The newest of American Express' Centurion lounges opened on November 6th at SFO. Centurion lounges are available for American Express Platinum cardholders and their guests regardless of what airline or class of service they are flying. The others currently open are located at New York LaGuardia, Las Vegas McCarran, and Dallas Fort Worth.
SFO's lounge is located airside in Terminal 3, which is SFO's United terminal. Unfortunately, I primarily fly American Airlines out of Terminal 2 these days, but we decided to book a flight to LA on United for November 7th so that we could check out the new lounge.
The signage for the lounge starts at the far end of Terminal 3 and directs you to gate 74, which is nearly all the way to SFO's international terminal. Unfortunately, the majority of the flights out of Terminal 3 are quite far from gate 74, so you've got a bit of a walk to your gate if you decide to visit the lounge.
The entrance to the lounge is quite grand and is immediately noticeable when walking up to it. The lounge is on the second floor of the terminal and the entrance has a huge two story glass wall which showcases the living wall inside as well as the staircase and wood paneling.
When we arrived at the lounge, it was quite busy and there was a bit of a line at the front desk, which took about 10 minutes. Since it was only day two of the lounge being open, there were honestly quite a few kinks that they were still working out: the first of which was how much information to give to each visitor when they checked in at the front desk and how to process each person quickly.
Despite the wait, the front desk agents were extremely friendly and handed every cardholder a grand opening welcome gift, which consisted of a gigantic cookbook written by the chef who created the menu for the lounge, Christopher Kostow, and a American Express branded candle. Despite being quite generous, the gifts didn't seem to be very well thought-out by American Express as they were quite heavy and bulky and now travelers would have to carry them with them to their final destinations and back. As a result, I witnessed several people in the lounge trying to pawn off their gifts to others so they wouldn't need to carry them.
One of the lounge's most memorable areas is the glass wall full of wine that you see when you walk into the lounge on your left. The wine wall is also seen in the dining area and one of the most fun aspects of the lounge is the wine tasting you can do. If you ask the bartender, you can get a ticket good for five tastes of wine, which you can use at the wine wall to taste a selection of 15 white, red, and rose wines from Northern California. Unfortunately, quite a few of the bottles were empty when we were in the lounge, so we were a bit limited in our selection, but it was still a very fun option.
The lounge is fairly small and has three main areas: the dining and bar area, the entrance with a small seating area, and the main seating area with a family room for children. The main seating area is really just one big open space with various types of furniture and not really any private spaces. The main seating area is also quite loud because the sound carries easily from the dining and bar area. The furniture was nice and very colorful, which is characteristic of the other Centurion Lounges throughout the country.
On the other side of the main entrance seating area, there is a small lounge space, which would be best if you're looking for a quiet spot and it's also right next to the single shower available in the lounge. There's also a coffee bar available to the right before you enter the dining and bar area.
Aside from the wine tasting wall, the lounge also has a full bar with local beer and wine selections, as well as American Express' signature cocktails, which were designed specifically for this lounge, all of which are complimentary.
The dining and bar area was the largest area in the lounge and on our visit, it was the most busy. The bar is definitely the biggest draw of the lounge given the huge selection of premium wine, beer, and liquor, which is all free. There was plenty of seating and although the bar was quite busy, the bartenders were great.
Unfortunately, another one of those second day kinks was the fact that the food was constantly gone. It seems like each time anything would be put out, a swarm of people would descend upon the buffet and it would be gone within seconds. Because of this, the only thing I got to try were the chocolate chip cookies, which were absolutely amazing, but aside from that, the only thing we could find was rice. I guess they also completely ran out of pork, so even when food was prepared, there was no meat available. This issue should be worked out in the coming days.
The food selection was as follows:
Barley Salad with Seaweeds, Squid, and Celery
Bitter Green Salad (Radishes, Grape and Smoked Rye Dust)
Steamed Sacramento Rice
Pumpkin cooked in Goats Milk Butter
Fermented and Grilled Mushrooms (Vinaigrette of Charred Leek)
Chestnut Pudding with Roasted Chocolate
The restroom was beautiful and quite private and was much nicer than what you would find elsewhere in the airport.
Overall, the SFO Centurion Lounge is a beautiful lounge and American Express did a great job with it. The best part about the lounge is definitely the bar and the huge selection of complementary alcohol (the only other lounge in Terminal 3 is the United Club, which has house wine and house liquor for free - everything else, you need to pay for).
That being said, the lounge is quite far from the main gates of Terminal 3 and doesn't have a lot of private space. It's also quite noisy and is not large. If I was flying out of Terminal 3, I would probably choose the Centurion Lounge over the United Club, but I wouldn't go out of my way to book a flight on United over American in order to use the lounge.
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