After 30 minutes in the American Airlines Admirals Club on the B Concourse, there was still time to drop in at the American Express Centurion Lounge before boarding the flight to Denver. Changes due to the pandemic had adversely impacted the quality of the experience in the Concourse B Admirals Club only slightly. I was curious to see how the pandemic had affected the Centurion Lounge experience.
Because they feature family-style buffets including hot entrees and side dishes, Centurion Lounges are the best airport lounges in the U.S. for domestic travel. American Express has installed them at several major airports over the last eight years. There are currently 13 lounges in the system located in 13 U.S. domestic and international hubs. All except LAX have reopened on a limited basis. There is also a Centurion Lounge in Hong Kong and several other American Express affiliated lounges in five other countries.
People who hold an American Express Platinum Card have access to these lounges and can bring in two guests for free, currently.
The CLT Centurion Lounge is located one level above the concourse near the new food court between D and E Concourses. The elevator to the lounge is on the right as you approach the escalators to Concourse E. Current hours of operation are 07:00 to 19:00 daily. I visited this lounge two days after it opened in February 2020 and gave it a very positive review.
Check in can be tedious at Centurion Lounges. Covid didn’t change that. Presenting the American Express Platinum Card, boarding pass and identification takes time. I made the process more drawn out by not having my card with me.
Checking out the food service area was my first stop. This lounge still offered an a la carte buffet consisting of individually portioned items that are handed to customers by servers. Below is the food service bar this year.
This is what the buffet looked like last year when it was set up family style.
Joe Kindred, a North Carolina native, remains the executive chef. His menus are centered on down-home Southern style fare.
This was the menu of the day this year:
I enjoyed a fast snack of grilled chicken thighs and fresh fruit washed down by Johnnie Walker Black scotch.
To give you an idea of what is offered, here is a sample menu from the lounge website:
Except for a limited selection of cocktails, the bar serves the same variety of beer, wine and spirits as last year. Patrons can no longer sit at the bar or lean against it when placing orders.
On the day I visited, the lounge was offering “peppy shots,” energy-boosting fruit drinks. Providing novelty items from a boutique stand is a popular lounge trend. Getting served at a small stand somehow makes it feel like a special treat.
The seating areas of the lounge appeared the same. While unoccupied seats had reserved signs on them, people just removed them to sit wherever they pleased. There seemed to be no effort to require social distancing.
All Centurion Lounges have showers, and the showers have all been shut down because of the pandemic. That is a major loss. When I’m travelling on a international flight, I often use a lounge shower before boarding. A shower is relaxing and it improves my comfort and attitude for the flight.
American Express has had to cutback on some of the nicer features of its Centurion lounges. Still, the experience was much better than the Admirals Club and pretty close to what was being offered before the pandemic.