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After reopening most of its lauded lounge network by the end of 2020, American Express opened its first new Centurion Lounge of 2021 on Monday, as the Denver location welcomed visitors for the very first time.
“We’re excited to unveil a new Centurion Lounge at one of the most frequented airports by our premium card members, Denver International Airport, and provide a safe and comfortable space them as they look to start their travels again,” says Alexander Lee, Vice President of Travel Experiences and Benefits at American Express.
Located in the Concourse C mezzanine, the new lounge covers more than 14,000 square feet, making it the second-largest Centurion Lounge location to date.
According to the issuer, the Denver location is the first in the network to include a live-action cooking station with a daily rotating menu of breakfast and lunch items, where guests can get dishes prepared à la carte and customize them to their personal preferences.
The Executive Chef of the new Denver Centurion Lounge is James Beard Foundation Award-winning Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. His locally-sourced menu is inspired by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Northern Italy, incorporating a variety of local and artisanal ingredients.
Visitors can also spot locally-inspired design touches throughout the lounge, which are intended to be reminiscent of the natural environment and scenery of the city of Denver. Features include geometric ceiling installations that mimic the mountainous area, a mural of the Rocky Mountains and a two-sided living wall visible from within the lounge and from the concourse below.
In addition to the new Denver lounge, a brand-new lounge at New York’s JFK airport also opened for the first time last October, and the issuer expects to open a new lounge at London’s Heathrow airport this year.
Of the 12 other Amex Centurion Lounges that existed before the pandemic, 10 have now reopened. The Hong Kong location remains closed, and the lounge at New York’s LaGuardia airport will not reopen until a new lounge is built in the facility’s new Terminal B, which is expected to be completed in 2021.
Amex has also implemented a set of health and safety protocols and practices meant to protect travelers in its lounges. Called the “Centurion Lounge Commitment,” the procedures include the option for contactless mobile check-in, capacity restrictions and reconfigured seating to allow for social distancing. Guests and employees are also required to wear masks while in the lounge, and surfaces are cleaned more frequently.
All Centurion Lounges were closed last March due to the coronavirus pandemic and its drastic impact on travel demand. Lee says that Amex works closely with state and local health authorities to open its lounges safely.
“Our principal aim has been reopening when we feel we can create a safe environment for our employees and customers,” Lee tells CNN Underscored. There are also enhanced screening requirements for employees, including temperature checks and coronavirus tests as needed.
Under the new safety protocols, buffets in the Centurion Lounges are temporarily eliminated. However, the issuer still provides its premium food offerings to guests using servers in most locations. This should be welcome news to Centurion Lounge regulars, as American Express has led the way in food quality at domestic airport lounges in the United States.
The famous Centurion Lounge bars remain open but feature a shorter cocktail menu in order to reduce wait times and bar crowding.
When it comes to spa services and showers, it will be a while before the full experience returns. The lounge spas are limited to services without person-to-person contact. Theragun massages are taking the place of traditional massages for now, and treatment areas are sanitized between appointments. Unfortunately, showers remain temporarily closed as well.
Implementing a Centurion Lounge waiting list
Due to social distancing requirements, Amex has needed to reduce capacity in its Centurion Lounges. Many lounges already had issues with overcrowding before the pandemic, and while travel volume is still down significantly, reduced seating capacity may lead to some card members getting turned away.
Lee tells CNN Underscored that the issuer is utilizing a waiting list tool for customers who cannot be immediately accommodated due to capacity restrictions. “The tool allows us to make sure we log them and notify them as soon as there’s capacity in the lounge” via a text message sent to their phone, Lee explains. Upon check-in, card members are given guidance on how long to expect to wait.
A significant reduction in travelers may also help reduce wait times, depending on the situation. “It’s going to vary a lot by airport, it’s going to vary a lot by time of day, it’s going to vary by travel season,” says Lee. But, he adds, “we feel comfortable that we’ll be able to accommodate customers as we have in the past.”
Upcoming Centurion Lounge expansions
American Express previously announced several upcoming Centurion Lounge expansions, encompassing the current locations in Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport. The issuer also confirmed that joining those lounges in expanding will be the Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which will move to an entirely new location.
Located beyond security in the airport’s new Terminal B, the relocated LaGuardia lounge will double in size, adding much-needed workstations, a family room and views of the New York City skyline. Both expansions are expected to be completed in 2021.
The Centurion Lounges in Las Vegas, Seattle and San Francisco have reopened while the expansions are underway, though there may be some brief closure periods. However, the LaGuardia Centurion Lounge will not reopen until the new expanded lounge is completed.
In the meantime, the issuer says it remains committed to its Centurion Lounge network, and still expects to open its previously announced new lounge in London, though the timing will depend on the guidance and protocols of local health authorities.
According to Lee, the pandemic also won’t stop Amex from pursuing future Centurion Lounge expansions in new cities. “We’re still committed to our lounge proposition and to our customers,” he says. “The pandemic has changed travel for the immediate term and will have lasting effects, but as customers come back to travel, they’ll be looking to us” to be a part of their travel experience.
How to access the reopened Amex Centurion Lounges
Access to the Centurion Lounges is one of the key benefits of both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express as well as the invitation-only Amex Centurion cards. The personal and business cards carry annual fees of $550 and $595, respectively, and are geared toward road warriors and small-business owners.
You can also access the Centurion Lounges with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, but you must be traveling on a Delta flight on the same day you enter the lounge in order to be admitted with these two Delta credit cards.
And for everyone who’s still staying home, the recently released limited-time benefits on American Express Platinum cards may take some of the sting out of that annual fee until you’re able to relax with a craft cocktail at a reopened Centurion Lounge.
Amex Centurion Lounge locations
American Express Centurion Lounges can cover you in some of the largest international airports in the world, though the Centurion Lounge footprint itself is focused in the United States. Here’s the list of current and announced future locations.
Centurion Lounge locations cover a number of hub cities for domestic U.S. airlines, with some additional locations (Las Vegas) set in 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, especially right now with capacity restrictions in effect due to the pandemic.
Here’s a detailed look at each Centurion Lounge, including where you can find them in each airport.
Lounge status: Open.
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 originally opened for the first time on February 24, so crowds were a bit hard to gauge before the pandemic temporarily closed everything down. 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)
Lounge status: Open.
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.)
There are normally multiple showers in the Dallas Centurion Lounge to help feel refreshed after a long flight, but they’re currently closed due to the pandemic. And DFW is also one of the Centurion Lounges that normally offers complimentary spa services, but lounge spas are currently limited to services without person-to-person contact. Theragun massages take the place of traditional massages for now, and treatment areas are sanitized between appointments.
Lounge status: Open.
Where to find it: Concourse C, just past gate C46 on the Mezzanine level.
The Denver location hosts a variety of locally inspired amenities, including American Express’ first-ever Craft Beer Bar, which offers rotating selections of some of Colorado’s best local brews, a locally sourced Italian-inspired menu curated by award-winning Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, design features reminiscent of Denver’s neighboring Rocky Mountains, immersive game options and more.
This brand-new lounge also has a game room with a variety of options, including pool and shuffleboard tables, as well as custom, large-scale classics such as Connect Four and Checkers. As part of the Centurion Lounge Commitment, games will be cleaned and sanitized after each use.
Hong Kong (HKG)
Lounge status: Closed — no reopening information currently available.
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 card members.
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.
Lounge status: Open.
Where to find it: Terminal D, elevators near gate D6.
The Houston Centurion Lounge is generally on the quieter side. While the airport normally 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, and with the current dropoff in travel, finding a seat here shouldn’t be difficult once it reopens.
You can usually find a quiet place to work in this lounge, and food and beverage offerings are solid, on par with the rest of the Centurion Lounges (it’s an area where they consistently shine). There’s normally no wait to grab one of the showers, but they’re currently closed due to the pandemic.
Even outside of the pandemic, 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)
Lounge status: Open.
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, but you may have trouble finding a seat during peak times. The bar is also on the smaller side, as is the dining area.
Amex recently announced plans to expand the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge from its current size of nearly 9,000 square feet to over 13,400 square feet, an almost 50% increase. The expansion, which is scheduled to be completed in 2021, will also feature additional multi-purpose areas, new private telephone rooms, newly-designed workspace areas and a new reception.
For now, 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.
Los Angeles (LAX)
Lounge status: Open.
Where to find it: Tom Bradley International Terminal, entrance on the departures level right after security, then take the elevators two floors down.
On March 9, the long-awaited new Centurion Lounge location at Los Angeles (LAX) International Airport opened to the public, and after closing for several months due to the pandemic, it reopened again on November 9.
The new LAX 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.
During our visit to the LAX lounge, 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 though 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:
At nearly 14,000 square feet, this is a spacious lounge, which should help alleviate some of the overcrowding issues Amex has experienced at other Centurion Lounges, even with capacity restrictions. But in person, it doesn’t feel huge because the space is cut into many smaller rooms, which may make finding a seat easier.
Normally 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.
However, due to local government directives, the LAX Centurion Lounge is not currently offering in-lounge dining, and instead is providing grab-and-go pre-packaged food and beverage options for card members to enjoy outside of the lounge.
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.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given its location, the LAX Centurion Lounge focuses on wellness, with two 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, while 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.”
The LAX Centurion Lounge also normally features spa services by Exhale, with complimentary services that will undoubtedly be as popular as they are at other Centurion Lounges equipped with spas once full spa services are again available.
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.
Lounge status: Open.
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.
Outside of the pandemic restrictions, showers are available, which is especially handy if you just got off a long flight from South America (though that’s also less likely right now during the pandemic). And if you’re stressed from a long flight, the complimentary spa service should be your first stop once spa services resume.
New York/LaGuardia (LGA)
Lounge status: Closed. A new lounge is being built in LaGuardia’s Terminal B and is scheduled to open in 2021. The old lounge will not reopen in the interim.
Lounge status: Open.
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.
There are no spa services at this location and the showers are currently closed due to the pandemic, but there are 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.
Lounge status: Open.
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 Jan. 6, 2020), 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, which is currently closed due to the pandemic.
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.
Lounge status: Open.
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 are no spa services in such a small space, and the one shower is currently closed due to the pandemic. 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, especially with the current capacity restrictions.
San Francisco (SFO)
Lounge status: Open.
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. And whi;e there’s normally a shower available if you need to refresh, it remains temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions.
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.
For more information on the reopening of the Amex Centurion Lounges, visit thecenturionlounge.com/reopening.
Check out CNN Underscored’s review of the new New York JFK Centurion Lounge.