And the Next American Express Centurion Lounge Will Be… Houston!

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Freaking killing me. Really was holding out for a Northeast lounge that wasn’t LGA (worst place ever). Sad to say goodbye finally to the Amex Plat, since I can’t justify its $250 AF (assuming you get $200 back in GCs).

  2. I think the biggest constraint for a lounge in any given airport is finding a large enough nice space that’s available, that’s accessible to a good percentage of American Express cardholders in the area, and that the airport authority will lease to American Express.

  3. glad i pulled the trigger on the prestige (using one of your links!) last night over the platinum. No interest in plat until they open Centurion Lounge in ORD or DCA/IAD.

  4. I guess it’s hard given often separate terminals at many airprots. JFK would be perfect for one of these, but I’d imagine it doesn’t make sense given whatever terminal you put it in, only those flying out of it will be able to use it.

  5. I’ve heard rumors from Amex employees about IAH, ORD, and BOS, so that’s one off that list.

  6. Opening in Terminal D isn’t really a major shot at United at IAH. All of the United flights and UCs are concentrated in Terminals A, B, C, & E with D reserved for other international airlines. While this will be a nice addition to D for those traveling out of there, I don’t really see this as an alternate to the UCs as it’s quite a hike to get to a UA gate from Terminal D.

  7. I’m really disappointed that they didn’t pick Terminal A, which is and will continue to be, a barren wasteland. Even worse, there are already good lounges in the other terminal, whereas Terminal A only has a pint-size United Club. If you’re a Delta or AA flyer, you’ll continue to be without a convenient lounge in IAH.

  8. @Jacob – D is a ten minute walk to a United gate in C north or E. It’s a fifteen minute walk to C south.

  9. Thank Gary for the update.

    As you may already know the north side of IAH is due for a major rebuild where 1) the “banjos” at B north are being replaced by piers, 2) C north is being demolished to make way for the new D complex, and 3) when the new D complex is brought online it will span from where C north is currently to where the existing terminal D ends.

    Two additional items of note: 1) HAS has portioned 60k sqft of lounge space -30k on the west side of D and 30k on the east side of D- in the new D, of which a portion is presumable going to be for AX and 2) if AX rebuilds their lounge on the west side of the new D complex (where C north is currently located) it will be a central location to UA, the international flights, and the termalink airside train, which should help improves access to the lounge for all of IAH.

  10. It only takes 10-15 minutes from Terminal A to Terminal D, so I’d rather have a Centurion lounge than worry about if it was in A or not. There isn’t enough traffic in A to justify it there. (and I wouldn’t be surprised if AA used the empty space

  11. I sure hope they keep as a priority the ability to access via all terminals without needing to clear or re-clear security. The unpredictability of queues is a big deal.

  12. I agree – big benefit at IAH is that everything is post-security and you can take the terminal train throughout. SF is a pain in that way. (and Miami)

  13. Hallelujah! As someone who flies regionally to IAH or DFW to connect elsewhere, this is great news!

  14. Gary, there is prime real estate in Terminal A just waiting for a lounge to be installed. It’s right next to the Chili’s, if you’re familiar with the layout.

  15. I think as much as Delta has screwed Amex, Amex shouldn’t sit around trusting that SkyClubs will continue to service Amex cardholders. They should definitely build in ATL, SLC, MSP, etc…

  16. Aahh where is PHL?! It’s a huge market dominated by AA/US and the Admirals Clubs here are pretty poor compared to other major markets. Now that I have the Citi Prestige it’s going to be hard to justify the Platinum card AF if they don’t open a lounge here in the next couple of years. I’ve found the Centurion lounges in other cities so nice that I’m willing to pay $250 a year just for access to one at my home airport were one to open but the Citi Prestige and other TYP earning cards offering elite qualifying flights redemptions plus Admirals Club access means I’m going to have to drop the Platinum card otherwise.

  17. Although IAH would be another salvo against UA, the location of the new lounge suggests, as in DFW, Amex is primarily courting international-bound members and somewhat sheltering itself from being inundated by hoards of domestic flyers who can’t be bothered, or don’t have enough time, to get between terminal buildings. (The SFO lounge is within UA’s terminal space but very close to one of the two international terminal wings. DFW in D terminal, which is the international terminal there.) In any case, these lounges have made me consider extra long connections at DFW and next month at SFO.

  18. It is really sad that they are completely ignoring mid-Atlantic and Northeast airports (and heck I’ll throw in ORD) with massive amounts of connecting traffic and poor airline lounge offerings for domestic travelers…I realize that the barriers are high to getting into these markets but in my opinion (biased as an East-coaster), this is just going to seem like a gimmick until they break into these major hubs and provide a truly comprehensive network of lounges.

  19. Yes! So happy about this. Being placed in D isn’t the best for United travelers out of E, but probably the best they could do as a temporary solution.

    No spa kind of sucks but I hope it’s because they took into consideration the lessons of Miami and are focused on more space. I’ve read some not-so-glowing reviews of the Miami lounge which seems to be overcrowded.

  20. Good to hear this info as an occasional iah United flyer. The D terminal thing is puzzling as even a nonstop to Tokyo leaves out of E terminal and all my other international flights on United seem to start with a domestic connection from C. I guess I will make it work as I am really dissatisfied with all the United Clubs at Iah food offerings, rude staff, crowded, …I could go on on and on. There is a sweetheart morning lady bartender at the E terminal United club though that I would miss:(

  21. It’s killing me that they aren’t in LAX or ORD yet….and nothing is even in the works! Sometimes I fly out of Burbank just so I’ll end up in SFO for the lounge. It doesn’t add much to travel time with PreCheck I never worry about security lines anyways.

  22. LAX on the way!! While not officially announced there are signs all over the international terminal advertising the Centurion Lounge and rumor has it it will be between terminal 6 and 7.

  23. I recently had a five hour layover in Miami and was delighted to discover the Centurion lounge. I’ve been in lounges all over the world but I must say this lounge was about the BEST! The food was excellent, the wine was excellent, the WiFi connection was excellent, and the lounge was so large I had no problem finding a quite space for myself. I hope someday to find an AmEx lounge in the international terminal Logan Airport, in Boston!

  24. How about DCA AND IAD that would rock the nations capital!!! And considering the demographics it would add a hell of a lot more Amex platinum members!!!

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