On my way back from my recent sojourn to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, I decided to stop for a bit of refreshment prior to my flights to Edmonton via Montreal.
The American Express Lounge São Paulo is a statement piece, though not necessarily one which I think reflects American Express in the best way.
Is it a bad lounge? No. But my four hour layover here made me long for the air of “suave premium” that Amex’s eponymous Centurion Lounges evoke.
American Express Lounge São Paulo – Access
If you’ve ever been to São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport, then you’ll know it can be labyrinthine and confusing.
After a less-than-satisfying connecting flight from Rio de Janeiro on GOL Airlines, I was having a frustrating time walking from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 across the voluminous space of the airport. This effect was amplified by the fact that much of the space I was walking through was empty and devoid of human life.
At last, I neared upon a set of duty-free shops, not that I had any intention of buying anything. I was delighted to see that they were located next to a series of escalators that proudly listed VIP Salas, or VIP Lounges in English.
After ascending, I saw exactly what American Express was trying to express with its lounge.
I was a bit shocked by seeing my favourite credit card brand written so large, and knew I’d have to take my respite within. I made my way to the front of the the lounge and checked in.
Despite Amex having pulled out of the domestic Brazilian market a few years ago (they also sold their portfolio to a local bank), globally-issued American Express Platinum Card and Centurion Card holders are still allowed entry into this eponymous lounge.
With a quick swipe of my card, I was in.
Of course, this didn’t stop the place from later becoming full to the point of claustrophobia, but that’s because the lounge was also available on Priority Pass.
Furthermore, it permitted entry to air crew from various carriers, such as United Airlines, as well as anyone with a business class boarding pass.
Honestly, if this lounge wanted to be more exclusive, it should implement more stringent access requirements. If it desired to be open and fun, it just needed more seating. Both have their own charm.
The American Express Lounge São Paulo is open daily from 11am–3am.
American Express Lounge São Paulo – Seating
When I entered, I noticed how many of the chairs and almost all of the couches were fully occupied.
The entryway alone was jam-packed with travellers passed out on benches or charging their devices at the plentiful docking stations located all around. The lovely staff were kind enough to have charging adapters for foreigners like me on hand, so they deserve recognition for that.
There are a series of conference-style meeting rooms running along the sides of the lounge. Their seating didn’t look too comfortable, though.
To my lack of surprise, they were mostly empty – although they did fill up a bit later, just as the lounge itself did.
The restrooms are to the left of the first common area, immediately next to a more family-style room with Amex-blue beanbag chairs. They were quite small given the size of the lounge, with only three stalls in the men’s restroom.
There were also shower rooms next to the bathrooms, but every stall was locked. I also didn’t see anywhere to change, and was informed by the staff that they were closed due to COVID protocols. Rats.
I continued to make my way to the central common area, which included a lovely circular couch located in the middle of the room.
To its left was the food and buffet area, and to its right was a variety of cafeteria-style seating, most of it with the signature blue upholstery.
Once again, it was busy when I entered, but was positively brimming with people by the time I caught my flight.
Near to the dining area is the bar, which I’ll talk about in a bit because it was great fun when it wasn’t busy.
Next to the bar was an area labelled “American Express First Class,” though this didn’t indicate any meaningful distinction. I waltzed in without an issue, despite being noticeably second-class as compared to many of the patrons.
There was also a lovely sleeping area with Roman-style reclining couches, which I availed myself of almost immediately to take a little nap.
With my luggage safely set down at my recliner and my weary head rested, it was time to grab a bite to eat.
American Express Lounge São Paulo – Dining
Before I show you the pictures, I’ll cut to the chase: the food here was acceptable. There were no dandy hors d’oeuvres or gastronomic bites to be savoured, and the food was overall pretty standard for a cheaper Brazilian buffet.
Still, nothing tasted bad, per se, so feel free to glut your fill if you need to sate your hunger quickly. The variety was quite decent.
Everything was self-serve, but the lounge provided tongs and staff were replenishing items and sanitizing the area quite regularly. Sometimes, not quickly enough given the demand!
Personally, I partook in a bit of the hot entrées and charcuterie, as well as the desserts. My lukewarm chicken was nothing memorable, but the saffron rice had decent flavour, and the mango dessert cookie was actually good enough to pay for.
And yes, for those of you who insist on healthy living, clean eating, and everything else that is boringly healthy, there was some kind of green matter, too.
American Express Lounge São Paulo – Bar
The bar was quite decent – when you could get service.
As it was, the staff were so busy serving multiple customers and keeping the place neat and tidy that they barely had enough time to serve drinks. Fortunately, beer, soft drinks, and mineral water were all freely available, with no limit, from a self-serve refrigerator at the bar’s edge.
The bar menu wasn’t bad, either. It sported a variety of hard liquors and wines, including a local sparkling wine that was quite tasty, if not quite as good as Kirkland generic prosecco.
For the price of free, I’d surely drink it again.
As I mentioned, the area was often quite full of customers clamouring for beverages, so I decided to take a seat on the First Class side where there was more seating and it was a bit quieter, too. The staff also came around for intermittent refills as a bit of an added bonus.
Sipping my bubbly, I sat there feeling somewhat content with the experience. I was, however, a little irked by the sheer noise so many customers could cause and the delays in service – it’s not that the staff were bad, there just weren’t enough of them to handle all of the guests.
The American Express Lounge São Paulo was an adequate but underwhelming experience.
I’m sure I’d have been far less harsh on the space if its name did not contain the words American Express, but sadly, I just expect a superior quality of product and certainly better levels of staffing and/or service from anything bearing the American Express logo.
The crowding issues were something else, too, and should have been mitigated with either more space to accommodate them or with more selective entrance requirements.
I don’t think this should take away from the other positives of this lounge, though. It’s still a good place to rest before taking the next leg of your flight, and due to the remoteness of Guarulhos, it’s likely that any flight from this terminal will be quite long.
I just hope that the lounge is in better condition the next time that I visit.