounges, so that’s an average of $39 a visit. I’m not counting the Delta SkyClub access, being able to bring guests, or the benefits of hotel status, but for me, it’s obvious that I’m using and, more importantly, enjoying having Centurion Lounge access.
How about you? Does having Centurion Lounge access influence whether or not you’re keeping your American Express Platinum Charge Card? Do you have a favorite or least favorite Centurion Lounge? Please let us know in the comments below. I’m looking forward to knowing whether your experiences have been anything like mine!