Review: Amex Centurion Lounge Houston

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The brand new Amex Centurion Lounge Houston opened in late June, and I finally had the chance to check it out yesterday, after getting off my Singapore Airlines flight from Moscow.

Centurion Lounge basics

Over the past several years, American Express has been opening up airport lounges in the US for their premium cardmembers. 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 a couple of years back. Furthermore, guesting privileges have been reduced at Delta SkyClubs as of a couple of years ago as well.

I’ve reviewed all the other Amex Centurion Lounges, which include the following:

Centurion Lounge Houston access requirements

There are a few ways to access the Centurion Lounge:

Amex Centurion Lounge Houston hours and location

The Centurion Lounge Houston is open daily from 5:30AM till 9PM, which covers a vast majority of flights departing out of Houston.

The Centurion Lounge Houston is located in the D concourse, on the Mezzanine Level. That’s one level above the check-in and security level, and one level below the main concourse for departing flights.

Centurion-Lounge-Houston-Location

There’s a security checkpoint right by the elevator that leads to the Centurion Lounge, though that checkpoint doesn’t have Pre-Check, for what it’s worth.

The D Concourse is used primarily by international airlines, including Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Qatar, Singapore, etc.

However, keep in mind that all terminals at IAH are connected airside, so regardless of which airline you’re flying, you can use the Centurion Lounge. It could just be a bit of a haul to get to your gate.

Houston-Airport-Map

Amex Lounge Houston review

We visited the lounge around 2PM yesterday. After clearing security we took the elevator up a level to the Mezzanine Level, where the lounge is located.

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Elevator to Centurion Lounge Houston

Upon exiting the elevator we found ourselves in a long hallway, with the Centurion Lounge visible at the end of it.

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Hallway to Centurion Lounge Houston

The entryway and reception area were identical to virtually all the other Centurion Lounges I’ve visited, with blue doors and the Centurion logo next to it.

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Entrance to Centurion Lounge Houston

Just inside the lounge was the plant wall, found in all US Amex Centurion Lounges.

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Centurion Lounge Houston plant wall

I presented my boarding pass, passport, and Amex Platinum Card, and we were promptly admitted.

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Reception desk at Centurion Lounge Houston

For what it’s worth, the lounge is supposedly 8,500 square feet, making it one of the biggest Centurion Lounges (though to me it didn’t feel that way). As a point of comparison, the Centurion Lounge LaGuardia is ~5,000 square feet, while the Centurion Lounge Dallas/Ft. Worth is ~9,000 square feet.

Past the entrance was the main room of the lounge, which featured more traditional airport lounge seating.

The lounge has the same furniture as other Centurion Lounges, with a combination of leather chairs, semi-private couches, as well as tables with lime green chairs.

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Centurion Lounge Houston seating

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Centurion Lounge Houston seating

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Centurion Lounge Houston seating

While the lounge is mostly one big room, thanks to the use of partitions and different seating zones, it actually feels quite private.

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Centurion Lounge Houston seating

In the very back of the lounge is a TV area with just a handful of seats.

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Centurion Lounge Houston seating

Near the entrance is a business center, with a communal table that has eight seats.

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Amex Lounge Houston business center

There’s also a computer and printer.

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Amex Lounge Houston business center

Across from that is a telephone room, which I didn’t see anyone using. It’s nice to be able to make a phone call in private while in an airport lounge.

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Amex Lounge IAH telephone room

Behind that is a partitioned off area with three daybeds.

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Amex Lounge Houston relaxation area

The lounge also has a room for children. While I understand and appreciate the concept, in practice I find that these are rarely utilized. Given how crowded Centurion Lounges are, I’m a bit surprised they keep dedicating so much space to them.

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Amex Lounge IAH children’s room

The other major area of the lounge is the dining and bar area.

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Amex Lounge Houston dining area

The bar area has a pretty snazzy design with vintage suitcases, much like the other Centurion Lounges. As is the case at all of Amex’s US lounges, all drinks are complimentary, including some great cocktails.

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Amex Lounge Houston bar

The cocktail menu, available daily from 10:30AM until 8:30PM, read as follows:

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The dining area has over a dozen tables, and at no point during our stay did they fill up.

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Amex Lounge Houston dining area

In the dining area there’s also a communal table with high-top seating.

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Amex Lounge Houston dining area

In the very back of the lounge is the food spread, which is much better than what you’d find in any other US airline lounge.

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet

I wasn’t hungry since I just got off a Singapore Airlines first class flight, but the food looked quite good.

The hot selection consisted of:

  • Light mushroom broth miso
  • Steamed corn on the cob with garlic aioli, chilies, and pickled jalapeno
  • Quinoa with dried fruit and spiced pumpkin seeds
  • Steamed summer squash with a shallot-lemon vinaigrette
  • Braised chicken thighs in harissa with dried fruit, nuts, and avocado crema
  • Chickpea egg stew

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — light mushroom broth miso

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — corn on the cob and quinoa spiced pumpkin seeds

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — chickpea egg stew, chicken, and squash

On top of that there was a salad bar with several types of salad.

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — salad bar

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — salad bar

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — salad bar

The lounge had a single dessert, consisting of black pepper panna cotta with vanilla poached stone fruits. There wasn’t any other type of dessert, including brownies or cookies. That’s probably a blessing, since the Centurion Lounge brownies and cookies are regrettably delicious.

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Amex Lounge Houston buffet — black pepper panna cotta

Next to the buffet was a tap with still and sparkling water, as well as coffee.

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Amex Lounge IAH self serve drinks

Across from that was some iced tea.

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Amex Lounge IAH self serve drinks

There was also an espresso machine, along with a Twinnings tea selection.

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Amex Lounge IAH espresso machine

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Amex Lounge IAH espresso machine

The lounge also has a single shower room, which is quite large. It featured a toilet, sink, and walk-in shower.

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Amex Lounge IAH shower room

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Amex Lounge IAH shower room

While I didn’t shower, Ford did, and he said the water pressure was pretty good, but not amazing.

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Amex Lounge IAH shower room

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Amex Lounge IAH shower room

The lounge has L’Occitane toiletries, both in the shower as well as the bathrooms.

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Amex Lounge IAH  L’Occitane toiletries

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Amex Lounge IAH  L’Occitane toiletries

Speaking of the bathroom, the lounge had one urinal and two stalls in the mens bathroom. Historically Amex lounges seem to have a severe bathroom shortage, so we’ll see how that works out in this lounge.

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Amex Lounge IAH bathroom

Wifi in the lounge was on the slow side, though still usable.

After a stay of a few hours we headed to our departure gate. One major annoyance about the lounge is that there’s no way to access it by stairs, but rather there’s just a single elevator. Furthermore, some people were going up while others were going down, and plenty of people not even using the Centurion Lounges at all used the elevator as a means of getting between security and the gates. The elevator door opened six times before I could finally get in, since there was a queue for the elevator, it opened twice completely full, and two times it was going down rather than up.

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Elevator leaving Amex Lounge IAH

The elevators on the concourse level look the same as they do on the security level.

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Elevator leaving Amex Lounge IAH

Crowding at the Amex Lounge Houston

As I’ve written about before, Centurion Lounges often have crowding issues. Perhaps it’s a testament to their success, given how much better they are than US airport lounges.

However, I was surprised that this lounge wasn’t overcrowded. It was on the full side, though nothing compared to the lounges I’ve been to in Miami, Dallas, etc., where you have to wait for someone to leave before you can sit down.

I’m trying to figure out why this would be:

  • Is it because the lounge is still new, and people don’t know about it?
  • Was I traveling at an off peak time? Sunday at 2PM isn’t the same as Monday morning or Thursday afternoon, but I still assume it’s a pretty busy time.

But the more I thought about it, I think there may be another reason. Houston is obviously a United stronghold, and I suspect many United flyers don’t have Amex Platinum Cards. Keep in mind that up until two years ago, the Amex Platinum Card got you into American Admirals Clubs, so I suspect a disproportionate number of American flyers had that card. As a result, perhaps that explains why the clubs in Dallas and Miami are so crowded.

While the Amex Platinum Card gave you access to Continental President’s Clubs back in the day, that goes back a long time.

So who knows, maybe there just aren’t as many United flyers who have Platinum Cards, and that will cause the lounge to not be as crowded.

Amex Centurion Lounge Houston bottom line

It goes without saying that the Centurion Lounge Houston is a very nice new addition for Houston flyers. The lounge is a good size, and wasn’t overly crowded. The lounge had great drinks and a good food selection, so this is better than any US airline lounge I’ve been to.

However, unlike the lounges in Dallas and Miami, this lounge doesn’t have a spa. Unlike the lounges in Las Vegas, Miami, New York, and Seattle, this lounge doesn’t have exterior views.

So overall I’d say I still prefer the Centurion Lounges in Dallas and Miami, when you don’t take into account crowding (based on my one visit I don’t think I can draw too many conclusions about crowding at this lounge).

If you’ve visited the Centurion Lounge Houston, what was your experience like?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Houston is a legacy Continental hub, and the platinum card used to get you into the Continental lounges (pre-merger). So I’m not sure that explains it either.

  2. @ ssk — Right, but that goes back over five years. I imagine more people have canceled their card more than five years after a benefit changed, rather than American flyers in Dallas or Miami, where the lounges were added around the same time that Admirals Club access was taken away. I certainly could be wrong.

  3. Hi Ben. Great work as always! I must be the only traveler on the planet that is not in love with the Centurion Lounges. I have only been to SFO, but was bitterly disappointed. It was 10 pm and the place was packed. Bar line took 10 minutes. Three items at the buffet and it was only sporadically replenished. Standing room only. And the place was filthy as no staff were cleaning the tables. Guess I am going to have to give it a second chance because clearly I am missing something….

  4. Lucky –

    Since the SFO Centurion club is always jammed (and there’s no easy way to get to/from the lounge for passengers other than UA and *A international, I don’t think that the theory about UA pax not having Platinum Cards explains why it’s not crowded.

    I suspect it has more to do with it being in D. Depending upon your departure gate, it’s easily as much of a schlep as trying to get from T7 at LAX to the *A lounge at TBIT. Only true lounge geeks (myself included) make that trek. There are too many easy United Clubs around.

  5. I find it hard to believe that the lounge is only accessible via elevator. We do have fire safety standards in Texas.

  6. @ Rich — I actually asked the attendant specifically about that, and his response was “don’t worry, we’ll get you out if there’s a fire.”

  7. John H – SFO Centurion lounge kitchen closes at 10pm, hence the lack of food. I would recommend going earlier.

  8. Meh – I am dissappointed I live in Houston so I was planning to get plat for this but I don’t see anything spectacular about this lounge. Plus, if necessary, I can pay $50 to enter and since I won’t be in the lounge 9 times out of a year, it would be cheaper to do so. All the other benefits that plat offers, I will get it from citi prestige.

  9. I hate the furniture in Centurion lounges. Looks and feels like some cheap IKEA crap. The photo of ZZ Top in the business center is pretty cool, though.

  10. LMAO at the “business center”. I suppose most business travelers have their own laptops, but I’d much rather grab a drink and hop on a full size desktop any day. My favorite setup are the Macs at The Wing in HKG.

  11. +1 for @greg99’s comment. I went there last night after arriving on a United Domestic flight. I didn’t know it closed at 9pm and I arrived at 8:59. It is a long (20 minutes +) schlep from Terminal C where I landed and Terminal D is very lightly utilized. No Pre getting in, no services getting out. When I left I had to go to Terminal E (another long schlep) to catch an Uber, they don’t pick up at Terminal D.

  12. @stannis, the biz center at the Pier is even better; great lighting, huge desks and privacy at each station. i worked for a good 7 hours straight there a few months ago, then had dinner at the restaurant. can’t beat that.

  13. We always use the family room at the AMEX centurion lounge when we travel to/from SFO, which is almost on a monthly basis. We certainly appreciate the space where our kids can be kids, and I’m sure the other folks in the lounge appreciate being separated from them. I found your comment on the family room unnecessary. Otherwise I love your blog and reviews.

  14. I’d say the family room is one of the reasons I keep the Plat AMEX. It’s a great spot to let the kids be, on their own, while we sit outside. The door closes and noise is good to stay inside the room. True, the size is large if it’s just one or two families, other than that it’s a great space. My older kids liked asking for games and controllers from the front desk and being able to be in charge! AMEX wins, hands down, for including a family space in their lounges!

  15. @dg – I agree with paying a la carte, except your math is wrong. Subtract the $200 airline credit from the annual fee and now you’re looking at 5 lounge visits…

  16. Weird! I was in the Centurion lounge yesterday between 16:30 and 18:00 after I flew LHR-IAH. I guess we just missed each other!

  17. FYI, I was also surprised by the fact that it wasn’t too crowded, but I think that has to do with the fact that it was a new lounge. A lot of first-timers were there and were checking it out, but I overheard a couple saying that they probably wouldn’t use it on a regular basis due to the fact that it’s in Terminal D.

  18. The lounge IS accessible by stairs, but I think the stairway entrance is in terminal C right where it connects to D. I fly United domestic about once a month and I always pass by a stairway behind glass doors that say CENTURION on them and people have definitely walked up and down them. It’s a bit weird, but not a bad location for us United loyalists that don’t care for the United Clubs.

  19. I believe the uncrowding is due to it being in Terminal D which is for international travel other than on United. There’d be more people if in Terminal C or E, or even B.

  20. I believe Amex evaluated where they have a high threshold of Plat card users and built the lounge in that location. Houston was the likely next biggest hub with the highest concentration of users. That said, terminal D is really the pits!

  21. We must agree with John H who visited SFO. Not all Amex lounges are wonderful. Hot stuffy temperatures, lines, lack of replenishment, dirty.

    Complained to AE and just received a template letter reply.

  22. I got to go yesterday when they were open (my previous visit they were just closing). It is now my new favorite Centurion Lounge. Terminal D is a drag, no Pre reminded me just how bad the vanilla version of TSA can be. And the elevator only access took a while because there were a lot of people with wheelchairs and luggage going from TSA up to the gates which use the same two elevators. There are at least two exit stairways in the hall from the elevators to the lounge, but I think they are both alarmed. The Lounge is what I imagine SF, Seattle, or Vegas would be if they weren’t so overcrowded. There were places to sit, the tables were clean, the food was plentiful, the bartender was friendly and chatty. I had a great experience. On the way out I found that if you turn right from the elevators (towards D7) instead of left (towards D5) it is only a five minute walk to Terminal E and maybe 10 to Terminal C. Coming to the lounge from Terminal C, definitely don’t follow the signs to D, just go to E first, then follow the signs.

  23. Late to the party but I must say as a parent of a toddler I need those kids’ rooms to make everyone else’s experience better. Maybe I break the rules and drink my cocktail in there as well. 😉 I’m surprised you haven’t seen them well utilized, since that’s not my experience. Been through DFW twice in 2 months with 2-3 families in the room at once. The kids’ room in the fancy one world lounge at MIA had a similar situation in December. Maybe it’s because I usually travel during peak “kid” times like the holidays?

  24. I am a mother of 2 and am planning a trip to Disney with a layover in Houston. I fully plan on utilizing the family room. I know you are surprised by the amount of space but if there wasn’t this space people would complain about children being loud in the other common areas.

    Excellent move – AMX. Love the family room!

  25. I was here on the Sunday before Christmas, so it was a fairly busy day at IAH. But, even then there were no evident crowding issues in the lounge. I had to find a seat at the big wooden conference table since all the other seats were taken. At peak traffic, even all the chairs at the conference table were occupied, including the business station. The private telephone booth though was respectfully left vacant. However, at no time did I see anyone standing around waiting for a seat to free up, and the kitchen staff did a good job in making sure all food options were readily available at all times.

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