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After almost two years of delays (not all of which were Covid-related), the American Express Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow opened its doors for the first time last week so, as I was passing through Heathrow Terminal 3 a few days ago, I thought I would take a look and see what the new lounge has to offer.
Size & Opening Times
The new London Centurion Lounge is approximately 7,000 sq ft in size, has a maximum capacity of 110 guests, and is open between 06:00 and 18:00 daily.
Access to the Lounge
Access to Amex Centurion Lounges is limited to the holders of the following cards and, where appropriate, their guests.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express(review)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express(review)
- The Centurion Card® from American Express
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card(review)
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Holders of American Express Platinum Cards and Centurion Members can access the lounges together with up to two guests regardless of what airline they’re flying with (terms apply)*.
Holders of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve cards can only access the Centurion Lounges when flying with Delta (terms apply).
For flyers originating at an airport with a Centurion Lounge, access to the lounge is granted a maximum of 3 hours before their scheduled departure time. For flyers connecting at an airport with a Centurion Lounge, that limitation is waived.
*From 1 February 2023, Amex Platinum cardholders will be charged $50 for each guest they bring into a Centurion Lounge unless they spend at least $75,000 per year on their card in which case they will continue to receive complimentary lounge access for two guests. There is no proposed change to the Centurion Card’s guess access privileges.
Finding the Lounge
The map that Amex provides to help cardholders find their way to the lounge isn’t particularly helpful (you’ll find it here), so here’s a step-by-step guide to getting from T3 security to the lounge.
- After you clear security, you’ll enter the Terminal 3 duty-free shopping area and here you should follow the signs to the bars/cafes and seating areas. Ignore the signs guiding you to lounges B – H (the Amex Centurion Lounge is Lounge A and isn’t located near any of the other lounges).
- After you exit the duty-free area, you’ll arrive at the main seating area for Terminal 3 which you should walk past (you’re heading to the far side of the terminal).
- Pass by the Harrods concession on your left
- Follow signs for the Airline Service Desks and, eventually, the signs for Lounge A
- As you approach the end of the terminal, you should see a sign for the Amex Centurion Lounge in a corner next to a Ted Baker shop.
- The sign for the Centurion Lounge is above a hallway that leads to a set of stairs and two elevators both of which will take you up one floor to the Centurion Lounge. You’ll have to remember that the Centurion Lounge is on level 2 because the elevators go up to level 3 and there isn’t a sign in the elevator reminding you of which floor to select.
The American Express Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow
The welcome desk of the London Heathrow Centurion Lounge will probably look familiar to a lot of readers because it could be a welcome desk at just about any other Centurion Lounge in the network – they all look very similar.
Once checked in, a short hallway (lined with various works of art) leads to the first of the lounge’s seating areas.
This is where guests will find a large worktable, a couple of high-sided armchairs, some work booths, and two phone rooms.
Past the first seating area, the lounge opens up into a wider space that’s home to the dining area and the bar, …
… and past here is a further small seating area…
… and a final, larger, seating area with sofa-style seating, tables & chairs, and a few small booths that face outwards.
The only areas you’ll find past this final seating section are the bathrooms and the lounge’s three shower rooms (one of which is larger than the other two and equipped for disabled access).
Food & Drink
The London Heathrow Centurion Lounge offers complimentary buffet dining with one set of options for breakfast (between 06:00 and 11:00) …
… and a second set of options for lunch & dinner (11:30 – 17:30).
This visit took place while breakfast was still being served so the options on offer were suitably “breakfast-y”.
On the opposite side of the dining area to where the buffet is set out is a large hot drinks maker with more coffee options than I’ve ever seen on a drinks machine. More importantly, the coffee that it produces is good.
Even though the gargantuan hot drinks machine comes with an option to make tea, the lounge provides further tea options to one side…
…alongside sachets of instant hot chocolate powder which, presumably, can be mixed with hot milk from the adjacent machine.
The Centurion Lounge bar is at the center of the dining area and is surprisingly big for a lounge that is not.
As you’d expect, the bar serves a wide variety of alcoholic drinks (and a few non-alcoholic ones too) with complimentary wines, cocktails, and beers all available.
Note: The bottled beers on offer at the time of this visit were Peroni, Meantime Pale Ale, London Pride, and Becks non-alcoholic lager.
Elsewhere in the lounge guests will find a smoothie/fruit drink station, …
…more tea-making facilities, …
….and hot & cold water dispensers.
Centurion Lounge Wi-Fi
As with all Centurion Lounges, the wi-fi on offer in the London lounge is complimentary and should be fast enough for most people’s needs. Guests will, however, need to take note of the Wi-Fi password as they enter…
…as I didn’t see it displayed anywhere else.
Centurion Lounge Art
The walls of the Heathrow Centurion Lounge are adorned with various pieces of artwork (some better than others) …
…and most of the artwork is for sale.
Anyone interested in finding out more can scan the QR codes located next to all the pieces that are for sale and get more information that way.
Right, that’s the easy bit taken care of. Now for the slightly tougher task of summarising my thoughts on the lounge.
If I have one major concern about this lounge it concerns its size – it’s not big.
7,000 sq ft sounds like a reasonable size for a lounge but in practice, it may not be enough. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be enough.
I’m concerned that this is going to be yet another Centurion Lounge that gets overwhelmed when the travel world is back to normal and the word is out that anyone with a Platinum Card can gain access and bring two guests too (until the rules change in February 2023).
The lounge’s maximum capacity is set at 110 guests and that seems high for a lounge that only has one notable seating area away from the dining area. Yes, there are two other seating areas too, but one is very small and the other is dominated by a large worktable and a few single-person booths so there’s a very real risk that overcrowding will become an issue.
Add to that the fact that the lounge doesn’t have any external walls (and therefore no natural light) and I can imagine this lounge feeling claustrophobic and not at all relaxing when T3 is busy.
Outside of one incredibly rude agent in Miami, I don’t recall ever encountering a member of staff at an Amex Centurion lounge who wasn’t incredibly hospitable, and this continues to be true following my visit to the lounge at Heathrow. From the agents at the welcome desk to the staff in the dining area, everyone I encountered was friendly, smiling, and helpful – they were great.
Food & Drink
This visit to the Heathrow Centurion Lounge took place in the morning so I didn’t feel like trying out all the wonders that the bar has to offer but the wine list seemed fine, the draft beers were ok, and the lounge has bottled Peroni, so things look ok to me.
The breakfast buffet was less ok.
Leaving aside the fact that the buffet looked small for a lounge that’s prepared to welcome up to 110 guests, and the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any room for the buffet to expand, the one hot dish that I tried – pulled ham hock with poached egg and truffle hollandaise – was stone cold.
The poached egg was well cooked (the yolk was beautifully runny) but there was barely any evidence that it had ever been above room temperature. If anything, it was somehow colder than room temperature…and that’s quite a feat.
In the spirit of being balanced, I should reiterate that this was the only dish that I tried so all the others may have been at a perfect temperature, and the fact that the lounge was very quiet may have meant that the dish had been sitting out for a while…but isn’t that what heat lamps are for? More importantly, shouldn’t the staff have been told to rotate out any dishes that had been sitting on the side long enough to cool right down?
Yes, before any keyboard warriors start frothing at the mouth and scratching at the walls of their parents’ basement in anger (how dare I complain about free food?!), I’m happy to concede that in the grand scheme of things a cold meal which should have been hot isn’t a big issue. Nobody died and the world will keep turning, but that’s not the point. The point is that this is a lounge review and readers expect to be told the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of my experience and this falls into the category of “bad”, so let’s hope this was a one-off aberration and move on.
The showers look nice. Very nice. And they’re a million times better than the atrocities you’ll find in the British Airways lounges across at Terminal 5.
The fittings feel like they’re good quality and the Soapsmith toiletries smell nice, but the best thing about these shower cubicles is their size (ironic, eh?) – there’s more than enough room for a person to put their rollaboard to one side and to get changed in comfort with space to spare and that’s not something that I’ve been able to write about a lot of the lounge showers that I’ve visited.
Sure, the fact that there are only three showers in total will mean that guests wanting to use one will probably have to make a request as soon as they arrive at the lounge and then wait until a shower becomes free, but that’s something that’s true of a lot of lounges around the world.
There are several good aspects to the new Amex Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow but I’m struggling to get past my concern about its size. The issue with cold food may well have been a one-off or just a teething problem but I’ll be very surprised if we don’t start hearing reports of overcrowding once transatlantic travel restarts in earnest from 8 November.
For someone who isn’t flying in a premium cabin and who doesn’t have an elite status that grants access to one of the airline lounges, the Centurion Lounge at Heathrow T3 is an option that’s worth exploring.
For everyone else, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, the Cathay Pacific Lounges, and the Qantas Lounge (once reopened) will almost certainly offer a better experience.