Sneak Preview: Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge Miami

I had an opportunity to see American Express Centurion lounge Miami last night and try the food since I was invited to the pre-opening party there.

American Express has begun operating their own network of “Centurion lounges,” which are a step above what travelers have become accustomed to from US airline-operated lounges.

The American Express Centurion Lounge Miami – which officially opens on Thursday June 4 – is the 5th in the U.S.

The others are:

There’s an additional known lounge with a more modest concept coming to Seattle in just a few weeks. And more airport leases are being negotiated.

How to Access the American Express Centurion Lounge Miami

American Express cardholders with a same-day boarding pass can access based on their card type as follows:

  • Centurion and Platinum cardholders: Cardmember may bring in their spouse and children or two guests
  • Other American Express cardholders: $50 per adult (children complimentary when accompanied by paying adult)

The lounge is located in the North Terminal which primarily services American Airlines. It’s at gate D14, adjacent from one of the two Admirals Clubs in the D terminal.

american express centurion lounge miami

american express centurion lounge miami

There’s an elevator bank up to the fourth floor where the lounge is located.

american express centurion lounge miami

Gorgeous Design

The entryway, being scooped up the elevator and into a different world than the ret of the Miami airport is dramatic — but in my view not as dramatic as the entry to the San Francisco lounge.

When you walk in you’ll face a check-in desk with the signature American Express ‘living wall’ behind it.

The space overall, and the furnishings, are unmistakably in the ‘Centurion lounge’ style and consistent with the other US lounges, although with its own unique art (no life sized photo of Meatloaf here).

The single most striking thing for me about the Miami lounge is its views. There are floor to ceiling glass views overlooking airport operations and spanning across much of the lounge.

My only concern about the lounge is crowding. While the amount of seating during the pre-opening was limited, to facilitate standing interaction (and with some areas closed off for staff to us, and as a private area because apparently there were a couple of ‘Housewives of Miami’ and another tv star in attendance but I had no idea who they were), my biggest reason for concern over seating is just that the terminal is large and American’s operations are significant.

The American lounges are hugely overcrowded in Miami, I often can’t find a seat in either the D15 or D30 Admirals Clubs. I expect that this lounge will get busy too. Still, the lounge is about the square footage of San Francisco’s and has more seating than San Francisco does.

There are seating areas immediately to your right and left when you enter the lounge, these are the best bets for finding seating when the lounge gets crowded because many people will miss them. These are semi-circular areas and one side has views into the terminal.

There’s a missed opportunity in outdoor space off the bar — there’s even a (locked) door there. I’m sure if there was any way to work out using the space American Express would have found it. But it taunts me.

Food & Beverage

Centurion lounges in the US each pair with a local celebrity chef, and the Miami’s lounge’s chef is Michelle Bernstein. I loved the original brisket in Dallas, the chicken at New York LaGuardia. But I think the opening dishes here are some of the best they’ve done at a Centurion lounge.

Apparently the menu concept has changed. When the Centurion lounges opened they had a set menu, and varied them seasonally. There’s no longer a fixed menu that you’ll get every day. Instead there may be as many as 60 total items that they will vary throughout the week so that frequent visitors don’t see the same time on each visit. That, to me, is an improvement especially with the number of times I go through the Dallas lounge.

The opening menu will stay consistent over the first month in Miami, as they get used to their routine, and I’m told the full set of items the kitchen produces will transition every six months.

I thought that the beef short rib, and the chicken, were both fantastic. The chicken was fried, boneless, and I got a sense of black pepper and cumin. The mint pea soup was really interesting as well.

I didn’t get a chance to try the salads. (This wasn’t a sit down dinner like they did for the pre-openings at LaGuardia and San Francisco, and as a result I didn’t try much.)

There was dessert, but I didn’t try that either.

There’s a consistent basic wine menu now across Centurion lounges, with some small variation by lounge. They’ve taken feedback based on which wines customers ask after. And they’ve learned to present the grape varietals first in descriptions, people want to understand wine by type of grape rather than the name of the wine.

Variation by lounge is contingent on what they’re allowed to bring into the airport — where they can buy from, and at what price, some airports have restrictions that all retailers have to have access to the same bottles at the same prices which limits the ability for American Express to negotiate discounts with local wineries.

The lounge’s wine menu for the night was actually incomplete, as not everything had cleared TSA yet.

Centurion (Black Card) cardmembers have access to one thing that Platinum and other American cardholders do not: better champagne.

Kids Room, Shower Room, and Spa

The Miami lounge features a kids room like Dallas, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

There are combination lock lockers near the entryway.

There’s a shower room, and in the bathrooms the toileteries are L’Occitane.

Like Dallas, the Miami lounge features an Exhale spa.

A New Favorite Lounge?

I love the ‘wine wall’ with fantastic wines in the San Francisco Centurion lounge. I visit Dallas Fort-Worth most often. The Star Alliance lounge in the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX has that outdoor seating area, with fire. So in an absolute sense the Miami lounge – while certainly ‘best in the Southeast’ – may not be my favorite overall.

However for sheer contrast with the rest of the terminal I may like the American Express Centurion Lounge Miami best. If a lounge provides an escape, an alternative to what’s offered in the airport, then there are few places where a quality lounge offers such a stark difference as this American Express Centurion Lounge Miami. It’s precisely that gap with the rest of the airport that makes it special.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this Gary. I have been staring at that fancy elevator bank since last September wondering what it was for….

    I plan to try the Miami Centurion Lounge later this month.

  2. Anyone know if you can access a Centurion Lounge if you’re on an in-bound flight to the airport the lounge is at? I know it’s generally understood that you have a boarding pass for a flight departing from the airport with the lounge but I’m flying to LAS on Saturday and having just picked up an Amex Platinum card, really wanted to swing by the lounge upon landing since I have not been in one. My return flight out of LAS departs around the time the lounge will open on Monday morning so I would not be able to check it out on way out town.

  3. Gary, thanks for the review, I hope they have changed the white wines at the Las Vegas location, in the past they have had some strange varietals. Call me crazy – but I like to drink what I know.
    Thanks for all your great posts.
    Ellen

  4. @Ellen I believe that the list above is more or less standard, with a bit of variation, and they’ve learned exactly what you’re saying, that people want familiar choices with a bit of variety rather than having all unfamiliar wines.

  5. Why are all the food dishes sitting on grass? Looks ridiculous to me, there’s nothing wrong with a granite counter top. But grass? I guess with the whole organic fad that’s going on now everything has to be closer to nature.

  6. @Gary is your answer to Brandon regarding to lounge on arrival at LAS also applied to Centurion lounge LGA? Since it is located before security, I assume it can be used as arrival lounge after landing? Will a boarding pass and Platinum card gives me access to the lounge?

  7. Thank you again Gary, you are always so with it. I am an avid reader and your tips are invaluable. Thank you for all you do.
    Ellen

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I’m traveling through Miami next week and have a 2 1/2 hour layover. I’ve been checking daily, for the last month, if the lounge has opened yet. You made my day.

  9. “there were a couple of ‘Housewives of Miami’ and another tv star in attendance but I had no idea who they were”

    Too bad Ben wasn’t with you.

  10. Gary,
    Thanks for the write-up. I agree with you that the lounge can be crowded. I was in SFO last month, DFW last week, and LAS earlier this week; all of them are packed. I could find a place, but there were not a lot of private or corner sitting areas. Have you seen the one in Sydney by any chance?

  11. Is the lounge accessible before security? I’m a platinum card holder but I’m flying back to the UK with British airways which I think is out of concourse E

  12. @Simon Hutchinson concourses D and E are connected airside, so though it’s a walk you can use it. Just clear security at D, and leave the lounge in plenty of time to catch your flight from E

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