High-Flying Luxury

This private lounge at IAH will knock your designer socks off, complete with concierge service

This chic private lounge at IAH will knock your designer socks off

Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 bar
American Express is said to have spent $7 million creating the 8,596 square foot lounge in Terminal D at Houston Intercontinental Airport. Courtesy of American Express
Centurion Lounge at IAH, Justin Yu, Sarah Frese, Chris Cracchiolo
Justin Yu, Sarah Frese, Chris Cracchiolo. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group for American Express
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 lounge

Guests entering The Centurion Lounge are welcomed in the foyer with a living wall of lush green plants.
Courtesy of American Express
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 work area
The work area of the lounge features a wall of vintage luggage, a standard in Centurion Lounges. Courtesy of American Express
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 lounge
One of several sitting areas in the Centurion Lounge at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Courtesy of American Express
Centurion Lounge, The Ton Tons, June 2016
The Ton tons performed for the pre-opening performance. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group for American Express
Centurion Lounge, children's play area, 2, June 2016
The family ply area is sure to be a hit. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group for American Express
Centurion Lounge, Patrick Renner 2, June 2016
Houston artist Patrick Renner created the lounge's signature artwork. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group for American Express
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 bar
Centurion Lounge at IAH, Justin Yu, Sarah Frese, Chris Cracchiolo
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 lounge
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 work area
Centurion Lounge at IAH, 6/16 lounge
Centurion Lounge, The Ton Tons, June 2016
Centurion Lounge, children's play area, 2, June 2016
Centurion Lounge, Patrick Renner 2, June 2016

From fat cat travelers to mere mortals (with $50 charged to their American Express cards), flying out of Bush Intercontinental Airport is poised to reach a level of luxe sophistication seldom experienced in the nation's leading airports.

In a few short days, American Express will open the doors to The Centurion Lounge in Terminal D at the city's major airport, welcoming platinum and black (or Centurion) cardholders to an oasis of upscale calm in the otherwise bustling airport. This will be the seventh Centurion Lounge in the nation.

In advance of the official opening, AmEx officials hosted a media-infused bash Wednesday night in the spanking new lounge. According to boardingarea.com, the build-out of the 8,596 square foot space was budgeted at $7 million.

What we found — a striking, contemporary lounge embracing mid-century modern esthetics combined with a Texas influence and state-of-the-art technical amenities. Private showers, family play area, tranquility area for snoozing, concierge services, and a full array of business niceties are combined with Centurion Lounge signature offerings — complimentary full bar and a gourmet menu overseen by a high-profile, local chef.

In Houston's case, that chef is James Beard Award winner Justin Yu of Oxheart. The lounge has its own kitchen, so that all dishes are freshly prepared on site. On this night when Yu was in the kitchen, guests sampled miso soup, panzanella salad, zucchini bread and johnny cakes. While wait staff passed trays of Pimm's Cup cocktails, the bar was open. 

"It's a place where card members can go and recharge and relax," said Chris Cracchiolo, Membership Rewards and Loyalty Benefits vice president. "The Centurion is our signature program in the lounge collection which offers platinum card members 900 lounges globally that they can access."

While the clubs in Miami, Seattle, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York's La Guardia, and Houston share almost identical amenities, each is designed with its own special feel.

"Our task was to transition the old inspections hall in Terminal D into this gem of a space," project architect Scott Buehler of  PGAL tells CultureMap. "We took American Express' vision of what the space needed to be and created this design."

The theme-based concept for the space explains much of the artwork, the wood paneling, and vertical wood slats. "We tried to create an environment where travelers and patrons can have a relaxing experience as soon as they come in the door," Buehler said.

If the high style and exemplary food and drink weren't enough to sell travelers, particularly Houstonians, on the benefits of the lounge, the staff will certainly add to the appeal. Members of H-Town's cafe society will recognize the lounge general manager Danielle Shriber, who has had stints at Brasserie 19 and Coppa and opened the bar scene at Hotel ZaZa. Likewise, bartender Brian Adams will be familiar to those who frequented Brasserie 19.

While the club is free to platinum and Centurion card holders and up to two companions, any AmEx card member can gain access for a $50 fee.