I am currently in transit to Honolulu where I’ll be enjoying a nice break from the stresses of day-to-day life. I booked this economy (*gasp*) award using Aeroplan and used 45,000 miles and paid $156.81 in taxes and fees. I’m flying United and Air Canada which partially explains the low cost in taxes but because I completed the Air Canada Status Challenge that I wrote about, I am now an Air Canada 35K member. The biggest benefit of this status is that it comes with a YQ waiver for Canadian and US travel on Air Canada operated flights. The United flights that I chose just happened to be the most convenient connections.
So why am I flying in economy class? Because the flight durations are not long enough to justify double the amount of Aeroplan miles required to book it. Also, domestic and transborder business class on either AC and United are nothing to write home about.
As part of my routing, I have a 4-hour layover in San Francisco – long enough to go lounge hopping but not long enough to go into the city, which explains why I’m in the Centurion Lounge at SFO.
In my opinion, Centurion Lounges are the best lounges in North America. They are known for their exceptional food, bartending service and if you’re in Dallas, the choice between a free massage, manicure or pedicure.
In order to access the American Express Centurion Lounges, you need to have either an American Express Platinum Personal or a Platinum Business card. Outside the generous sign-up bonuses (75,000 Membership Rewards for Business and 60,000 for Personal), I would value the lounge access benefits of the card to be the most valuable. If you aren’t familiar, both Platinum cards give you access to Priority Pass Lounges as well as American Express’ Centurion Lounges.
Centurion Lounges can be found in Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Las Vegas (LAS), Phoenix (PHX), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA) and Hong Kong (HKG). In addition, AMEX is planning on opening lounges in Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Charlotte (CLT), New York (JFK), and London, UK (LHR).
You can access the Centurion Lounges on your day of departure and recent changes to the terms mean that you can only access the lounge 3 hours before departure, though I managed to get in about 4 hours prior to my connecting flight to Honolulu (HNL). The agent at the desk asked me if I was connecting so my guess is that if you are connecting, there’s more leniency to allow you access more than 3 hours prior to departure.
With the Centurion Lounge and your Platinum Personal or Platinum Business card, you are allowed access and you can bring in two additional guests at no charge – a pretty generous benefit.
The lounge is in Terminal 3, Concourse F at SFO. You can find the entrance opposite of Gate F1 and F2, across from the Hudsons News.
When I read the initial reviews of the Centurion at SFO, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a seat because many reviews cited overcrowding. As I sit here at the lounge, it is a bit busy but I easily found a seat in both the dining area to eat as well as in the work area, where I’m currently writing this post.
The lounge is a bit smaller than I thought it might be at 8,200 square feet. In comparison, my favourite lounge in the world, the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge is a mind-boggling 60,000 square feet.
When I was working in the WestJet Loyalty Department, I had a front-row seat to the conceptualization and development of the upcoming Flagship Lounge at the Calgary International Airport (YYC) so I completely understand how difficult it is to secure space for a lounge so I guess I can’t really hold AMEX’s feet to the fire on the size of the lounge.
The lounge layout is pretty standard for a Centurion Lounge. As you enter the lounge on the second floor, you are greeted at the check-in desk by some friendly agents. You will need to give them your boarding pass as well as show your American Express Platinum card.
As an aside, in the past, I have had success in showing them my American Express app with the Platinum Card displayed so you may not necessarily need to physically bring the card with you. This is a situation that will be “your mileage may vary” (YMVV) so it’s always prudent to bring your card.
Once you clear the check-in, you can turn right to the dining area which includes the bar and requisite bartender, or you can turn left to the work and seating area.
You may see some pretty worn “RESERVED” signs on seats, which are used to save space for Centurion cardholders. If you’re not familiar with the Centurion card, it’s a black colored, no limit card from American Express that is only offered by invite only. There’s a $7,500 initiation fee and a $2,500 annual fee – so ya … I don’t fault them for reserving space for those folks.
The food at the Centurion at SFO is pretty dang good with a decent amount of choice.
The Roasted Chicken, Spiced Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, and Roasted Broccolini were my choices for lunch and they did not disappoint.
AMEX has been know to differentiate their lounges through their food. Each lounge has its menu curated by a famous local area chef. In the case of SFO, it was Chef Daniel Petterson, a well-recognized chef in San Francisco. He has won many accolades including being nominated for the Best Chef – Pacific by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and 2010.
One thing that I absolutely need in a lounge is reliable and fast internet access. I’ve found that most lounges are pretty good. The Centurion is more on the acceptable side of the scale.
It’s not crazy fast but certainly workable. You shouldn’t run into any problems streaming YouTube or Netflix from here. When you check-in, you will receive a business card with the wifi password. For most Centurion Lounges I have been to, the password has always been “MemberSince”.
The Centurion Lounges from American Express are always rock-solid in terms of the food, drink, and usable space. While I can certainly see how it can sometimes get crowded, my experience has been pretty good with no complaints about lack of seating. If you get a chance to connect through SFO, I would definitely suggest checking out the Centurion Lounge.