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Amex Las Vegas Centurion Lounge Review

by on June 23, 2014 · 22 comments

in American Express, Las Vegas, Lounges, Reviews

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On a recent trip to Las Vegas, TPG Points and Miles editor Peter Rothbart visited the American Express Centurion Lounge at McCarran Airport (LAS). Here’s what he found.

For several years American Express has operated Centurion Clubs and Platinum Lounges in various airports abroad, including Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Mumbai and elsewhere. Their recent (and welcome) expansion into the U.S. so far includes lounges in Las Vegas and Dallas (DFW), with more to come (reportedly later this year) in San Francisco, New York (LaGuardia), and Miami. While I’ve heard others sing high praises of the Amex lounges, I hadn’t had an opportunity to visit one myself until my most recent Vegas jaunt brought me to the Centurion Lounge at McCarran Airport.

I’ll spare you the suspense: this lounge was remarkably comfortable, relaxing, and refreshing. I’m typically unmoved by airport lounges, but I would go out of my way to come back to this one. Read on to find out why.

Location and Admission
The Las Vegas Amex Centurion Lounge is located in the relatively sedate D concourse of Terminal 1, which is accessible only by tram. While this makes the lounge less convenient to those who are flying out of another concourse (or the international gates in Terminal 3), it augments the oasis-like vibe, as foot traffic and noise are sparse even outside the lounge. Just across from gate D-1 you’ll find the wide, blue double doors leading into the foyer.

Foyer

The Centurion Lounge: welcome to Las Vegas indeed.

Upon arrival (daily between 5 am and midnight), the receptionist will ask to see your valid American Express card, ID, and a boarding pass for same-day travel. The representative I spoke to was iffy on what qualified as “same-day travel”, but it seemed like any itinerary that put you through McCarran within close proximity of your lounge visit was a safe bet (e.g., if you got to the lounge at 5 pm and weren’t flying out until 1 am the following morning, I doubt they would deny you admission).

Admission is free for Amex Centurion and Platinum cardholders, as well as their immediate families (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) OR up to two companions. (This is pertinent since those cardholders recently lost access to other airline lounges.) Amex also sometimes sends out promotional mailings or emails offering complimentary access. Other Amex cardholders (including those who have American Express cards issued by other banks), can get a one-day lounge pass for $50, which also grants admission to children under 18. This price is pretty level with that of most airline lounges, but as you’ll see, I think the Amex lounge offers much more bang for your buck.

mk

Beyond the foyer.

Accommodations and Ambience
The lounge comprises a quarter circle wedged into two outstretched arms of the D concourse, with a cafeteria and bar at its center, and a long, arcing corridor dashed with ample but well-spaced seating tracing the outer rim. Shaded windows run floor to ceiling along the wall, providing tarmac and mountain views to the north and east, and letting in just the right amount of natural light.

Whoever designed the lounge did an impressive job balancing capacity with privacy. Unlike the shoulder to shoulder rows of seating you’ll find in most airport lounges, the Amex Centurion Lounge features dozens of petite nooks and enclaves suitable for up to 8 people and furnished for a variety of purposes (such as meeting, napping, eating and working).

sdds

The inner wall is dotted with cushioned benches and cafe tables – great for window gazing.

High-definition flat-screen TVs are placed inconspicuously along the walls at regular intervals. Unlike the TVs in most airport terminals, which typically blare CNN at concussive volumes, the sound was set at a reasonable, conversational level. The NBA finals were on during my visit and a lot of other patrons were watching, but when the game turned lopsided and I lost interest, it was easy to ignore. The walls are also discretely hung with panels relaying flight information for upcoming departures, including gate changes and delays. While that information is readily available online, the extra convenience remains a nice touch.

dsd

The outer wall features more tables, armchairs, and pillowy cubicles, along with HD TVs.

The aft section of the lounge is the most private. Apart from two public computer workstations and a printer, there are several even more secluded nooks, a large work table, and three luxurious chaise lounges that will make the sleep-deprived traveler tearful in appreciation. This area is also television free, providing refuge to those who want to escape the sound altogether.

lou

These seats in the back of the lounge may as well come with an eye mask and teddy bear.

Overall the lounge was very comfortable. My one complaint was that the thermostat seemed to have been dialed down too far.  While the temperature hadn’t quite reached the meat locker chill of a mid-summer movie theater, it was low enough that some guests were pulling out long-sleeve shirts or jackets (which not many people bring to Vegas in June), and I even saw one couple napping under a blanket to stay warm. Otherwise the surroundings were exceptionally pleasant, and my time there felt like hanging out in a giant living room.

Food and Drinks
The lounge’s creamy center is where you’ll find its complimentary buffet (with separate breakfast and lunch/dinner menus) and full service bar, along with tables for dining and carousing. This section is less private (and somewhat more chatty) than the rest, but remains fairly tranquil.

ods

The Centurion Lounge dining area.

After staking my claim to a cushy armchair, I ditched my bags and sought out a drink. Stationed at one end of the dining area, the bar is like a fulcrum around which the rest of the lounge pivots.  The counter itself is an immaculate marble slab. A selection of quality liquors sits on warm-toned wooden shelves, decorated with an acceptably tacky assortment of luggage and other travel paraphernalia.

The bar.

The bar: drinks are free, so tip well!

The Centurion Lounge has its own signature cocktail menu drafted by resident mixologist Jim Meehan, and a selection of wines from house wine director Anthony Giglio. The bar also offers beer and soda, and tea, coffee and juice are available near the buffet. Since I like drinks on the sweet side, at the bartender’s suggestion I tried the Gold Rush, a mix of Bulleit bourbon, lemon, and honey syrup. With no other guests in line, I had my drink in roughly a minute. Later on (for the sake of, you know, journalistic thoroughness) I also tried the Airmail, a hand-shaken daiquiri with honey and sparkling wine. Both drinks were well crafted.

Gold Rush

The Gold Rush: Bulleit bourbon, lemon, and honey syrup.

Food is served buffet style from a fixed menu. Breakfast (served from 6-11 am) includes pancakes, eggs and potatoes, along with yogurt, cereals, breads and fresh fruit. I arrived in the evening and didn’t have a chance to sample the early menu, but the lunch/dinner meal (served from 11:30 am-10 pm) was in full swing.

Dinner entrees

Dinner entrees include cavatelli with mushrooms, lamb burek, and cauliflower soup.

The main dishes included a vegan cauliflower soup, cavatelli with escarole mushrooms and roasted garlic, and lamb and beef burek with Sicilian spices and lemon yogurt sauce. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to food (so take the opinion of my undiscerning palate with a healthy dose of skepticism), but I thought everything tasted great (with the one exception that the first piece of burek I chose was dry and chewy from baking too long). There was also a spread of comparatively mundane but very fresh ham and Swiss sandwiches.

Lighter

Lighter fare: various salads, vegetables, and dressings.

The other end of the buffet offered an array of salads, greens, olives and cut vegetables. I glanced over the farro and lentil salad, and instead went for the kale and escarole bacon salad with parmigiano Caesar dressing and hard-boiled eggs. This dish had no subtlety, and detecting any other flavor through the apocalyptic flood of dressing was like trying to catch a Frisbee in a blizzard at night. While I view not wasting bacon as close to a moral imperative, I was content to put it aside and save room for my favorite course …

Dessert

Dessert!

The sweets did not disappoint. Apart from two varieties of chocolate chip cookies (one chewy and one crispy) and a perfectly baked brownie with a light dusting of powdered sugar, the real star of the show was a smoked chocolate budino with cinnamon ash and sea salt. This was a dessert I would happily have paid good money for in a ritzy restaurant. Fortunately I didn’t have to, because I had three servings.

While I didn’t try every last dish, and despite the disappointing kale salad, the food service overall was excellent. It surpassed anything I’ve had at airport lounges elsewhere, and was probably better than most (if not all) of the restaurant options available in the terminal. My only other criticism is that I wish there were some form of takeout box available for travelers with a short visitation window. The house rules forbid guests bringing food in or taking food out of the lounge, which seems unnecessarily restrictive to me.

Other Amenities
The Centurion Lounge offers the usual amenities one would expect from an airport club. Free Hi-speed Wifi is advertised, but it seemed more like low-speed – it was adequate for email and web browsing, but neither Netflix nor YouTube could load fast enough to be watchable. There was an abundance of electrical outlets in reach of nearly every seat in the house, so charging phones and powering computers wasn’t an issue.

The aforementioned computing stations and printer are an afterthought until you need them, and then they’re life savers. The lounge also offers the Las Vegas Times, Wall Street Journal, and a variety of magazines.

dsdsds

Two computers and a printer are available (in case you didn’t pack your own).

There’s a separate family room that’s thoughtfully located near the front desk and cafeteria, away from the rest of the lounge.  The fully enclosed space offers a few books and toys along with movies and video games, and has one glass wall so parents can keep an eye on their kids from outside. Children are welcome anywhere in the lounge, but it’s nice to have a space where they (or you) can let loose.

Family Room

The family room has books, toys and games (and is secretly the quietest spot in the lounge).

The lounge bathrooms are clean and well maintained, if a little small. The stalls are fully enclosed with wood-paneled doors. There’s an automatic shoe buffer next to the sink, and a forced air hand dryer that is quieter than most.

Finally, the Centurion Lounge offers both a shower suite and private meeting room that are available on a first-come, first-served basis (with a one hour limit if others are waiting). Any guest can use either room at no extra cost so long as it isn’t already in use. The meeting room is unassuming, with a work table and chairs, a phone, and a screen for video conferencing. The shower suite is a well-kept, oversized bathroom with space for luggage and a large waterfall shower. I didn’t have time or cause to make use of either of these amenities, but I can imagine how grateful I’d be to have them if needed.

Shower

The shower suite (via reflection).

Verdict
While the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge wasn’t perfect down to the last detail, it offered much more than just an alternative to the airport terminal. Good food, free drinks, and a thoroughly relaxing atmosphere make this lounge one that I’ll be sure to visit again. I look forward to seeing how the menu varies in the future, and to snagging one of those chaise lounges if I’m ever there on a long layover. Hopefully Amex will continue to return value to the Platinum cards by opening more of these lounges across the country.

Please share your experiences at this or any of the Amex airport lounges in the comments below!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Laurelo14

    I almost wonder if we were at the lounge at the same time! I did use the shower there (had come straight from the pool at my hotel), and it was very convenient. Nice to have so much space available in the shower room for getting ready. The towels are hung on a heated rack and they offered me a hair dryer.

  • K2

    Lol I was there yesterday! The DFW food is better, but the chaise lounges at LAS make for a photo finish win.

  • MC

    There is breakfast from 5am-6am as well, but it was only fruit/cereal/bread and stuff

  • Darrin Earl

    That was an amazing piece of PR for AMEX. Frankly, it sounded as if it was written by Manny from Modern Family.

  • Urbanist

    Is access to the Centurion lounge limited to just the cardholder like the Delta Skyclubs are now, or can you still get a guest in with you?

  • Ralf Klein

    As mentioned in the article you are allowed to bring immediate family members or up to two guests with you (as a holder of a Centurion or Platinum card).

  • GregD

    My wife and I have visited the LAS Centurion lounge twice in the past 9 months and very much enjoyed the amenities, food, and beverages. Our experience is in line with this review except we found the temperature to be quite comfortable. It’s a personal preference, but could also be somewhat dependent on the number of patrons (it was fairly busy during both of our visits).

  • DavidYoung2

    This lounge is my savior since dumping Delta because of their ‘AMEX Platinum cardholder only’ policy on the Sky Lounge (my wife and I fly every two weeks to Boise; used to fly Delta through SLC, now fly Southwest through LAS).

    One helpful hint: If you’re NOT flying from the D Gates, you can still get there without exiting security and going back through. There are something called ‘bypass doors’ that are locked and card controlled. Simply ask a TSA agent to open them for you, can you can pass from B or C into D without hassling security and, of course, you can pass back from D to B or C. Helpful when flying Southwest, but do leave a few extra minutes.

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    Yep, Ralf nailed it. Also, other Amex cardholders can bring children under 18 with them.

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    Great point! Yes, access to the D gates is weirdly clandestine. I don’t understand why those bypass doors are there in the first place.

  • Danny

    I’ve been to this lounge and it was one of the nicest lounges I’ve ever been to in the states. I’m fairly impressed and hope Amex opens up a lot more of them.

  • Going to Vegas with 3 friends

    What is the policy if you want to bring in 3 guests? Do they not allow more than 3 to a group? Do you just pay 50 dollars for the third guest? Or do they bend a rules here and there as long as you don’t have an entourage of 7 with you?

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    The rules as stated by Amex are immediate family OR up to two guests. This implies that you could exceed two guests if those guests are immediate family (especially if they’re your children under 18). Hard to say whether they’re likely to bend the rules if you have more than two non-family guests. In that case, make sure whoever gets left out is an Amex cardholder, or they won’t even be able to pay their way in.

  • taryn

    I don’t think an amazing piece of PR would contain any negative info. :) Also, the pictures would be full of models (men and women), not regular people. It looks like a nice lounge.

  • joeypore

    Food is definitely better at DFW…but I’d have to say…the spa at DFW gives it the win.

  • joeypore

    The centurion lounges are incredible, really an example of what a lounge should be. AA & Delta really should up their game…

    I get spoiled having DFW as my home airport… I go to the AMEX lounge so much, that many of the employees know my name and don’t ask to see my ID when I arrive. The food is great, the bar and bartenders are great, with premium alcohol available as well (like Ciroc and Belvedere).

    But what takes the cake is the spa. I think I’ve gotten my AMEX Plat annual fee back in spa treatments alone…haha

    AMEX has taken some awesome initiative in building these lounges… only wish they could come sooner. :/

  • joeypore

    I too have wondered this. If I take a trip with 3 friends, plus myself, how would they handle the 4th person?

    If they’re being completely strict to the rules, then the 4th person would need to pay the $50 and have an american express card… as there’s no “guest fee” as is…

  • Joshua James

    I just wanted to confirm if “Additional Card” Platinum holders also get access? Thanks!

  • ADPage

    One cool thing is the lounge will let you in after you arrive so you don’t need a departing flight to go in. This made life a lot easier when I was running late for a meeting and needed a quick meal.

  • K2

    Okay, good point. I guess my opinion of the chaise lounges may be a little biased since I had literally just left a Marquee pool party after 3 days of partying and just wanted to sleep. The DFW spa is a great option, too.

  • http://www.thepointsguy.com PR@TPG

    Great question. Yes, additional Platinum cardholders are considered cardholders themselves, so they DO receive the same free access as the account holder, and are eligible to bring guests, etc.

  • Joshua James

    Thanks, much appreciated!

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