If you are traveling from Las Vegas, bypass the slot machines. Head directly to the American Express Centurion Lounge.
If you’re lucky enough to wind up in a American Express Centurion lounge, you may wish you had arrived earlier or that your plane was departing later. Really.
This was our first visit to the lounge that opened more than a year ago at Terminal 1 in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. We’ve been in many lounges but this one truly made us reminisce about the days when flying felt luxurious, flyers weren’t squirreled into tiny seats, and passengers weren’t nickel-and-dimed.
Centrally located across from Gate D1, the contemporary space is light and airy with see-thru shades that block out the blazing Las Vegas sunshine. Seating is ample and comfortable, and the setting looks like one of the spirited workspaces of tech giants like Google, Facebook or LinkedIn. Large graphics of Vegas headliners decorate the walls.
Guests can choose one of the pillowed nooks lining the periphery of the room (large enough to lie down in); one of the string of chaise lounges (big enough to fit two); or a comfortable couch with a huge Alessi fruit bowl on the nearby cocktail table. We sat down at the one with a mound of fresh white peaches, opposite a priceless portrait of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in their prime—passing nearby tables with apple, orange and banana bowls. With high-speed wireless Internet service throughout, the lounge also offers work areas with large-screen computer monitors.
Mid-morning, there were no check-in lines and plenty of seats affording tranquility, privacy and charging stations for electronics.
The breakfast buffet is better than that found at most chain hotels. Not tons of choice but enough foods that are fresh, tasty and replenished frequently.
In addition to the juice and specialty coffee bars, there is fresh cut fruit and Greek yogurt, cold cereal, and hot oatmeal. The poached eggs floating in a sea of tomato-basil-cheese sauce were my favorite but there were also lemon-ricotta pancakes, scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes and sliced breads.
If you want to eat while chatting with friends or colleagues, you can sit at one of the cafeteria-style tables adjacent to the fully-stocked wine and liquor bar. I couldn’t believe it so I asked twice: All foods and beverages are complimentary.
A benefit of American Express Platinum Card
American Express Platinum Card membership costs $450 per year. If you travel often—but not often enough to have status with one or more airlines—Centurion Lounge access may help rationalize the value of being an Amex Platinum member.
In addition to the convenience and reliability of the card, Amex Platinum travel benefits include: a: $200 credit per year for ancillary fees like baggage or seat upgrades incurred (on one carrier you choose at the beginning of the year); no foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad; access to free Boing-Boing internet service at airports; reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check fees every five years; and access to a network of lounges.
Let me try to explain the somewhat byzantine lounge arrangement. In addition to offering access to three Centurion lounges, Amex now has a reciprocal relationship with Delta (participating airlines change and have diminished in number). If you fly on that carrier that day, you can enter the Delta Sky Club for free, depending on finding a club at the airport and terminal you depart from.
However, on our trip to Las Vegas we learned that the rules have recently changed and only the cardholder has free access. We were told that entry for a second person (e.g., a guest or spouse) would be $29 (on top of our painful Delta $25 first bag charge per leg) so we left feeling stung by another airline benefit being taken away.
At carriers/airports without such a lounge arrangement, Amex cardholders can use another card benefit, a Priority Pass card issued at no-cost to all members, which allows entry to a network of 600 lounges at 100 airports for free. Additional guests with the card member are charged $27 each.
Prior to a trip, it can be confusing to determine/research your options. For example, lounges may exist at the airport you are using but they may be in the wrong terminal. Adding to the confusion, rules, requirements and available lounges change frequently with little notice.
Lounge of the future opens at La Guardia
Coincidentally, we learned from one of the lounge employees at McCarran that a new American Express Centurion Lounge has opened its doors this week on the third level at Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport (one of the New York airports we often use). At present, the third and only other lounge in the Centurion network is at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Others are under construction in San Francisco and Miami.
Every year when the bill comes for Amex Platinum membership, we wonder whether the card offers enough value for its cost. Given this very enjoyable and near-perfect Centurion Lounge experience, it makes us more sanguine about keeping the card.
It also makes us question why upgrades aren’t being made at other airport lounges, many of which offer only marginal experiences.
IF YOU GO
- Of course, in addition to Amex Platinum Card holders, Centurion members (who pay the $2500 annual fee) can also access the three lounges at no charge (along with up to two guests or immediate family).
- The cost of a one-day pass for non-members is $50. If you have an extended wait, it may well be worth the cost given the price of airport food.
This post is part of a LinkUp to Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery.
What has been your experience at airport lounges? Any stand out from the crowd?