American Express’ large Card Member lounge is a relatively recent addition to Sydney International Airport. You can’t pay to get in, but flashing the right Amex card at the entrance will let you breeze through into this stylish space to wait out your flight.
In fact, if your card allows two entries a year in Sydney or Melbourne, I’d definitely recommend you use those passes in Sydney if your travel plans allow.
With the Amex Lounge being three times larger than the previous iteration – at over 600 square metres – there’s plenty more room to go around, plus added amenities such as shower rooms. We take a fresh new look at the Amex Lounge before it later rebrands as a Centurion Lounge.
Lounge location and details
The American Express lounge is located in the T1 International terminal, near Gates 50-63. It’s a great option if you’re travelling with Star Alliance carriers. If you are travelling on oneworld carriers, be aware that many of these flights depart from gates that can be more than a 10 minutes walk away.
The lounge currently opens from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week.
The lounge is divided into three distinct areas: an open dining space, a secluded resting space, and a ‘social’ area with multiple LCD displays, bench seating and self-serve beverages. Speaking with Point Hacks, the designer of the lounge and director of Mitch Squires and Associates commented:
What we wanted to achieve with this lounge is a fusion between what people might experience in an American Express Centurion lounge with the casual and relaxed feel of a sports bar. The brief was all about creating a stress-free haven for eligible American Express Card Members and their guests.– Mitch Squires
Entering the lounge, I’m greeted with the familiar green wall, which is a key design feature of American Express lounges worldwide. To the left, there’s the main dining room with the kitchen, booths and café-style seating.
The ‘social’ area features two long tables with bench seats in front of a bank of LCD screens and the self-service refreshment areas. Behind the bench seats are private alcove/booth seating that lets you have a quiet conversation with your guests while still being connected to the public space.
On the right, I come across the main lounge space with several different seating options. I’m quite a fan of the winged chairs with ottomans – it would be a nice spot to kick back with a drink!
This space features plenty of power points to charge your devices while you’re relaxing. There are also limited window views into the arrivals concourse and further out to the apron. That’s a massive improvement over the old Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, which had no windows at all.
A key component of the design brief for the lounge was to have an ‘activation space’ that could be used for multiple purposes.
The activation space was a key component to the design of the lounge, so that AMEX could use it for product launches, wine tastings, or other transitory installations to surprise and delight members and guests.– Mitch Squires
Food & beverage
Previously, American Express introduced ‘live cooking’ stations into the lounge. But this hasn’t yet returned since the lounge re-opened post-COVID. Still, the hot and cold buffet stations offer great variety and quality – better than what’s in the Qantas International Business Lounge, for example.
A number of eye-pleasing salads are the prelude to six hot dishes including stir-fry noodles, chicken cacciatore, chicken and corn soup and pasta carbonara. There are also a few colourful desserts to round off the meal, such as rocky road.
Like the Plaza Premium Lounge, which runs the catering in the Amex lounge, tap beers aren’t available just yet. But there is a pleasing array of beers, wines and spirits available for no extra cost. Barista-brewed coffee is available from the bar, and you can certainly ask for cocktails such as an espresso martini.
Setting the new Amex lounge apart from its predecessor is the inclusion of shower suites. There are three of them in total and all come stocked with L’Occitane en Provence products. Unfortunately, the shower rooms were closed during my visit but should be reopening again shortly.
Australian interior design firm, IA Design, worked with local artists to create bespoke wall decals for both the male and female bathrooms that feature Sydney-inspired imagery.
Fast and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the lounge. We clocked the speeds at 53 Mbps down and 58 Mbps up, with a ping of just 5ms. That’s plenty of bandwidth for everyone.
Lounge Access Options
American Express Card Members with the following cards can access this lounge on an unlimited basis, along with up to two guests and children under the age of 17:
Plenty more American Express cards also include two single-entry passes per calendar year, while you remain a Card Member. You’ll need to use one pass per guest for these cards.
- Platinum Corporate Card
- Explorer Credit Card
- Business Explorer Credit Card
- Platinum Reserve Credit Card
- David Jones American Express Platinum Card
- Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
- Qantas American Express Corporate Platinum Card
- Velocity Platinum Card
- Airpoints Platinum Card (NZ)
Summing up: our take
American Express, in conjunction with Plaza Premium and its design partners, have done a brilliant job of delivering a new lounge experience for their Card Members at Sydney International Airport. The natural and neutral tones used throughout make it an inviting and pleasant lounge to spend time in before your flight, and the choice of three spaces gives travellers the opportunity to dine, relax or socialise.
Some guests may miss the more expansive views from the old lounge (which is now the Plaza Premium Lounge). But there’s no denying American Express is doing so much better in this much larger space. There are more seating options, a bigger range of food & beverage, and shower facilities. It seriously competes as one of the best third-party lounges in Sydney.
Photography by Brandon Loo, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense. He accessed the American Express Lounge as a guest of Plaza Premium. Quotes from Mitch Squires were previously written by Greg Stone.