One of the best perks of those holding an American Express Platinum, Business Platinum or Centurion card is access to American Express’ lounge network both here in Australia and overseas. Card Members can enter these lounges no matter which airline or cabin they’re flying.
3 new US lounges open
Now, there are three more locations that have been added to the network in the US. Phoenix got a lounge in January, then Charlotte followed with its opening two weeks ago. And in the most exciting news, the Los Angeles lounge opens today.
It’s located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), which is where Qantas flights to Australia depart from. It’s located on Level 4, directly below the Qantas International First Lounge.
This terminal is connected by a walkway to Terminals 4-7, meaning you won’t have to pass through security again. That makes it convenient for passengers departing on American Airlines’ flight to Sydney from Terminal 4 (five-minute walk). If you’re flying United Airlines to Sydney or Melbourne from Terminal 7, it’s a good 20-minute walk.
Virgin Australia and Delta flights depart from Terminals 2 & 3, which are not connected airside to TBIT. You can take a shuttle bus between these terminals, but it’s time-consuming, so this lounge is not convenient for passengers on these two airlines.
Which other lounges will open in 2020?
In the first half of this year, it is expected that London Heathrow will get a lounge in Terminal 3, home to Qantas, Emirates and Cathay Pacific flights.
New York JFK will also get one in Terminal 4, home to Delta, Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines.
Finally, Denver, a hub for United, Southwest and Frontier, will most likely get its lounge in the second half of the year.
(Note that the Hong Kong lounge is temporarily closed as of early March 2020.)
The original guide to the American Express lounge network follows.
The definitive guide to the American Express lounge network
American Express has a network of well-designed 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 get 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 substandard) ones in the US, such as American Airlines Admirals Clubs.
However, as their popularity has grown due to Amex increasing its Card Member 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 Card Members, 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
- Westpac Altitude Black 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.
Which airports have Amex Lounges?
As of March 2020, there are 26 American Express Lounges across the network. There are 3 in Australia, 15 in the US (including amusement parks), 4 in Latin America, 3 in Asia and 1 in Sweden.
The Amex lounge network is, of course, not as broad and not as available in as many cities as airline lounges.
The lounges in Australia and the US tend to be the most modern.
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
- Qudos Bank Arena
These lounges, except for the one at Qudos Bank Arena, 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
- Charlotte (opened late February 2020)
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Denver (expected opening second half 2020)
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles (opens 9 March 2020)
- New York JFK (expected opening first half of 2020)
- New York LaGuardia
- San Francisco
Centurion and American Express Lounges in Asia
- Hong Kong (temporarily closed effective 5 March 2020)
- Mumbai (temporarily closed)
The lounge in Hong Kong is called a Centurion Lounge; the one in Delhi is simply an American Express Lounge.
Delhi’s facility is smaller than those in the rest of the network and can get crowded. There is complimentary food off the menu but you need to pay for alcoholic drinks.
American Express Lounges in Europe
- London Heathrow Terminal 3 (used by Qantas and Emirates; expected opening first half 2020)
- Stockholm Arlanda
I visited the Stockholm ‘lounge’ in Terminal 5 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. However, the Mexico City lounge has been 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 from 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.
You can access the lounge a maximum of three hours before your departing flight—this is to reduce overcrowding.
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 make sure to 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. Note that the size of the lounge has been expanded as of January 2019.
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 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
Supplementary images American Express.