Some travellers chase frequent flyer status for lounge access. Others simply fly up front and let the ticket take care of the arrangements. But you don’t need a shiny frequent flyer membership or a premium cabin seat to get your journey off to a flying start. At Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, that’s where the American Express Centurion Lounge steps in.
Despite its name, the door list isn’t reserved only for those with Amex’s secret Centurion Card. There’s a good chance that the premium American Express Card in your wallet might already have you covered. And if not, there are plenty of products that can get you through the door. Here’s a peek at what’s inside.
Location, layout and seating
Melbourne’s Amex Centurion Lounge resides in the international terminal (T2). Once you’re through security and immigration, follow the corridors towards the departure gates. When you’re close to gate nine, keep your eyes peeled for an escalator leading downstairs. (Not upstairs, as for the Qantas International First Lounge and the Marhaba Lounge).
On that lower level, the Centurion Lounge lives next door to the Plaza Premium Lounge. That makes sense too, because Plaza Premium operates both lounges. As for the Centurion Lounge, it’s open daily between 6 am and 10 pm. Melbourne Airport has no curfew, so there are still flights departing outside of these hours. But generally, these hours catch the bulk of the city’s international departures.
To the lounge itself, it’s fair to acknowledge that things aren’t quite as exciting as in Amex’s Sydney counterpart. Sydney, of course, is a newer lounge – and one that allows for things like natural light. Melbourne’s Centurion Lounge, on the other hand, has no external windows or skylights. It’s a tad unfortunate because the adjacent Plaza Premium Lounge does get a little bit of light – albeit across a view of the arrivals concourse.
As for the furniture, it’s all very ‘Amex’. If you’ve been in another American Express lounge at home or abroad, you’ll feel right at home. Just watch the lamps that overhang many of the tables and booths. They’re prime for bumping with your noggin when you go to stand up.
Food and beverage at the Amex Centurion Lounge, Melbourne
When you’re visiting Melbourne’s Centurion Lounge, it largely doesn’t matter which eligible American Express Card you hold. The offerings inside are the same for Platinum Card members as they are for those with the Qantas Amex Ultimate Card or the Amex Velocity Platinum Card. Unless that is, you have the invitation-only Centurion Card.
Amex keeps a few extras tucked away for Centurion Members. For instance, Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne, Yellow Spot 12-year Irish whiskey and The Glenlivet 18-year Scotch whisky. If you’re not part of that VIP set – or just want to branch out anyway – try the Limoncello Spritz. Crafted by Amex’s ‘chef partner’ and MasterChef alumnus Khanh Ong, it’s a refreshing start to any journey. All of the beer, wine and spirits on display are gratis too.
On the food side of things, the selections strike me as a bit of a mix between a Qantas Domestic Business Lounge and a Virgin Australia Lounge. There’s a salad station, curry and rice, pasta, pizza, yoghurts in cups and a reasonable cheese and charcuterie spread. Hey, if they already know that Aussies like it, I can’t blame them for echoing the choices.
Amenities in the Amex Centurion Lounge in Melbourne
A few extra features round out the experience in Melbourne’s Amex Centurion Lounge. There are no boarding calls here, but the flight screens are prominent. They display every service departing from Terminal 2. This includes Qantas flight QF9 to Perth, which continues to London.
Have kids in tow? There’s a small place for them to play, with games and activities all set up. Separately, there’s also a shower room available, which you can book via reception. It’s shared with the Plaza Premium Lounge next door, so get in early if a booking is important to you.
As one final touch, Centurion Members have something extra to look forward to. When they’re in stock, premium Aesop amenity bags serve as a welcome gift. The bags are full of travel essentials, with each liquid in a container of under 100 ml for ease of onward transit. It’s a large package though, so some travellers may find themselves declining it – especially if they’re already carrying a lot of liquids already. But hey, that’s quite a nice problem to have.
Accessing the Amex Centurion Lounge in Melbourne
Melbourne’s Centurion Lounge welcomes a wide variety of American Express cardholders. The access rules can vary depending on which country your card is from, as well as the type of card held. While acknowledging that the policies can differ greatly for Card Members from the United States, here are the rules for those with cards issued in Australia.
American Express cards with unlimited access:
- American Express Platinum Card
- American Express Platinum Business Card
- American Express Corporate Platinum
- American Express Centurion (by invitation only)
Card Members entering the lounge using one of the products above can bring two adult guests at no charge. They can also bring children aged 17 years or younger, in addition to adult guests. Additional guests may be accommodated over and above this allowance for a fee – enquire at reception about availability and the latest cost.
American Express cards providing two visits per year:
- Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
- American Express Velocity Platinum Card
- American Express Explorer Credit Card
- American Express Business Explorer Credit Card
- Qantas American Express Corporate Platinum Card
- David Jones American Express Platinum Card (no longer for sale)
- American Express Elevate Premium Credit Card (not open for direct application)
- American Express Platinum Reserve Card (not open for direct, outside application)
All the Card accounts above include two complimentary visits per year. Each ‘visit’ is valid for one person only, one time. A paid travelling together would therefore use both visits on a single stay. Additional visits may be possible for a fee – enquire at reception. It’s not possible to pay for entry if you don’t have an eligible Amex card to begin with.
For our friends across the ditch, the American Express Airpoints Platinum Card (issued in New Zealand) also grants two visits per year.
As far as ‘credit card’ lounges go, Melbourne’s Centurion Lounge is respectable. There’s a decent selection of food and beverages, and unlike some independent lounges where these can be chargeable, they’re all gratis here. A bigger selection of hot food would make for an improvement, but I do understand the economics behind very few visitors ever directly ‘paying’ to visit the lounge.
The other detractor is the lounge’s location and the unfortunate lack of outside light. That’s something also experienced in some of Melbourne Airport’s other lounges and comes down to the design of the airport and available space. It’s worth remembering that compared to airlines – which have long snapped up the premium lounge real estate – American Express is still a comparatively newer (but established) entrant into the airport lounge space. This means that the best real estate often goes to airlines, and Amex has to make do with something ‘tier two’.
It’s not a unique situation for Melbourne. The company’s lovely Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow also has no natural light and was squeezed in next to a children’s play area. The Centurion Lounge in Los Angeles has no outside-facing views, and San Francisco’s Centurion Lounge is a long and thin rectangle overlooking check-in because that’s the space that was available at the time.
That’s just the reality of the airport lounge game, albeit with a few key standouts, like the fabulous Centurion Lounge at New York JFK. But if you go into the lounges with the right mindset and expectations, they’re still a very pleasant place to await your flight. Especially given that with the right Amex Card, you can stop by when flying any airline, in any seat. Status and travel class are irrelevant – your American Express Card has you covered.
Also reviewed: American Express Centurion Lounge, London
Photography by Antonia Strakosch. Featured image courtesy of American Express.
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