The Amex Centurion Lounge is arguably one of the biggest reasons why many are attracted to the Amex Platinum Card (myself included). On my recent trip to LA, I decided to stop by the Centurion Lounge at SFO to check out if it was worth the hype.
The Centurion Lounge is open for Platinum (Personal, Business, Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, etc.), Delta Reserve (when flying Delta), and Centurion (Black Card) cardholders with same-day boarding pass on any airline. Additionally, you will only be admitted within 3 hours of your departure time, unless you have a connecting flight.
If you are flying business class (e.g. EVA Air Business), check if it comes with lounge access (e.g. United Polaris SFO), since these invite-only lounges have stricter entry requirements and will likely be less crowded and of higher quality.
Currently, cardholders are allowed 2 complimentary guests, but that will soon be changing in 2023. See official Amex page for more details. Platinum authorized users also get lounge access via their own cards.
Current hours are 6am - 7pm M-Su (hopefully that can be extended as travel recovers). Note that food & beverage service will stop around 30 minutes prior to lounge closing, so be sure to arrive a little earlier if you plan to eat! In addition, expect crowded lounges and even a wait to enter during peak hours.
The lounge is located in Terminal 3 (E/F gates), which is mainly used for United flights. International Terminal G passengers can also access the lounge post-security as the terminals are connected by an air-side passageway. Passengers departing from all other terminals can use the lounge too but will need to exit T3 and re-clear security at their departure terminal.
Since I was flying Southwest (Terminal 1), I started my journey by checking in online (no checked bags), arriving straight at Terminal 3 to use the Centurion Lounge. There was a bit of a line at security, but practically no wait for me since I have TSA PreCheck (CLEAR also had no wait). Time from when I got off the Lyft to when I was sitting in the Centurion Lounge: 6 minutes!
PreCheck is one of the best travel benefits one can have when flying in the US, and the great news is many cards such as the Amex Platinum give it to you for free! Check out my post on how I got Global Entry + TSAPrecheck via my Chase Sapphire Reserve (review).
After I left the lounge, I walked to International Terminal G (~5 min), exited the secure area, walked across the terminal (~10 min) and cleared security to International Terminal A. I did this mainly because international security is practically empty now (~1 min - I was the only person in the PreCheck line!), and I wanted to stop by the Air France/KLM priority pass lounge before my flight. From there, I was able to walk directly to Terminal 1 through air-side passage-way (~3 min).
Lounge Layout & Key Amenities
The Centurion Lounge at SFO is organized into 4 main areas:
- Living Room - sofas facing each other with TV, this is the area people first see when they walk in to the lounge. Great for a large group.
- Bar & Dining Area - cafeteria style dining tables suitable for eating. There is also a bar but the area is now just for ordering due to the pandemic.
- Individual Pods & Long Table - "Work" area where there is a big table for those needing to get work done, plus business amenities such as a printer.
- General Lounge Seating - sofas and tables for smaller groups.
In the next section, I'll be walking through all the areas in more detail...
My Lounge Experience
The check-in process went smoothly. I had checked-in through the app prior, so once I arrived I simply presented my boarding pass and ID to get entry.
I've heard stories of long lines that formed outside of the lounge. Luckily I didn't experience it, even though the lounge was essentially at capacity (I had to circle around for a bit to find a seat).
Living Room Area
This area is essentially like a living room. It could be great if you have a big group, otherwise table-space is limited and unpleasant if you have to share with strangers. There is also a self-serve beverage area with coffee and tea. Additionally, there is some more seating behind the TV wall.
Bar & Dining Area (food!)
One of Centurion's biggest strength compared to other domestic US lounges is the food, and the SFO location definitely did not disappoint! Amex partners with local award-winning chefs at each of its location. The SFO Centurion Lounge features Liholiho Yacht Club celebrity chef and owner Ravi Kapur's dishes.
Turning left from the living room, you will arrive at the dining & bar area.
The images below show the bar area. Due to the pandemic, the bar stools have been removed and plexiglass shields have been installed.
I've heard great things about the drinks. If you like alcohol, you will really enjoy this place! There is also a wine-sampling machine on the right, which you can access by asking an attendant. (btw, everything is complimentary!).
Normally, food in the lounge is self-served buffet style. However, due to the pandemic, you simply tell the staff what you like and they will retrieve it for you. The lounge has different menu options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was there for dinner.
UPDATE OCT 2021: I went for another visit during breakfast/lunch. The food is self-serve again!
More pics of the dining area:
Table reserved just for Centurion (Black) cardholders:
Everything was so delicious - I highly recommend the Caramelized Brussel Sprouts and Wild Arugula Salad!
This is the moment where I really feel like the Platinum card makes absolute sense for frequent travelers. On my return flight from LAX, there were no lounges available so I had to buy a $24 overpriced pizza from the only restaurant in the terminal.
Since my flight was delayed and the lounge was closing, I decided to grab a few snacks for the evening before I left.
Individual Pods & Long Table Area
This is where I spent most of my time in the lounge. Since I was traveling by myself, I particularly enjoyed the pod seating for the extra privacy.
A few more pics...
General Seating Area
This section is comprised of more general seating, and are better for groups (2-4 people) or families. However, this section is arguably less private.
Some more pics...
Note that the lounge was 100% full when I arrived. I took these photos around 7pm just as the lounge was about to close.
On the right is the entrance to a small family room, which can be really useful if you have (loud) children.
Bathroom & Shower
The bathroom was much nicer than the general, public ones elsewhere in the terminals, and super convenient in that I didn't need to constantly exit and re-enter the lounge just to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to check out the shower during my visit, but it's nice to know it's available as showering before a long flight is such an underrated luxury.
That's a wrap!
I enjoyed my visit overall. The food was delicious, the staff were all attentive and kind, and it certainty beats other domestic lounge options - especially Priority Pass lounges! Since I was flying to LAX right after work, it was incredibly nice to grab (free) dinner while waiting for my flight.
That being said, the lounge was insanely crowded when I first arrived at around 5pm on a Thursday, though that may have just been bad timing. By around 6pm, the place had pretty much emptied out. Be sure to check the Amex app for live updates on lounge crowdedness - especially if you are coming from another terminal, as you may only be disappointed after having made the journey.
On a separate note, I passed by the recently opened (and then closed) LAX Centurion Lounge. It looks so nice, can't wait to check it out once building repair work is complete!
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