Australia’s second-busiest airport in its fastest-growing city is set to get a new lounge courtesy of American Express in the second half of 2017.
The design will most likely be consistent with the sole American Express lounge currently operating in Australia, which is located in Sydney’s International Terminal.
It will include 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.
For now, one can assume the access policy will be 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.
I would speculate that lounge passes will be usable at either location, but not two entries at each lounge.
The exact opening date or month has not yet been confirmed.
About this guide
American Express has a network of well-designed Centurion Lounges, which some Amex cardholders have access to on an unlimited basis.
You can usually enjoy 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 (generally sub-standard) 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 August 2017, there are 15 Centurion Lounges across the network, with one in Sydney, seven in the US, one in Sweden, four in Latin America and two in Asia.
The lounges in Australia and the US are the most modern, with the Houston lounge the latest addition to the offering; Melbourne, Hong Kong, Philadelphia and Los Angeles are 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
- Melbourne (opening second half of 2017)
Centurion Lounges in the United States
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles (opening date unclear)
- New York LaGuardia
- Philadelphia (opening second half of 2017)
- San Francisco
- Seattle (expanded in March 2017)
Centurion and Platinum Lounges in Asia
- Hong Kong (opening second half of 2017)
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.
The lounge in Hong Kong will be called a Centurion Lounge; the lounges in India are Platinum Lounges.
American Express Lounges in Europe
- Stockholm (in Terminal 5 at Arlanda Airport; opened in May 2017)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. However, effective 2 October 2017, only Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests may enter US lounges – this policy could be extended to lounges worldwide.
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