Calm in the chaos: A review of the Amex Centurion Lounge at New York-LaGuardia
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Some have called New York's LaGuardia Airport a "third-world country." Others refer to it as a big mess.
LGA has long been considered one of the worst airports in America. In addition to the often endless departure and arrival delays, the terminals are old, hallways are tight and facilities dilapidated. That all may change soon.
With an $8 billion redevelopment project underway, the airport will (hopefully) go from one of the nation's worst to one of its best. There are promising signs of things to come, like the new section of Terminal B that opened at the end of 2018 and Delta's new concourse that opened toward the end of 2019.
For now though, with the construction project in full swing, there aren't many relaxing areas in the terminals, but one of the nicest is the American Express Centurion Lounge. Here's my review of this escape from the "slice of hell" that's LGA.
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The lounge is located in the airport’s Central Terminal, home to Air Canada, American, Southwest and United. This is also the only Centurion Lounge anywhere that's located before security.
You'll find the lounge on the third floor of the terminal between Concourses B and C. There’s a marked elevator bank with Amex signs next to PreCheck security for Gates 40 to 59. Once on the third level, there’s plenty more signage pointing you to the lounge.
If your flight departs from another terminal, you can still visit the Centurion Lounge, but you’ll need to take an airport shuttle bus to your departure terminal after your visit. I’d highly discourage this since there’s often tons of traffic on the airport roadways.
The Amex Centurion Lounge at LGA is open from 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m. every day except Saturday when it closes at 6:30 p.m.
Customers can enter a Centurion Lounge by presenting The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or The Centurion® Card. Visitors are entitled to bring two guests (or immediate family, if you carry a Centurion card), and lap infants don’t count against the two-guest allotment.
The information for the Centurion Card card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Which card is right for you? Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum
Cardmembers with other flavors of the Platinum Card, such as the Schwab, Ameriprise or international versions, also have access. Authorized users with a Centurion or Platinum Card can also enter — you can add up to three authorized users to the personal Platinum Card for a total of $175 per year (see rates and fees) — but those who have the Platinum’s complimentary additional Gold Card don’t have access.
If you need to get a family larger than three into the Centurion Lounge, here’s TPG’s strategy for getting a family of four or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge.
Platinum cardmembers can only use Centurion lounges up to three hours before a departing flight. Platinum members also get access when connecting through the airport, but won’t get in without an onward boarding pass.
RELATED: Maximizing benefits with the Amex Platinum Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card cardmembers now receive complimentary access to the Centurion Lounge when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on any American Express card issued in the U.S. You’ll be able to bring up to two guests for a fee of $50 each.
However, Delta flights depart from the C and D Terminals, so it's quite a trek to visit the Centurion Lounge.
The lounge itself spans two rooms connected by one narrow hallway.
After entering the lounge, the main relaxation area is located behind the living wall that's common to each location.
Here you'll find a couch with some recliners, as well as freestanding chairs. There’s plenty of counter seating along the wall too.
This is also where you’ll find the miniaturized eight-seat wooden conference table. Behind it is the iconic Centurion Lounge library with faux suitcases, as well as some reading material, including the USA Today and Wall Street Journal.
There’s also a small business center with two PCs and a printer.
As you leave the main lounging area, you’ll find plenty of lime-green seating along the hallway leading to the dining room.
The dining room has several four-top tables, which can be converted to two-tops as needed. There are also a few small couches.
I appreciated how much counter seating this lounge offered. As a solo traveler, I usually prefer setting up at one of these, instead of occupying a dining table meant for two people.
Like most Centurion Lounges, the bar was the highlight of the dining area. It featured 11 barstools and a friendly bartender.
Though the lounge never got crowded during my Tuesday visit, I’ve been here before when it gets jammed (primarily during afternoon weather delays). The relaxation area is always less crowded, so be sure to check it out before heading to the dining room.
This outpost opened in 2014, and some of the furniture is showing wear and tear. For instance, the footrests of the lime-green wall seats were peeling.
As an AvGeek, I appreciated the north-facing airport views. Thanks to the large windows, there’s plenty of natural light during the day.
This is New York, so I imagine that the one seat reserved for Centurion cardholders gets occupied quite frequently.
As for amenities, this lounge is more bare-bones than some of the others. There’s no shower, spa or family room. But since the lounge is landside and LGA doesn’t have much connecting traffic, I can’t really blame Amex for this.
The lounge has the basics covered, though. You’ll find plenty of AC and USB outlets near all seats except the dining tables.
The password-protected Wi-Fi network was quite speedy at 89 Mbps download and 70 Mbps upload.
The coolest, yet least useful feature, is the TV by the bar that live-streams the terminal’s security lines. It's great in theory, but the cameras couldn’t have been placed at worse angles, making it nearly impossible to judge how crowded the lines actually are.
Although there’s no shower, there are gender-specific bathrooms, which are much, much, much nicer than most at LGA.
And for all those traveling to Florida, there was a small putting green to help perfect your stroke.
Food and beverage
Like all Centurion Lounges, the food and beverage offerings here were well above average.
The food menu is curated by Cedric Vongerichten, son of world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Though not nearly as famous as his father, he’s definitely on the rise, especially after his first solo restaurant opened in New York City last year.
Continental breakfast consisting of a fruit and yogurt bar was served from the lounge opening at 5:30 a.m. until 6. From 6 a.m. until 11 a.m, there was a full breakfast buffet with oatmeal, French toast, home fries, frittata and eggs Benedict.
Everything I tried was tasty. Before the new gates opened at LGA in 2018, this lounge served some of LGA’s best food. There’s an all-day buffet from 11 a.m. until closing, which I’ve enjoyed during past visits.
The bar was open from 6 a.m. with a limited menu of breakfast drinks, including Bloody Marys, mimosas, screwdrivers, wine and beer. At 10:30 a.m., you could order the real stuff, including one of signature cocktails curated by Jim Meehan of the famed speakeasy Please Don’t Tell Me.
Finally, there was a WMF coffee machine next to the buffet for those looking for some caffeine.
This lounge is a real oasis in one of the country's worst airports. The high-quality food and drinks and thoughtfully designed relaxation areas help make this one of the best lounges at LGA.
Although it is one of the smaller Centurion Lounges, it's rarely as crowded as some of the others in larger airports. Since it's located pre-security, travelers often skip this lounge and head straight to the gate.
If you've got the time or your stomach's rumbling, make a stop at the LGA Centurion Lounge. You may just briefly forget that you're in America's most hated airport.
All photos by the author.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.