Australia’s second-busiest airport in its fastest-growing city just got a new lounge courtesy of American Express which opened on 27 March.
The design is mostly consistent with the American Express lounge at Sydney’s International Terminal.
It includes barista-made coffee, a self-service food buffet and drink station, free wifi and business facilities, as well as local and international newspapers and magazines.
Access policy for the Melbourne lounge is the same as the Sydney lounge, offering unlimited access to top-tier Amex cardholders and two passes a year for others holding select cards, like the Qantas American Express Ultimate and American Express Explorer.
The lounge passes are usable at either location but not two entries at each lounge.
About this guide
American Express has a network of well-designed Centurion Lounges, which Platinum and Centurion Amex cardholders have access to on an unlimited basis (along with other lounge perks including access to Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs).
You can usually unlimited access to these lounges for free with any same-day ticket, on any airline, as long as you are an American Express Platinum Charge, Business Platinum Charge or Centurion cardholder. Some other American Express cards offer a certain number of lounge passes each year too.
Essentially, these lounges are an alternative for Business and First Class passengers who do not want to access airline lounges, especially (generally sub-standard) ones in the US, 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.
You must have an American Express credit or charge card to enter these lounges.
Unlimited access to both Australian and overseas lounges is free for Platinum Card and Centurion card members, as well as two guests.
The Sydney and Melbourne lounges have free access options for some other Amex cardholders, with two lounge passes available each calendar year. These cards include the:
- American Express Explorer and Business Explorer
- Qantas American Express Ultimate
- American Express Velocity Platinum
- David Jones Platinum American Express
- Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards American Express
The cards above do not provide access to overseas lounges—only the Australian ones.
If you have one of the above cards and a travelling companion were to enter the lounge, you would need to use one lounge pass per person. The card member must be travelling in order to use the passes—you cannot transfer the passes to other people not travelling with you, like you can with Qantas lounge passes.
One neat thing is that you just need to flash your eligible card to enter the lounge—there is no need to procure anything like a special pass before your visit.
For all entry options, children under 18 enter free.
The Amex lounge network is, of course, not as broad and not as available in as many cities as airline lounges.
As of March 2018, there are 17 American Express Lounges across the network, with one each in Sydney and Melbourne, eight in the US, one in Sweden, four in Latin America and three in Asia.
The lounges in Australia and the US are the most modern, with the Houston lounge the latest addition to the offering; New York JFK 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
These lounges are located in their airports’ international terminal, meaning that you can only access the lounges before departing on an international, not domestic, flight.
Centurion Lounges in the United States
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Denver (expected opening 2019)
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles (opening sometime in 2019)
- New York JFK (expected opening early 2019)
- New York LaGuardia
- San Francisco
Centurion and American Express Lounges in Asia
- Hong Kong
- Mumbai (temporarily closed)
Centurion Lounge Hong Kong
The lounge in Hong Kong is called a Centurion Lounge; the lounge in Delhi is simply an American Express Lounge.
The lounge in Delhi is smaller than those in the rest of the network and can get crowded as it is shared with Jet Airways Business and First passengers. There is complimentary food off the menu but you need to pay for alcoholic drinks.
American Express Lounges in Europe
- Stockholm (in Terminal 5 at Arlanda Airport)
I visited this ‘lounge’ in April 2018, which is basically an exclusive area within a restaurant.
It is a small space but is usually uncrowded (according to reviews on the LoungeBuddy app) and has good tarmac views. The wifi was fast and customer service friendly, with a waiter offering made-to-order drinks and bringing trays of food to guests’ tables.
Centurion Clubs in Latin America
The American Express lounges outside of Australia and the US are generally a few years older and do not have the same design aesthetic and facilities but the Mexico City lounge was recently remodelled and is the largest in Latin America.
- Buenos Aires
- Mexico City
Amex used to run two lounges in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but these seem to have been taken out of the network, according to the Centurion website.
American Express Lounges at Universal Studios in California and Florida
Amex runs two small lounges at these amusement parks to provide a place to relax, charge your phone, grab a water and use the restrooms. Do not expect the amenities that an airport lounge provides. They are open 12-5pm.
In order to gain access, you need to purchase your park tickets directly with Universal online or at the ticket office with an American Express card and show that Amex card to the lounge attendant to gain access.
What’s on offer
- Buffet-style food
- Wine, beer and spirits, usually complimentary in the US and for purchase elsewhere
- Shower suites
- Family room in many locations
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 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.
This lounge is located near Gate D12, accessible from all terminals but use the Skytrain if you are far as that will save you time.
I visited this lounge on a typical Monday afternoon/evening in August 2017 and it was pretty packed in the main areas until 8pm, after which it started to clear out.
There are some good views of the apron:
You can avoid the crowds by returning to the front desk (facing the exit) and using the workbenches curving to the left, or workbenches, seats and lounges (for some shut-eye) to the right.
Book in for a shower appointment (although I’ve found the hot water in the Centurion lounges I’ve visited only lasts about five minutes, so make the most of it):
and you can also book in for a neck and back massage or manicure in the Exhale Spa. If you are there for enough time, go back to the front desk and book in for a second treatment – they are all free!
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.
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