Review: AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport MIA

American Express is doing something really innovative by opening up their own lounges at airports which their cardmembers frequent most. The footprint is small, but the lounges they do have blow the ones run by US airlines out of the water. They definitely rank as some of my favorite lounges in the US.

American Express has started opening up more of their own airport lounges in part because quite a bit of value has been lost in terms of the lounge privileges of The Platinum Card® from American Express. The card used to get you access to American Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs, though that was discontinued last March. Furthermore, guesting privileges have been reduced at Delta SkyClubs as of last May.

Prior to this month, American Express had four Centurion Lounges in the US:

Just this month AmEx opened up their fifth Centurion Lounge, at Miami Airport. Furthermore, this summer they’ll be opening a Centurion Studio at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, which will apparently be a smaller/toned down version of the lounge.

AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami access requirements

There are a few ways to access The Centurion Lounge:

  • Those with The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express Centurion Card receive complimentary access
  • Those with either of the above cards may bring their spouse and children under the age of 18, or 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

AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami hours and location

The Centurion Lounge is open daily from 5AM till 11PM. Given that there aren’t many super late redeyes out of Miami, that should cover just about all imaginable departures.

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Miami Airport AmEx Centurion Lounge signage

The Centurion Lounge Miami is located in the D concourse, which is the terminal out of which American Airlines primarily operates. The elevator to the Centurion Lounge is located near gate D12, which is around the middle of the concourse. Some terminals at the airport aren’t connected airside, but this should cover all American flyers, and also passengers on some other carriers.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami review

What’s especially exciting about The Centurion Lounge Miami is that it’s at Miami Airport, which is otherwise one of my least favorite airports in the country. So while The Centurion Lounge Dallas has always been my favorite, that’s a nice terminal to begin with. In other words, the difference between the terminal and lounge isn’t quite as drastic as at an airport like Miami or New York LaGuardia.

As explained above, the elevator to the lounge is located near gate D12, which is in the central part of the American terminal.

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Miami Airport D Concourse

There’s an Admirals Club nearby as well, so when you get to the circular atrium of sorts you’ll see all kinds of signage and advertisements for the lounge.

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Miami Airport D Concourse AmEx Centurion Lounge signage

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Miami Airport AmEx Centurion Lounge elevator

The lounge is located on the fourth floor, so it’s quite a bit higher than the main concourse. My first thought was that this was good news in terms of tarmac views.

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Miami Airport AmEx Centurion Lounge 4th floor view

Once outside the elevator the entrance to The Centurion Lounge is right there.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport entrance

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport entrance

The design of the lounge is in line with all of the other Centurion Lounges, including the entrance having a “plant wall.” We were quickly checked in by the friendly associate and given the password for the wifi (which is the same as at all the other lounges).

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport reception desk

This is the second Centurion Lounge to offer an Exhale Spa (the other is in Dallas), where you can receive complimentary 15 minute treatments. It’s worth noting that while the lounge is open daily from 5AM until 11PM, the spa is only open from 9AM until 8PM.

We weren’t proactively asked if we wanted a treatment, which I appreciated. Not everyone knows about the spa, so it’s easier to get an appointment when it’s on a request basis, as opposed to them proactively offering everyone treatments. I find in the Dallas lounge they’re super proactive about offering everyone a treatment, and that’s why it’s usually impossible to get one within a few hours.

Despite the lounge being extremely crowded, we had no problem securing treatments within an hour.

The spa menu read as follows:

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Exhale Spa menu Miami Airport

Anyway, more about the lounge itself.

Across from the reception desk is some seating, which seemed to be the only part of the lounge which wasn’t overcrowded. There were two comfortable chairs across from the entrance, and then a long bar area with high-top seating.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport seating

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AmEx Centurion Lounge seating Miami Airport

The lounge itself is about 8,000 square feet, making it one of the larger ones. For context, The Centurion Lounge LaGuardia is ~5,000 square feet, while The Centurion Lounge Dallas/Ft. Worth is ~9,000 square feet.

Starting in the back corner of the lounge, there’s a long and narrow hall with window seating, which has some fantastic tarmac views. The type of furniture is nicely varied throughout the lounge, as you can see below. It’s modern, simplistic, and practical without looking cheap, in my opinion.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge seating Miami Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge seating Miami Airport

Then the lounge widens a bit, with plenty more seating.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge seating Miami Airport

Past that is the dining and bar area, which has a bit over a dozen tables.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge seating Miami Airport

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AmEx Centurion Lounge bar Miami Airport

Then in the very back corner is the bar, which has the typically adorable “American Express” decorations.

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AmEx Centurion Lounge bar Miami Airport

As I said above, the views from the lounge really are gorgeous. Not only do you have a great view of some gates, but you also have great runway views.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport view

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport view

In terms of food, the lounge has a coffee/water/tea station, which also has some cookies. There’s an espresso machine, though it wasn’t working when I was there.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport coffee/snacks/cookies

The buffet was located just past that. Full disclosure, I’m probably not the best person to judge food, since I was not feeling well yesterday.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport buffet

The food spread is of course infinitely better than anything you’d otherwise get at a US airline lounge. There was a nice salad bar, whereby you could make your own salads.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport buffet

Then there were several hot dishes. They weren’t really my style, as I’d prefer lighter food while traveling, so I’d probably stick to the salad bar, personally. But I know a lot of people love the “heavy” dishes in The Centurion Lounges.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport buffet

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport buffet

Dessert consisted of vanilla panna cotta.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport buffet

The servers in the lounge were fantastic. They were constantly roaming to clear plates/glasses, and to see if anyone wanted anything to drink.

As mentioned above, I scheduled a 15 minute deep tissue massage.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport Exhale Spa

The spa is quite nice, and has both a manicure station, as well as two massage chairs.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport Exhale Spa

I find the therapists in The Centurion Lounge Dallas to be fantastic. Like, really, really good, and find that they do wonders between flights.

I’m not one to often complain about massages… especially free ones (though they’re not really “free,” since I think it’s only fair to tip)… at airports. But this massage was just freaking terrible. I don’t know if it was the guy’s first time giving a massage, but I’ve never had such an unpleasant (and not unpleasant in the sense that you feel great afterwards) confusing, and poorly thought out massage. Like, when my eight year old great-cousin sat on my shoulders as I walked through Frankfurt last week, well, that felt better on my back. The guy was very nice, though…

I’m hoping that this is an anomaly, or maybe just because the lounge is new? Regardless, I wouldn’t take a massage with the same guy for free in the future, even if I weren’t to tip.

Lastly, the lounge has separate restrooms for men and women. The mens restroom has two stalls and one urinal, which seems not especially sufficient for such a large lounge. Not surprisingly there was often a queue.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Miami Airport restroom

Is there diminishing marginal return with these lounges?

So here’s the deal. I love The Centurion Lounges. I really think what American Express has done is absolutely brilliant, and they’re adding real value for cardmembers. And when I first visited the one in Dallas, I was excited. The spa was awesome, the lounge wasn’t overcrowded, and the food was tasty.

But the more I visit these lounges, the less sure I am how American Express can properly manage them in the future. The Centurion Lounge opened just two weeks ago and was packed for most of the four hours I spent there. Just about every seat was taken, it was loud, and it was chaotic. Yes, the food is better than a US airline lounge. Yes, the drinks are better than a US airline lounge. Yes, the service is (generally) better than a US airline lounge.

But when I get back to the basics, the single thing I’m looking more for than anything in an airline lounge in the US is a quiet place from which to work. Admirals Clubs are far from glamorous, but they do have “proper” cubicle workstations where I can set up shop and work comfortably and efficiently for a few hours.

I guess the bigger thing is that I don’t know how American Express will control crowds in the future. The past few Centurion Lounge visits I’ve made, they’ve all been above efficient operating capacity. And I assume that will only get worse over time, especially as the lounge network expands and more people (presumably) get the card for access to the lounges.

Bottom line

All things considered The Centurion Lounge Miami is fantastic. In absolute terms I still prefer the The Centurion Lounge Dallas DFW Airport and The Centurion Lounge New York LGA Airport. But at the same time Miami Airport is one of my least favorite in the country, so this lounge changes it from an airport I did everything in my power to avoid, to one I’ll gladly transit in the future.

Have you visited the AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami? What has been your experience with Centurion Lounge crowding?

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Comments

  1. I really only use the one at LAS, because there aren’t other lounge options. With the new guesting rules, the SkyClubs have become quiet and more empty, which is awesome.

  2. Fully agree about the crowding issue. I’ve tried twice now to use the SFO lounge, which is perfectly situated since I’m a UA flyer. But on both occasions nearly every seat was taken, and the whole place had sort of a disheveled air.

    I ended up going to the United Club on both occasions — with the new food spread, it’s more pleasant than before. And there’s an entirely new UC being constructed at the terminal 3 extension.

  3. I’ve only been to the centurion in sfo 4 times, and I am already over it. Far prefer the old United Club. Sadly, when my A3*G ends and my Chase lounge passes dry up, I guess I will be back to the centurion, as I refuse to buy a United Club membership. Maybe next year I’ll try to earn LH*G…

  4. I guess the issue resides here: Who can access the lounge!!!!
    “Those with either of the above cards may bring their spouse and children under the age of 18, or two travel companions as guests”: Sorry, but no companion guests. If you want to access, get your own card. I agree with children under the age of 18 since they cannot get their own credit card.

    “If you have an American Express Card other than the ones listed above, you can purchase a day pass at the entrance for $50”: Again, no way. If you want to access the lounge, pay the $450 fee for the card.

  5. @ Santastico — Bingo! I think we will see something along these lines eventually, as the clubs are unpleasantly crowded.

  6. Limit the flow by just allowing platinum card holders + 2 guests in (and if that doesn’t work, just have platinum cardholders in)
    The fact someone can get in with 50$ and a 0-fee amex card will lend itself to overcrowding.

  7. Was there on Sunday. Horrible, terrible failure in overcrowding, lounge is a complete disaster, biggest failure I’ve ever witnessed in a domestic lounge. Massage was a joke, a Japanese massage chair would’ve been better.

  8. Nice looking lounges but don’t like a number of the team members and no one ever offers a drink
    you have to approach them and they are understaffed at the bar
    The food is hardly appealing even though it is better than most US lounges
    Then most of the time as previoulsy shared way to crowded with people sleeping across seats like its the local homeless shelter
    Not a fan till they learn how to manage it better

  9. I’ve only been to the DFW and LGA clubs and I do have to agree that the DFW club in particular, at least in the late afternoons, is chaotic, overcrowded, and not a place where you’d try to get any actual work done. And the breakfast food tries too hard; lunch/dinner is somewhat better.

    I think that there are just a lot of Platinum holders. Surely hardly anyone’s paying $50 a pop.

    I’ll probably just let my card lapse since I’m an AA hub captive who doesn’t really fly Delta. For me, the Prestige works better, as do the Admirals Clubs.

  10. Glad you mentioned the restroom issue. The one at DFW is also woefully undersized for the capacity of the lounge. I don’t remember the one at LGA being a problem, but the two times I’ve been the lounge wasn’t very busy – unlike the DFW one which seems to usually be very crowded.

  11. I think the membership fee argument is a slippery slope. What if I have the Delta Reserve and SPG cards? I’m paying Amex more than a Platinum cardholder, but I still need to pay 50 bucks to get in?

    Or is it a case of I get the benefits I get for the cards I have, and tough luck about the lounges?

  12. Sadly, the Centurion lounges are suffering the same fate as the (once fabulous) TK lounge at IST. Word got out and over time, the greedy and loud rolled in. Yes, I still appreciate them but only for eating and drinking, not working or relaxing.

  13. Typing this from the Centurion Miami lounge right now and it is crowded. Some of the kids here are quite noisy… on the plus side, the food and drinks is quite good

  14. Ben,

    Having a massage when unwell physically is not recommended. Had one when quite unwell and I felt really ill for the next 24 hours.

  15. Amex was (is still?) giving out passes to non-Centurion and non-Platinum cardmembers on a very generous basis. Can’t be surprised at the ridiculous levels of overcrowding when you consider how many millions have the Platinum card, plus generous guest policy, plus multiple free passes for others, plus $50 for a day pass for all cardholders. They should rename these things the Amex Everyone Lounge. At this rate, I’d rather find a quiet, empty gate area than put up with this.

  16. How does one decide how much to tip on an otherwise free service? Especially when it’s only a 15 minute one. I’ve never paid for a 15 minute massage, so I don’t even have a reference point for a fee to tip on.

    Besides which, tips are usually given to people on a fairly low minimum wage, when the expectation of the job is that tips will make up a large portion of their income. Really doubt that AMEX is paying Spa staff on that basis, even at airports without the new government mandated $15/hour minimum.

  17. At this point the only reason I am keeping my Platinum Am Ex is lounge access and the $200 airline credit. I am based in LAS so I get greater value.

  18. @Mike H

    100% heck, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the massage therapist. Good therapist will tell you not to get a massage if you have a cold or some other systemic illness.

  19. Lucky, I followed the link to the DFW lounge and saw your tip advice there. No need to repeat, unless you’ve changed your mind.

  20. These lounges are DEFINITELY a reason to apply for an Amex Platinum card, so Amex needs to plan for this and expand these lounges. Why are they building a small lounge in Seattle, when every other lounge is over crowded? Anyway, the lounges look FANTASTIC, I just hope they expand them so that they aren’t overcrowded.

  21. @Santastico “Again, no way. If you want to access the lounge, pay the $450 fee for the card.”

    @Eric “Limit the flow by just allowing platinum card holders ”

    Forget the platties. Restrict the lounge to black card holders only. That should take care of the crowding.

    And remove all the signs. Lounges are for people who already know the secret way in.

  22. Definitely need to do something to keep the crows down but still can’t wait until Amex finally builds one at IAH 🙂

  23. One important piece of information is missing: In addition to qualifying American Express cards, a confirmed space boarding pass is required for entry. This policy is being strictly enforced due to crowding. (coindicently, crowding seems to be the top complaint in the comments here) The downside to the confirmed boarding pass requirement, is it denies access to any airline employee who is embarking on personal travel. Lounge access was the only reason I had the Plat card, but I did not renew it because of this policy. We have moved to the Citi Prestige card which is working well for us because AA has added soups and snack choices to the clubs. And, they are designed for crowds.

  24. It’s a trend I don’t see changing anytime soon. With the increasing fees for ‘paid’ club memberships this is still a deal for many people. A redesign is not really on the cards, given that they’re so new, but future lounges need to consider bathrooms and staffing more than they have done in the past. When over 70% of the lounges users are male, it’s not asking much to provide adequate bathroom facilities for them. The crowds will not disperse anytime soon, but we can only hope that staffing levels are higher in the future to enhance the experience. Crossing fingers and holding breath!

  25. Lucky
    I was there tonight and it was very underwhelming. Surprised they are serving fired chicken especially coming from Chef Michelle Bernstein. Staff was ok but it is so far away from everything. As a Centurion card member I would have expected a welcome gift since its new. It’s not worth going to unless you are on that end of the terminal. I never even received the email they were open. I believe they targeted card members that they could charge the $50 to

  26. Was there on Sunday afternoon and found it quite crowded. It was my first visit to a Centurion lounge and my expectation were quite high. While the food and drinks were good (that fried chicken in the buffet pictures tastes a lot better than it looks), the crowding and small bathroom is a bit of an issue. I though that it was due to Sunday travel, but it looks like even mid-week it’s not much better. Still a lot better than hanging ot at the gate though.

    BTW, you should probably also add that the lounge also has a separate play area for kids. Didn’t see it mentioned in the review.

  27. I was there a few days ago and noticed it was pretty crowded for most of the afternoon. Although I disagree about the massage, I believe I had the same guy based on your picture, and he was great!

  28. Thanks for the information! Does it have a separate private area for centurion card members?

  29. Thanks for the review. Looks like I can give it a try next week. Have a couple hours before a VS flight Monday evening. How long a walk is it from F to D? Assuming no issues passing security with boarding pass for my VS flight? I don’t spend much time in and out of MIA but this would be a much better option than the lounge VS offers pre flight.

  30. @ Graydon — It would be quite a haul, and I can’t guarantee MIA lets you clear security for a terminal you’re not flying out of. Given how crowded this lounge gets, I don’t think it’s worth it.

  31. Thanks for the fast reply Lucky! Good advice. I do have time to kill and the departure lounge for VS sucks. If I get bored I may make the walk and try to get past security. Worst case I’m denied but I could at least post back with my experience one way or another. If I can gain entry with VS boarding pass I’ll treat myself to a cocktail and a massage. If I can’t I will scowl away like a loser and sulk back to the VS gate in shame. Kinda sad to think the best lounge I will be in prior to LHR will be the Admirals Club in TPA (not that it’s that bad…). Thanks again!

  32. Well you called it. Not enough time after my1 hour no gate upon arrival delay. Perhaps next time.

  33. Here is some followup, now that the lounge has been up and running for a while. We were flying international Alitalia and firmly proved that this AMEX lounge (1) is too far away and (2) not worth a visit anyway. I have almost never experienced a more crowded lounge: people sitting everywhere, even on floors, unappealing food in disarray on the buffet and on uncleared tables (think overwhelmed staff), very noisy, and certainly not exclusive at all. We beat a hasty retreat back across the airport to the Alitalia lounge which was, although not exquisite and lacking real food, a pleasant pre-flight respite, especially compared to the hectic, boisterous, and crowded Centurion lounge. Go there only if you are DESPARATE!!!!!

  34. I really like these lounges, but they can be crowded and the breakfast food options in the Miami Centurion Lounge, at least at 5am (opening time) soon after it was inaugurated were quite limited, at best on par with those of regular airline lounges in US airports. However, their lunch options, as I experienced yesterday, are better.

  35. I would have liked to try it – but the Miami Centurion Lounge is CLOSED…!!!! Signs up on the elevator.
    That does not inspire me….. I may need to rethink my card policy… The reasons for maintaining Amex are evaporating…..

  36. This was our first visit to the Miami Centurion Lounge, even though carrying a AMEX Platinum card for many years. We were thoroughly impressed, and commented, “How can they do this for FREE!”

  37. The staff at MIA were fantastic! All were pleasant and they remembered our names even though they were busy.

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