I visited the new American Express Centurion Lounge at JFK airport and saw why a $550 annual cardholder fee is worth it – see inside

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American Express Centurion Lounge JFK Airport

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American Express celebrated the opening of its newest Centurion Lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday, the latest in a nationwide expansion that's brought its total number of lounges to 12 in the US with two at New York City airports alone

Located in Terminal 4, flyers on Delta Air Lines and other international carriers utilizing the terminal can enjoy over 15,000 square feet of plush seating, complimentary hot meals, unlimited alcoholic beverages, and a reprieve from the crowds in the main terminal. 

Centurion Lounges are among the greatest-selling features of American Express' most expensive credit cards. Geared toward frequent travelers, cardholders pay a high annual fee typically greater than $500 and receive perks such as access to the Centurion Lounge, travel credits, and travel insurance, among other benefits that help offset the yearly cost. 

Access is restricted to American Express' top cardholders, including those with Platinum or Centurion cards, instead of passengers flying on a specific airline. Delta Air Lines Reserve cardholders can also access the lounge and in turn, American Express Platinum cardholders can use Delta SkyClub's when flying the airline.  

New COVID-19-related safety protocols have been implemented across the lounge including capacity restrictions, plexiglass dividers, and reduced self-service capabilities. Entry is also limited to 3 hours before departure, though connecting passengers are exempt from that rule. 

Take a look inside the newest Centurion Lounge.

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American Express launched construction on this Centurion Lounge in 2018 with a projected opening in 2019 but after around a year of delays, it finally opened on October 9.

Source: Business Insider



The famous blue doors welcome passengers to the newest addition to Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport.



Flyers visiting a Centurion Lounge during the pandemic will immediately notice new safety features including plexiglass partitions and social distancing floor placards at check-in.



A new push towards touchless is allowing guests to check into the lounge via their phones, reducing interactions with Amex staff.



This premium lounge is one of 12 in Terminal 4 and building it required an extension of the terminal itself.



The angled floor-to-ceiling windows mark the terminal building's former perimeter with most of the lounge requiring a newly constructed appendage.



Weekday mornings would normally see this lounge packed from wall to wall but during the time of our visit on its opening day, less than 10 passengers filled the two-level lounge.



New COVID-19 safety features in the lounge include blocked seats to ensure social distancing throughout.



And larger spaces and tables, including the multi-purpose room that's typically reserved for families – are available on-request and reserved for groups of three or more.



Building a majority of the lounge from scratch allowed for unique spaces, including these treehouse-style hideaways.



They're found throughout the lounge and are typically one to two-person spaces ideal for getting work done in private or taking a phone call.



Each is also themed with a specific year that could be important to American Express or New York City.



This one is themed 2016, for example, the year in which the Oculus opened next to the World Trade Center and across the street from Amex's downtown Manhattan headquarters. The iconic building can just about be made out along the back wall.



The 223-seat top level is the main floor where the bulk of the amenities are offered. Various seating types line the space along the floor-to-ceiling windows.



Seats include leather couches, standalone chairs, and private cubicles to accommodate a variety of travelers.



For solo travelers, these seats offer additional privacy in the form of high walls, a reminder that social distancing was popular in lounges even before the pandemic.



The lounge's location at the edge of Terminal 4 also provides visitors with unobstructed views of the tarmac below.



Business travelers can avail themselves of the complimentary printer services...



And a conference room area tucked away in a corner of the lounge away from the high traffic areas.



It's an ideal space for a pre-trip business meeting but can also be used by large families enjoying a meal together before their flight.



The conference room table, like most seating areas in the lounge, is peppered with pop-up power outlets and USB charging ports.



Magazines and newspapers would normally be kept here but the lounge is going digital to reduce touchpoints for visitors.



The opposite end of the top floor is home to the main dining area and one of the lounge's three bars.



This is where the Centurion Lounge sets itself apart from other lounges as visitors can enjoy hot meals that are not only complementary but crafted by renowned chefs including Ignacio Mattos.



Normally self-serve, lounge staff now serve patrons to avoid crowding in the area. First on the menu during our visit was soup, with two options including a farro soup and chicken broth with butternut squash crostini.



The starter was then a fennel salad...



Followed by the main course of steak and potatoes...



Or a fried maitake mushroom po' boy, a vegan dish...



And chocolate cake with whipped cream to finish. A veritable feast.



Another feature of the buffet is the avocado toast station, a growing trend in airport lounges. Toppings include mozzarella balls, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.



Here's what the finished result looks like.



Even during the pandemic, the commitment to quality was evident. Not only was the steak dish perfectly plated on a mini cast iron pan but the meat was cooked to perfection, with the potatoes covered in a savory cheese sauce that also didn't disappoint.



One bite of the steak and I couldn't believe this was being served in an airport lounge and complimentary.



Opposite the buffet is a small dining area, with half of the tables blocked off for social distancing.



Hungry diners would do well to grab a seat here as the menu will encourage multiple trips to the buffet.



It's also directly adjacent to the first of three full-service bars.



Plexiglass partitions are featured at each bartender station but all the barstools have been blocked to prevent crowding in the area.



Alcoholic beverages are complimentary in the Centurion Lounge while airline lounges will often charge for cocktails and high-end beers, wines, and liquors.



But while sitting at the bar is a no-go, for now, high-tops throughout the lounge offer better views of the tarmac.



And unlike the bars, these tables – located on both levels – feature pop-up power outlets and USB charging ports.



The lounge also features multiple full-service coffee machines with capabilities to make drinks like espresso, cappuccino, and hot chocolate.



For water drinkers, a multi-use tap offers sparkling and still options.



And this is only the top floor, there's more to see downstairs.



The lower floor of the lounge is arranged in the same style as the top with the same variety of seating along the windows.



It was even more deserted than the main level but would typically house more visitors than upstairs thanks to greater availability of seats.



There's also more seating away from the window on the lower level.



But the great views do remain throughout.



Instead of a conference room in the corner, this floor has a colorful cubicle-style seating area, again ideal for solo flyers.



The lower floor also features a smaller buffet station, though the selection is slightly limited than the one above.



The dining area is just slightly smaller than the one above with four tables instead of six.



And here's the second complimentary bar in the lounge, with a similar selection to the one located directly above.



Directly adjacent is a copper wall, which one might think is the lounge's end. But just beyond is actually one of the lounge's coolest features...



A hidden speakeasy bar.



There's no secret passcode to enter and you don't have to be Eliot Ness to find it but the location isn't exactly advertised. Case in point, I walked right by the door without knowing the secret beyond it.



Named "1850," after the year of American Express' founding, the hideaway is the first speakeasy in an airport and offers a more unique drink offering from the bars above.



Whiskey, vodka, and gin drinks are the main focus of the cocktail list, curated list by award-winning mixologist Jim Meehan. Wines are selected by Anthony Giglio.



Back on the main floor is the Equinox Body Lab, a health and wellness experience that's also complimentary for passengers.



Inside is a large workout room with self-guided exercises for fitness-oriented travelers...



Yoga room...



And a relaxation room where flyers listen to meditation guides while resting on a vibrating lounge chair.



To help get cleaned up after a visit to Equinox or a long day of traveling, the lounge also has shower rooms.



They're closed now for safety reasons but in normal times, lounge patrons can make a reservation to use these showers.



Aviation enthusiasts and New York City locals alike will also notice the themed artwork across the facility, hearkening back to the golden days of flying and New York in its heyday.



The JFK lounge is just one of many that American Express plans to open or has opened in 2020 as the Centurion Lounge network continues to grow and the company gives frequent travelers even bigger reasons to become cardholders.



Business Insider

  • American Express just opened the first Centurion Lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. 
  • The 12th Centurion Lounge in the US offers JFK passengers complimentary hot food and alcoholic beverages before departure, in addition to wellness offerings and the first airport speakeasy bar.
  • Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders, as well as Delta Air Lines Amex Reserve cardholders, can access the lounge up to three hours before their flight.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

American Express celebrated the opening of its newest Centurion Lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday, the latest in a nationwide expansion that's brought its total number of lounges to 12 in the US with two at New York City airports alone

Located in Terminal 4, flyers on Delta Air Lines and other international carriers utilizing the terminal can enjoy over 15,000 square feet of plush seating, complimentary hot meals, unlimited alcoholic beverages, and a reprieve from the crowds in the main terminal. 

Centurion Lounges are among the greatest-selling features of American Express' most expensive credit cards. Geared toward frequent travelers, cardholders pay a high annual fee typically greater than $500 and receive perks such as access to the Centurion Lounge, travel credits, and travel insurance, among other benefits that help offset the yearly cost. 

Access is restricted to American Express' top cardholders, including those with Platinum or Centurion cards, instead of passengers flying on a specific airline. Delta Air Lines Reserve cardholders can also access the lounge and in turn, American Express Platinum cardholders can use Delta SkyClub's when flying the airline.  

New COVID-19-related safety protocols have been implemented across the lounge including capacity restrictions, plexiglass dividers, and reduced self-service capabilities. Entry is also limited to 3 hours before departure, though connecting passengers are exempt from that rule. 

Take a look inside the newest Centurion Lounge.

  • I visited the new American Express Centurion Lounge at JFK airport and saw why a $550 annual cardholder fee is worth it – see inside photo


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