Luxury comes to the Philadelphia Airport in the form of the American Express Centurion Lounge at PHL (PHL Centurion Lounge). As the eighth Centurion lounge in the U.S., the space is warm and welcoming with a mix of woods, warm colors and modern comfort with pops of color (and a ton of pillows). When I saw the Philly photos of the 1980 World Series Phillies, Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff and the legendary Princess Grace of Monaco (formerly Grace Kelly) I smiled. If you want to impress me, you need to do your research and honor Philadelphia – the black and white photos do that quite nicely. With a signature scent, Modern Prestige, created exclusively for the space, the PHL Centurion Lounge will definitely engage your senses with food, drink, design, and smell.
What’s New at PHL Airport
If you haven’t visited the PHL airport, you’ll be surprised at the many changes that have been happening in the past year – Icelandair now flies direct to Reykjavik (seasonally), Aer Lingus just announced direct service to Dublin starting in 2018 and American Airlines, which hubs in Philly, will have direct service to Budapest, Prague and Zürich in 2018. These announcements have made me giddy because while I love all the new cities and want more folks to visit them, my treks to Newark and JFK are becoming fewer and far between as PHL has more direct access to Europe. Now if the new service wasn’t enough of a win, we now have an American Express PHL Centurion Lounge, which should (I say should) help frequent fliers stop lamenting the PHL experience. The AMEX reps said there was a noticeable increase in their card members using the PHL airport which helped decide on the location.
The PHL Centurion Lounge is located in Terminal A West which is home to international flights (most of which leave at night) and many American flights which occupy the day time schedule. Terminal A West also hosts my beloved boutique British Airways lounge and the expansive American Airlines lounge. The Centurion Lounge elevates the lounge experience from the moment you step inside the blue door. The lounge is expected to open at 5 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
PHL Centurion Lounge – Location in Terminal A West
If you are connecting in PHL, then as you enter Terminal A West and walk down the slight ramp into the expansive terminal space, the PHL Centurion Lounge will be the first option on the right across from the ever-changing and worth a stop art (#PHLAirportArt) display. The hallway entrance is next to the British Airways Lounge. To access the PHL Centurion Lounge, walk past the bright blue artwork by Philadelphia artist, Jim Houser, go to the elevator and up one floor. If coming from Terminal A West security you will make a left at security walk past the BA lounge and enter on the left.
The lounge is at the far end of Terminal A West (gate 14 is nearby) so allow about 5-15 minutes to walk to an A West gate. If flying from Terminal B or C then allow at least 15-30 minutes depending on how well you weave through the crowds in the smaller (and older) terminals. If you are in Terminal F, I’m not sure I’d bother with the very long walk or bus transfer to Terminal B unless I had a few hours between connections.
PHL Centurion Lounge Access
You can visit the PHL Centurion Lounge if you are an American Express Centurion (aka The Black Card) or Platinum card holder (personal or the Business Platinum from AMEX Open). The more accessible card, the personal Platinum card, has an annual fee of $550. Previously, the lounges would allow day passes for an additional cost to other AMEX cardholders but the popularity of the lounges caused overcrowding so AMEX has limited access to these select cardholders. It makes sense to cater to these cardholders and provide an exclusive travel benefit.
The PHL Centurion Lounge Tour
The 6,300 sq. ft. lounge offers is a modern escape from the terminal below. The views, courtesy of the floor to ceiling windows are of the terminal and beyond (direct light on both sides is nice). As you enter the lounge, you will see the greenery wall on your left and the front desk on your right.
The dark woods and modern design will let you know this isn’t your typical airline lounge. As you walk the hallway, you will see countertop seating with outlets on the left, the bar in front of you and a mix of booth seating and a gorgeous wood table (note the high tops in the photos are expected to go away; sadly they were just for the event).
The lounge is spread over two rooms – the first has food and drink and the second has the bulk of seating options, a television, telephone room and a boardroom table for a group.
The colorful space offers various seating configurations to allow you to work or relax before your flight.
The Shower Suite in the Centurion Lounge PHL
This is a game changer as someone who is newly converted to the shower after a flight option when a lounge offers it. The PHL Centurion Lounge offers one shower room (shame there couldn’t be more). Given the number of West Coast red-eye flights that arrive early, I can see this as a great benefit to travelers – those with meetings in the city and for those who are connecting to European flights or the morning flight on Qatar to Doha (yes, PHL has a Qatar flight for those who have OneWorld miles to redeem). So there is now a shower option at PHL (for cardholders at least). The toiletries are by French brand L’Occitane.
PHL Centurion Lounge Food by Chef Solomonov
Ok, this is where the PHL Centurion lounge excels by featuring our local rock star of a chef, Chef Michael Solomonov. I’ve always thought that the airport lounges should feature local foods and chefs rather than the packaged snacks they have now (I’m looking at you AA).
Chef Solomonov is a four-time (so far) James Beard award-winning chef (in 2017 he won for Outstanding Chef) for his unique and fresh view of Israeli foods. Since 2008, Philadelphians have enjoyed dining at Zahav restaurant in historic, Old City. Focusing on Israeli foods at Zahav, chef has expanded to a few other restaurants in the area, namely the hummus bar Dizengoff in Rittenhouse Square next to his restaurant Able Fisher. Both of those restaurants are across from the wildly popular Federal Donuts (on Sansom Street) which sells freshly made custom topped donuts and also fried chicken (its Philly so this works quite nicely as our food scene has exploded in the past few years that will surprise you). So all this said, choosing Chef Solomonov is an excellent choice to bring a unique concept of flavors and foods to the PHL Centurion Lounge (sadly no donuts). You might only be connecting through PHL but one taste of his food, your taste buds will plan your next visit to Philly to stay and eat (and eat and eat) some more. It may take a bit of getting used to since lounges often offer the same foods and packaged chips.
This is a unique menu created for the PHL Centurion Lounge (a sample menu)
- Tahini and blueberry challah French toast
- Kale Tabbouleh with apples and pomegranate
- Bulgarian kebabs with red bell pepper and white bean salad
- Malabi with coconut and passionfruit
The PHL Centurion Lounge Bar Experience
The complimentary full bar experience has custom crafted cocktails by mixologist Jim Meehan with wine selections by Anthony Giglio. To be honest, I haven’t heard of either but their menus are quite lovely nonetheless. With local spirit (Art in the Age) and Pennsylvania favorite (Yuengling and Yards) local beers, this is another nod to the city. Further enhancing the Philly theme, the five specialty cocktails are named:
Liberty Bell Ringer
Botanist Gin / lemon juice / Apricot Brandy / simple syrup / Peychaud’s Bitters
Laird’s Apple Brandy / lime juice / maple syrup / Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine
Schuylkill Express (a local highway and river – pronounced “skoo – kill” and you’ll want this drink after the traffic on this road)
Lot 40 Rye Whisky / Martini Sweet Vermouth / Art in the Age Root Spirit
Genever (gin) / Half and half / Cointreau / simple syrup / egg
Blue Door (Lounge Signature cocktail)
Johnny Walker Black Scotch Whiskey / Myer’s Dark Rum / Benedictine / lemon juice
This is the bottled beer (they also have beer on tap) and wine selection menu on the wall.
On the self-service drinks table, I was surprised by the water feature. It dispenses both still (blue snowflake icon below) and sparkling water (green bubbles icon above) just press your favorite color. There were cookies during my visit – I’m not sure what sweets will be featured once they open.
Connected in the Lounge
Free Wi-Fi, power outlets, working spaces, private phone areas (because you should excuse yourself to talk in private). You will be able to work or stay connected as much as you want. If like me, you’ll check into the lounge, enjoy the food and drinks and relax away from the masses and madness that awaits you at the gate.
First Look at AMEX PHL Centurion Lounge
I toured the lounge for a press event (hence the music playing in the video above) and was really impressed as this is my first Centurion Lounge visit (I gave up my platinum card a few years ago but I may want to rethink that now). Philadelphia International Airport deserves to have nice things – upgraded gates, local chefs/restaurants and luxury lounges – and we are slowly getting there. The PHL Centurion Lounge by American Express is delivering on the luxury lounge experience – just don’t enjoy it too much and forget to leave for your flight!
The opening date of the PHL Centurion Lounge is pending reviews and inspections. Hopefully you’ll get to experience it soon! If you do, leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.