- American Express’ newest Centurion Lounge at JFK Airport is chock full of amenities that are completely free to visitors.
- Hot food buffets serving gourmet meals, carefully curated cocktails, and an Equinox Body Lab are just some of the features open to passengers.
- Hidden within the lounge is also a prohibition-themed speakeasy that’s only accessible through a secret door.
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American Express opened its newest Centurion Lounge at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier this month to less fanfare than normal amid a pandemic that’s crippled travel.
Only a handful of visitors could be found on an opening day that also saw less than a million travellers take to the skies in the US. Meanwhile, if the lounge had opened a year prior, its walls would have very likely been jam-packed with passengers eager to make use of their $US550 credit card perk in the extravagant space.
But while most travellers will have to standby a little longer to experience the new space, it’s well worth the wait. Two years of construction yielded a massive two-level lounge with more than 15,000 square feet of seating.
Unlike airline lounges, the Centurion Lounge is known for its extravagant amenities for which passengers don’t have to lay out a dime, apart from the annual fee on the credit card or membership that gets them in the door. Steak and potatoes, for example, was on the menu compared to the normal cheese cubes and soup found on the airline side.
And while most of its features are open for all to see, the lounge has a few secret spots that shouldn’t be missed.
Here are the coolest features of the lounge.
1. Contactless check-in: Aimed at limiting interactions between lounge guests and staff, visitors can check-in to the lounge from their devices.
Guests can check-in up to 30 minutes before their arrival.
Once they arrive, they will only need to show their boarding pass and identification.
2. The largest Centurion Lounge in the world: Over 15,000 square feet is available to passengers in Amex’s flagship lounge.
The lounge is so big that an extension of the terminal had to be built from scratch.
There are two floors in total with the top floor seating 223 people, though capacity is being reduced during the pandemic.
3. Equinox Body Lab: Health and wellness-oriented travellers can make a reservation at the lounge’s Equinox location.
Here’s the main workout room. There aren’t any treadmills or stationary bikes but guests can follow along with guided exercises.
These Hypervolt massage tools are ideal for soothing post-workout pains or soreness.
Opposite the workout space is a stretching table with compression socks that help increase blood flow, useful on planes as passengers are sitting for the duration of the journey.
Other rooms are dedicated to yoga…
And guided meditation. This lounge chair vibrates as the user listens to soothing sounds that are aimed at relaxation and reducing stress during the travel experience.
4. Hot food buffets: The catering options are where Amex lounges really stand out from regular airline lounges with a gourmet food menu crafted by Chef Ignacio Mattos.
It’s literally a soup to nuts offering. On the menu during our visit was farro soup and chicken broth with butternut squash crostini…
Fennel salad as a starter…
Steak and potatoes for the main course…
With a fried maitake mushroom po’ boy as a vegan option…
Topped off with chocolate cake and whipped cream to finish.
We only tried the steak and potatoes during the visit and it was perfectly cooked while bursting with flavour. Even the presentation in miniature cast iron skillets was impressive.
There’s a smaller buffet on the lower level, as well, so patrons don’t have to climb stairs to grab more food. Lounge staff is also serving the dishes to customers during the pandemic.
5. Three full-service bars: All alcoholic drinks are complimentary in the lounge, another differentiating feature compared to airline lounges that charge for non-well or house drinks.
The main dining area is home to the first bar while the other two are on the lower level.
Here’s the downstairs lounge, which features a similar look and identical offering.
The only downside is that barstools at all of the bars have been blocked to avoid crowding.
6. Hidden speakeasy: If you were wondering where the third bar is, that’s actually one of the lounge’s secrets.
Behind the copper wall is this prohibition-themed speakeasy called “1850,” in reference to the year of Amex’s founding.
It’s a slightly different offering in here with signature whiskey, gin, and vodka drinks crafted by mixologist Jim Meehan and wines by Anthony Giglio on the menu.
There are no barstools but comfortable cushioned chairs are available, with every other one blocked off for distancing.
7. Avocado toast: The popular Australian snack is also on the menu with a dedicated crafting station. Toppings include tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
Here’s the final outcome, which can be served on regular or whole grain bread.
The avocado toast trend is apparently growing in lounges as American Airlines also offers the expensive snack.
8. Treehouse hideaways: These one-to-two-person rooms are scattered throughout the lounge and often encapsulated in wood finishing to give the appearance of a treehouse.
They’re small, private spaces to make a phone call or get work done with privacy, away from the lounge’s hustle and bustle. Some have doors but most don’t.
Each is also themed after a particular year of importance, whether it be to Amex or New York City.
This nook, for example, is called “2016,” when the Oculus opened in the Financial District. The back wall also features a mural of the iconic building.
Some give off The Great Gatsby vibe, the 1925 novel with which New York is inextricably linked.
9. Aircraft views: As the lounge is located at the base of Terminal 4, visitors will have some of the best views of the adjacent tarmac.
The terminal is home to airlines like Air India, El Al Israel Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Emirates, and others, offering a variety of aircraft sights from the world’s largest passenger jet to the smallest regional aircraft.
It’s the perfect location for some pre-flight plane spotting.
More Centurion Lounges are opening across the country as more flyers begin taking to the skies. Locations in Dallas and Houston have just reopened, bringing the total number of available locations to seven also including Charlotte, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, and of course, New York.