American Express has a network of well-designed Centurion Lounges, which some Amex cardholders have access to on an unlimited basis – and the chance to visit the lounges in San Francisco and Houston in the last few weeks allows us to update this guide with some more images and info.
You can usually access these lounges for free with any same-day ticket, on any airline, as long as you are an Amex Platinum Charge, Business Platinum Charge or Centurion cardholder. Passes are available for $50 USD for other American Express cardholders.
Essentially, these lounges are an alternative for Business and First Class passengers who do not want to access (generally substandard) US lounges, such as American Airlines Admirals Clubs.
However, as their popularity has grown due to Amex increasing its cardholder base and the offering of superior food and facilities, they may be becoming a victim of their own success.
Having said that, with an increasing number of lounges cropping up, if you’re flying Economy or Premium Economy frequently and value lounge access, using the American Express lounge network can free you from the likes of paid membership programs like Qantas Club.
The Amex lounge network is, of course, not as broad and not as available in as many cities as airline lounges.
As of January 2017, there are 14 Centurion Lounges across the network, with one in Sydney, seven in the US, four in Latin America and two in India.
The lounges in Australia and the US are the most modern, with the Houston lounge the latest addition to the offering; Los Angeles is slated to open next.
Those lounges in bold are reviewed in more detail later on. Note that depending on the country, each lounge type has a different name.
American Express Lounges in Australia
Centurion Lounges in the United States
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles (opening date unclear)
- New York LaGuardia
- San Francisco
- Seattle (this is a smaller lounge named ‘Centurion Studio’)
Centurion Clubs in Latin America
The American Express lounges outside of the US and Sydney are generally a few years older and don’t have the same design aesthetic and facilities.
The 24-hour lounge in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the biggest of them all in Latin America. The other three lounges are located in Mexico, with Toluca serving as Mexico City’s low-cost airport.
- Buenos Aires
- Mexico City
Amex used to run two lounges in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but these seem to have been taken out of the network, according to the Centurion website.
Platinum Lounges in India
The two lounges in India are smaller than those in the rest of the network and can get crowded as they are shared with Jet Airways Business and First passengers. There is complimentary food off the menu, but you need to pay for alcoholic drinks.
What’s on offer
- Food and wine, beer and spirits, usually complimentary in the US and for purchase elsewhere
- Shower suites
- Family room
Depending on the location, lounges usually open between 5 and 6am and close between 8pm and midnight.
Key lounges in the US
Centurion Lounges are much nicer than those offered by a US airline, but inferior to many lounges in Asia.
The Dallas lounge is consistently included in lists of the best lounges in the US, and is generally the best-regarded in the Centurion network.
It is located in Terminal D across from Gate D17, and is accessible from any terminal through the airport’s Skylink train.
It receives positive reviews for its decent Tex-Mex food, with breakfast served from 6:30 to 11am, and lunch/dinner from 11:30am to 10pm.
Guests can schedule a complimentary 15-minute spa treatment at the Exhale Spa (this is also available at the Miami lounge).
Separately, there are only two showers, so book in for one as soon as you enter the lounge.
Note that it can get crowded earlier in the day but is generally a bit roomier prior to the Qantas A380 flight QF 8 to Sydney leaving around 8:15-10:30pm (depending on the season). Keep in mind that the bar closes at 9/9:30pm.
The Centurion Lounge at SFO is located after security in Terminal 3, which conveniently connects to the International Terminal. So if your departing flight is from Terminal 1 or 2, whilst you can enter any terminal you like, make sure that you allow enough time to clear security again in your respective terminal.
It has Californian-inspired food and local Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, and Brew Free or Die beers on tap.
The exclusively Napa Valley-sourced wine offerings at the automatic tasting area is very cool.
As you can see here at 8am on a Monday morning, it can get quite crowded.
My tip would be to grab one of these black private pods if you can.
The Houston lounge can be a bit hard to find, tucked away via an elevator located in the duty free store at the top of the escalators after security in Terminal D.
The good news is that if you are departing from another terminal at Houston, you can connect to Terminal D without having to re-clear security.
Like the other Amex lounges in the US, it is beautifully appointed.
This was the first Centurion lounge to open (in 2013).
It has some of the best food in the network, with a complimentary buffet and full-service bar.
Access rules for lounges
Access is free for Platinum Card and Centurion members, as well as either their immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) or two other guests (except for the Centurion Studio in Seattle, which allows only one guest).
One-day passes can be purchased by other American Express cardholders for $50 USD subject to space availability and one child under 18 can enter with you for free.
Note that the Sydney lounge has free access options for some other Amex cardholders.
American Express Centurion Lounges are a valuable alternative for customers who:
- lack access to traditional airline lounges, which may be restricted to passengers in premium cabins or with elite status
- prefer a superior product to US domestic lounges
- want generous guest and family access privileges