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Update: As of March 21, all Amex Centurion Lounges worldwide are temporarily closed due to health and safety precautions stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.
For business travelers, there may be no greater airport oasis than an American Express Centurion Lounge, and on Monday, March 9, the long-awaited new Centurion Lounge location at Los Angeles (LAX) International Airport will open to the public. CNN Underscored got a sneak preview of the latest luxury spot for road warriors.
Housed in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal, the new Centurion Lounge is likely to be most popular with international flyers, though airside connections built in recent years will allow passengers departing out of Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 to also make it to the lounge without having to re-clear security.
That said, we walked the entire distance from the furthest Terminal 8 to the new lounge, and it's a hike. We timed it at 22 minutes, which means almost a 45-minute round-trip if you want to visit the LAX Centurion Lounge from United's gates in T8.
While there's no walkable airside connection from Terminals 2 and 3, there is a shuttle bus that can get you over to the Tom Bradley Terminal without going out and back through security. But while the ride itself is only five minutes, you'll need to budget more than that. The bus drops you off at the back of the Bradley Terminal, which means another 10-minute walk to get to the lounge. Figure in extra time to wait for the bus and we'd suggest giving yourself 20-30 minutes each way to be safe.
Here are the times as we clocked them to the Centurion Lounge from each LAX terminal:
The LAX Centurion Lounge isn't on the same floor as the rest of the Bradley Terminal lounge. Rather, the entrance is on the departures level. From there, you'll take an elevator down two floors to the Member Services check-in desk, where you'll need to produce your eligible Amex card to gain entry.
At nearly 14,000 square feet, this is a spacious lounge. But in person, it doesn't feel huge because the space is cut into many smaller rooms, which ideally may make finding a seat easier.
The size of the lounge alone should help alleviate some of the overcrowding issues Amex has experienced at other Centurion Lounges, a fact that Alexander Lee, the Vice President of Loyalty and Benefits at American Express, acknowledged in a conversation with CNN Underscored.
"With these new lounges, we're building them bigger," Lee said. "We've invested in expanding lounges where it makes sense. You've seen that in Dallas and Miami, and I think you'll see more of that in the future."
The menu at the LAX Centurion Lounge is curated by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Nancy Silverton. Custom locally-inspired dishes include asparagus egg pie, mozzarella antipasti, mozza meatballs and butterscotch budino, just to name a few.
As with other Centurion Lounges, the LAX location features private workspaces for business travelers who need a spot to put down their laptop and get some work done before their flight.
Due to construction in the terminal, there wasn't lounge-specific Wi-Fi during our preview visit, and cell service in the lounge was poor. Fortunately, Amex tells us there will be Wi-Fi when the lounge opens on Monday, and the regular LAX airport Wi-Fi connection is available inside the lounge as well. Our tests showed it running at a respectably high 60 Mpbs, which should be more than adequate for the needs of business travelers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given its location, the LAX Centurion Lounge focuses on wellness, with tranquility rooms to assist travelers arriving in a new time zone. The idea of the Sunrise room is to provide extra brightness for passengers who need to adjust to an earlier time zone or to "subtly energize you before flight," according to Amex.
On the other hand, the Moonrise room features a "starry sky" ceiling inspired by a planetarium, and is "designed to help usher a sense of nighttime relaxation, whether for napping before takeoff or preparing for an overnight flight."
Both rooms were fun to visit, especially lying on the couches in the Moonrise room and staring up at the ceiling. But it'll be up to lounge visitors to decide whether these themed rooms are merely gimmicks or truly useful for adjusting to changing time zones.
The new LAX Centurion Lounge also features spa services by Exhale. Services will be complimentary and will undoubtedly be as popular as they are at other Centurion Lounges equipped with spas.
And of course, no Centurion Lounge would be complete without a full complimentary bar. Premium wine selections at the LAX Centurion are curated by wine director Anthony Giglio, and specialty cocktails partially inspired by L.A.'s cocktail culture by Centurion Lounge mixologist Jim Meehan. The lounge will also feature coffee from Los Angeles-based City Bean Roasters.
Along with the mozza meatballs and mozzarella antipasti from the buffet, we had a chance to sample the bar's Blue Door cocktail, a mixture of Johnnie Walker Black whisky, Myers Dark rum, lemon juice, benedictine and ricard pastis. The food was tasty, and frankly, if the staff kept bringing Blue Doors to our table, we'd be more than happy to miss our flight.
With three additional Centurion Lounges on the way in 2020 alone, Amex is firmly committed to expanding its lounge network. "We take a very focused look at where our customers travel," Lee said. "That's what influenced Hong Kong. That's what influenced London. Our customers love our lounges."
How to access Amex Centurion Lounges
Despite their name, you don't need to hold the exclusive American Express Centurion Card to gain access to Amex Centurion Lounges. In fact, you can get into the most comfortable and relaxing spot at the airport with any of the following Amex cards:
- Customers holding The Platinum Card from American Express or the Business Platinum Card from American Express are allowed to access any of the Centurion Lounges worldwide.
- Customers holding the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card are allowed to access any Centurion Lounge worldwide, provided that they have same-day travel on a Delta flight.
In addition, cardmembers holding the invitation-only Centurion® Card from American Express (colloquially known as the "Amex Black Card") or the American Express Business Centurion® Card can access any Centurion Lounge, and without time limits.
As a general rule, Amex Platinum and Delta Reserve cardmembers can access the Centurion Lounges up to 3 hours prior to departure of their first flight, and at any time between connecting flight itineraries of 24 hours or less. Only invite-only Centurion cardmembers can use Centurion Lounges upon arrival at their final destination.
You may find the enforcement of the 3-hour rule selective based on crowds. Smaller Centurion Lounges, such as Seattle, are frequently overcrowded and more restrictive on entry requirements, while bigger lounges with more space can be more generous with time.
Amex Platinum cardmembers are also entitled to bring two complimentary guests into a Centurion Lounge with them, and may purchase access for additional guests at a rate of $50 per guest, per visit (subject to capacity). Delta Reserve cardmembers don't have complimentary guest privileges, but may bring up to two guests at a rate of $50 per guest, per visit.
For large families, the best deal may be to get an Amex Platinum card and then add authorized user cards to the account. You'll pay a fee of $175 to add up to three authorized users, but each of those users not only get Centurion Lounge access of their own, but two additional complimentary guests as well. So if your family travels often, the cost could easily be worth it.
Current Amex Centurion Lounge locations
With 12 lounges now open and three more on the way in 2020, Centurion Lounges can cover you in some of the largest international airports in the world, though the Centurion Lounge footprint is heavily focused in the United States. The list of current and announced future locations is as follows:
- Charlotte (CLT)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Denver (DEN): Scheduled for 2020
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Houston (IAH)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- London Heathrow (LHR): Scheduled for summer 2020
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- New York (LGA)
- New York (JFK): Scheduled for summer 2020
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
Centurion Lounge locations cover a number of hub cities for domestic U.S. airlines, with some additional locations (Las Vegas) that cater to popular locations. While business travelers have different needs from leisure travelers, the Centurion Lounges cater to both groups, though peak times can make it difficult for business travelers to find work space.
Let's take a detailed look at each Centurion Lounge, including where you can find them in each airport.
Where to find it: Between concourses D and E on the Mezzanine level.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a major domestic hub for American Airlines. There are some international flights, but the airport serves primarily to move tens of thousands of passengers around the U.S. for American.
So aside from the Centurion Lounge, you won't find much in the way of premium lounges in Charlotte. American's own Admirals Clubs, while sizable, tend to be crowded, making the Centurion Lounge at Charlotte by far the most upscale option for travelers.
The Charlotte Centurion Lounge just opened on February 24, so crowds are a bit hard to gauge at the moment. But this is one of the larger Centurion Lounges at more than 13,000 square feet.
Still, many of the seating options in the lounge aren't suited for long stretches with a laptop. There's a large common table if driving a desk is on your list, though you may find the seating in the cafe a bit more conducive to working. Phone rooms can provide privacy and a quiet place to dial into a conference call.
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
Where to find it: Terminal D, across from gate D12 on the Mezzanine level.
The Dallas/Fort Worth airport housed the largest Centurion Lounge for quite some time, and while it can no longer lay claim to that title, it's still one of the bigger lounges at over 12,000 square feet. There are plenty of semi-private seating options with small desks and power sources if you need a place to work in between flights.
The DFW lounge has one of the largest dining and bar areas amongst the Centurion Lounges with plenty of food and drink options, and you should be able to find a seat even when it's busy. (Don't forget about upgraded complimentary champagne if you hold the Amex Centurion Card.)
You'll also find multiple showers in the Dallas Centurion Lounge to help feel refreshed after a long flight. And DFW is also one of the Centurion Lounges that offers complimentary spa services — they're very popular, so make sure to reserve as soon as you arrive.
Hong Kong (HKG)
Where to find it: Terminal 1, near gate 60.
The Hong Kong Centurion Lounge is the first Amex Centurion Lounge outside the United States, and it faces a lot of competition from Cathay Pacific's world-renowned Hong Kong lounges (some of which are currently closed due to decreasing travel demand from the coronavirus). It's also currently the only Centurion Lounge to feature a "lounge within a lounge" exclusively for Amex Centurion cardmembers.
This lounge gets crowded quickly, so be prepared to table stalk a bit to find the right spot, as the space is less geared toward the business traveler who needs a desk to get some work done. A massive bar welcomes weary travelers in need of a drink, as well as a substantial buffet. Shower services are limited, so put your name on the list early.
Where to find it: Terminal D, elevators near gate D6.
The Houston Centurion Lounge is generally on the quieter side. While the airport hosts plenty of international flights, the spread-out nature of the terminals probably dissuades some travelers from making the hike over to the D Terminal to visit this lounge.
As a result, you should usually be able to find an empty seat, as well as a quiet place to work. Showers are available, and there's generally no wait to grab one. Food and beverage offerings are also solid, on par with the rest of the Centurion Lounges (it's an area where they consistently shine).
You won't find spa services here, but you'll find pretty much everything else you're hoping for in a lounge experience. With the possible exception of United's Polaris Lounge, this is the best lounge at IAH.
Las Vegas (LAS)
Where to find it: Concourse D, opposite gate D1.
While Vegas may be filled with every VIP experience imaginable, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas isn't exactly swimming in upscale lounges. In fact, you won't find many lounges at all. That means the Centurion Lounge here is easily the best option.
This Centurion Lounge location features some semi-private workspaces and showers, but you may have trouble finding a seat during peak times. While this isn't the biggest Centurion Lounge, it's not the smallest (and could probably use some extra square footage). The bar is also on the smaller side, as is the dining area.
The only sure way to get a seat here is to carry the Centurion Card, as a section in the quietest part of the lounge is reserved exclusively for these elite members.
Where to find it: In Concourse D, elevator near gate D12.
American Express completed an expansion of this lounge last year, which was incredibly welcome, as the Miami lounge has notoriously struggled with overcrowding.
However, the vast majority of added space is in bar seating and the dining room. While sitting in the bar area and watching the planes taxi back and forth is a relaxing way to kill some time, you may have to settle for a chair in the dining room if you need to get work done.
Showers are available, which is especially handy if you just got off a long flight from South America. And if you're stressed from a long flight, the complimentary spa service should be your first stop.
New York/LaGuardia (LGA)
Where to find it: This is only Centurion Lounge in the U.S. that's outside security, in Terminal B between the B and C concourses on the 3rd floor.
The LaGuardia Centurion Lounge is much smaller than some others, but still scores points for being the best lounge at the airport. While you won't find spa services or showers, you're almost certain to find an empty seat. And, the unique shape of the lounge lends itself to some quieter areas to set up shop with your laptop.
Similar to all the other Centurion Lounges, you'll find upgraded food and beverage options including the signature bar area. You can grab a drink and sit at the counters to get some work done while you watch all the plane activity at LGA.
Because the lounge is outside security, you can visit it no matter what airline you're departing on — you'll just need to leave some extra time to get to the gate. That unique arrangement may be why the lounge isn't usually crowded, with business travelers bypassing the lounge to make sure they can be at their gate when boarding starts.
But if you've ever departed from LGA, you'll understand why extra time in the Centurion Lounge is the best relaxation you'll find there.
Where to find it: Terminal A West, near gate A14.
The Philadelphia Centurion Lounge is a bit on the smaller side, but there's still a good chance you'll be able to find a workspace on your next layover. As with all the other Centurion Lounge locations, the bar and signature food items really do shine, along with some comfortable couches in the dining area.
While there are no spa services at the location, you'll at least be able to grab a shower if needed, and there are also phone rooms if you need a quiet place for a conference call. Unless you have access to the British Airways First Class Lounge at PHL, the Centurion Lounge is the place to be while waiting for your flight.
Where to find it: Terminal 4 across from gate B22 on upper level.
The Phoenix lounge is a small haven in a large airport. While not the smallest Centurion Lounge, you won't find tons of space to spread out. That being said, as one of the newer lounges (it opened on January 6), it's just as enjoyable as the others.
The signature bar area has plenty of room to go along with its great libations. But in a bit of an odd twist, there's a shared space of sorts with the also brand-new Escape Lounge, which is used when the Centurion Lounge gets crowded. There are no spa services and only one shower shared between the two lounges, so you'll definitely need to request it early.
The good news is that seats are plentiful, and the layout lends itself to people being able to find a quiet place to work. You won't find a phone room for quiet calls, but one of the nooks near the front of the lounge may suffice. The Phoenix Centurion Lounge clearly leads the way for premium lounges at PHX.
Where to find it: Concourse B, opposite gate B3.
Seattle's Centurion Lounge is tiny. In fact, it's so small that it used to be referred to as the "Centurion Studio." A small expansion a few years ago helped, but this lounge is extremely prone to overcrowding.
There's only one shower, so get your request in early. There are also no spa services in such a small space, but you'll find the food and beverage options totally up to par with Centurion Lounge standards.
The one upside is that a handful of smaller areas that may make it easier to find a quiet spot to work. But with just over 100 seats, don't be surprised to find the Seattle lounge full during peak business hours.
San Francisco (SFO)
Where to find it: Terminal 3, near gate F1.
There are plenty of premium lounge offerings at SFO, and the Centurion Lounge holds its own. As is typical with the rest of the Centurion Lounges, you'll find a great food and wine spread at the SFO lounge, including a wine wall in the dining area and an open kitchen alongside the buffet.
What truly sets the SFO Centurion Lounge apart is the variety of high-quality food and wine offerings, frequently rotated through the seasons. Also unique to the SFO lounge is a wine tasting area that you should definitely block some time for.
There are plenty of areas in this lounge to find a place to work, and you won't suffer from a lack of comfortable chairs, workspaces or power outlets. Plus, if a shower is what you need to refresh, they have one, but you'll want to reserve early to guarantee availability.
Want to access the Centurion Lounges? Use one of these Amex cards:
Learn more about The Platinum Card from American Express.
Learn more about the Business Platinum Card from American Express.
Learn more about the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
Learn more about the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.