Editorial Policy

American Express launches own airport lounges

Tina Orem

By
May 1, 2014

If you've ever been stranded overnight in an airport terminal that reeked of burnt Asian food and body odor, you know what a savior an airport lounge can be. They have free (edible) food, places to work or stretch out, and sometimes even showers and places to sleep.

It looked as though American Express Platinum cardholders might be losing that perk. US Airways and American Airlines merged, and on March 22, 2014, American Express announced that only Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard would get lounge benefits at the Admirals Club and US Airways Clubs.

At first blush, it may seem that Platinum cardholders have been thrown out in the cold, left to sit on the torn, hard vinyl seats in Terminal B while babies cry in stereo and people fight over poorly placed electrical outlets.

But if you have a Platinum card, there's a way to escape the masses. First off, the cardholders still get into Delta Sky Clubs for free, as well as into Airspace Lounges (which operate in Baltimore-Washington International, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and JFK).Click to email me

The even bigger loophole is that Platinum cardholders still have free memberships to Priority Pass, which gets them into more than 600 VIP airport lounges around the world.  In some cases, airline lounges like the US Airways Clubs or the American Airlines Admirals Club are Priority Pass clubs, so cardholders might find a way back in through the back door. The only catch is that they have to pay $27 per guest.

And now, American Express has started its own lounge system, called the Centurion. The only Centurion lounges are in Las Vegas at McCarran International Aiport and in Dallas at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, but the company plans to open lounges at LaGuardia and San Francisco International Airport next.

In the germy, overcrowded mess that is airline travel, these lounges sound like spa getaways. They offer conference space, showers, WiFi, a buffet, a bar, printers, TVs and a services desk staffed with someone who can make travel arrangements for you. The 9,000-square-foot Centurion lounge in Terminal D of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, for example, offers “complimentary spa therapies,” Southwestern cuisine designed by local celebrity chef Dean Fearing, cocktails, and PCs.

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Even folks who aren't Platinum cardholders might want to get into the Centurion, and American Express is happy to oblige: If you hold an Amex card, you can buy a one-day pass for $50. That may sound expensive, until your flight is delayed five hours and your 3-year-old throws up on you. Then paying $50 for a shower and a hot meal might not sound so bad.