A Well-Powered Retreat: The Escape Lounge at Minneapolis Saint Paul
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When I arrived in Minneapolis−Saint Paul International (MSP) Terminal 1 my plan was to head for the PGA MSP Lounge, a restaurant and golf experience lounge that participates in the Priority Pass program. But I quickly changed course when I noticed an Escape Lounge. Although this lounge left the Priority Pass program in June 2017, cardholders of select American Express Platinum and Centurion cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, can still access Escape Lounges in the US by showing their American Express card.
I expected to just visit the lounge for a quick drink and snack, but ended up settling in for a few hours of work. Here's my take on the Escape Lounge in MSP Terminal 1.
The MSP Escape Lounge is located in Terminal 1. Once through security, turn to your right and go toward the entrance of Concourse E. Just before the entrance to the concourse you'll see signs for the Escape Lounge. Go up the stairs or elevator and you'll see the lounge entrance.
If you're departing from Terminal 2, you can use your boarding pass to clear security in Terminal 1 and visit the lounge -- but realize that you'll need to exit security, take a short tram or walk to the car rental area and then catch a city train one stop to Terminal 2. Allow at least 30 minutes to travel from the Escape Lounge to Terminal 2 security, and potentially longer during off-peak times when the city trains run less frequently.
Escape Lounges in the US are part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection. This means that cardholders of eligible Platinum and Centurion American Express cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, can access Escape Lounges free of charge with up to two guests.
If you don't have an eligible Platinum or Centurion card from American Express, this Escape lounge is unfortunately no longer part of Priority Pass. However, you can purchase a three-hour lounge pass ahead of time for $40 or at the lounge entrance for $45. Children under two years of age may accompany you free of charge, but all other children are charged the normal adult rate.
You can enter the lounge by going to the left or right from the entrance desk. If you go to the right, you'll enter a large room with an assortment of seating. There are various chair types, but most chairs are organized around tables in groups of four.
Along the windows you'll see six lounge chairs. As you walk toward the rest of the lounge, there are also six tables along the windows with a chair on one side and booth seating on the other.
Near the seating by the window is a shelf that was stocked with reading material, milk bottles on ice and three types of cookies. I only tried the oatmeal raisin variant, but it was soft and the perfect level of sweet.
Along a wall is a small dessert and coffee bar. The mini apple pies and caramel salted brownies were fresh and tasty.
If you go to the left of the front desk to enter the lounge, or walk through the area previously described in this section, you'll enter the food buffet area. There are three large six-person booths along the windows in this area.
A partial wall separates the buffet area from the bar area.
This bar area contains six two-seat tables, one six-seat table and a staffed bar with five bar chairs. There isn't power at the tables, but there are power and USB outlets at the bar.
There's also a 12-seat elevated table in the bar that has power and USB outlets at each seat.
Along the windows across from the bar are six round tables, each with a seat facing toward the windows overlooking the tarmac as well as a wide bench seat along the windows.
Near the end of the lounge is a nook with counter seating along the windows and lounge chairs along the wall. There's a printer in this area, and this area would be ideal for working while gazing out at the tarmac occasionally.
This lounge looks and feels new despite having been open for about three years, according to staff. There are ample power outlets and USB outlets throughout the lounge -- almost every seat that isn't a dining table has access to power.
Disappointingly, the lounge doesn't have bathrooms of its own. Instead, guests must exit the lounge to use the airport restrooms.
An access key can be obtained at the bar through, which allows you to re-enter the lounge through a back door near the bar instead of having to walk around to the main lounge entrance.
The Wi-Fi isn't password protected, but requires an email address to gain access.
The Wi-Fi was speedy. I recorded download speeds of 251.10 Mbps, upload at 72.46 Mbps and ping at 13 ms -- and that didn't decrease significantly as the lounge became more crowded.
Food and Beverage
The buffet is relatively small, but still contains a reasonable selection of good quality food. When compared to a Centurion Lounge, there are more food options at this Escape Lounge, but the quality is slightly lower. A sample menu is available on Escape's MSP website, but the menu is only an example -- don't expect these exact items to be available on the buffet when you visit.
When I visited, there were cold cheeses and meats, as well as a salad bar. There were also cold appetizer dishes, which on my visit included three bean salad, chicken salad, hummus with pita bread and chips with salsa. There were assorted breads, including soft, warm pretzel sticks.
There were three hot food dishes served in individual black pots, as well as two types of cooked vegetables. The potatoes from one of the black pots were mushy -- likely due to sitting under the heater for a prolonged time -- but the vegetables were seasoned and tasty. There was also a soup of the day, which was chowder when I visited.
In an adjacent area, there's a well stocked bar staffed by a bartender. The choices that require an extra fee are clearly separated from the complimentary options, which are displayed on the lower left shelves behind the bar. A sample drink menu, and sample pricing for options that require an additional charge, can be found on Escape's MSP website.
The complimentary liquor and beer choices were recognizable brands like Bud Light, Bacardi Rum, Dewars Scotch and Bailey's Irish Cream. However, note that a few brands and levels within brands weren't exactly as depicted on the sample menu. For example, the menu showed Dewars “White Label” Scotch but the bar contained Dewars “Red Label” Scotch. The bartender carefully measured out servings, but was happy to provide multiple if requested.
My first impression walking into the lounge was that it was quiet and peaceful -- an oasis similar to what TPG Contributor Brian Biros experienced at the Oakland Escape lounge. Even as the lounge became crowded over the course of my two-hour visit, it remained that way. The staff working in the lounge were friendly and kept the lounge clean and refreshed.
If you have an eligible American Express Platinum or Centurion card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, it's certainly worth stopping by the lounge before or after flights into or out of MSP Terminal 1. But if you don't have an eligible card, is it worth $40-45 per person to access the lounge? Probably not, although the answer depends on many factors including how long you'd spend in the lounge and how much food and beverage you'd consume.
All photos by the author.