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
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
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
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.
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.
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?