American Express Centurion Lounge–Is It Worth the Hype?

dallas centurion lounge

This is a review of the American Express Centurion lounge at the Dallas (DFW) airport.  I’ve posted the bar and massage menus, and give you my take on whether or not it’s worth holding the AMEX Platinum card with its $450 fee just so you can get Centurion Lounge access.

How to Get Centurion Lounge Access

Be an American Express Platinum or Centurion Card Holder

Some of the more exclusive airport lounges in the US are the Centurion Lounges operated by American Express.  You have complimentary access by presenting an AMEX Platinum or Centurion card.  These are American Express’ premium cards.  Not much is known about the Centurion card.  I think if you have to ask, you are not a candidate for the card.  Many of us have gotten the AMEX Platinum for the sign-up bonuses, but have enjoyed the additional perks of lounge access.  The only downside is that the card charges a $450 yearly fee.  Note that holders of AMEX Delta Platinum cards are not eligible.

Be a Guest of an American Express Platinum or Centurion Card Holder

Card holders can bring up to two guests or immediate family (spouse and children under 18) for no extra charge.

Be an American Express Card Holder and pay a daily fee.

If you have an AMEX card (not a co-branded card) you may enter upon paying a $50 fee.

Have a Boarding Pass With a Seat Assignment

You have to have a same-day boarding pass with a seat assignment.  If you are flying nonrev you can’t enter the lounge because you are flying standby and don’t have an assigned seat.    This gets confusing–when I fly nonrev, I can enter the Delta SkyClub with a seat request card, but I can’t enter the Centurion Lounge.  I get both benefits from the AMEX Plat card. On this particular day I was traveling on an American Airlines award ticket, so I had a boarding pass with a seat assignment.

Centurion Lounge Locations

Domestic Centurion Lounges are found in Dallas (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS), New York–LaGuardia (LGA), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco (SFO).  A new lounge at Houston (IAH) is expected to open this year.  There are several international lounges located at Mexico City (MEX), Buenos Aires (EZE), Sao Paolo (CGH), and Rio de Janiero (SDU).  I’ve visited the Centurion Lounge at MEX, and while it was nice, it just doesn’t compare to the domestic lounges.  Drinks were complimentary, but there were no snacks, although you could order meals (paid) from a small menu.

What the Centurion Lounge Offers

Of course, the lounges have the usual amenities like comfortable seating, kid’s play areas, showers, wi-fi, and work areas.  But they do have some offerings that set them apart from other domestic lounges.

Signature Cocktails

Each lounge has a list of signature cocktails tailored for that specific geographic location.  I visited the DFW lounge, and as you can see in the menu below, the emphasis was on “picante.”  I had the Chamoflage, and the added ginger made it a spicy version of a margarita.  I also tried the Flor of Oaxaca, but couldn’t get past the smoky flavor of the mescal.  Or maybe it was the memory of the several bad experiences I’ve had in the distant past with mescal!

Centurion Lounge Cocktail Menu
Centurion Lounge Cocktail Menu

 

Cut-Above Offerings of Beer and Wine

I wasn’t able to taste any of the beers and wines because I had a tight schedule between my cocktail drinking and massage.  But if you peruse the wine and beer lists below, you’ll see that the offerings are definitely a step above the usual lounge offerings.

Centurion Lounge Wine Menu
Centurion Lounge Wine Menu

Centurion Lounge Beer Menu
Centurion Lounge Beer Menu

 

Complimentary 15-minute Massages

Now here we have something special!  As you are admitted to the lounge you will be asked if you want to sign up for any spa services.  You will be given a legal waiver to sign, and a sheet of paper showing your appointment time.  You are also given a card that shows the spa offerings.

Centurion Lounge Massage Menu
Centurion Lounge Massage Menu

 

The spa consists of a small waiting area with refreshments, and an attached area with three massage chairs.  When I entered, three masseuses (all young males) were finishing up with customers.  I was assigned a masseur, and he asked me what kind of massage I wanted.  I told him I had issues with tension in my neck and upper back, and he tailored the massage accordingly.  I never had to choose from the three massages! The ensuing 15 minutes were definitely the most pleasant of any time I have spent in airport lounges.

The Centurion Lounge Buffet

There were two soups on offer, one of which was Charred Tomato which was excellent–I had two bowls.  The main dish was a spinach and cheese enchilada, which I didn’t finish.  They had several salads, and guacamole and chips.  The first serving of guacamole I had was good, but when I went back for seconds, they had put out a different batch which tasted “off,” and I couldn’t finish it.  The buffet is comparable to what is available in the Delta SkyClubs, and didn’t strike me particularly as a premium experience.

Is Having Centurion Lounge Access Worth $450 a Year?

The annual fee on the American Express Platinum card is $450 a year.  You get a $200 credit per year for airline incidental fees, such as baggage fees and drinks and food while on board.  If you apply for the card mid-year, you could get this credit twice, as the benefit resets at the first of the year.  So you may want to consider that the annual fee is $50.  If I often transited the airports that contained a Centurion Lounge, I would consider the annual fee worth it, if just for the massages.  I also like that I can bring family and guests.  However, I don’t often find myself connecting in airports that have these lounges, and when I do, I am usually flying standby and wouldn’t have access anyway.  I will have a hard decision to make when my annual fee comes due this fall.

 

5 thoughts on “American Express Centurion Lounge–Is It Worth the Hype?

  1. What kind of sign up bonus did you get when you got the Platinum card? It might be worth the fee depending on what you get.

  2. Gema, I got 100,000 Membership Rewards points as a sign up bonus. I’ve seen seen the bonus range from nothing (if you look at the AMEX site right now) to 100,000. That’s why I applied when I did. I have heard of people getting targeted offers of 150,000 MRs with the business Platinum card.

  3. What do you do with your membership rewards points? I used to transfer mine to British airways but they charge those horrible surcharges on flights to Europe. We just pay cash for most of our domestic flights and use points for transatlantic flights

  4. You can also pay with MR points on the American Express travel site. I think the redemption is 1point = 1 dollar of travel.

  5. @The Donald–Well, hello Mr. Trump! I am honored that you’ve found time in your busy schedule to visit my little blog. I can understand why you won’t be using British Airways in the near future–the Brits haven’t exactly been welcoming lately, have they? You probably have a Centurion Card tucked away somewhere, or if not, you can probably get one no questions asked. Let us know of any hoops you have to jump through to get it!

    I’ve always transferred my points to Delta, but now I’m starting to think that I might try a transfer to Flying Blue (Air France) to avoid the transfer fee. You have to pay a fee to transfer to US airlines, but not to foreign carriers, and you can book Delta flights with Flying Blue miles.

    @Travntime–I don’t think you get as good of a value paying with points, but if you have points that you’re not going to use for airfare, then using them to pay for a cruise or for theme park tickets might be the way to go.

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