Phoenix was the connecting airport on our trip to Alaska on May 12, 2021. We had a layover of about 2.5 hours. After arriving on the A Concourse at Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), we bypassed the more convenient American Airlines Admirals Club and made a beeline for the American Express Centurion Lounge.

Other posts from our Alaska trip in May 2021.

Three Days And Zero Nights In Utqiaġvik, Alaska 2021

Covid-19 Flight Review – American Airlines A321 First Class Charlotte, NC to Phoenix, AZ

Lounge Review Twofer – American Express Centurion Lounge And Escape Lounge Phoenix, AZ

American Airlines A321neo First Class – Phoenix, AZ To Anchorage, AK

Anchorage Airport Hotel Photo Review – Alex Hotel & Suites Anchorage, AK

The American Express Centurion Lounge in Phoenix is in an unusual situation because card members also have access to the Escape Lounge next door. It is an airport lounge two-for-the-price-of-one except American Express cardholders must pick one lounge or the other. They may not visit both lounges on the same day for free.

Location and Hours

The Centurion Lounge and Escape lounge are located one level above Terminal 4’s B Concourse inside security. They share an entrance across from Gate B22. Present your same-day confirmed boarding pass and credit card on the first level before proceeding upstairs.

20210512_193255 (1)

20210512_192634
Check in is handled on the first level but other services are available at the Member Services desk upstairs.

The Centurion Lounge is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  Escape Lounge hours are 8:00am to 8:00pm.

 Access and Guest Policy

Access to the centurion Lounge is limited to those with an American Express Platinum Card (personal or business),  a Delta Reserve Card when flying Delta on the same day, or the lucky few who have an American Express Centurion (Black) Card.  The Black card is issued by Amex as an invite only perk for its biggest spenders.  (A black card has a $7,500 initiation fee and $5,000 annual fee, and I thought the $550 annual fee for the Platinum card was steep.)  

Authorized users can be admitted to the Centurion Lounge not more than three hours before their flight departs unless it is a connecting flight in which case the three-hour time limit does not apply.  Use of a Centurion Lounge by arriving passengers is prohibited. 

On the other hand, the Escape Lounge is open to all.  Platinum and Centurion cardholders are admitted free.  TAV Passport Card Members receive complimentary entry for themselves and one guest.  Dremfolks Card Holders receive access based on their plan.  In addition, the Escape Lounge is open to anyone who is willing to pay the admission price.  The cost is $40/person if booked in advance on the website, or $45 for walkups.  Children under two are free in both lounges.  

Two guests may enter for free with the Platinum card or Black card member in the Centurion Lounge and Escape Lounge.  Centurion members may enter the Centurion Lounge with up to two guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner, and children under 18) at no additional charge.  Additional guests can be admitted to Centurion Lounges for $50 if capacity permits.

Food and Beverages

Centurion Lounges are the best domestic airport lounges in the U.S. because of their top notch complimentary food and beverages all of which are at no charge.  Phoenix is the only location I know of where travelers who are not Amex Cardholders can experience the great food that is served in Centurion Lounges.   

That is because both lounges are managed by MAG USA, a subsidiary of Manchester Airport Group and both lounges share the same chef, Doug Robson, and kitchen.  Robson owns two famous Mexican restaurants in Phoenix, Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe.  He creates southwest-inspired dishes that are available in both lounges. 

These menus are examples of the type of fare that is available.  

Screenshot (136) 

Screenshot (138)

In addition the bars are stocked with the same varieties of beer, wine and spitirts.

Amex has made a few changes in the food service because of Covid.  The open buffet has been replaced by pre-portioned servings.  Customers tell the server which dishes they want and the server places them on a tray that customers take to their seats. 

20210512_175333

20210512_175344_001
Customers place drink orders at the bar.

20210512_180745 (1)

Shrimp and grits with egg, sandwich, desert and a beer hit the spot on this layover.

In the Escape Lounge, a lounge agent takes food and beverage orders and delivers them to your seat.

Seating and Amenities

Besides topping off one’s belly and quenching a thirst, Centurion Lounges are very useful for relaxing and getting work done in peace and quiet. The Centurion and Escape Lounges share an area of about 9,500 sq ft (882 sq m).

This space was previously occupied by The Club at PHX, a Priority Pass lounge reviewed here, and a British Airways Executive Club Lounge. The current lounges are a substantial improvement over both of the previous ones.

The Centurion Lounge is the larger of the two. It has areas for dinning or working and relaxing.

20210512_192502
Lounge entrance with the trademark living wall.

20210512_175428_00120210512_175536

20210512_175530

The Escape Lounge is smaller but I like the decor.  Maybe I’m just to used to the standardized look of the Centurion Lounges. 

20210512_175846_001 

20210512_19260320210512_192545

Both lounges have good views of the B Concourse tarmac and the approach end of Runway 26.

20210512_182107

Since the food and beverages are the same, the next time I’m able to visit I’ll stay in the Escape Lounge to try its silent digital library with Bose noise-cancelling headphones and more than 7,000 audiobooks and publications.

Other than the digital library, the rest of the amenities are standard for airport lounges. The wifi is very good. Power outlets are abundant. Printing and copying facilities are available. Unfortunately, special features found in other Centurion Lounges such as showers, spa services, conference rooms, and children’s rooms didn’t make it into the plans for these lounges.

Overall Impression

I’m always happy to be able to visit a Centurion Lounge when flying domestically. Even during Covid, Centurion Lounges have done a well to maintain the same high-quality food and beverages although the manner in which food is served has changed. Airlines and most other lounges have substantially reduced their food and beverage service.

One neat aspect of the arrangement between the Centurion Lounge and Escape Lounge at PHX is the unique opportunity Escape Lounge patrons have to enjoy the same food and beverages served in the Centurion Lounge next door. And customers can enjoy better views and décor in the Escape Lounge.

The next post in this series on the first real trip I’ve taken since March 2020 covers the flight from Phoenix to Anchorage.