The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was the first West Coast location and is one of the most difficult in terms of overcrowding. It’s not surprising, considering that the Platinum Card(r), American Express’s $695 annual fee, typically requires a wealthy clientele. These terms apply. In the San Francisco Bay Area where the […]
The Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was the first West Coast location and is one of the most difficult in terms of overcrowding. It’s not surprising, considering that the Platinum Card(r), American Express’s $695 annual fee, typically requires a wealthy clientele. These terms apply.
In the San Francisco Bay Area where the May 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the hourly average wage is 49% higher than the national average, there are more potential card owners.
In 2022, San Francisco’s Centurion Lounge closed for renovations and expansion. Is the Centurion lounge now open at SFO? It reopened at 16,000 feet on the last day in 2022. This is almost twice its previous size.
Two living rooms and a large dining room were the main features of the old SFO AmEx lounge. There are now two bars and two buffets, making it a much more inviting place to eat, drink, and lounge. The bathrooms are bigger and there are some private phone rooms.
American Express invited me to tour the facility. It took place on Wednesday, January 12, at the mid-day. The Centurion Lounge at SFO has the best part, the food.
Food & Beverage Options
Lounge food is not something I prioritize; everyone does. A November 2022 AmEx Trendex survey of 2000 travelers found that 64% said premium food and beverages were their favorite part of airport lounges.
Ravi Kapur is the Executive Chef at Liholiho Yacht Club. This popular restaurant in San Francisco designed the SFO Centurion Lounge buffet menu. The dishes are a blend of Indian and Hawaiian flavors. Kapur was born in Hawaii to a Hawaiian-Chinese father and mother.
The original spot is also where the first of the two lounge buffets is found. The layout is largely the same, with a few minor adjustments such as a new backsplash.
This buffet offers hearty, creative and delicious food. It is a refreshing change from the stereotypical airport food.
The menu items found in this section include:
Gochujang-marinated chicken legs.
Baby carrots with honey, black vinegar and sesame seed.
Wild rice and roasted red cabbage with golden raisins, dill, and mint.
Miso-honey butter roasted garnet yams
A salad bar is also available, which is a big improvement on the generic greens or croutons. You can choose from a variety of toppings, including broccoli and cauliflower. This makes it much easier to eat healthy when you travel.
A new addition to the main buffet’s menu is a central island that is dedicated to desserts. This includes cookies and mango pannacotta.
The second buffet is more focused on bar bites. You’ll find a buffet featuring menu items completely different to the rest.
This second buffet menu offers options such as:
Butternut squash flatbread topped with goat cheese, citrus, pepitas, mint, and melted butter.
Turmeric chicken and skewers.
Pineapple and roasted tofu
This all makes a great protein option for both vegans and carnivores.
A charcuterie section offers a selection of cheeses, salamis, salamis, olives, and hummus.
The bar is the first thing that you will see when you enter the lounge. The bar menu focuses on specialty wine flights that highlight four regional wines, as curated by Anthony Giglio (a sommelier/author).
This bar was a fixture in the original lounge. However, it has had some upgrades, including a wheelchair-accessible area.
A wine wall features seasonal California wines. This is a relic from the original lounge.
There’s also a new bar in the back. It is larger than the original bar.
Coffee and other non-alcoholic options
Non-alcoholic options can be found in a self-serve coffee shop with teas, hot chocolate, and flavored water.
An espresso machine is quite standard.
Relax and Work
Two custom floor-to ceiling wallcoverings created by Tracie Cheng are featured inside.
Some of the most popular design trends from 2014 have been updated for the new decade. The neon green pops of color are being replaced by muted, darker shades. American Express stated that the new interior design takes inspiration from the landscape, San Francisco fog and local vineyards to create a feeling of relaxation span>
The lounge expansion brings more seating options. A new living area features dozens of additional seats. This includes couches, plush swivel chair and booth arrangements.
Practically, there are plenty of outlets for power, some even built into tables, to reduce the risk of stray cords.
With more toilets, the bathroom area has been vastly expanded. There were often long waits for the loo in the past. New bathrooms feature L’Occitane amenities and elegant tiling.
Now there’s an all-gender bathroom and shower room.
Additional upgrades include a custom baby changing table that is a significant improvement on the plastic version.
Centurion members-only areas
Access to the lounge is an exclusive privilege. However, two seating areas in particular are reserved for Centurion members. Centurion membership is reserved for AmEx elite customers and is by invitation only.
Although Centurion membership information is not available, rumours suggest that it costs thousands of dollars. Benefits include Equinox gym membership and personal concierge. You also get perks such as automatic elite status in a few travel programs. Hilton Honors Diamond elite status is one example. It includes bonus points and a daily credit for food and beverages, as well as room upgrades and access to executive lounges.
During my hour-long visit, I saw only one guest enter the Centurion member-only area. However, staff members said that the SFO Centurion Lounge gets the most Centurion member traffic, along with the lounges in Las Vegas and Hong Kong. She estimates that around three dozen Centurion members visit SFO’s lounge every day.
It felt semi-crowded when I first entered the lounge at 11:01 a.m. You couldn’t choose, though there was enough seating. The nook seating was snapped up quickly, but the bar seating on tall, sturdy stools was very popular.
At 11:15 am, lunch items were brought to the buffet. Upon arrival, people enjoyed the steaming plates. The crowds subsided by noon, probably because they were aligned with flight schedules.
I visited during the strange Federal Aviation Administration outage which halted flights across the country and caused thousands of cancellations and delays.
The noise levels were appropriate for the energy. It was too loud for crickets to be heard, but it also had the right balance between “loud enough that nobody else will eavesdrop on me conversation” and “loud enough so I can think and hear myself span>
How do I get into the Centurion Lounge at SFO
Although the rules for Centurion Lounge access are clearly stated on its website, many people don’t know how to follow them. My guide escorted me in and took me past the check in desk. However, I didn’t have enough time to listen in on a woman who was angry at someone for refusing to let her in the lounge despite being an AmEx card holder. It’s important to note that many AmEx cards with high annual fees, such as the American Express(r), Gold Card or the American Express (r) Green Card, don’t offer lounge access and don’t claim to.
How to get in:
Keep the right cards
Access to the lounge is not limited to those who hold the American Express Platinum Card(r). You can also access it if you have Centurion memberships and a few other American Express card holders.
Cards are eligible for access:
Terms and Conditions apply.
Follow the rules
It’s not enough to simply have a card and pay the annual fee. There are other rules.
Only departing flights may be entered before yours. You can’t enter an airport that has a lounge and go inside, unless you’re on a layover or connecting flight. You are only allowed to enter within the time specified on your boarding card.
Learn the guest policy
Most cardholders have lost the ability to bring two guests into their card at no extra cost since February 1, 2023. Centurion Lounge guest access is only available to cardholders who have spent $75,000 on eligible purchases each calendar year. Cardholders can bring up to two guests by fulfilling this requirement.
Guest fees for adults are $50 and children 2-17 years old pay $30.
American Express’ The Platinum Card(r), however, may lose a lot of their value. Cardholders who traveled with their friends often used the guest privileges to pay the $695 annual fee. These terms and conditions apply
If you travel with a friend and do not meet the $75,000 minimum spend requirement, your buddy will need to apply for their card. This will avoid having to pay the guest fee. Cardholders have the option to add a authorized user to their The Platinum Card(r), American Express. However, there is a $175 fee. This allows you to add up to three cards. It comes to $58 per authorized person per year if you take full advantage of the offer and add three people. These terms and conditions apply.
These calculators will help you decide if it’s better for your travel friends to have their own cards or join as authorized users.
Learn how to navigate the SFO airport (to get in)
The Centurion Lounge is located at SFO. The lounge can be found in Terminal 3 on the mezzanine floor of the airport. It is accessible to passengers departing from other terminals. However, it may require them to go through security twice. Terminal 3 has no post-security connector to Terminal 2 and International Terminal G (Gates C2 through E18).
People flying from International Terminal A (Gates A1 to A15) or Harvey Milk Terminal 1(Gates B1 to B27) will require a same-day flight ticket. They’ll need to exit Terminal 3 to board their flight.
Other SFO Lounges to Consider
It’s not the only lounge that cardholders with The Platinum Card(r), American Express, can access at SFO.
Cardholders can also access the Delta Sky Club for free when they fly on Delta-branded or Delta-operated flights. Many travelers feel that SFO’s Delta Sky Club offers better service. You don’t need to go through security twice to board a Delta flight, as the lounge is located within Terminal 1.
Priority Pass cardholders have access to lounges within the network. Although Priority Pass lounges in San Francisco are less luxurious than the Centurion Lounges, there is one reason they may be better: cardholders have the right to bring one guest into the lounge for no additional charge.
For those who fly on Delta, or for solo travelers, it is hard to see why it wouldn’t make sense to stop by.
Most people aren’t sure if it is worth the high annual fee for access cards. It is very likely that it is for frequent flyers, who otherwise would have to pay for airport refreshments.
People who fly only out of SFO or other airports with Centurion lounges will appreciate the benefits of American Express cards such as The Platinum Card(r), which includes monthly Uber Cash credits, an Annual Equinox credit, and an Annual Clear credit. These terms apply.
Are you curious to know if the American Express Platinum Card(r), is worth the annual fee? This calculator will help you determine if the American Express Platinum Card(r) is worth it.
Is it worth the AmEx lounge at SFO?
As Amanda Ling says in “Crazy Rich Asians”, “No one loves more free stuff than rich people.”
Airport lounge access is a hot commodity. Prior to the expansion, people were happy to wait in long lines just for the chance to get inside. People arrive early to enjoy the lounge, where they can work on laptops.
It is easy to see why. The airport’s food quality is undoubtedly the best. You won’t have the hassle of searching for one in the main terminal.
With the lounge being larger, there are less chances of waiting, making it hard to resist a visit.
NerdWallet has collected all information about the American Express Corporate Platinum Card, The Centurion(r), Card from American Express and the American Express Green Card. NerdWallet no longer offers the American Express Corporate Platinum Card, The Centurion (r) Card of American Express, The American Express Green Card, and the American Express Business Centurion Card.
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