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As part of my visit to every Centurion Lounge in the US, I’m now in Houston (IAH). My mission: to find out if Centurion Lounges in the US are living up to the hype or succumbing to the same fate as other domestic lounges. In typical TPG fashion, I spent the first week of August traveling 7,500 miles and reviewing every single Centurion Lounge in the US. You can find Centurion Lounges in San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Las Vegas (LAS), Houston (IAH), Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA) and New York (LGA) — a new one in Philadelphia (PHL) is set to open later this year. Here’s a look at the route I took:
To get as close to an accurate representation of a typical day, I spent a minimum of three hours in each lounge and only visited during lunch and dinner time, evaluating the Wi-Fi, seating, food and beverage options, amenities and service. Check back this Thursday when we release the final rankings. Without further ado, here’s a closer look at the Centurion Lounge at IAH.
You’ll find the Houston Centurion Lounge after security in Terminal D near gate D6. Travelers arriving in other terminals can reach it by using the SKYWAY trains, while a pre-security subway train can be used to get to each terminal. The lounge is open every day from 5:30am to 9:00pm.
Thankfully, there are plenty of signs like the one pictured below around the terminal to help lead the way.
There’s even a helpful elevator button so you don’t miss it.
Once you get to the Mezzanine level, keep following the signs to the lounge.
Finally, after I reached the point of feeling like I was navigating a maze, I found the illuminated Centurion sign that marked the entrance.
Access to the Centurion Lounge is complimentary if you have an American Express Centurion Card, The Platinum Card from American Express, or The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN — you can also bring in two guests. If you hold another American Express card (including those issued by other banks), you can buy a one-day pass for $50, though these can only be purchased in person on the day of travel and are subject to lounge capacity restrictions.
There were four attendants at the check-in desk and only one other person trying to enter when I got there, so the process was pretty quick. I walked straight up, handed over my Amex Platinum card, boarding pass and ID. Once the formalities were complete, I was informed by the staff that lunch was available.
At 1:27pm, there were 40 people in the lounge, with space for about 120. There’s a nice open floor plan, so you could easily see how busy the buffet was from the comfort of your seat. Needless to say, it didn’t feel crowded in here at all.
Here’s a look at the main seating area, which had a large selection of tables and chairs.
From this angle, you can see how close these seats were to the dining area.
This large green couch made a great napping spot, especially since there weren’t many people around. I also found ample lighting and plenty of outlets nearby, along with tables to the side and in front, so it was also a convenient place to get some work done.
Another part of the lounge featured couches with a small table, ideal for anyone wanting to settle down with a snack or a cup of coffee or tea.
A large communal wooden table could be found in the work room, along with two large monitors on the wall that displayed departure times and gate changes.
I really enjoyed this set up because the wall divider made the space feel more private, but it was still easily accessible to the dining room and main seating areas.
Looking for something more comfortable? You really can’t go wrong with these cube pillow seats.
The daybeds pictured below were secluded and comfortable. You’ll find them behind a wall partition near the work room and I’d highly suggest checking this area for a seat as soon as you enter the lounge.
The dining room felt especially spacious that day since there weren’t so many people around.
Food and Beverage
The menu at this lounge is locally inspired and was designed by James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu of acclaimed Houston restaurant, Oxheart.
At the start of the line is the salad bar, so you get a healthy helping of greens.
I tried the asparagus, braised beef, quinoa with grapes, zucchini and roasted elote (Mexican corn).
The bar area wasn’t too busy and there were two bartenders serving — both were courteous and sincere when called upon for drinks. One of them suggested the Chinese New Year, a cocktail made of Prosecco mixed with Mandarine Napoleon, Domaine de Canton ginger liquor and lemon juice.
There was also a coffee machine in the main seating area and right next to it were some bite-size servings of cheesecake.
Another counter offered still water, strawberry-infused water and iced tea.
At the check-in desk, there were print editions of The New York Times, USA Today and the Houston Chronicle.
There was a small private room nearby that you could take calls or work in. I didn’t see anyone using it during my visit but it seemed like you could just walk right in and use it if you wanted to.
Outside, near the large communal table, was a computer and printer for guests to use.
The main seating area also had a soundproof family room where the kids could play pre-flight.
I asked to use the shower immediately upon checking in and lucky for me, there was no line to get in. Note that this was the only Centurion Lounge with a special make-up mirror in the shower room.
A full-length mirror, hamper and towels were also available.
Here’s a peek inside the shower.
Unfortunately, the floor was disgusting, similar to the showers at the SEA lounge, which were covered in soap scum and mysterious brown marks.
The Wi-Fi was definitely not as good as advertised, with download speeds of 0.53 Mbps. While I was able to load light web pages, I eventually switched over to the much faster airport Wi-Fi to get any real work done.
The Houston Centurion Lounge is certainly worth a visit if you have a long layover at IAH. While its location on the mezzanine level makes it one of the most secluded locations, thankfully there were more than enough signs throughout the terminal to guide the way. The seating was plentiful, with a large variety of arm chairs, couches and day beds. Delicious but easily forgettable dishes could be found in the dining room — braised beef and asparagus in particular seemed to be a common offering at many of the Centurion lounges despite all the different chefs who participated. When it comes to amenities, the’s a phone room, family room, work room with computers to use and, unfortunately, a soap-scum filled shower. The Wi-Fi wasn’t fast enough to get any real work done, though luckily, the airport Wi-Fi saved the day.
If there’s one thing this lounge excels in, it’s definitely the quality level of service. The food was plentiful, I hardly saw any used plates wasting away on tables, bartenders were friendly and easily accessible, and the front desk attendants kept attendees aware of the storm that was brewing outside. If you’re stuck in Houston for a few hours, kill some time at this Centurion Lounge.
The Final Ratings
Food and Beverage: 4.5/5
Stay tuned for the final rankings of all the domestic Centurion Lounges, coming this Thursday to TPG.
Have you visited the Houston Centurion Lounge? Tell us about your experience, below.
Editor’s note: This series of Centurion Lounge reviews was produced by one of TPG’s editorial interns this summer. Each was assigned an intern project. All photos by the author.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
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