A Tale of Two Lounges

I love to travel. Give me a suitcase and a new city to explore and I wake up bright-eyed & bushy tailed, ready for early airport calls and whatever comes my way.

I used to be more than content to zen out with a book & a snack near my boarding gate, happier to be on my way than bothered by the hustle & bustle that surrounded me.

But once we began traveling more often, MBH insisted we make a few changes. He was adamant we sign up for Global Entry & TSA Pre-Check, despite my resistance. The hassle of a background check and a drive to the city for an interview was too much. He insisted, I capitulated.

And boy was he right. On our overseas trips, Global Entry has been amazing. We flew past a two-hour customs line on our return from Mexico and were giddy. On domestic trips. Pre-Check has made security a breeze.

But best of all was MBH’s decision to make us AmEx platinum cardholders. I’d heard airport lounges were awesome but I was so chill about the gate that a lounge seemed unnecessary to me.

Boy, was I wrong. I am obsessed with the AmEx Centurion Lounge.

I travel fairly often to New York, and after my last flight landed at LaGuardia before 7 AM, I walked straight to the lounge to unwind before tackling the city. After a warm welcome and the password to the wifi, they sent me inside to enjoy the lounge, which has a stunning view of the runways, and comfy chairs aligned to maximize the sense that you’re in a peaceful oasis. Breakfast was incomparable. Every time I’ve been, the food was delicious and this time was no exception. Eggs cooked perfectly fluffy, maple pancakes, fresh fruit, buttery muffins. Scrumptious.

After a cafe americano or two, I headed to the back to touch up my makeup, then hit the bar for a mimosa to really start the day.

Then, I was headed off into NYC for a long weekend (more to come on that later).

When I left NYC, it was through JFK. Sadly, there isn’t a Centurion Lounge there, but since it’s the headquarters of American Airlines’ Admirals Club, I was eager to visit.

It wasn’t the same. 😦 I was turned away from the flagship Admirals Club because there was another lounge closer to my gate. When I arrived, the only thing the check-in desk said was to monitor my own flight because “we don’t do that for you.” Which is of course, fine. I’m an adult, I fly regularly. But not quite welcoming. Drink tickets were handed out, which should have been a red flag – again, not quite the thing to set a welcoming, luxurious tone.

When I walked in, I realized why. I’ve heard rumblings in the travel industry that the idea of the airline classes have declined, and this lounge exemplifies that – it was busy, and although it was still a step up from waiting at the main gate, it felt more like waiting in a slightly nicer gate rather than the exclusive experience The Centurion Lounge touts. There was nicer food (available for purchase) and a nice assortment of free snacks – hummus, cheese, crackers & fruit, along with soups. There was a play area for families, which was nice, and several mini rooms with seating to create the sense of a smaller, more exclusive lounge than it actually was. And while it wasn’t crowded, there were quite a bit more people coming and going than I’d expected and I realized why the flagship lounge had sent me this way and why there were multiple lounges at all – all of us waiting in this gate lounge would have overwhelmed another lounge.

I texted MBH and he rightly texted back that I’ve turned into a lounge snob with my first world problems – and it’s true. I’m still content to find a bar on the main concourse and order a drink while I wait near the main gate. But I was so disappointed in the Admirals Club lounge experience that I’m an even bigger fan of The Centurion Lounge for creating a truly first-class experience.

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