Playing It Cool at the US Open With Amex and the Centurion Suite
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The experience is quite luxe in general — instead of Budweiser, visitors drink $17 Grey Goose cocktails, which they sip alongside lobster salads and poke bowls. But if there's one weakest link of an an otherwise plush day at the Open, I'd say it's exposure to the elements — rain, humidity, and, in the case of this week, sweltering heat.
Fortunately, Amex Card Members with The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card have a new hideaway this year: The American Express® Centurion Suite — before we dive in, check out TPG's Facebook Live of his experience in the space here:
Inside the Centurion Suite
Effectively a pop-up Centurion Lounge, Amex's first Centurion Suite is the most comfortable hangout I've come across at the US Open. Which, combined with temperatures in the 90s, explains the crowds — during my visit Wednesday afternoon, there was a wait to get in, though you can add your name to a digital waitlist and come back when you get a notification that it's your turn.
Once inside, the space really does feel like an airport Centurion Lounge, from the reception desk to the bar and lounging areas.
Measuring 3,000 square feet, the Suite is capped at about 100 guests, to maximize comfort.
As you can see in TPG's Facebook Live video, the lounge can fill up at peak times, and it's capacity controlled, which means you'll want to show up before big matches are scheduled to begin.
Each cardmember gets a ticket for one free drink right when you come in — there's a full bar, with familiar Centurion Lounge cocktails, like The Blue Door, made with Whisky, rum and lemon juice, along with the speciality US Open cocktail, the Grey Goose Honey Deuce.
The food selection wasn't quite on the same level as what you'd find at the airport, but it was still nice to have a selection of complimentary snacks to enjoy between sets.
In addition to a few types of fruit, there were bags of chips:
And some pretty delicious-looking cookies.
There were passed snacks as well, including Greek salad skewers...
... and buffalo chicken empanadas with blue cheese, truffle mac & cheese balls, plus a delicious strawberry gazpacho, created by Cédric Vongerichten, the Executive Chef of the Centurion Lounge at LGA and Perry Street in NYC. Plus, wine pairings by the Centurion Lounge Wine Director Anthony Giglio.
The Suite is a great place to just hang out and cool off with a cocktail in between serious tennis viewing. TPG reviews editor Nick Ellis and I also had fun at the photo booth, called Infinity Court, where you can capture some stills and Boomerangs to post to your Instagram account or Facebook.
Visitors also get a welcome gift — a battery-powered phone charger for Platinum cardmembers, and a slick smartphone lens for Centurion customers. I took pictures of both, but I think it'd be more fun to leave that little giveaway as a surprise. So keep an eye out for those goodies when you visit the Centurion Suite yourself.
Paying With the Amex Band
Amex is also offering a few experiences to all cardmembers — Platinum or Centurion not required. My favorite was the Amex Band — a blue contactless payment wristband, letting you just tap your wrist to purchase food, drinks and souvenirs throughout the venue.
With a 100,000-point bonus on the line, I visited one of the Amex Band booths to link my Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card — the transactions did code as restaurant purchases, so I should earn 3x points.
I was also automatically enrolled in an Amex Offer for $20 back after spending $100 at the US Open by September 9, which shouldn't take more than an hour or two when you're faced with $17 cocktails.
Fan Experience and Amex Card Member Club
Not everything at the US Open comes along with a hefty price tag, though. All guests are able to access the Amex Fan Experience, where you'll find air conditioning and a few hangout spots.
Players also stop by for Q&A sessions — when I walked up, guests were chatting up CoCo Vandeweghe.
The balcony section is reserved for Card Members, but any Amex card will do. There was sunscreen and water bottles up there, and guests were bringing up food from the concessions stands as well.
Amex is clearly making a considerable investment in providing high-end experiences for its premium cardmembers. I had a chance to chat with Amex VP Josh McKay, who heads up the Centurion Lounge program (along with many other customer experiences). While he's clearly pleased with the response to this first Centurion Suite, there aren't specific plans to launch others at this point — and so far, Amex has only committed to offering one at the US Open this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see it return in 2019, though.
Next year will also bring several significant Centurion Lounge launches, including the biggest space to date, measuring 15,000 square feet at JFK's Terminal 4, along with a sizable location at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal and another gigantic lounge in the C Concourse at Denver International Airport (DEN). Other airports that feature a Centurion Lounge include LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in NYC, Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), San Francisco (SFO), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), Houston (IAH), Philadelphia (PHL) and Hong Kong (HKG).
As Josh mentioned a couple times during our chat, premium cardholders (i.e. customers with The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card) consider lounge access to be the #1 travel benefit. While he wouldn't drop any hints as to what else is in the pipeline, it's clear that the Centurion Lounge network is far from complete, both here in the US, and in top markets around the world.
Also note that Amex is setting up a US Open viewing area in LaGuardia's Terminal B that's open for Card Members who are traveling through the airport from now through September 10. As for the US Open Centurion Suite, you can plan to visit from 12:00pm until 8:00pm through Sept. 5 and from 12:00pm until 5:00pm from Sept. 6 through Sept. 9. Access is restricted to customers with The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card. Platinum cardmembers can bring two guests, while those with a Centurion card can bring two guests or their immediate family, subject to capacity restrictions. While it's not a full-blown Centurion Lounge, the Centurion Suite at the US Open is a great addition that's complimentary for Card Members — we hope Amex will offer the Suite again at future tournaments and even more venues.