Review: American Express Centurion Lounge, San Francisco, California, USA


American Express started opening airline travel lounges, inviting its members a place to relax before a flight. American Express has done an outstanding job with their lounges that are located in high traffic airports around North America and the world. While the lounges are often busy places, they make up for these shortfalls in better food and beverage. Our visit to the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco was outstanding with the lounge providing a terrific space to occupy before any flight.

This post is one chapter in our trip to Australia on Air Canada & Qantas Business Class and United Airlines. This trip was booked using British Airways Executive Club Avios and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) points. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: American Express Centurion Lounge, San Franciso Airport, California, United States of America.

This review is of the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco. For our experiences at other American Express Centurion Lounges, please see our reviews of the American Express Centurion Lounge Seattle Tacoma International Airport, the American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas, the American Express Centurion Lounge Dallas Fort Worth or the American Express Centurion Lounge George Bush International Houston.

Checking into Air Canada:

We headed upstairs and secured transportation arrangements home. For most travellers, international travel often involves a connecting flight. On paid tickets, for us North American residents, there’s usually a collection and examination of bags, a customs checkpoint, a baggage belt drop on the other side of the arrivals hall, followed by a dash to the lounge or the gate for your flight home. When you’re flying standby, there is no confirmed connecting flight. Once you’re confirmed on the ground, you have to re-book and find another ride at the next available opportunity.

My sister located some free wi-fi on the departure floor of the SFO International Terminal and re-started the booking process again- the fourth time today. Again, a bright and beautiful departure hall in the San Franciso International Departure Hall.

San Franciso International Terminal Departures Hall

Somehow, between United and Air Canada servicing the routes between Vancouver and San Francisco, we ended up with confirmed seats based on the available remaining space on Air Canada Rouge. Air Canada Rouge is the low cost carrier variant of Air Canada. We rolled over to the Air Canada desks and dropped our bags for checking.

Air Canada Departures Check In Desks

Locating the American Express Centurion Lounge:

Looking for a little relief after that, I recalled the recent opening of the American Express Centurion Lounge. We had a five hour layover at San Francisco airport, before our next outbound opportunity so we decided to head up to for a visit. I find San Francisco a little challenging when it comes to lounges. As the airport is split up into separate terminals, I seem to frequently find myself in a terminal without a lounge that I can access, or a terminal that has no accessible lounge at all. All to say, it was great to have this lounge as an available option.

The American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco airport is located immediately outside the E Gates in Terminal Three of the domestic terminal of the San Francisco airport.

The American Express Centurion Lounge San Francisco
Map Courtesy of
The Centurion Lounge San Francisco
The Centurion Lounge
Hours of Operation

Immediately inside the lounge is a tremendous two story green wall, which is a soothing way to enter a lounge; no matter how you cut it. The lobby reception desk is located on the second floor, almost immediately above the entrance.

The Lobby Green Wall
SFO Reception

Accessing the Lounge:

The American Express Centurion Lounge is accessible by holding American Express Platinum or Centurion Cards. Access with these cards are complimentary up to three hours before your flight, and include up to two guests. Additional guests may be invited in for $50 USD. If you are on a connecting flight, you are exempt from the three hour time limit.

At the time of our visit, access was also granted for other American Express Cardholders (non – Platinum / Centurion) by paying a $50 entry fee, per person. There was reasonable opportunity to make your money back on this fee. Unfortunately, this is no longer offered by American Express, thanks to heavy use of these lounges by their regular card holders.

Considering we had time on our hands, and the need of a well crafted drink, this seemed like a bargain to me. It was a much better value than the $50 voucher to visit the United Red Carpet Club lounge that would have offered sliced celery, the Copper Moon wine and the ripped up chairs further up the way.

Inside the American Express Centurion Lounge:

On first impression, the Amex Centurion San Francisco was a smaller space than the last American Express Centurion Lounge Las Vegas that we had visited. The American Express Centurion San Francisco lounge had been in operation for four weeks at the time of our visit. Despite this, it was a super comfortable place to lounge around and a much needed zone to be in after the ordeal of getting out of Australia.

Lounge Chairs

There were shared workspaces available, similar to the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.

Long Table Flex Space

Like with other American Express Lounges, it had décor reminiscent of travel from an era gone by.

American Express Travel Decor
Classic Photographic Art

Food and Beverage:

The American Express Centurion Lounges are known for their superior food and beverage. The space at the American Express Centurion Lounge San Francisco had a few tables and chairs available for dining.

Dining Area with Chef’s Kitchen in the Background
Dining Area

Unfortunately, there was vastly less food over lunch hour compared to our experience at the Las Vegas lounge. Sharp observers will note a limited number of tables in this photograph. Despite this, there was substantially less meal oriented food, and more snack oriented food. This was despite the beautiful chef’s kitchen in the background. 

Light Salad Offerings Today
A Limited Buffet Today

One neat feature of today’s visit was that American Express had set up a “California Region” Wine tasting. A visit to the bartender would get you a bar code ticket that would offer you five tasting pours. It was a great way to discover new blends and a fascinating contrast in regions considering we had just spent three days tasting in South Australia. 

Bar and Dining Area
California Wine Bar
California Wines

The wine tasting lists were pretty comprehensive, and a great way to distract oneself during the time spend there. 

Centurion Lounge San Fransisco Wine List – Whites & Rosé
Centurion Lounge Wine Tasting – Reds & Red Blends

As if a stand alone speciality wine bar wasn’t enough, there were wines from the bar available as well:

Centurion Lounge Bar Wine List

The advantage to the Centurion Lounge over other lounges is the bar. You can get an actual mixed cocktail that you’d pay $15 in any restaurant. The only minus is that the cocktails tend to take a bit of time to make. This usually results in a small line on our visits. Today was no different. Despite this, there was a great drink list that was different from our visit to the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.

Centurion Bar
Centurion Bar Cocktail Menu

Centurion Lounge Shower Suites:

After I had settled in for a bit, I listed for the shower. It’s only one room and the wait was only 15 minutes. The room was new, attired in slate and complete with an attached bathroom and l’Occitaine en Provence toiletries supplied, along with usual towels. 

Shower Suites with Attached Ensuites
Spacious Shower Suites
Room to Stretch out with your Suitcase
l’Occitaine en Provence Toiletries

It was a welcome relief to get off an International flight and be able to have a shower available for use. In our case, we had travelled two hours on Qantas Business Adelaide – Sydney, then fifteen hours on United Airlines Sydney – San Francisco with a five hour layover in Sydney. We were pretty ready to be refreshed by this point.

My Thoughts on the American Express Centurion Lounge San Francisco:

Overall, I’ll be stopping by the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco the next time my travels take me through here. Similar to their other lounges, it was a nice space to relax for a few hours and leaps and bound above the United Club down the hall. The only disadvantage was that the food offerings weren’t really substantial and coming off a long haul flight, we left a little hungry.

Do you appreciate the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco when your travels take you through there?

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