American Express Centurion Lounge, NYC
If pop culture, movies and the TWA hotel are to be believed, airplane travel used to be a glamorous endeavor that looked like a Wes Anderson movie. From plush lounges to comfortable airplanes, people actually looked forward to the act of traveling and not just as a means to get from point A to B.
After nearly 100 years of commercial flight, the culture has changed, and in a world where airlines are always looking to reduce costs, these reductions usually come at the expense of the traveler’s experience.
That’s where American Express comes in. Travel has always been one of the core elements of the brand’s history, and thanks to its collection of American Express Centurion lounges all across the world, weary travelers can enjoy some luxurious respite while waiting for their next flight.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Centurion Lounge collection, and with the busy holiday season fast approaching, we sat down with the President of American Express Travel, Audrey Hendley, to learn more about American Express’ lounge offerings and how you can bring a bit of glamour back to your travel.
American Express Centurion Lounge, Las Vegas
How do you keep the lounges different but consistent within the larger brand story?
Since their inception, the American Express Centurion Lounges have been the physical manifestation of Card Membership. They are grounded in the things our customers want as they travel—great food and drink, a comfortable place to relax or get some work done, and, of course, the incredible service that Amex is known for. Built on that foundation are unique designs and local infusions that make each lounge different. As we continue to expand lounges, open new locations and innovate, we keep setting the bar for what a premium lounge experience is.
How do you work with the local market to make it distinctly local?
One of the best things about traveling is exploring local cultures, so including local touches in our lounges is an important part of what makes the Centurion Lounge experience special. We work with local teams to identify the right local, award-winning chefs to create the menu; for example, southwestern flavors from James Beard Award-winning chef Dean Fearing in Dallas, wine flights in San Francisco that include some of the best wines from Napa, and we created a custom coffee roast in Seattle. We also partner with local designers and artists in each city to create unique designs that nod to the history and culture.
American Express Centurion Lounge, Seattle
What’s the biggest travel hack you’ve learned so far?
Travel like a local! Find restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that are off the beaten path so you can get a sense of the local culture and support the local economy. I always ask the concierge at my hotel or our American Express Travel Consultants for tips. I find out where they would get coffee or dinner—it is a great way to get to know a destination.
What differentiates the Centurion Lounge from its competitors?
American Express has over 100 years of experience in the travel industry and a decade of building a premium lounge experience. We also have a deep understanding of our customers, especially of how they travel, and we continue to innovate to meet their needs. The Centurion Lounge was the first of its kind when we opened our lounge in Las Vegas 10 years ago, setting the bar and showing the value of traveling with Amex. Over the last decade, we’ve pushed ourselves to expand, innovate and provide an unmatched experience. And that innovation reaches beyond airports to places like the U.S. Open and Austin City Limits, where we have popped up Centurion Lounges, showing up in places that we know our Card Members will be. This rich history, understanding of our Card Members and commitment to innovation is what continues to lead in this space.
American Express Centurion Lounge, San Francisco
What’s been the most unique location so far?
Every lounge has something unique to offer. I am partial to San Francisco and Seattle, both brand-new spaces that are beautiful with great amenities. Closer to home, I love visiting LaGuardia. The food is so good, and there are so many spaces to do whatever you need to do – relax, work, eat and keep your kids busy.
What’s the biggest location to come?
The Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, opening next year, will be our biggest one yet: almost half of a football field at nearly 26,000 square feet. ATL is one of the biggest U.S. airports, so we’re thrilled to be bringing a lounge there. So many of our Card Members travel through it.
American Express Centurion Lounge, San Francisco
What’s a secret to maximizing the lounge on your next stop?
Check out the amenities of the Centurion Lounge you’ll be traveling through before you travel. That way, you can maximize your time, whether you want to focus on a chair massage or a full meal, or both!
What’s your favorite story you can share about the existing lounges?
My favorite thing about the lounges is how they help people center their trips. As someone who is on the road a lot, for many different reasons, I really appreciate the ways a visit to a lounge helps me get things done; whether I need to finish up my work for the day, get a meal, or just listen to a podcast or get caught up on the news. It helps make the transition to the travel experience so much more manageable.
American Express Centurion Lounge, Dallas
How have the lounges evolved over the last 10 years, and why did Amex launch them? They were the first in class, so what was the thought there?
Travel has always been core to the American Express Card Member, and 10 years ago, we wanted to create a travel experience that was a physical manifestation of what it means to be a Card Member with the amenities and service that goes with it.
We were the first Credit Card issuer to open an airport lounge, and our strategy continues to be led by innovation, evolving with the needs of our Card Members. For example, we know wellness is an important part of the travel experience, so we have partnered with brands like Equinox, Exhale and Calm to make sure our customers are in the right place mentally and physically before they get on their flights. Our legacy, understanding of our Card Members and a focus on innovation have kept us the leader in the space, and will continue to drive us forward for the next decade, and beyond.
The American Express Centurion lounges are available exclusively for American Express Platinum and Centurion members and their guests. Learn more at americanexpress.com.
Photography by: Courtesy of American Express