Review: American Express Centurion Studio, Seattle

American Express’ first ‘Centurion Studio’ opened a month ago at Seattle’s international airport, across from gate B3.

Overall it was a nice space, where I enjoyed spending a couple of hours. I definitely prefer it over the Alaska Airlines Boardroom (but no pancake machine) and over the United Club there. But make no mistake, it’s not a Centurion Lounge if you’ve been to one of those in another U.S. airport.

The ‘studio’ concept is different from American Express Centurion lounges, it’s smaller and doesn’t feature extensive food offerings, a bar, a kids room, or a spa. There’s no conference room.

Basically it’s the American Express lounge, their design concept and staff. It’s a nice space, and there are modest snacks.

American Express wants lounges in major airports and will take smaller spaces when that’s all that’s available — and it’s a concept they’re testing for smaller airports, also.

The full scale American Express Centurion lounges at US airports already open are:

The next Centurion lounge that will open will be Houston.

I visited the Seattle studio earlier in the week. When I walked in the agent at the desk recognized me — he told me he reads the blog. It’s funny, I always run into people I know or who know me at Centurion lounges. I don’t remember the last time I stopped into a Centurion lounge and didn’t wind up chatting with someone there. But it’s not usually the staff there so that was surprising.

The entrance is very much like you’d expect at a Centurion lounge, dark desk and a living wall.

Beyond that space is the lounge itself which is more or less one large open area, with a sense of separate spaces created by the furnishings.

There’s plenty of window line with a view of airport operations and most uniquely out at Mount Rainier.

There’s a buffet area with self serve soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages are listed on menus, and have to be served by staff who circulate around the lounge.

The spread was modest, though good quality and fresh. But no hot items, so I’d rate is as not being materially better than other lounges in the airport.

During my stay there I met the lounge manager, and she told me about meeting with secret service days earlier about the space as a place for former President Carter to use during time at the airport (her first question, “Is he a cardmember?”) but the space didn’t work in the end precisely because there’s no private areas.

The lounge was crowded, but I found seating right away. It was afternoon on a Tuesday. Others have complained that it fills up and there really isn’t enough space. The manager told me they have some ideas for other space now that they’re in the airport. I wouldn’t expect anything quickly, but she said not to count out the possibility of a larger lounge in the future.

Space aside, I had three criticisms of the lounge.

First, the place where I found seating was an area of the lounge without power outlets. And I don’t think there are enough outlets even through the rest of the lounge. I want to sit somewhere that I have access to two outlets, and for the person I’m with to have access to two outlets as well (though I can pull out my own compact power strip of course and make better use of just one, many don’t come prepared for that).

Second, the two single-person bathrooms just aren’t enough. I stood for nearly 10 minutes waiting to use one for about 30 seconds. I actually gave up waiting, thought about going out into the terminal to find a restroom, but decided to just come back in a little while and got lucky.

Finally, even without kitchen space where they’re having to bring in packaged food into the lounge, they can do better. They don’t have kitchen facilities to duplicate what they have at the other lounges, but they can bring in cold items. They need to embrace the region – where’s the salmon? The lounge has a view of Mount Rainier, where are the Rainier cherries?

And since they aren’t spending nearly per guest what they do in the other lounges on food and drink, without a full bar, they should be able to invest in wine at least at the level of the San Francisco lounge and offer a better Washington State cab or Oregon Pinot.

Here’s the current beer and wine list: (Click to enlarge.)

They do seem to have a great staff, very friendly. They’re walking around, helpful, bringing you something to drink and clearing plates actively.

Ultimately it’s a great concept for smaller airports and I expect we’ll see something like it pop up elsewhere. It doesn’t really work well for an airport this size, although they’ve compensated with more restrictive access policies to keep it from getting too crowded. They only allow one guest if you’re not bringing in immediate family (rather than their standard two guests) and they don’t sell day passes to other American Express cardholders — access is Platinum and Centurion cardholders only — the way they do at other lounges.

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. Your right, it is better than the Boardroom sans pancake machine !! The BR’s are getting to be really tired and AS is not putting any money in them so this is a great option when in SEA!

  2. The view is certain better than the relocated/remodeled United Club in SEA. The snack and soda options are elevated as well compared to UC. However, one nice thing at UC is there are plenty of power plugs everywhere, and they even have phone booths where you can make private phone calls, with your own cell phone or complimentary calls on their phone.

  3. I was in there about 2 weeks ago… Evening, so a bit crowded, but I found a seat. Agree with you on outlets, a bit sparse for some of the seating. As far as F&B, I’d give it a “meh”. When a DL lounge has better F&B offerings, something is wrong. It’s cozy, nice location, well appointed, but needs a bit more to be considered a “Centurian” studio/lounge.

  4. Quite the disappointing lounge. When I was there, the most interesting thing on the food spread was potato chips. That’s a sad state of affairs. And shrink-wrapped fruit? Ewww!

    I second your request for interesting local foods like cherries and salmon. The bathroom situation is also a disaster — they evidently didn’t learn anything from the LGA club, which has only stalls and no urinals, leading to very long waits for the men’s room.

  5. The other advantage of the UA lounge for UA flyers are the UA agents there to help you out!

    Looking forward to checking out this new AMEX lounge though.

  6. Shasta ginger ale? For $450 a year they can’t afford Canada Dry or Seagrams? Shasta cola and ginger ale are the generic sodas they give to patients at the public hospital where I work…

  7. We visited the SEA lounge 2 weeks ago for the first time. We normally do,the AS BR for breakfast as we fly in the mornings. Two things struck me as lacking at the AmEx lounge. Bathrooms and drink offerings.
    Having just two unisex lavs is not enough. There is always a line for waiting guests. As you can see from the pics, the only space for putting a small purse or toiletry bag is the lip of the sink. As it is a unisex lav, I will not put my purse on the floor and there are no hooks or small tables. Hard to brush teeth and hair and balance your bag.
    No sparking wine is available. I spoke with the lounge manager and she did state that many guests are not happy with the morning offerings. Too many carbs and not enough protein choices were the common complaint. Also she did say that many were not happy with the wine choices and they were going to try to get a sparkling wine.( no mimosa that day) they are still trying to work out the kinks. We will stick with the Boardroom for now. Hoping the new AS lounge in the N terminal will be better , at least it will be new.

  8. I’ve been flying 100+K miles for many years now, and have spent tons of time in airline clubs. The first time I was in the DFW Centurion Club, shortly after it opened, it was a revelation.

    But the experience has gone downhill very, very fast. I have never been in a place more crowded with over-entitled, self-regarding, vaguely disappointed and impatient members of the 2nd percentile (the 1% have better things to do and better places to go). I could put up with all that if there were a place to sit, but the last several visits, in several different cities, it’s just been far too full to enjoy what are still very good food and drink offerings (though not so much at SEA, it would seem). I’m letting my Platinum card lapse this year–the Admirals Club is an oasis of sanity and peace by comparison to these dens of affluenza.

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