My first Amex Centurion Lounge experience — are they really as good as they say?
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I used to be one of you.
Forehead smooshed against the unblemished crystalline windows of the Amex Centurion Lounge, fantasizing of a warm greeting by the Armani-clad staff at the front desk. I’ve read about their restaurant-quality food, their famed mixologists, their free shower suites, their complimentary wine tastings. I discovered the world of miles and points in 2014 — and since then, my Centurion Lounge FOMO has been aging like an uncorked Syrah.
My expectations were impractically high. And now that I’ve tried a Centurion Lounge for the first time, I’ll give it to you straight: Are they really that good? Are they worth lugging around a heavy stainless steel Amex Platinum card with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)? After all, you can’t access these top-tier lounges unless you have:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Amex Centurion cards
- Other Amex Platinum variants
I rerouted my recent trip to Colorado so that I could visit two Centurion Lounges. I’ll give a quick account of my first impressions as a spanking new member, and help you decide if Centurion Lounges should actually sway your opinion of the Amex Platinum.
Are Amex Centurion Lounges noticeably better than Priority Pass?
I’ve got a few credit cards that grant me Priority Pass airport lounge membership. Most of you probably have Priority Pass membership, as well — there are fists full of credit cards that offer lounge access. And with 1,300+ locations worldwide, it’s definitely the easiest to use.
I love Priority Pass, and I use it as often as possible. They don’t have an overwhelming number of U.S. locations, and the quality of each lounge can vary severely. Some lounges will professionally welcome you with hot meals and day beds, while the Priority Pass lounge just next door will be manned by a bridge troll who won’t replenish the Cheerios dispenser unless you answer his riddles three.
Not the case with Centurion Lounges. They deliver a recognizable experience throughout their lounge network. I visited the lounges in Dallas-Fort Worth (their flagship lounge) and Denver (their newest lounge). And while I much preferred Denver, both lounges were uniformly high-quality.
Centurion Lounges have wildly different amenities while managing to deliver a consistent product. In Denver was a nook in front of the smaller full-service bar that had a shuffleboard table, a pool table and other random tabletop games. All equipment was kept in a nearby closet due to coronavirus precautions. Just tell the bartender what you want to play, and they will call someone to fetch the stuff.
After you’re finished, leave the equipment and let the bartender know, and someone will clean and store it all again.
The main feature of the Dallas lounge is its possession of an Exhale Spa. You can receive complimentary 15-minute massages on a first-come-first-served basis. Just head to the front desk to make an appointment.
However, due to coronavirus, the masseur was not allowed to touch the person they were massaging. Instead, we were provided a Theragun (that handheld machine that punches you over and over), with the masseur standing six feet away with his hands cupped around his mouth, yelling strategic locations to direct the punching machine.
It was not relaxing.
The lounges also have showers, which many other lounges charge to use. This is a great feature, but realize that you’re only allowed in Centurion Lounges before a departure flight — you won’t be able to pop in upon arrival if you want to freshen up (unless you’re connecting and have another upcoming flight).
For that reason, I don’t value the shower amenity too much. Who is showering at the airport before their first flight of the day?
Food and alcohol
You can’t swing a Fendi tote without knocking over a bottle of high-shelf alcohol in the Centurion Lounge. Some locations have multiple full-service bars, like the one in Denver. The bartender was explicit in saying if you don’t like something, just bring it back and she’ll make another since it’s free!
The lounge has its own unique mixed drink menu, which lists some very unique creations. Too unique for my delicate palate, actually. The final alcohol tally was:
- Cold Byyrh (on the menu below)
- Old Fashioned
- Some kind of local beer on tap
- Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka with cranberry juice
I’m telling you now, that’s at least $60 worth of airport alcohol. The drinks were very strong — and again, very free.
Both Dallas and Denver served better food than I’ve had in just about any other lounge. Breakfast in Dallas included items like:
- Vanilla french toast
- Fancy quiche
- Bowls and bowls of berries
- Carrot ginger wellness shots
And for lunch in Denver:
- Avocado bruschetta
- Grilled chicken, potatoes, and broccoli
- Some kind of butternut squashy soup
- Tomato basil rigatoni
- Nutella crepes
Again, this represents a ton of savings from the same experience at an airport restaurant. Another $120 between both lounges, conservatively.
Decor and vibe
I really like wood, and I really like festoon lights. The Centurion Lounge at DFW scratches those itches in a unique way. It’s very inviting, and its variety of lighting gave the lounge a feel of a fancy restaurant under the stars. Off-hand, probably the prettiest domestic lounge I’ve seen in years.
The lounge at Denver was a bit more sterile. It was pretty, but no match for Dallas.
Amex recently made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: The Amex Platinum Card comes with 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening. PLUS, 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases, during the first six months of account opening.
That’s ridiculous. We estimate Amex points are worth 1.8 cents on average, meaning the bonus alone is worth $1,350+ toward travel. And the 10x at U.S. supermarkets means I’m getting around 18% back on groceries! I had to open the card — and right away I wanted to try out one of the most lauded Amex Platinum benefits: The Centurion Lounges.
I have to admit, the flagship lounge in Dallas was a bit of a disappointment (though almost certainly due to coronavirus restrictions). But the Denver location was the single best domestic lounge I’ve visited. And I’ve been to a whole bunch.
Centurion Lounges are definitely a worthwhile benefit if you’re able to use them three or four times per year. I’d estimate that visiting the Centurion Lounges in both Dallas and Denver saved me $180+ on food and alcohol.
Let me know what you think of Centurion Lounges. And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel posts like this delivered to your inbox once per day.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here
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