Review: Amex Centurion Suite at the 2018 US Open

American Express has set the bar pretty high when it comes to Platinum Card member benefits, including its much beloved Centurion Lounges, now at eight U.S. airports and Hong Kong. With tickets to this year’s US Open Tennis Championships, I was excited at the chance to see Amex’s latest lounge offering: the Amex Centurion Suite.

Amex has worked to create a certain cache and brand image for its Platinum and Centurion programs.  Besides its own Centurion airport lounges, Amex has been putting together pop-ups at major lifestyle events. There’s even an American Express exclusive cardholder entrance and security screening room at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

I see this as a key perk that elevates the Amex lineup over its main competitor, Chase’s Sapphire cards.

The US Open Tennis Championship

U.S. Open Amex Centurion Suite lounge review

Nearly 700,000 people attended the 2017 U.S. Open Tournament. Image by Ascánder | Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Open tournament runs from August 27th through September 9th. On a very warm opening night, I had the chance to check out the Centurion Suite located inside Louis Armstrong Stadium. Besides the initial press release, there wasn’t too much information out there about the space or where it was located inside Armstrong.

Here’s how AMEX described it:

The Centurion Suite is the ultimate place to relax and recharge while enjoying a day at the US Open. Guests will be able to get a taste of some of the signature Centurion Lounge amenities and offerings, as well as special experiences designed to further enhance Card Members’ US Open experience, such as:

  • Complimentary premium snacks, small bites and water, in addition to one complimentary drink (beer, wine or cocktail)*. Additional selection of finely crafted cocktails, beer and wine will be available for purchase.
  • A special dish created by Cédric Vongerichten, Executive Chef of The Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia Airport, as well as wine pairings curated by The Centurion Lounge Wine Director, Anthony Giglio
  • A unique photo moment to share their US Open experience at the Centurion Suite
  • Flat-screen TVs
  • Phone charging stations
  • Dedicated WiFi network and restrooms

Basically, the Centurion Suite was marketed as a baby version of their Centurion airport lounges. Having been to another Platinum event, their Miami “Platinum House” at Art Basel in 2018, I had somewhat high expectations.

How To Find The Centurion Suite

American Express Centurion Suite lounge U.S. Open Louis Armstrong Stadium

The Centurion Suite is located inside the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, just beyond the East Gate. Image by usopen.org | Edited by Chris Dong

Once you enter Billie Jean King Tennis Center through the East Gate, the brand-new Louis Armstrong Stadium now comes into view to your right. With a Day or Night Session pass to Arthur Ashe Stadium (the main stadium with headlining players), you are also granted access into the smaller Armstrong Stadium and the other grounds courts.

The Centurion Suite is located inside Armstrong Stadium. Walk up one flight of stairs through any of the gates and you’ll be on the main concourse level. There was no clear signage — or any signage in fact  to the Suite and I had to ask an usher who pointed to the line of people waiting to enter a pair of doors located to the southwest corner of the venue.

Hours and Guest Policy

Direct from their press release, here’s the Centurion Suite hour of operations and guest policy.

The Centurion Suite will be open from 12:00-8:00 pm from August 27-September 5 and 12:00-5:00 pm from September 6-9. American Express Platinum Card Members are able to bring up to two guests while Centurion Members can bring two guests or their immediate family.

Judging by these hours, it seems the Centurion Suite was intended for Day Session ticket-holders. However, even with Night Session tickets, we decided to check it out since it was 6:45 p.m. by the time we arrived into Armstrong. Once there, we found a line of about 25 people outside the door. It was a one-in-and-one-out type policy.

Overcrowding is an issue at AMEX’s airport lounges and it was clear it was going to be a problem here as well. Oops. While in line, we were greeted by a friendly representative who told us about the refreshments and amenities awaiting us. We waited about 30 minutes and entered around 7:15 p.m.

Check-In and Initial Impressions

Amex Centurion Suite lounge review U.S. Open

At check-in, each cardholder received a portable charger as a gift. Kind of unnecessary but a nice touch. Image by Chris Dong

Upon entering the small entryway, the first thing I immediately noticed wasn’t something I saw but rather what I smelled — the signature Centurion lounge scent. (I personally love the smell, and would love that scent in candle form!) Another staff member greeted me and my two friends who I brought in as guests. She swiped my card, thanked me for being a cardholder, and gave me a portable charger as a gift and one drink ticket.

Now maybe it’s just me, but I found this to be a bit cheap to only give a drink ticket to the cardholder and not to guests. Nevertheless, a variety of drinks were also available for purchase at the bar. Speaking of which…

Standing Room Only Inside

Once past the entrance, the Suite was divided basically in half. To your left, was one main lounge area with couch-type seating. Beyond that was a balcony with a few tables and chairs that overlooked the main pathway into Louis Armstrong Stadium. Then, to the right of the entrance was the main bar and refreshment area. This is what it looked like. Uh oh.

Standing room only inside the Centurion Suite. Yikes! Image by Chris Dong

Standing room only inside the Centurion Suite. Yikes! Image by Chris Dong

Finally, a photo booth area was available in a side room that also had a line to partake in. We passed on that and headed straight to the bar to grab the US Open’s signature Honey Deuce cocktail.

While maneuvering to the bar I noticed the most disappointing aspect of the Suite: there was no food to be found except for a bowl of plums. Granted, I understand they might have run out or didn’t expect the demand, but if a representative is telling you outside the door that there will be refreshments, you would probably expect more than plums.

Nevertheless, once we finally managed to order at the bar, we enjoyed our Honey Deuces. I handed over my drink ticket to the bartender and expected to pay for the second drink, but the bartender actually gave us the second for free. Score! Normally, these run $17 per glass (including the collectible souvenir cup). The US Open concessions are all highway robbery so $17 really isn’t out of the ordinary here.

Also on offer were various other cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks like mint iced tea and cucumber limeade.

An empty U.S. Open souvenir "glass." (It's actually hard plastic.) Image by Chris Dong

An empty US Open souvenir “glass.” (It’s actually hard plastic.) Image by Chris Dong

Final Thoughts

The Centurion Suite was pretty underwhelming due to overcrowding and the meal service consisting of plums. We only stayed for about 15 minutes since it was more pleasant to be outside amongst the main crowds — and of course to watch tennis. By 7:15 p.m., it seemed like the Suite had run out of food beyond plums. One nice benefit was the air conditioning which was particularly valuable on a hot night. And the drink was a nice perk but not something I’d wait in line for.

I commend Amex for their events and unique ways to interact with their cardholders. But based on my experience, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the Centurion Suite at the US Open. Perhaps if it was less crowded during the day, I might change my mind.

At the end of the day, we came to the US Open to see amazing tennis and that’s exactly what we saw. Has anyone gone to the Centurion Suite? What were your thoughts?

About Chris Dong

I'm a New York City based 20-something with a love for flying, marketing, and consumer behavior. I always think the journey is as important as the destination, and to say yes to an unexpected adventure instead of experiencing the regret of missing out. I'm probably meditating on an airplane, looking up my next flight, or training for a marathon. I can be found on Instagram @thechrisdong taking self-gratuitous travel photos with the hashtag #TheFlightTaken.

More articles by Chris Dong »

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  1. Amex should be embarrassed; we dropped by at 1pm expecting to walk in; immediately told to wait in line under scorching sun and stood for about 15 minutes before we got “checked in” by a nice enough agent who took our cell phone number … basically to me told that we would receive a text when they were ready, following which we could text back yes or no and had 10 minutes within which to actually make it back to get in; we got the text 90 minutes later, and barely made it back there; once in, received one drink pass, entered a packed lounge with no sitting room. Stayed 5 minutes, used bathroom and decided it was nicer outside. Yes, it was a hot day; one thing not to live up to expectations that you set for customers; quite another to waste two hours of their time.

  2. Enormous thanks for this! Even the AMEX concierge had no additional information (beyond the paltry stuff that was already out there) and didn’t even know where it was located on the grounds.

  3. To quote John McEnroe, “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!” is the title of my review:
    After two hours of watching various matches, on one of the hottest days ever: 96°, my husband and two friends decided we needed a much needed break from the sweltering sun. I suggested that we visit the new AMEX Centurion suite which was advertised on their website. I sought out direction, from an Amex booth employee, who pointed us toward the suite on the 2nd floor of Louis Armstrong stadium.
    We found it tucked away in a corner behind a stairway….and…uh-oh… a winding line of approx. 30 people waiting(in the hot sun) to enter the suite…or so we thought. After 10 minutes on line an Amex employee took our cellphone# and advised us of 1-1 1/2 wait time before we could enter. That was 1:18 p.m. Two hours later, at 3:16 p.m., we stopped by the suite entrance (another line..)and were told it would be “soon” and they apologized after offering us bottled waters.
    At 4:00 p.m. (still no text notification)we stopped by wearily and the hostess (Laura, knowing how exceedingly long we waited) granted us access. Yippee!
    Aaaahhhh…air conditioning!
    We checked in and were presented with 2 portable chargers as gifts and 2 free drink (wine or cocktails) coupons. I was told our guests were not entitled to either but they could purchase cocktails at the bar.
    Both the bar and lounge areas were crowded. Unfortunately the ongoing matches were not being shown on their tv’s, we were told they decided to stop airing them in order to discourage people from staying too long. After 10 minutes we scored 4 seats at the bar. Our bartender, Steve, took very good care of us and attended to our drink requests quickly and professionally.
    There was a table set up with some snacks: fruit, potato chips and cold drinks. (Ice tea, flavored water, etc.) We were disappointed there wasn’t anything substantial to eat. But, alas, after 15 minutes they started serving small sandwiches: turkey or smoked mozzarella & tomato. Yay! Food..glorius food!
    While scoffing down my sandwich, my phone buzzed…it was a text from AMEX notifying me of access being granted to their lounge at 4:27pm. (3 hours 11 min. later) Really??
    Before leaving we used the restrooms. The ladies restroom was fairly clean and I was very happy they offered L’Occitane hand soap and cream.
    My friend said the men’s restroom was “disgusting”! “The floor was wet and it smelled like a sewer”!
    We left seeking another restroom for him to use.

    Overall I would say this experience was not up to American Express standards. I realize this is their first year offering this suite but they were totally disorganized and unprepared to handle the situation.
    All of their employees were very professional and apologetic. American Express put them in a very uncomfortable and difficult position and I felt badly for them.

    American Express: You should visit the U.S. Open Chase lounge and take notes on how to care for your customers properly.

    As an AMEX platinum customer I expected so much more and will have to rethink continuing my $550. yearly membership.

    Sincerely,
    Disappointed tennis fan

  4. Went to the Centurion on Tuesday August 28 at 3PM and was astounded at the line to get in. There were 305 people ahead of me. They took my cell number and would text me when my time came up suggesting a 4 hour wait time. Guess what NO text even at 7:30. 8PM is closing time. After reading the August 29 review, the whole perk is a BIG BUST, the only advantage being AC as the outside was brutal.

  5. Thanks for the review. Am planning a visit next year and nice to know that the AMEX lounge is just so-so, and not something that is a must. If I get tickets to the Chase suite via Marriott points, probably just stay in that one. The souvenir cup would be nice if it was actually glass instead of hard plastic…

    • Dale,
      Just to be clear..this review was for the AMEX suite in Louis Armstrong stadium and NOT for the VIP AMEX suite in Ashe stadium. The new suite in Louis is open to the general population of AMEX platinum card holders. The VIP suite is a private more exclusive premier place to enjoy food, drink and private viewing of matches in Ashe stadium. Enjoyed it very much last year but unfortunately was unable to get access to this year. Hope this helps!

    • This is the first year AMEX has a dedicated lounge to Platinum and Centurion cardholders. Hopefully, they can iron out some of the crowding issues and set some lower expectations for next year!

  6. Dale,
    Just to be clear..this review was for the AMEX suite in Louis Armstrong stadium and NOT for the VIP AMEX suite in Ashe stadium. The new suite in Louis is open to the general population of AMEX platinum card holders. The VIP suite is a private more exclusive premier place to enjoy food, drink and private viewing of matches in Ashe stadium. Enjoyed it very much last year but unfortunately was unable to get access to this year. Hope this helps!

  7. Oops, might have to fix that map. The Centurion Lounge is actually the other side – its balcony overlooks the Hexagon. I agree that the line, especially in the sun, is very hard to justify. When it reaches the bottom of the stairs you are looking at 15-25 min wait if people leave. Also worth comparing to the Chase Lounge (waitlist RSVP) which has a lot more space (2x) inside: https://www.tennis-bargains.com/2018/08/2018-us-open-lounge-showdown-chase-vs.html

    • Good catch! Your experience inside looks a bit more pleasant than mine—if those cookies are anything like the Centurion airport lounge cookies

      • The cookies and the free drink coupon were the highlights. But yes, it was pretty much standing room only each time I visited. It was so hot, we were just glad to be in the A/C! Too bad nobody wanted to leave for the same reason though 🙂 PS: I added a quick locator map of the other lounges near the East Gate area in case one is too full.

  8. My friend attempted to visit the lounge today, but was told after waiting on the long line, that her card – an American Express Platinum Card underwritten by Delta – was not accepted in the lounge. One of the Amex reps had already handed her the gift and then another rep stepped in and took it back. How embarrassing to be dismissed in front of all the other card members and we don’t even know why. My friend pays a hefty annual fee for this Platinum Card which clearly says American Express on it. Is she a second-class citizen if her card also displays the Delta logo?

    • Hey Liz, the Delta Platinum card is an entirely different product so while it’s disappointing, AMEX was in the right here. I’ve seen this happen at the Centurion airport lounges as well.

  9. i too thought the one drink ticket per cardholder thing was a bit cheap but they had bottled evian water and lemonade for free. They also had (at varying times) cookies, potato chips (bagged) and little sandwiches (cauliflower and chicken ones) the times I have been there. There is no TV screen with the games –presumably so you don’t dawdle. It is definitely amusing seeing fairly wealthy people lining up to get a free drink and fairly minimal snacks.

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