Airport lounges are the only benefit in which I think the American Express Platinum card outclasses its best-in-class rival Chase Sapphire Reserve and it's other main competition, the Citi Prestige. All offer the Priority Pass Select lounge membership, but only AMEX gives its card holders access to the Delta Sky Club and -- this is key -- its own network of Centurion lounges in busy airports across the United States. I'd not ever visited one, so I made a point of booking a longer layover passing through Dallas - Fort Worth International Airport to see if it was worth it. Bottom line up front: The superb Centurion Lounge experience is the key to AMEX Platinum blowing its competition out of the water for travelers who value lounge access above all other travel card benefits.
Blue Doors and Green Chairs
Sophisticated welcome signage, charming blue front doors, tasteful wood paneled walls, big windows and brightly lit spaces that go with them, profoundly strange big green mod chairs that actually look like they'd be fun to snuggle in, and overall non-staid feel leave your run of the mill airline lounges in the dust. Walk in, present your Platinum Card at the desk, and welcome yourself into an enclave where everything is free or, well, included in the $450 annual fee you've paid for the privilege. Though floor plan navigation is a bit challenging, once you get the hang of it two minutes in you'll come to appreciate how cordoned off the various sections are from one another. The business center is decidedly separated from the noisier dining room, and in a nod to the long-haul flight nature of many visitors here, private shower suites are available in their own little corner.
Airport lounges are good for a snack, but most are not known for their culinary prowess. The Centurion Lounge is different, actually a place at which I'd go out of my way to have dinner (truth). Attentive staff scurry about to keep the buffet well stocked, and I understand the menu rotates for variety's sake. I enjoyed chili braised short rib tacos, Texas mole chicken thighs with toasted sesame seeds, and enchiladas stuffed with spinach, roasted poblano peppers the evening of my visit. It was, by far, the best dining experience I've ever had in an airport lounge.
The Wine List
Forget your house Chardonnay. The wine menu was created for people who actually want to a real wine experience in the airport. Unlike the airline lounges where the house red and white are free but the decent stuff takes real dollars, everything on the list is complimentary for Platinum Card holders. On this particular evening, I found a single sparkling (Prosecco) and a Grenache + Syrah Cotes du Rhone Rosé alongside a lineup of reds and whites that looked like someone actually put thought into it. I opted for a Riesling, hoping that the touch of sweetness would compliment the spicier food. Victory.
So, is it worth it?
If DFW is any indication, the Centurion Lounges are the best in the domestic American business. Nothing out there (that I've seen) comes close. I'd actually go to the airport early, stay late, or book another long layover just to have dinner here. That said, there aren't many of them, so you won't get much value if you're not a frequent traveler through Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, New York - La Guardia, Miami, Seattle (I understand a bit smaller than the others), and San Francisco. With typical airport prices on good food and wine, though, it won't take many dinners to make up the $450 annual feel on the card. Combined with access to Delta Sky Club when you're flying same day on a Delta flight, the Platinum Card is easily the best in the business for whisking you away from the noisy main terminal and into relative quiet with varying degrees of complimentary drinks. If Delta isn't your go-to (as the only major airline without a hub in the Washington, DC area, it can't be mine), or if you're not flying enough through the aforementioned list of airports with Centurion Lounges, then the whole thing may not be worth it. On its own merits, though, yes, the Centurion Lounge is most definitely worth the trip.