Airlines and Aviation
Centurion Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport is one of several Centurion Lounges around the world offering peaceful spots for American Express cardholders to eat, drink, and relax before and between flights. And more airport lounges are planned!
Why I’m Traveling …
I make a last-minute decision to fly to Bangkok, Thailand, to escape the chaos that has engulfed Hong Kong for more than two months.
I book a flight scheduled to depart between protests at Hong Kong International Airport, the world’s eighth busiest airport.
A violent protest had shut down the airport just a couple of days before my scheduled departure. And another protest is planned for the day following my scheduled departure.
Will roads to the airport be clogged with traffic? Is there any chance there will be scenes of chaos upon my arrival at the airport? Will there be long lines? Is it possible that my flight will be cancelled?
By coincidence, a close friend is flying out of Hong Kong the same day I am.
Despite the fact that my flight is leaving about three hours after his flight, I decide to travel to the airport with him. In addition to saving money on transport, we will have each other to fall back on if things turn chaotic.
The Trip to the Airport Lounge …
Because of the airport protests and the on-going civil unrest in Hong Kong, many travelers have canceled their travel plans to and from the former British Crown Colony.
As a result, there is little traffic on our way to the airport. After gaining entry to the airport terminal, I can’t believe my eyes: the usually crowded building is practically empty.
I post some images on Facebook, describing the airport as “a virtual ghost town”.
I can’ t believe that a day or so earlier the immense terminal was packed full of protesters. It was also the scene of unprecedented chaos. As a result, hundreds of flights had to be cancelled.
The situation today is completely different!
Because I checked in on line, I don’t need to check in. All I have to do is drop off my bags, and there is no line at the luggage drop-off counter. After dropping off my luggage, I have a substantial amount of time to waste.
My friend suggests we have sushi and a beer at a Japanese sushi bar while we wait.
The Centurion Lounge Entrance …
Because my friend has an American Express credit card with Platinum Status, he is allowed to take up to two guests into the Centurion Lounge.
In addition to Hong Kong Airport, there are Centurion Lounges at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Las Vegas McCarren Field (LAS), New York LaGuardia Airort (LGA), Miami International Airport (MIA), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Seatlle/Tacoma International AIrport (SEA).
Additional Centurion Lounges are planned at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT),Denver (DEN), New York JFK International Airport (JFK), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), London Heathrow (LHR), and Phoenix Sky Harbour (PHX).
I have a VISA PremierMiles credit card, which offers me access to the Plaza Premium Lounges at the airport, which has five Plaza Premium Lounges. However, I decide to accompany my friend to the Centurion Lounge for two reasons:
- First, we can spend a little more time together.
- Second, I can compare the two lounges.
I am assuming that because American Express is considered to confer more status than VISA, the Centurion Lounge will be more luxurious than the Plaza Premium Lounge.
Will that assumption prove correct?
The Space at the Centurion Lounge …
Unlike other parts of the airport, which are devoid of passengers on this slow-travel day, business is booming at the Centurion Lounge.
In fact, when we arrive, all of the tables are occupied so we have to share a table with another traveler.
We both order glasses of chardonnay, and I fetch a bowl of tortilla chips and guacamole. OMG! The guacamole is as good as it gets!
Shortly after my friend leaves to catch his flight, there is a mass exodus, and I get a table all to myself.
Since this is a slow travel day at the airport, I can’t help but wonder if the Centurion Lounge would be large enough to accommodate a normal crowd of travelers.
The Food Service at the American Express Lounge …
The American Express lounge offers two menus, with both hot and cold entries.
- Breakfast menus are served in the morning, from 5.30 am to 11.30 pm.
- Lunch and dinner dishes are served mid-day to evening, from 11.30 am to 12.15 am.
My friend and I arrived at the airport too early to drop off our bags, so we have a snack while we waited for the bag drop-off counter to open.
Therefore, when I arrive at the Centurion Lounge, I am not really hungry. So I can’t really comment on the food.
However, I can say that the guacamole was excellent!
The Beverages Service at the Centurion Lounge …
Not only does the Centurion Lounge have a full service bar, beverages – including alcoholic beverages – are complimentary.
After ordering a glass of chardonnay, I don’t have to return to the bar to order another one.
A member of staff stops by my table periodically to ask if I’d like a refill.
The American Express Lounge’s Facilities …
The space is much smaller than I had expected. It appears to be designed for brief stays before flights rather than a lengthy stopover between flights.
For example, I don’t see any lounge chairs where someone could take a snooze.
There is a conference space for meetings as well as computers and periodicals.
The View at the Centurion Lounge …
The business lounge has floor to ceiling windows along one side, offering sweeping views of the tarmac.
The windows and high ceilings give the lounge a sense of spaciousness that exceeds its actual dimensions.
The Verdict …
Because my credit card offers complimentary access to the Premium Plaza Lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, I have used one of their five lounges on many occasions over the years.
I have also enjoyed access to the business class lounges of specific airlines when flying business class on previous trips.
Comparing the Centurion Lounge to the Premium Plaza Lounges, I would have to say that the American Express Lounge offers a more welcoming environment with a better view.
As for the Plaza Premium Lounges, they are located in enclosed spaces, and they can be a bit dark and unwelcoming.
A second advantage is that the Centurion Lounge offers complimentary alcoholic beverages. Except for beer, I have to pay for wines and spirits at the Plaza Premium Lounge.
However, the prices in the business class lounge are much lower than at conventional airport F&B outlets.
But in terms of comfort, the Plaza Premium Lounges offers a more restful environment for someone wanting to take a snooze. There are also more workstations. Regarding food, the options are far more plentiful.
For a brief stay, however, I might prefer the Centurion Lounge because of its openness and the sweeping view of the tarmac.
All things considered, I would have to say that the airline business class lounges I have had access to offer the best over-all pre-flight experience at Hong Kong International Airport.
Cathay Pacific has several lounges at HKIA, and the facilities are pretty impressive. However, I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the food.
My hands-down favourte pre-flight lounge was Emirates: it was spacious, comfortable, and the food choices were excellent.