As we rushed to make our connecting flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Tampa, lugging our carry-ons, cameras and food, we stopped at the boards.
Our next leg wouldn’t take off for another four hours. Nearly 300 flights ended up canceled or delayed Nov. 24 because of violent storms. We joined the rest of the Florida-bound passengers sprawled in the tiny waiting area on hard chairs at the gate. Thanksgiving vacation was off to a slow start.
My Mac didn’t feel like air to me, and I realized that we had to take shifts stretching our legs by doing laps around the shops. As my eyes started to glaze over under the ugly fluorescent lights, I recalled an email sitting in my inbox promoting the flashy new American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal D.
Even with all the traveling I do, I have stayed away from airline club lounges, thinking them unnecessary status symbols or only for VIPs. While that may be true, it turns out that cardholders with $50 to spare can buy a day pass. The passes are a real boon for cranky adults or families with tired children, and you can even buy them online as gifts for frequent travelers.
With four extra hours looming ahead of us, and the realization that every hard-plastic chair around us was filling up with bodies, I asked for directions to the Amex lounge.
The club was a bit hidden. Despite having the exact location, even airport employees directed us to the nearby American Airlines Admirals Club. We stopped there. The greeter at the front desk seemed less than friendly, informing us that it would be $100 for a day pass for the two of us and then more for bar drinks and lunch. To be fair, the club featured the usual free Wi-Fi and showers. The menu was barebones – sandwiches and quick eats only.
I was determined to try out the new Centurion Lounge, which supposedly had a celebrity chef. Named after the highest level of Amex card, the invitation-only black Centurion card, the deluxe club costs the same for a day pass but boasts more free features.
When we finally found the lounge, it was an oasis that helped us weather a really tough day. The excellent food was free (well, after the cost of the day pass), and they were giving out 15-minute massages and facials at the lounge’s salon. Needless to say, the signups filled almost immediately, with all the plane groundings. Chairs and comfy couches make the free Wi-Fi that much easier to use, and special children’s stations feature computer games of all sorts.
The daily Amex pass runs $50 per person, with no extra charge for food or drinks.
If you’re an Amex Platinum member, which means you think this kind of comfort is worth $400 a year, admission is free for yourself and your family. The Priority Pass card that comes with it allows you to access more than 600 global lounges, including the American Airlines Admirals Club, the Delta Sky Club and the US Airways Club.
To read detailed reviews of airline clubs, visit skytrax.com. Centurion Clubs seem to generate more positive comments, but take a look for yourself. If you’re a business traveler, you can probably expense the passes.
This is one status symbol that I would definitely recommend. You can also buy one-day and 30-day passes online as gifts.