Today American Express celebrates the opening of the long-awaited expansion of The Centurion Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma airport. We joined American Express on a tour ahead of the public opening in order to scope out the new space and amenities.
The Centurion Lounge: an overview
We’ve written extensively about the burgeoning Centurion Lounge network, American Express’ wildly successful foray into the booming independent airport lounge market.
Complimentary for Platinum and Centurion card members, Centurion Lounges are visually striking spaces with a signature living wall, hardwood floors, designer furniture, and high-end finishes. The service is personal and attentive, and the amenities unparalleled for independent domestic lounges: highlights include complimentary hot meals, a premium full bar, superb shower suites, napping pods and cube chairs, and a family room.
With seven locations in the US including Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), San Francisco (SFO), Miami (MIA), and Houston Bush airport (IAH), and two additional locations at Philadelphia and Hong Kong airports scheduled to open later this year, American Express is spreading its wings, eager to preserve or re-capture premium customers who are increasingly steered towards a growing range of competing luxury cards. With The Centurion Lounge, American Express offers a unique touch that stands out from the competition.
At Seattle airport, a 1,400 sq. f. expansion packed with amenities
Launched in July 2015, the Seattle lounge was significantly more modest than its siblings. Dubbed The Centurion Studio, in a nod to its compact 3,100 square feet, the club provided essentials such as comfortable seating, fast Wi-Fi, and a range of quality snacks and drinks, but lacked signature features such as hot meals and a full bar. With real estate at a premium at an airport stretched to its limits, The Studio was a compromise allowing American Express to maintain a presence in a dynamic city, while discussing possible expansion options with the Port of Seattle.
The construction of an adjacent terminal expansion to support Delta’s operational requirements and a new flagship Sky Club meant the loss of daylight and views at the Studio, but also provided American Express with the opportunity to acquire an additional 1,400 square feet of real estate in a prime location.
The new expansion, located straight ahead when entering the lounge, sports a spacious dining area with 40 seats (for a total of 100 seats, effectively almost doubling the capacity of the lounge), a bar, a shower suite, and an additional bathroom.
The expansion spells the demise of the “Studio” moniker: the Centurion Studio has graduated to a Centurion Lounge.
At 4,500 square feet, the Centurion Lounge remains a small club—1,500 sq. f. shy of the United Club, also in Concourse A, and a stunning 16,500 sq. f. smaller than Delta’s adjacent new flagship Sky Club.
Yet, it’s a sense of space that greets visitors, with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows along two walls, which reveal sweeping views of the tarmac, including Delta and Southwest operations in the foreground, and international departures in the background. On clear days, the lounge boasts vistas of Mt. Rainier in the distance (which, in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, we haven’t experienced first hand just yet.)
Bathed in natural light, the space is tastefully furnished in neutral tones, with colorful cushions which add energy to the ensemble. In the center are dining tables, while along the windows is more intimate seating with side tables. There is also table-top seating to the right with built-in power outlets, and artwork throughout that pays homage to Seattle’s sports teams and aviation heritage.
The epicenter of the experience is naturally the bar, featuring American Express and travel memorabilia in the background.
The Premium Bar at The Centurion Lounge, Seattle-Tacoma Airport
Open every day from 10am, the bar features a wine list curated by Centurion Lounge Wine Director Anthony Giglioas, as well as a full premium bar featuring cocktails crafted by Centurion Lounge mixologist Jim Meehan.
We couldn’t pass the opportunity to indulge in a brief tasting of the house specialties. The selection from left to right, decidedly inspired by the Seattle area, included:
- Housemade I.P Yay, a surprising and refreshing mix of beer and vodka, featuring Rainier Beer, Anchor Hophead Vodka, grapefruit juice, maple syrup, and Angustora Bitters.
- Matcha Tonic, with its attractive green color, featuring East Imperial Tonic, Botanist Gin, and matcha soda.
- Team Spirit, with blue and green tones, a variation of the traditional margarita inspired by the Seahawks, featuring Olmeca Altos Blanco Tequila, lime juice, Guiffard Blue Curacao, and Mountain Dew.
- Penicillin Fizz, a perfectly balanced concoction enhanced by a subtle touch of honey, featuring Westland American Single Malt, lemon juice, smoked honey syrup, Angostura bitters, and Bundaberg ginger beer.
- Capitol Hill, a local interpretation of the Manhattan, featuring Woodinville Straight Rye Whiskey, Alessio Vermouth Bianco, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, and Amaro Angostura.
- Via Veneto, a dangerously delicious ode to Starbucks, which turned out to be our favorite, featuring Remy V.S.O.P Cognac, Aperol, Starbucks VIA Pike Place Coffee, and egg.
Patrons may also order any cocktail beyond the menu, or create their own from a vast selection of premium liquors and sprits which include Green Chartreuse, St.Germain, Grand Marnier, Ciroc vodka, and several high-quality whiskeys and tequilas.
A team of six bartenders will serve guests, and if the other Centurion Lounges are any indication of what to expect, you can be certain that they too are masters of their craft.
The wine selection is also showing significant improvement, with a much broader selection spanning the continents:
- Prosecco, Nino Franco ‘Rustico’, Veneto, Italy
- White blend, Brooks ‘Amycas’ 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon
- Pinot Grigiot, Terlato Vineyards 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
- Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau River 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand
- Chardonnay, Flor de Campo 2015, Santa Barbara County, California
- Grenache + Syrah, M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone ‘Belleruche’ Rose 2016, Rhone, France
- Pinot Noir, Loveblock 2014, Central Otago, New Zealand
- Malbec, Modega Tamari ‘Reserva’ 2015, Mendoza, Argentina
- Syrah, Gramercy Cellars Lower East 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington
- Cabernet Sauvignon, The Federalist 2015, Lodi, California
The complimentary Centurion Lounge bar surpasses the offerings of all other lounges at Seattle-Tacoma airport with ease. The United Club and two Delta Sky Clubs charge for premium drinks, while lavish foreign airlines such as Emirates and ANA use The Club at SEA in the South Satellite, which while featuring a fine wine list, sports a sub-par cocktail selection. The British Airways Terraces Lounge is the only potential contender, with a rather small bar, albeit staffed by an expert team.
An interesting twist at the Seattle location is the surprising lack of bar stools. Washington state law has a specific provision for airport lounges, which states that minors may be allowed in an area where alcohol is served, so long as children cannot physically reach the bar. Right next door, Delta has worked around this issue by installing a large island offering convivial space. At the Centurion Lounge, patrons will find plenty of comfortable seats immediately adjacent to the bar.
From 6 to 10 am, patrons will be able to order the (former) Centurion Studio signature drinks—Peach Bellinis and Mimosas—as well as two new options: Screwdrivers and Bloody Marys.
The Centurion Lounge Seattle bathroom and shower suite
Hidden in a nook to the left of the window wall, are a shower-suite and additional unisex bathroom stall.
Timelessly elegant, the shower suite replicates the design of classic Centurion Lounge facilities. The posh room features an oversized sink, a rain shower with L’Occitane bath products, a toilet, a bench, and ample space to store bags. Plush towels are provided, and various amenities—including toothbrushes and razors—are available upon request.
The Centurion Lounge is one of only three lounges at Seattle-Tacoma airport to boast a shower (the others being the two Delta Sky Clubs and the British Airways Terraces Lounge), and the only independent lounge to offer this amenity. This makes the Centurion Lounge a choice destination for international passengers flying ANA, Lufthansa, Asiana, EVA, Condor, Emirates, and Icelandair (who use the far more modest The Club at SEA Concourse S) as well as Hainan (who uses The Club at SEA Concourse A.)
Adjacent to the shower is a spacious bathroom, with a sink outfitted with luxurious L’Occitane products and plenty of space in which to change clothing. It is unfortunate that the floor plan did not accommodate two smaller bathrooms in lieu of a single larger one, as lines are likely to continue to be a problem at peak times.
Limited hot meals on the horizon at The Centurion Lounge SEA
The new expansion brings the Centurion Lounge Seattle mostly in line with its siblings across the US.
Still, a few typical Centurion Lounge amenities are missing due to lack of real estate, such as the family room, day beds, phone booths, or other such memorable touches as the wine wall at The Centurion Lounge San Francisco airport (SFO) or spa at Dallas Ft. Worth airport (DFW).
The largest disappointment remains the absence of hot meals, which are a staple of Centurion Lounges nationwide.
Without a fully equipped kitchen, American Express is unable to serve freshly prepared menu items. However, the lounge team is considering relocating the beverage selection to a cart in order to free up counter space, and they are looking into employing a caterer to provide a selection of simple entrees. While the logistics are still being worked out, this move would single-handedly make The Centurion Lounge the top club at Seattle airport in terms of overall amenities.
New access rules at the Centurion Lounge SEA
With the transformation of the Centurion Studio at Seattle airport into a traditional Centurion Lounge, American Express is harmonizing access rules across the network, effective immediately.
At the Studio, American Express Platinum and Centurion card-members were only allowed a single guest due to capacity restrictions. From now on, members will be able to invite two guests, like at other Centurion Lounge locations in the US.
Over the next ten days, Platinum and Centurion card members may continue to bring their immediate family. However, after March 30, the number of guests will be limited to two at all locations, with a $50 fee for additional guests.
Other American Express card members (holding various cards such as the Delta Sky Miles or SPG card) will continue to be able to a purchase one-time access for $50, space permitting. So far, purchasing access at Seattle airport has been an unlikely proposition due to limited capacity. The expansion may help in this regard but admission is still not guaranteed.
While the Centurion Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma airport remains, for now, the smallest Centurion Lounge in the US, the expansion brings American Express’ key signature amenities to the Pacific Northwest. The complimentary full-bar is unparalleled at SEA; the shower is a priceless amenity for long-haul passengers; and the uplifting views of Mount Rainier augment the experience and give the club a newly vibrant mood.
The upgrade to a full-featured Centurion Lounge allows American Express to retire the Studio brand and align access rules, eliminating confusion at the door. It remains to be seen, however, if the more generous policy might impact crowding, which is often perceived as the top issue.
To celebrate the opening of the expanded Centurion Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma airport, American Express is treating visitors today to Vosges truffles and Champagne. Patrons will also take home a complimentary travel phone charger as a memento of their day-one visit.