Let’s face it: with today’s emphasis on security, luxury in airports seems like a thing of the past – a relic of a bygone age seen only on television and in the movies. But for American Express card holders, that may be about to change. Feast your eyes on the lavish (and expensive) Centurion Lounge.
Over the past several months, American Express has begun to open a series of these luxurious lounges in airports in the United States, with a focus on high net-worth clientele. Lounges are currently open at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with a third location scheduled to open at San Francisco International Airport in the summer of 2014. Ultimately, it is expected that Centurion Lounges will be available at most major American air transit hubs.
The Centurion Lounge features something for all clients: comfort, restaurant-quality cuisine, and amenities for both personal and business travelers, with most services available at absolutely no additional cost.
Standard features available at all locations include comfortable and stylish décor, large flat-screen TVs and headphones, high-speed Wi-Fi, a high-tech media room, staff assistance with requests like flights, event tickets, and restaurant reservations, and a selection of complimentary newspapers and magazines.
For the business traveler, Centurion Lounges also feature a computer bar (for those who left their laptop or tablet at home), a selection of essential office equipment (printer/copier/fax), and conference rooms and semi-private workspaces (which cannot be booked in advance at present, a rare drawback to an otherwise attractive stopover).
And if that isn’t enough, select Centurion Lounge locations are expected to include such additional amenities as a luggage locker room, spa services, a Shower Suite with plush towels and L’Occitane beauty products, and a separate family area, complete with televisions and video games for the kids. All Centurion Lounges are completely smoke-free environments.
If fine cuisine is more your interest, Centurion Lounges appear determined to become first-rate dining destinations for the busy traveler. All Lounge locations feature celebrity chef-designed meals with a locally-inspired flair.
At the Lounge’s Las Vegas location, guests are treated to seasonal fare from Executive Chef Scott Conant, the owner of several highly-regarded restaurants and a frequent judge on the Food Network’s Chopped. His menu features such delightful breakfast options as Brioche French Toast with Gianduja whipped cream and Baked Polenta with Fontina & Mushrooms, while lunch/dinner options include Salted Caramel Budino and Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Stewed Baby Tomatoes.
The Executive Chef at the DFW Lounge location is the James Beard award-winning Dean Fearing, whose restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton (Dallas) was named by Zagat as the top hotel dining destination in the United States. His menu features a variety of Southwestern cuisine, including Almond Bread French Toast and a Breakfast Taco Bar for morning travelers, and South of the Border Pulled Chicken Enchilada Casserole and Spinach and Queso Enchiladas for those looking for a hearty lunch or dinner. Aside from the locally-inspired cuisine, all Centurion Lounges also feature assorted snacks available throughout the day.
The complete menu at the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge is as follows:
- Brioche French Toast with Gianduja whipped Cream
- Potato, Onion & Scallion Frittata
- Baked Polenta with Fontina & Mushrooms
- Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs
- Farro & Fall Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate & Spiced Almonds
- Kale and Escarole Salad with Parmigiano & Caesar Dressing
- Roasted Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Seeds, Sage & Yogurt
- Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Stewed Baby Tomatoes
- Roast Chicken Cacciatore
- Salted Caramel Budino
The Dallas/Fort Worth location’s complete menu looks like this:
- Almond Bread French Toast
- Egg Frittata
- Breakfast Taco Bar, featuring: Spinach, Caramelized Onions, and Aged White Cheese Taco
- Egg, Sausage, and Jalapeño Jack Cheese Taco
- Blueberry Muffins
- Toasted Vanilla Bean and Orange Pound Cake
- Sweet Corn Soup
- South of the Border Pulled Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Spinach and Queso Enchilada
- Smoked BBQ Brisket Tacos
- Salsas and Toppings,
- Warm Caramelized Apple Buckle
Drinks & Cocktails
For the thirsty traveler, Centurion Lounge locations each have a premium bar, with a wide variety of specialty cocktails – designed by noted mixologist Jim Meehan – exclusive to each location. In Vegas, one might try the Gold Rush, a modernized bourbon sour with Bulleit bourbon, lemon, and honey syrup, or the #1 Cup, with Ketel One vodka, Pimms No. 1 liqueur, ginger ale, lemon juice, and cucumber. In Dallas/Fort Worth, try the Texas Toast, with sparkling wine, Balcones True Blue 100 whiskey, Palo Cortado sherry, maple syrup, and Miracle Mile toasted pecan bitters, or the slightly spicy Tex/Mex, with Tito’s vodka, Cabeze Blanco tequila, corn, honey, lime, and jalapeño. All Centurion Lounges also feature a selection of premium wines and coffee and tea.
Access to the Centurion Lounge is available to any holder of a valid American Express credit card or charge card, including holders of cards that were issued outside of the United States. Guests may also be asked to present a same-day airline ticket and valid government-issue identification, and entry is subject to capacity (though by the looks of things, the Lounges are spacious and capacity shouldn’t be much of an issue).
Admittance to the Centurion Lounge is complimentary for holders of the AmEx Platinum Card or the ultra-prestigious, invitation-only black Centurion Card, while other AmEx card holders may purchase a One-Day Pass for $50 USD. At present, One-Day Passes may not be purchased in advance, and memberships are not currently offered. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and may enter the Lounge at no additional charge. Platinum or Centurion Card holders may invite immediate family members or a maximum of two guests to join them in the Lounge.
The Centurion Lounge: Perils and Promise
The Centurion Lounge certainly sounds like a much-needed long-term evolution in airport comfort, but the transition may not be a smooth one for all travelers. Previously, American Express had agreements in place with the American Airlines Admiral Club and US Airways Club, allowing Platinum card holders complimentary access to those lounges. This agreement expires on March 22, 2014, at which time some card holders may find themselves without a lounge option until more Centurion Lounges are opened (unless they happen to be traveling through one of the few airports with an existing Centurion Lounge, of course). This process may take several years to sort itself out.
The Centurion Lounge also represents something of a calculated risk on the part of American Express. Judging by the number of lounges likely to be built and the luxury amenities required to fill them, the lounges are a potentially huge monetary investment for the credit card company, with relatively little in immediate revenue to be expected given the modest $50 entry fee for non-Platinum Card holders. And that risk is compounded by the fact that AmEx is bypassing the traditional airline-centric lounge model, betting that travelers will opt for luxury rather than loyalty to existing lounge programs.
But drawbacks aside, The Centurion Lounge certainly sounds like an attractive option for travelers of all stripes who are interested in a little luxury living before their flight. The convenience of the Lounge will increase dramatically as more locations open, and it looks to be a winning come-on for American Express, who are constantly in search of a leg-up on their worldwide competitors Visa and MasterCard. After all, for the high-income traveler, what better incentive is there to get an AmEx Platinum card than the knowledge that much of the hassle will be permanently taken out of air travel, and at no additional cost?
So the next time you’re in Vegas or Dallas, check out The Centurion Lounge. Comfort rarely comes at so reasonable a price point, and goodness knows we could all use a little pampering before being locked into a cramped metal tube and hurtled through the sky.
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