Review: AmEx Centurion Lounge New York LGA Airport

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Last week American Express opened their latest airline lounge, which is the Centurion Lounge at New York LaGuardia Airport.

It’s interesting to see a credit card company get in the business of building airport lounges, though I think it’s brilliant. Over the past couple of years quite a bit of value has been lost in terms of the lounge privileges of The Platinum Card® from American Express. It used to get you access to American Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs, though that was discontinued in March. Furthermore, guesting privileges have been reduced at Delta SkyClubs as of May.

So now they’re building their own lounges. As it stands their US lounge locations include Dallas Ft. Worth Airport and Las Vegas. Furthermore, over the coming months they’ll be opening lounges in Miami and San Francisco.

I visited the Centurion Lounge DFW Airport in March, and it’s a spectacular lounge. I’d argue it’s nicer than any lounge operated by a US carrier, and among the nicest airport lounges in the US, even including those operated by foreign carriers.

Last night I had the chance to visit the Centurion Lounge New York LGA, which is located landside (before security) in Terminal B.

As a reminder, the following airlines fly out of Terminal B at LGA Airport:

  • American & American Eagle
  • United & United Express
  • AirTran & Southwest
  • Frontier
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit
  • Air Canada

You don’t have to be flying out of Terminal B to use the lounge, though. For example, my flight last night was on Delta, which flies out of a different terminal. While I had to take a bus to get to the Delta terminal, I could still use the American Express Lounge.

As I mentioned above, the Centurion Lounge is located before security between in Terminal B on the third level (that’s one level up from the main concourse). The signage throughout the terminal is excellent, and there are even several promotional posters throughout the terminal advertising the new lounge.

The elevator that leads to the third floor is located behind the check-in desks and in front of the security checkpoint, right above the big food court in the terminal.

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LGA Airport Terminal B

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Elevators to Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

I took the elevator to the third floor, which seemed to mostly have airport offices. However, upon emerging from the elevator there was a snazzy sign pointing left towards the Centurion Lounge.

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Signage for Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

From there it was located just down the hall on the right.

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Hallway to Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

The lounge has both the Centurion and American Express logos, along with the opening hours. The Centurion Lounge is open daily from 6AM till 8PM.

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Signage for Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

At the entrance was a similar welcome desk to what they have in Dallas, with a wall of (real) plants.

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Entrance to AmEx Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

I was greeted by Sharon, who was fabulous. She couldn’t have greeted me with any more enthusiasm than she did. She explained I’d have to take a bus to the other terminal, though suggested I stay in the lounge as long as possible. I was curious what her background was (like, do they hire people with airline experience or American Express experience?). Interestingly she had worked for Delta for over 30 years, and then American Express for several years, so you couldn’t pick a more “qualified” person to welcome you at the lounge.

I was also given a gift bag and small business card with the wifi code for the lounge.

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L’Occitane welcome gift at AmEx Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

Since the lounge has only been open for a week, they’re giving out special L’Occitane amenity kits as a gift. That made a great gift for mom when I got home (I was headed to Tampa to visit my parents).

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L’Occitane welcome gift at AmEx Centurion Lounge LGA Airport

In terms of accessing the Centurion Lounge, here are the guidelines:

  • Those with the American Express Platinum Card and American Express Centurion Card receive complimentary access
  • Those with either of the above cards may bring two travel companions as guests
  • If you have an American Express Card other than the ones listed above, you can purchase a day pass at the entrance for $50

Anyway, the lounge itself is much smaller than the one in Dallas, though wasn’t crowded at all.

Just past the desk at the entrance was the smaller room, which felt like a living room or sorts.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

It featured a few nooks, traditional lounge seating, a bar setup overlooking the tarmac, and a large dining table with plenty of chairs.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

As an aviation geek, the views here are addicting. LaGuardia is such a small airport with so much traffic, so it’s fascinating to see how planes maneuver around the tarmac.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge View LGA Airport

Most of the food was located on the other side of the lounge, though there were some freshly baked cookies and tea in this room.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Cookies LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Tea LGA Airport

This room was connected to the main part of the lounge by a long hallway, which also featured plenty of comfortable couches facing wall mounted TVs.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

The main room is where the bar, buffet, and dining area are. It features mostly two to four person dining tables, as well as bar tops overlooking the tarmac.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Seating LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge View LGA Airport

Unlike the lounges of US airlines, the Centurion Lounge actually has real food.

Here’s what their website lists as the lunch & dinner menu:

  • Tomato and Herb Salad, Shallot Red Wine Vinaigrette
  • Italian Burrata on Crostini, Lemon Vinaigrette, Basil
  • Udon Noodles, Aromatic Vegetable Broth, Green Chili
  • Fried Chicken, Honey Lemongrass Glaze
  • Roasted Summer Squash, Sea Salt, Lime
  • Ginger Rice, Seasonal Vegetables, Pickled Chilies
  • Strawberry Shortcake

It was accurate for the most part, though when I was there they had salmon instead of fried chicken, which I far preferred.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Coffee & Tea LGA Airport

They had a cappuccino machine, and I have to say that it was one of the better machine made cappuccinos I’ve had.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Coffee & Tea LGA Airport

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so decided to have a meal in the lounge. To start I had a tomato salad and burrata on crostini, which was really great.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Dinner LGA Airport

Then I had salmon with rice and squash as my main. Yes, as you’ll notice I put avocado on everything. They had a bowl of it sitting around, and as far as I’m concerned it’s a food group in and of itself.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Dinner LGA Airport

Then later on I had the strawberry shortcake for dessert.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Dessert LGA Airport

The food was legitimately restaurant quality. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe, salmon flaky, and squash flavorful.

They also have an extensive wine and cocktail list.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Drink Menu LGA Airport

I asked the bartender which cocktail I should have, and he recommended the Blue Door, which was great.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Cocktail LGA Airport

I then switched to G&Ts after that.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Cocktail LGA Airport

It’s worth noting that unlike at the lounge in Dallas, this one doesn’t have a spa or showers, since it’s much smaller. It does have nice restrooms, though.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Bathroom LGA Airport

The service throughout the lounge was excellent, and it very much reminded me of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Every few minutes one of the servers came by to see if I wanted anything, so you don’t even have to go up to the bar to get a drink. One other really minor point which I love is that all drinks are served out of bottles and cans. In other words, there’s no stale fountain soda.

American Express Centurion Lounge LGA Bottom Line

Joe Biden (rightly) said that LaGuardia Airport feels like a third world country. The Centurion Lounge is hands down the nicest space in the airport, and really is the only thing that makes any amount of time in the airport pleasant. This is a gorgeous lounge with great food and top notch service.

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Comments

  1. Can’t wait to visit the LGA lounge. I visited the DFW a few times and loved it. For beer lovers, there are some options of good bottled beers, including from small local breweries. Food there leans towards tex-mex, which is great (not restaurant-quality, but still great for a US-arirport lounge).

  2. I was in the Vegas lounge last month – it looked very similar. Furniture was comfy. Food was great. But at least at LAS, the music was SUPER loud and people were behaving like they were at a club. Maybe because it was Vegas. But not a super-soothing experience.

  3. What’s the tipping etiquette in a lounge like this in the USA? Are any tips expected by a bartender, server, or anyone else? I would say no – but this is USA after all with its crazy tipping customs.

  4. Lucky,

    How much time does it take to get to B from Delta terminal. Since I mostly fly DL, I would have to make sure I could make it to and from and still enjoy the lounge.

    Sam

  5. @ echino — In general I almost always tip (not because I love the tipping culture in this country, but rather because I recognize that many people rely on it to make a living), but oddly I didn’t feel the urge to tip in this lounge. No one seemed to be tipping, and there were no tip jars or dollar bills trashily placed along the bar.

  6. Neil, maybe it’s a weekend thing? I was at LAS a few months back on a weekday and the environment in the lounge was very subdued despite being busy. Certainly there was no loud music (if any that I can recall). It actually felt even more business-y than I was expecting.

  7. @ Sam — It’s less than a five minute bus ride, and the bus runs frequently. Took me maybe 15 minutes from leaving the lounge to get to the Delta terminal.

  8. any idea when the SFO lounge will open? I’ll be going through there in early October and would love to check it out.

  9. what if you were checking bags with Delta? could you bring them in the lounge? or do you have to go to Delta terminal, check-in your bags, take bus to the Amex lounge, then take a bus back to Delta terminal? that’s pretty inconvenient…

  10. Went there on Sunday and am actually about to board flight to LGA in 15min. Love it, they really do put other clubs to shame. I think I’ll cancel my AA club membership and keep the Amex, even if thy have far fewer lounges. A couple times in an Amex lounge is worth more than every weekend connection in an admirals club. I’ll keep a AA lounge pass or two handy for IROPS.

  11. I don’t have any of the cards that get me complimentary access but do have the SPG card. Do I need to use that card to purchase the day pass or can I use a different card (preferably one where I can leverage airline incidental reimbursement like the Chase Ritz)?

  12. @ Lantean — I didn’t see anyone with checked bags, but couldn’t imagine it would be an issue.

  13. @ Nick — Hah, I really wanted to review the Centurion Lounge and couldn’t fly out of LGA till late afternoon, and American doesn’t have a nonstop flight, so… yes. 😮

  14. @ Brian — That’s a great question. I’m not sure, but I don’t necessarily think you have to use an AmEx card to pay. I could be wrong, though.

  15. Wow, great review! Next time I stay at a LGA airport hotel, *dinner*! Oh, wait, for $2.50 each way E/F/R/M train then Q33 bus at Roosevelt Ave. coming from Manhattan will work too 🙂

  16. As long as you have a plat or centurian card do you need a boarding pass for that day in order to enter? Eg can a friend just come join me at LGA for lunch and get in without a boarding pass?

  17. The salmon and fried chicken alternate daily. I am not a fan of fried chicken but theirs is outstanding (it is one of the items the chef is truly known for).

  18. Related to Mark’s question, any idea if you could show a BP for a flight you just came from, and thus use it as an arrivals lounge?

  19. Lucky – I guess I missed you by a day! I was at the LGA lounge for several hours Tuesday afternoon and was wondering how long it would be before you posted a review.

    I completely agree with your assessment – LGA is an awful place, but being able to spend your time in a Centurion Lounge would make almost any airport bearable.

  20. @ TravelinWilly — The Centurion Lounge is before security, so you have to clear security at whichever terminal you’re flying out of.

  21. The fried chicken is indeed awesome. Honestly, the best I ever had. I would be dissappointed if I was there on a salmon day. It’s that good.

    Regarding entry requirements, you do need a same day BP. Of course, one could buy a refundable ticket, if you really wanted access (and the fried chicken is so good, that I would consider it). Also, you do not need to be departing LGA to access. Arriving at LGA is fine too.

  22. Interesting to see your remarks re: can/bottled soda vs from a fountain. I’ve sparked a discussion at my workplace recently about this and have been taking a poll. Can and bottle definitely have their advocates, but fountain has been given as the top choice more the twice as often as the other two combined. All that to say that for at least some of your readers (and possibly most) the lack of fountain sodas will actually be a negative.

  23. @ Mark I guested a friend in to the LAS lounge a couple weeks ago. The agent took my card and BP, but never asked for his. So you probably could bring a friend in, no guarantees though.

  24. @ Lucky – any idea why no spa/showers? Is it purely due to available space? Would seem that they’d prefer to have consistent experience throughout all the lounges.

    Re: brining in a friend — when I visited DFW lounge recently with a friend, only had to show my Amex card + BP but it was airside so perhaps they correctly assumed that my friend was flying out as well 🙂

  25. Do you reckon this could be used as a sort of arrivals lounge? Arriving from ORD in morning and not flying out JFK to London until night? Would like to waste a few hours in here.

    Also, I presume AMEX Gold card can pay $50 and get in? What about co-branded amex e.g. British Airways Amex.

    Thanks

  26. @ Ewan — I believe any AmEx credit or charge card will get you a pass for $50. You can use it as an arrivals lounge.

  27. A same-day ticket should not be required for American Express Centurion or Platinum members. Membership should suffice in itself.

  28. @ Dick — You do have to show you’re taking a flight same day. You can’t use the lounge if you’re not flying.

  29. Heading out of LGA soon on AA. I have TSA Precheck so how much time should I leave from getting from lounge to getting trough security and getting to gate?

  30. As a Centurion Card holder I’m appalled that Platinum card holders are entitled to the same benefits as I am vis a vis these lounges. We pay a much higher annual fee, have a much higher minimum spending to qualify in the first place–we should have more benefits–along the lines of first class vs business class. We should have a separate lounge area with more comforts, space, amenities and benefits. To call these lounges Centurion Lounges when Platinum cardholders have access is a joke and just a further eroding of the branding and cachet of the Black Amex. It makes me sick and is completely unfair and stupid.

  31. What a wonderful experience my new husband and I enjoyed at the lounge at LGA. It was his first time in the lounge and he was amazed by the quality and artistry of the meal and accompaniments being served on the buffet, as well as the tasteful and clean surroundings. The help was outstanding! When querying us as to our visit, we informed them that we were newlyweds. About twenty minutes after we were sat, the entire front desk, manager and chef came to our table with a lovely signed card and a dessert platter that made of the envy of all. They were so kind and caring. What a way to end a honeymoon. And as both of us were widowed years ago, it was all the more special to be recognized. Thank you so much for the extra care to attention that was used in staffing, and designing this upscale lounge. All the best!

  32. Any chance of stocking a couple kosher wines at the lounges? The LGA lounge had a good number of Jewish passengers there, two of which, and well as myself, did request a kosher wine. I do request with each visit.
    Thank you!
    Miri

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