American Express has been able to boast some of the best airline lounges in the United States since they opened their first Centurion Lounge in 2013 at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport. When the pandemic began halting most travel in March, American Express closed all 12 of their lounges worldwide. While American, Delta and United Airlines temporarily closed a number of their lounges in the United States, they did keep some open. Additionally, the Big 3 US airlines have slowly been reopening lounges and have also recently announced increases in the benefits offered.
American Express is poised to join the fray with the announcement they will reopen Centurion Lounges in Seattle and Philadelphia on October 5th. While they didn’t announce any other opening dates, American Express appears to be working hard to bring more lounges back online quickly. They’ve definitely charted a different course than the big airlines. American Express is determined to open lounges only when they can offer their signature experience.
Catering to card members who hold their premium Platinum and Centurion credit cards, the Centurion Lounges offers a much more luxurious experience than the typical domestic airline lounge. After all, you’re unlikely to find massages and wine tastings at an Admirals Club or United Club. Or Champagne and craft cocktails, just a few of the really awesome benefits available to card members with Centurion Lounge access. No word yet on whether the spa services are returning as lounges reopen.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a $550 annual fee. The Business Platinum Card has a $595 annual fee. I carry the Business Platinum Card. I’m willing to pay that steep annual fee for 3 key benefits:
- 1.5 points per dollar on large transactions over $5,000
- 35% rebate on qualifying airfare when you pay with Membership Rewards points
- Centurion Lounge access
There are other benefits. 5 points per dollar when you book travel through the AMEX portal, and a $200 airline fee credit each year are popular. But, the 3 benefits above are what I value most as a small business owner. Since I’m not traveling (and the Centurion Lounges have been closed for months) it’s been difficult to get the sort of value out of this card as I have in the past. American Express has been one of a handful of banks offering extra limited-time benefits for card members who aren’t traveling right now.
Folks who love the Centurion Lounges will be excited for the next 12 months. AMEX had already announced an expansion of the Las Vegas lounge. That’s solid news since it used to hit capacity on a regular basis. They’ve also now announced an expansion of the lounge at LaGuardia. Coupled with that, American Express also believes it will open new lounges in Denver, New York-JFK and London Heathrow airports later this year.
The Final Two Pennies
It’s good to see American Express begin the process of reopening the Centurion Lounges. Seattle is one of the smaller lounges and Philadelphia doesn’t see the traffic of DFW or Las Vegas. I’m sure AMEX is dealing with a different set of requirements in every airport where they operate a lounge. That means we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to enjoy the fabulous food and craft cocktails of a Centurion Lounge. For those of us comfortable at home (or driving a big RV, like my family) the extended wait won’t sting too much. I’ll look forward to a glass of Champagne the next time I swing into Las Vegas airport.
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