An airport lounge can change the outcome of an entire trip, be that allowing a guest to prepare or recuperate, breathe, eat or even check their emotions. When it comes to the anatomy of such a lounge, a handful of attributes truly matter. A food and beverage program should reflect the values of the host. Clean, contemporary design should alleviate the pressure found elsewhere in the airport. Of course, charging outlets and strong WiFi must be available everywhere. And ample seating—that can be used for comfort or work—might be the most important component. Put all of these together, and toss in a rather luxuriant shower, and you’ve got the first-ever international Centurion Lounge from American Express. Set in Terminal 1 of Hong Kong International airport—against a backdrop of planes arriving and departing—the 8,000-square-foot reprieve comes complete with many surprises.
As some wonder who can access Centurion Lounges, it’s worth addressing: anyone with an American Express Platinum Card as well as Centurion members (and their guests). The Hong Kong lounge has an abundance of space for both just beyond its level seven doors; but an additional dedicated area exists in the lounge that’s for Centurion cardholders only. This was done to guarantee seating for these individuals, and grant access to a dedicated Member Services Professional. It’s luxe, but to be honest, so is the whole space.
Design matters, of course, and Bertoia and Saarinen are well represented. American Express commissioned special pieces but the furniture was all purchased from designers. “The Bertoias are unique to this lounge,” Janey Whiteside, EVP and GM of Global Charge Products, Benefits & Services at American Express explains to us. From Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s the Paulistano armchair to Warren Platner’s eponymous chair, high design abounds. That said, one can spy Tom Dixon pieces and even Diesel Living. Current and emerging designers have their place and despite the multitide of options, no nook of the lounge feels crowded.
As for what becomes essential, Whiteside says they used “feedback we get from customers on what they want to do and then the make up of the what we think the customer profile will look like.” Many factors led to this future-forward build. Whereas other countries and cities find travelers sitting in a lounge for hours, they learned that in Hong Kong guests typically stay only 30 minutes. That, along with the fact that lounge space is not easy to get and these leases are long term, lead to a more modular system. It also happens to be their most open spatially, as a result of the airport’s strict fire protection policies. Finally, this is their first Centurion lounge to differentiate between the two types of cardholders, or as Whiteside puts it, “kind of like business class and first class—with a Centurion-only space that has its own private lounge and menu.”
The menu here holds great import. “Typically all of our lounges have a relevant local chef,” Whiteside notes. But here, they undergone great effort to secure something premium. In the Centurion-only space, there’s an a la carte Cantonese menu designed by Michelin star Chef Lau Yiu Fai of Yan Toh Heen at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Many delicacies can be found, including egg tartlette desserts with bird’s nest. The main dining space isn’t bad either, with a substantial buffet featuring a mix of western and Chinese dishes. All of the cocktails have been imagined by CH favorite Jim Meehan and the wine selections were handpicked by Anthony Giglio.
The concentration of AMEX Platinum and Centurion members residing in and passing through Hong Kong motivated this development. Beyond a business move, it’s also a reward for customers. This is evident in the L’Occitane amenities and the custom scent profile of the entire lounge. All details were considered. Hong Kong moves at a profoundly rapid pace; the Centurion lounge moves as quickly or carefully as you’d like it to.
Images courtesy of American Express