What’s The Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney Like?

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“Boy, I wish this were as nice as a US airport lounge…”

…said no one ever.

Generally speaking US airport lounges are among the least impressive in the world, unless the metric of quality is the quantity of processed cheese and near-stale cookies on offer.

The bright spot among US airport lounges are those operated by American Express. I’m talking specifically about the American Express Centurion Lounges in Dallas, Las Vegas, MiamiNew York, and San Francisco.

AmEx Centurion Lounge Miami Airport

Perhaps part of the reason they’re so awesome is because they’re so much better than everything else offered by US airlines. If these lounges were outside the US, they probably wouldn’t seem as impressive, since the alternative lounges would be much nicer. Still, the US Centurion Lounges feature real food, complimentary cocktails, and the ones in Dallas and Miami even offer complimentary spa treatments.

AmEx Centurion Lounge Dallas Airport

Now, the downside is that word has spread about how awesome these lounges are, and they’ve become quite popular, to the point that they’re extremely crowded. So they’re still great, but at some point American Express has to do something to control the crowding, in my opinion (however, I wouldn’t want to be tasked with figuring out how!).

A few days ago I was flying from Sydney to Auckland on Qantas, and could use the Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney, which was of course fantastic as usual. It’s one of my favorite lounges in the world.

Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney

As I walked to the gate I noticed there was an American Express Centurion Lounge as well. I had a few minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, so I figured I might as well pop in and see how it is.

I was admitted based on my US Platinum Card® from American Express, which is one of the best premium credit cards with lounge benenits. I assume most people accessing the lounge have the Australian version of the Platinum Card, which has a 1,200AUD (~850USD) annual fee.

The exterior looked similar to a US Amex Centurion Lounge.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney exterior

It even had the same signature “plant wall.” The check-in process seemed overly complicated and took a few minutes. The agent had to manually enter my card info and also scan a copy of my boarding pass.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney reception

The lounge was quite small, smaller than any full US Amex Centurion Lounge. Size wise it was perhaps most comparable to the Amex Centurion Studio Seattle. The lounge just consisted of one long, rectangular room.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney seating

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Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney seating

The buffet was located at the far end of the room. There were a few servers offering custom made coffees (a feature I really liked), beer, and wine, and then there was a self serve food buffet.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Sydney buffet

The buffet consisted of a lot of packaged and processed snacks, which the US Centurion Lounges generally don’t have many of — that’s part of what makes them special.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Sydney buffet

There was also a small cheese selection, pizza, mini empanadas, and a few hot dishes which didn’t look especially appetizing.

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American Express Centurion Lounge Sydney buffet

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American Express Centurion Lounge Sydney buffet

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American Express Centurion Lounge Sydney buffet

I was on my way to my departure gate about five minutes after entering the lounge.

Bottom line

The Centurion Lounge Sydney certainly pales in comparison to the Qantas First Class Lounge, so as a oneworld Emerald I couldn’t imagine ever spending much time in this lounge. That being said, I was surprised to see that this lounge even compared unfavorably to the US versions of the Centurion Lounge.

Have you visited the Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney, and if so, what was your experience like?

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  1. I think the crowding at the U.S. AMEX lounges has now diminished their appeal to the point where I no longer consider them to particularly nice. If I cannot find a seat, a lounge is of no use to me. I think AMEX needs to (and will) limit the number free-of-charge visits to these lounges for members.

  2. I would actually argue that the US Centurion lounges would be very good even at a non-US airport. They are not as good as some of the best first class lounges or the Virgin LHR Clubhouse, for example, but I would take the DFW Centurion lounge over most other European business class lounges, and over the vast majority of contract lounges around the world. I think it would definitely be fair to call them the best airport lounges not operated by an airline in the world.

  3. The Centurion lounge in EZE is pretty poor as well. Nice entrance and plant wall but the food offerings were much more mediocre than Sydney.

    The international lounges seem to have different guest policies too. 1 vs. 2 in the US.

  4. For that kind of annual fee, I think this lounge would actively annoy me. As in raise my blood pressure.

  5. I believe the Sydney lounge is actually operated by Plaza Premium, so though the architecture may resemble the AMEX US lounges, the F&B concept is totally different

  6. @Ryan

    Ditto. The overcrowding can only be solved by limiting the number of guests to one instead of two.

  7. I stumbled on it back in September, it was recommended by the staff in the Qantas lounge as I had two guests with me (and they didn’t want to make an exception). At the Amex lounge admitted me and my two guests using my UK-issued MBNA AAdvantage credit card, despite the fact its not a Platinum card and I pay no annual fee!

    The lounge is definately small, but the WiFi was pretty quick and the staff were pleasant enough. You wouldn’t want to spend more than a couple of hours in there, but for a short stay it does the job just fine.

  8. I had a good experience there. I was studying abroad in Sydney last spring, and was headed to Auckland (as well, ironically). I asked the agent at the desk if I could get a tour, since I was thinking about getting an AmEx Platinum. She just let me in, told me to enjoy my “brekkie” and that she hoped I’d join as a card member soon.

    Now, it was like 0700 so the place wasn’t crowded, so maybe that’s why she let me in, but they get +1 for the customer service.

    Since I didn’t otherwise have lounge access that day, I was grateful for the comfy chair, free paper and some scrambled eggs. Low standard? Sure, but beats sitting at the gate

  9. Nice to know that AmEx Plat card works at International Centurion Lounges. I had thought you needed the Centurion card for International lounges.

  10. I think the US Centurion Lounges are going to need to start charging for guests (for Platinums). So you can bring your spouse and kids in if they’re AUs, but otherwise it’s $50 (or maybe they could give some kind of discount).

  11. I’d be interested to see the statistics on the visitors to American Express Centurion Lounges. How many are Platinum/Black card holders and how many are lower levels paying their way in.

    If there are a lot of people using lower cards to pay to get in then they could probably just raise the price, but I get the feeling that it’s probably Platinum (and a few Black) members.

    Part of the problem might be that with the old system of lounge access, Amex members were split up between lounges for the airline they were flying and now it’s the opposite.

  12. I’ve been to the Sydney AMEX Centurion Lounge once.

    It wasn’t too crowded when I visited and I have to say that some of the other lounges at Sydney Airport do a much better job in the food & beverage department.

    My main criticism is that it’s located near gate 24 which is ok for Qantas & some One World departures but if your traveling on Star Alliance flights or Virgin Australia flights which leave from the other wing of Sydney Airport its a fair walk to the departure gates.

    On the other hand I’ve used the AMEX Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas and found it very convenient given that when I’m traveling on a Delta flight there’s no Delta lounger offering.

  13. Sure it isn’t a comparison to the Qantas First Class lounge but if I were travelling economy, or on a budget airline, and didn’t otherwise have lounge access I would be happy to while away some time there rather than sitting at the gate. This is the market that this lounge is catering, for those that otherwise wouldn’t have any lounge access due to status or class of travel. Co-branded diamond or black Amex cards issued by Australian banks I believe allow you 2 entrances per year to this lounge.

  14. I was travelling with my partner and two friends for a leisure weekend from MEL-SYD with Qantas (so used Qantas Club MEL & comped our two friends in with two Qantas Club passes I receive annually with my bank-issued Black Amex; my AA Platinum got me & my partner in). I only had one other pass spare so wouldn’t have been able to use Qantas Club SYD for all of us on the return, so Amex lounge let me + one guest in, plus my partner & our other guest got in using my partner’s separate Black card from another bank. As the lounge is in the international terminal I planned this by booking a JetStar (Qantas LCC subsidiary) domestic SYD-MEL leg of what is an international flight (then onto Phuket, I believe) on JetStar’s Dreamliner. Worked out well!

    The lounge is small but not cramped. Views of tarmac, food basic but not TOO basic, barista coffee (an absolute necessity for an Aussie lounge) and very modern, warm facilities with pleasant staff. Doesn’t have showers in the lounge itself, but you are able as part of their arrangement to use the SkyTeam lounge showers if you need one. Perfectly good for a quick 30-60 minute bite, cuppa & relax before your flight if there’s no other option!

  15. “Now, the downside is that word has spread about how awesome these lounges are, and they’ve become quite popular, to the point that they’re extremely crowded. So they’re still great, but at some point American Express has to do something to control the crowding,”

    Just make it a true Centurion lounge and charge the platties $50 each and the golds $100. There’s no need to invite the lumpenprole platties into a nice lounge for free.

  16. I believe most people are entering with an AmEx Plat card. At DFW they reserve a few tables for Centurion Black card – but they are mostly vacant.

    With all the cash rebates and promos – I see lots of young people paying the game and using the AmEx lounges.

    I was disappointed last Sunday at the DFW lounge, when the agent tried to discourage me from coming in saying there was no place to sit. But it was less crowded than normal, and I saw empty tables near the front desk. Actually a friend happened to be sitting at the table near the front desk with 3 empty seats.

    I think the staff has declined at the AmEx lounges.

  17. The lounge at Sydney does the job it sets out to do. Sure the Qantas lounges are bigger and offer more amenities but if you are not a one world FF then the amex/ plaza lounge is fine.

  18. The lounge is pleasant enough albeit small. Wasn’t all that busy when I visited but that was just after they first opened. Definitely doesn’t compare to the Qantas first class lounge but then again you get access with most platinum cards – my Amex Platinum Edge only comes with a AU$189 annual fee and gives me access. Definitely seems more targeted at travellers without airline status traveling in premium economy or economy class.

  19. “Perhaps part of the reason they’re so awesome is…”

    …you get good $$$ via the referral links every time you post an article about them?

  20. Was at this lounge 29 February and again on 9 March, both times at breakfast. Entered with Delta SkyMiles platinum card, which won’t work at USA lounges. Same waiter both times was very professional, helpful, and courteous. Used the shower facilities on 9 March. Yes, it’s a small lounge. Get a seat in the lounge chairs right by the windows so as to ignore and render invisible the yahoos sitting at the long counters behind you. Espresso quite good; food offerings ranged from fairly average to below-average.

  21. Was at this lounge yesterday and left after 5 minutes. Was like a warm crowded bus station with families and other travelers camped out like they were either “stranded” or being held against their will! Too small of a space and poorly laid out as well. I have seen bigger bathrooms in some airports! A blemish on the AMEX brand, as well as a poor showing for what this Centurion lounge programme benefit is supposed to be all about. The first 5 globally should be pretty stellar and this one is not….

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