American Express has been building out its own lounge network, and they’re at a much higher standard than US airline lounges. They feature:
- Thoughtfully selected wine and craft cocktails
- Food by local celebrity chefs (full buffet meals)
- Complimentary spa in some locations
- Showers in most locations
- Kids room and conference space in most locations
Kids Room – Las Vegas
Exhale Spa – Miami
Buffet – Dallas
They’re distinctively designed spaces, accessible complimentary to American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders and on a paid basis to other American Express cardmembers.
There are American Express Centurion lounges at US airports already in:
And the next location has been announced…!
Houston Intercontinental Gets the Next Centurion Lounge
The American Express lease was approved at the June 17 Houston City Council meeting. The lounge is slated for opening “in the first half of 2016.”
American Express is spending $7 million to build out 8596 square feet in Houston Intercontinental’s Terminal D that’s the old immigration hall.
The Houston lounge will feature full complimentary food and beverage offerings. In each of the Centurion lounges so far they’ve partnered with a local celebrity chef. They haven’t revealed the culinary team yet — although no doubt they know at least who it will likely be (when they pitched Miami on opening a lounge there, they referenced Michelle Bernstein’s food in discussions with the airport authority although her name didn’t make it into documents from last spring).
There will be a family room and there will be a shower facility. Unlike Dallas and Miami, though, there won’t be a spa.
American Express has also announced “[n]oise-buffering workspaces, private phone areas, …comfortable seating, a computer bar, tranquility areas and access to high-speed Wi-Fi.”
The Lengths They’ve Gone to Bring Us a Centurion Lounge in Houston
This is a huge investment for American Express to make, and for now they have just a 5 year lease. Terminal D is slated for replacement, and if that happens before the lease is up the airport can terminate early.
But American Express is also promised a place in the new international terminal once that’s built, and a 10 year lease there, so this not only gives American Express a place in Houston now it helps to ensure that they’ll have a home for their Centurion lounge into the future.
The American Express Lounge Strategy Going Forward
The level of investment they’re making in a Houston lounge — in something relatively temporary — really shows, I think, just how badly American Express wants into key airports — and how committed they are to growing their network in key hub airports.
- Dallas and Miami are American Airlines hubs.
- San Francisco and Houston are United Airlines hubs.
- Las Vegas and New York LaGuardia are important cities for them to have a presence in.
- The Seattle ‘studio’ gives them a presence in a major market where there just wasn’t enough centrally located space available to a full lounge.
I reported that Denver’s United terminal is a priority for American Express, and on a rumored location for Washington Dulles. Both airports are United hubs.
It seems that given their Delta partnership (Centurion and Platinum cardholders get access to Delta lounges when flying the airline same day) they’re focused on United and American hub cities and other strategic major markets first. No inside knowledge on this, but I’d be surprised if Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis or Salt Lake City were early on American Express’ list.
No doubt they’d love to find a way to make space at Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles work. At LAX, at least, it’s expected that by next year the bulk of the terminals will be connected inside security and that will help take whatever space they might be able to find and make it accessible to all cardmembers.