The American Express Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas has the distinction of being the first to open in the U.S. — though Amex has operated its own lounges in other countries for several years prior. I remember lots of buzz at the time. But while the San Francisco location has the best food and the Dallas location has the best drinks, I’ve had inconsistent experiences in Las Vegas.
One issue is that the airport terminal is not so bad on a regular day. A successful lounge concept needs to offer me something that I can’t find in the terminal and at an affordable price. So the Centurion Lounge doesn’t stand out quite so much against the competition. Similar things could be said about SFO and DFW — the SFO location is inconvenient if you aren’t flying on United, and the DFW location has lots of competition from other lounges — but these other two are very busy airports. Maybe it’s just me, but the LAS terminal tends to be a sleepy place with lots of open seating whenever I pass through. What you definitely wouldn’t want is a lounge that is more crowded than the terminal.
On my first visit, there were many long delays due to thunderstorms in the area. A perfect time, one would think, to visit the lounge. But the small space inside was filled to capacity. There were even businessmen squatting on tiny chairs in the children’s playroom. One issue is that the lounge is broken up with a central dining area and a path that circles around it. There are many of the cubbies and high-walled chairs you’ll find at other Centurion Lounges, but they didn’t seem as private.
I was fortunate to grab a seat at the bar after standing in the dining area for about 10 minutes waiting for someone to leave.
During this same time, the main terminal was nearly empty. I didn’t even know there were flight delays until I walked into the Centurion Lounge.
As it was my first visit to any of the Centurion Lounge locations, I was excited to try out the specialty cocktails I’d heard so much about. But I was flatly told they weren’t offering the cocktail menu that evening. “No cocktails. We’re busy.” The bartender walked away in a huff without asking if I wanted something else.
What does that statement even mean? You only serve drinks when no one wants them?
I had a gin and tonic instead, and while it was at least made with better stuff than the jet fuel many airlines serve in their own clubs, it was a rude greeting. After finishing it, my empty glass sat empty on the bar for 30 minutes. My flight was one of the few not delayed, so I got up to leave and only then was I offered a refill.
Still, they had a second chance. I returned to Las Vegas the following weekend for another trip and wanted to see if they did any better without the weather delays. This time there was only the usual Sunday evening rush, and — not surprisingly — I found the experience to be much better. You can see that there are few people in the photos in this post (though I always try to wait until a lounge clears out before taking pictures). I had a chance to try the food and found it better than at any other domestic lounge and even many foreign ones.
And I went back to the bar. This time the specialty cocktail menus were laid out, which included The Blue Door — what has become my favorite drink at the DFW location — and many other good options such as the George & Ginger and the Vesper. There was also a polite message at the top explaining that “availability will depend upon business volumes.” Unfortunately, I don’t see how I could know this during my last visit when the menus were stacked in the back and the bartender was being curt.
My conclusion after even this visit is that the lounge isn’t worth the trek if I’m not leaving from the same terminal. Las Vegas uses a system of trams to connect its terminals in a hub-and-spoke system, and my flights on Alaska always leave from the far end of a different building. You may feel differently if you have a departure on another carrier or if you have a long delay and need a place to camp out.
Located near Gate D1 and open from 5 AM to 11 PM, Concourse D is the only terminal that does not have street access. Trams connect Concourse D to the check-in counters and all other gates. When returning to Concourse E for my flight, I need to follow signs to take the elevator upstairs to the departure level (escalators head down only, as the tram is designed for people from Concourse D who are exiting to baggage claim).
Admission is free to Amex Centurion and Platinum Card members and their immediate family (or two guests). Other Amex cardmembers are permitted at a cost of $50 per person. Personally, I think it has been worth it for Megan and I to pay the $450 annual fee on her Platinum Card, which drops to $250 after taking consideration of the $200 annual airline fee credit. If this were still the only Centurion Lounge, I would not view access as an added benefit of being a Platinum Cardmember. Fortunately, it’s been joined by several others — with more coming soon — that are much better. You can read more positive reviews of the San Francisco and Dallas locations.