An Amex Centurion Lounge Which Charges For Food…

Filed Under: American Express

The US Amex Centurion Lounges are in a completely different league than any domestic lounge operated by a US carrier. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that they’re so popular, which tends to cause overcrowding. Access to the Centurion Lounges is one of the best benefits of a premium credit card with lounge access. These lounges in Dallas, Las Vegas, MiamiNew York, San Francisco, and Seattle, are some of my favorite.

Amex Centurion Lounge Miami

Amex also has some Centurion Lounges outside the US. I’ve visited the ones in Sao Paulo and Sydney. While the lounge in Sydney is fairly nice (though not as nice as the US locations), the lounge in Sao Paulo is abysmal.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Sydney

Well, yesterday I was transiting Mexico City, and decided to briefly check out the Centurion Lounge there. I used the one in Terminal 2.

The decor in the lounge was fine, at least compared to everything else in the terminal.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City

I was pleased to see they had a spa, which offered 15 minute complimentary treatments. To my surprise there was no wait at all, and I was able to get a treatment immediately. The 15 minute massage was incredible, and was on a massage table (rather than chair) with oil.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City spa 

Then I started looking for the buffet, but couldn’t find one. Within moments of sitting down a server came by to offer me a menu… and everything on it had prices.

As it turns out, the Centurion Lounge Mexico City charges for food. Now, the prices are reasonable — I paid ~7USD for an excellent order of french toast.

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Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City breakfast 

Still, I find the lack of consistency a bit bizarre. It seems especially strange to offer complimentary spa treatments, and then to charge for food.

You have to pay for your purchase using an American Express Card. So when it came time to pay, the server proactively told me “you have to tip in cash.” Well, I didn’t have anything less than a 20USD bill, so that was a bit awkward, since I couldn’t really tip him (unless I was going to tip him 300% of my purchase price).

Still, all things considered I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the lounge (at least compared to Sao Paulo, and compared to what I had previously heard about the lounges in Mexico City). The spa treatment was a pleasant surprise, while having to pay for food seemed a bit strange.

The Aeromexico Lounge next door had the opposite policy — they had complimentary food, but offer paid spa treatments.

  1. Slightly OT but do most nicer lounges charge for non-buffet food? I’m thinking like first class lounges with restaurants. Specifically, I’ll be flying Cathay business in a few months and look forward to checking out the Hong Kong lounges, especially the noodle bar in the Wing, and don’t want to look like a total newb.

  2. Lucky, I transit once every month through MEX T2 and will always prefer the Centurion Lounge over Salon Premier even if they charge for meals. I prefer a complete meal rather than cookies and crudités.

    OTOH, in T2 there is the Beyond lounge that is owned by Banamex, the Mexican Citi Bank, and it is fairly nice with real food and real drinks. Basic, but the service is incredible and the offer 15 minute complimentary massages. You can access it with certain Banamex products, as well as certain top-tier US Citi cards. They were closing it down to remodel but I’m not sure if it’s open again. Since I go directly to the Centurion Lounge or to the gate I have not passed through the lounge.

  3. …or you could’ve asked him to break the $20. Still odd that you couldn’t add the tip on the card. Unless they were just saying that since they preferred the cash, which would be very dishonest.

  4. @marcmsj

    The tips in all Centurion Lounges in Mexico have been in cash as far as I can remember. The card machines are set up to make a closed bill and charge you that.

  5. I’ve never visited, but haven’t the non-US/non-Australian Centurion lounges been around for a long time? I assume that explains the different policies (other than the cash grab).

  6. well — I guess you have to go to the Centurion lounge for your massage, then head over to the Aeromexico one to eat! Should be possible to arrange that provided that you are high elite on Skyteam, or on a business class ticket, right?

  7. Fellow Americans,
    Stop spreading abhorrent tipping culture around the world. If we Americans stopped tipping outside of the US where tipping iant customary, the business owners would be forced to pay living wage if they want to attract quality employees. It’s ridiculous that even in countries where living wage is low the owners pay so little that poor employees have to rely on tips. Even in all-inclusives in caribbean where tips are supposed to be included, employees rely heavily on tipa for livelihood. How do I know? I talked to some of them. Their pay is surprisingly very minimal even in their xountries standard. But they still work for these resorts since there isnt that many available quality jobs around and tips can make their lives better. Serioously people stop tipping in other countries. In many ways it’s just a flawed system, a relic of the Gilded Age.

  8. Maybe if people in the US stopped tipping there also, businesses there too would be forced to pay a living wage as well.

  9. 7 USD for a french toast that size is considered reasonable? Of all paces in Mexico? Hmmmm…

  10. My favorite thing about this post is that it doesn’t have a “Bottom line” or a “What do you make of ___?” 🙂

  11. The Centurion Lounge in São Paulo closed recently. Now Platinum cardholders can go to a very nice domestic Bradesco lounge, or to the same lounge Emirates uses when flying internationally. For me, it was a huge step up!

  12. I go through Mexico City twice a week and visit this centurion lounge every time. It is not nice at all, it’s always hot and they don’t have air conditioning. Paid breakfasts are ok but the food is horrible. The one in T1 is smaller but with a nicer environment. When I read you were in Mexico City I was hoping to meet you but my flight was today. 🙂

  13. There is also a 2 centurion lounges in a others cities (Monterrey and Toluca), in the AMEX Lounges in Mexico only the snacks are free, the food is for pay. The Salon Premir of Aeromexico offers a small hot buffet for Breakfast and Lunch

  14. The Amex lounges in MEX are significantly older than any of the Centurian lounges in the US. They’ve never offered free food and I didn’t realize they even called it a Centurion lounge now.

    The MEX lounges used to admit Gold card holders and not just Platinum or above. Not sure if it is Platinum and up now or not. Haven’t been there in years.

    I wouldn’t compare them to the newer US lounges at any rate.

  15. Because labor is beyond cheap and food actually costs them money.
    (That’s why free massage and no free food. )

  16. Fancy tipping for an item that costs USD7.00. In a complimentary lounge. Tipping insanity gone mad.

  17. Strategy seems pretty obvious then. Go to the Centurion Lounge for the complimentary spa treatment and then head over to Aeromexico to eat.

  18. @Mbh “Because labor is beyond cheap and food actually costs them money.
    (That’s why free massage and no free food. )”

    That’s not correct.

    Labor isn’t that cheap in Mexico, which is after all a wealthy first world country. Being much less rich than its world-straddling richest-nation-on-the-planet neighbor to the north, it can seem to have cheap labor but it’s expensive on a worldwide scale.

    And food is incredibly cheap in Mexico. The agricultural sector is very productive.

    The cost of french toast in Mexico is almost entirely the cost of labor cooking and serving it. In the airport, most of the cost is—as usual—the cost of airport rent.

  19. Thanks for an interesting post. From the other posts, I gather that the MEX Amex lounge has never offered free food. The Platinum card costs $500, and many of the past bones have disappeared. My expectation is that, as long as I pay for this card, the food is free -Period. Would it surprise anyone if a year from now, after introducing a number of very nice Centurions, Amex started to charge for “premium” food in ALL its lounges? I’d be surprised if this DIDN’T happen. These lounges are one of the few “free” good deals for travelers, and now they they are crowded, what what you do if you were Amex?
    I have to agree with some of the others on tipping. Why are Americans obsessed with tipping apparently without regard for the service actually provided? My apologies to low wage earners, but since when is it MY responsibility to pay the wages of someone who works for someone else-particularly if that “someone else” is American Express? Are you kidding? I live in Spain where tipping is nearly non-existent. For the first time in years, I don’t have to figure 15, 20, 17, or 25%. If the service is really, really exceptional, I leave 50 centimes-2 euros, and that’s ALL. The unemployment rate here is > 20% and the Spaniards are not asking that their wages be subsidized by their customers! Americans, wake up and make the world a more honest place. If you must tip, at least demand and receive EXCELLENT service!

  20. I don’t mind tipping. A few bucks for someone struggling is not a bad thing.

    The SFO Centurion lounge is really crowded and is in Terminal 3 which is pretty much United. Bah.

  21. I wonder if paying for food in the U.S. Centurion lounges would be a good idea. I’ve basically stopped even bothering to go to the lounge at SFO because it’s always mobbed and people are like circling vultures at the buffet area. The buffet runs out of food within minutes of putting it out, and then people linger around waiting to pounce as soon as they put more out. NOT a premium experience.

    I’d gladly pay for food in the lounge if the food was decent, the prices were reasonable, and they served it to you at a table. Having to scratch and claw at the buffet to get some free food is actually a negative experience for me, while paying for something that is decent and served in a comfortable manner can be pleasant. I think the key would be good food at cheap-ish prices. If Amex can give the food away for free now, I think they could charge something pretty modest and keep people happy while also filtering out some of the riff-raff who become savages at the sight of anything free.

  22. @Larry Lucky’s grammar in the title is fine. “Which Charges For Food” is a restrictive clause, so he can use “that” as well as “which” (that is preferred, but which is commonly used in practice).

  23. Was in the same lounge a couple of months ago and had the same experience. I had spent out all my pesos by that point and I asked the server if I could add a gratuity to my credit card bill (six and a half bucks for a plate of pancakes) and he said no but I could leave it in cash. I apologized and said I had no pesos left and he smiled again and said he accepts US dollars too. I had no small bills so he got no tip. Not my problem. Stupid and tacky policy to charge for food in what is supposed to be an upper-tier lounge and even tackier to make it so awkward to ask for and try to leave a tip.

    BTW, my son wanted pancakes but I asked the waiter what was free and he said “pan dulce” which turned out to be a nice plate of pastries along with a hot chocolate. So we paid only for the pancakes but it really detracted from the lounge experience. I don’t know what the hell AMEX is thinking with this lounge. I think either they should offer free food or get a divorce from Amex brand.

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