This is our review of The American Express Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 which opened at 11am today.
I got a sneak peak yesterday and it is a very impressive facility. It is on a par with the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 2 in terms of the money and effort that has been put into its design. Perhaps not coincidentally, The Centurion Lounge – like Plaza Premium – has no natural light and has had to work harder to make an impression.
Let’s take a look.
Why did American Express get into the airport lounge business?
A few years ago, American Express started to lose its contracts with the major US airlines which allowed Platinum cardholders to use their lounges.
Today, the only arrangement that is still in place with a US airline is with Delta. Even this is restricted to the Platinum cardholder, with guests only allowed for a fee.
American Express decided to launch its own proprietary airport lounge network. They have been seen as a welcome breath of fresh air in the US, where airport lounges are substantially lower in quality than those in Europe and Asia.
US airport lounges tend to operate on a ‘club’ system with paid memberships – having status is not enough to get you access. You have the odd situation where a British Airways Executive Club Gold or Silver member can use their card to access an American Airlines lounge but an AA top-tier flyer cannot. You are also expected to pay for food and some drinks in US lounges.
Amex has branded its lounge network as ‘The Centurion Lounge’. This causes some confusion because many believe that you need an American Express Centurion card to enter, which is not true.
Access is gained via a Platinum (or Centurion) charge card, issued in any country. Delta Reserve SkyMiles cardholders in the US can also get access, which will be very important at Heathrow given that Terminal 3 is where Delta operates from.
As well as Heathrow, there are Centurion lounges at:
- Dallas / Fort Worth
- Hong Kong (the only other non-US site)
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York (LaGuardia)
- New York (JFK)
- San Francisco
American Express has set up a special website where you can find all the details of each lounge, including opening times and facilities, here.
Where is the American Express Centurion Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3?
The majority of the Terminal 3 lounges are grouped together near the gates, at the rear of the shopping area. This is not the case here.
You need to head to the far right of the shopping area, following signs to ‘Lounge A’. Next to Ted Baker, you will see an Amex banner above a door which leads to a lift and stairs. You need to head to the second floor.
Who can get access to The Centurion Lounge at Heathrow?
You need to hold The Platinum Card, or invite-only The Centurion Card (our HfP guide to The Centurion Card is here). US residents can also get access with the Delta Reserve SkyMiles credit card.
Each Platinum cardholder is allowed to bring two guests. If you have issued a supplementary Platinum Card to your partner, they can also bring in two guests. In theory a family or group of up to six can enter via one account.
The lounge has a capacity of 110 so you can do the maths.
This is a big lounge, comprising 650 square metres.
Here is the reception area. You can immediately see the money that has been put into this facility:
…. which leads into a corridor where you can immediately see the strong investment in artwork:
The first room is on your left – a small office area, with a hot desking table. The one-person desks to the left have built in wireless charging, and as you can see the main table from Bristol-based Konk also has in-built charging:
There are some snazzy private working booths:
The photo below doesn’t really do this back wall justice. It is rammed with luggage, classic novels and other bits and pieces, all in the same deep shade of blue.
This one is taken from elsewhere in the lounge and gives you a better feel:
The bar and dining area
Continuing down the corridor, which is so classy it was worth a photograph:
…. it opens out into this large bar and dining area:
Whilst the seating is functional, the bar itself is beautiful and, again, the photo doesn’t do it justice.
A full range of cocktails are available, as is sparkling wine (no champagne). The cocktails are designed by Jim Meehan exclusively for The Centurion Lounge. These include Wayne’s Collins, a mix of the Tom Collins and White Negroni, and non-alcoholic cocktails like Hare of the Fog, a Negroni riff featuring Seedlip spirit and Aecorn aperitifs.
All drinks are free. The cocktail bar is open from 6am, when the lounge opens.
Sample Hare of the Fog mocktails by Jim Meehan:
Off to the side, at 90 degrees to the bar, is the buffet.
The Executive Chef is Assaf Granit of the Coal Office restaurant in London.
The food was excellent, but a special themed menu had been provided for us. There will be a broader range of dishes from today. Our meal included Granit’s staple homemade Kubalah bread, Moroccan fennel salad, shakshukit (a beef & lamb dish with confit tomatoes and tahini) and, for dessert, a “Oh ‘My Baklava” olive oil cake with pistachio anglaise and rose water diplomat.
The quality was very high. Amex may have underestimated the amount of food that will be required, however – do you think the buffet above could feed 110 people, which is the lounge capacity?
To be continued ….
We have split this review into two parts due to its length. Click here to read Part 2 of our London Heathrow Centurion Lounge review.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (November 2021)
As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £20. You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.
There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network. Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.
The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer. Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.