It all began 82 years ago, December 2, 1939, to be exact.  American Airlines CEO C.R. Smith created a lounge at LaGuardia Airport in New York City for airline VIPs and supporters (who they called “Admirals”).  Per Lounge Review, they called the lounge a “Flagship Club” to avoid confusion with the Navy.

The concept of creating a separate space in an airline terminal with exclusive membership caught on like wildfire, and today there are thousands of airline lounges.  DFW Airport, my home airport, has 10-15 (depending how you define “lounge”) by itself, and the newest lounge at DFW is a big one.

Airline lounges?  How about credit card lounges?

The airline lounge concept makes a lot of sense.  Encourage flyer loyalty by offering a respite from the “hoi polloi” in the airport terminal.  The past decade, though, has seen the rise of a new lounge concept: the credit card lounge.  Premium credit cards like the American Express Centurion and Platinum began offering access to exclusive and luxurious spaces.  These spaces caught on like wildfire (heck, I’ve reviewed many of the American Express Centurion Lounges on this blog) and, similar to other airlines following the lead of American Airlines after they opened the first airline lounge, other credit card companies are now entering the game.

Capital One debuts their new lounge concept at DFW Airport

Capital One recently announced a new lounge initiative with great fanfare.  Their first lounge location?  DFW Airport, coincidentally (or is it?) the location of the first American Express Centurion Lounge.

I had a chance to visit the new lounge before my most recent trip to Europe and thought you’d enjoy a look!

Where is the Capital One Lounge at DFW Airport?

The Capital One Lounge is located in Terminal D, next to gate D22.  Visitors to the American Airlines Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge at DFW will be familiar with the location.

There’s a nice entryway before a bank of elevators (you could actually just go and chill in this lobby, as lounge check-in is on the second floor).  When the elevator doors open, to the right will be the American Airlines Flagship Lounge (when it reopens later in 2021), and to the left you’ll see the glowing Capital One sign beckoning you into the new lounge.

Who can access the Capital One Lounge?

My sense is the lounge is targeted at cardholders of their new Venture X card, the first premium card from Capital One.  The full access policy from Capital One is below:

The Capital One Lounges will have special entry offers for Venture X, Venture and Spark Miles cardholders:

  • Venture X cardholders will get unlimited access to Capital One Lounges for primary cardholders and their authorized users, along with complimentary entry for up to two guests per visit and special pricing of $45 per visit for additional guests. 
  • Venture and Spark Miles cardholders will receive two complimentary visits annually and have access to a special entry rate of $45 per visit after that. Pricing for guests of Venture and Spark Miles cardholders is $45 per visit.
  • All others [both cardholders and non cardholders] can enter the Lounge for $65 per visit.
  • Kids under two are welcome for free.

The Capital One Lounge

When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by Capital One personnel at a check-in desk.  When I was there, I heard plenty of people coming up to the lounge just to check it out, unaware of whether or not they had access, which I thought was interesting.

Entryway and Grab-and-Go area

The first area you encounter in the Capital One Lounge is the most revolutionary, in my opinion.

This area looks really nice and introduces you to the design language they used for the rest of the lounge.

But how is it revolutionary?

It’s a small seating area with power outlets, USB chargers, and an assortment of snacks.  It’s a grab-and-go area.  

Why is this so revolutionary?  Well, the typical lounge model is designed around providing a great experience for customers who can come and spend time in the lounge.  The seating arrangements and food/beverage options are the same for every guest and most lounges generally require a good bit of time to maximize your enjoyment and get the value out of the investments you make to have access.

Capital One has created an area that is part of the lounge but functions as its own space for people who can just swing by for a few minutes.  Quick charge of the phone, checking emails, and on their way to their next flight.  How do they cater to these quick visitors?  They have coffee on draft, small snacks, mixed nuts/bar snacks, and fruit available.

And they give you little baggies to take whatever you need with you.

It’s almost a lounge-within-a-lounge but I think the idea is absolutely fantastic and is a great way for people to get value from a lounge even if they’re just connecting to another flight.  Dallas has a lot of O/D (origin/destination) traffic but it’s also one of the busiest connecting airports in the world so there are plenty of connecting passengers who will benefit from this area of the lounge.

The Central Column Area

In the hit movie “Avatar”, the native tribes had a big central area they called Hometree.  I’m not quite sure the lovely folks at Capital One (or Plaza Premium, the company operating the lounge) had this in mind in the design phase, but the central column area of the Capital One Lounge is smart, it distributes traffic well, and is easily accessible from most areas of the lounge.

This central column area has four sides: the refrigerated section of the grab-and-go area that you saw above, two sides with food options, and another with soda taps.

The food options were in single-serve portions that were easy to throw on a tray and move on.  This prevents people from standing in a long line at a buffet area since the food items are distributed around the central column area.  The food items were varied and, it has to be said, very delicious!

Across from one of the food sides of the central column area was a pastry area with an assortment of baked goods INCLUDING BAKLAVA.

Here’s why I like the way they approached this, and/or me waxing philosophic about Lounge Science: even when we’re not in the grips of a global pandemic, people hate waiting in long lines at things like buffets, it’s just not a luxurious feeling.  The Centurion Lounges are great, Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges are great too, but they all suffer the same flaw: almost all of the food options are in one area, causing congestion and deluxuring the experience (yes, that’s a word) (ok it’s not a word but so what, you know what I mean).  The distributed placement of food, as well as the single-serve containers for each dish, encourage quick, brief visits, reducing overall congestion and maintaining an elevated experience.  The business consultant in me is concerned about the pace of replenishing these items when the lounge is crowded but hopefully they’ll be able to keep up.

Bar area

You can’t be an airport/airline/credit card lounge without having a great bar area.  Lounges in the USA can generally be split into two categories: Basic (Admirals Club, United Club, Delta Sky Club) and premium (American Airlines Flagship Lounge, United Polaris Club, American Express Centurion Lounge).  The main differentiator?  Whether or not it is open bar.  Most of the basic lounges will serve you well liquor and upsell premium spirits while the premium lounges usually just include everything.

The Capital One Lounge at DFW is a premium lounge.  And the bar area is stunning.

I love the design aesthetic and the use of live plants and wooden slats to warm the environment up.

At the bar itself, there are plenty of premium spirits available, along with some bespoke cocktails made especially for the Capital One Lounge (these will be specific to each location).  Coffee was available as well.

I was impressed with Capital One’s dedication to using local vendors where possible (the Lakewood Temptress is one of my favorite beers and it’s made about 4 miles from where I live in Dallas).

The bartender was warm and professional and very skilled.  For the sake of science, I sampled all four of the bespoke cocktails.

I’m a sucker for a good old fashioned, so obviously I gravitated towards that.

The Blazing Saddles was a beautiful drink and the tajin on the rim of the glass added the ‘blazing’ part of the drink with just enough heat to be interesting but not overpowering.

The Don’t Call Me Shirley is really great if you have a very manly friend who asks you to get them a drink because it comes with a fun straw and umbrella!  

Out of the four drinks, I’d rank them as follows, based purely on personal preference (with my biases towards bourbon and tequila):

  1. Butter pecan old fashioned
  2. Blazing Saddles
  3. Don’t Call Me Shirley (because of the umbrella)
  4. Bluebonnet

After sipping, er, quite a bit of each drink, I realized that I needed to eat some food in a hurry or else I’d end up doing the Funky Chicken dance move for no reason and scare all the children.  I sampled the bacon mac and cheese, the chicken pot pie, and the brownie, which had a cool French name I forgot.

Oh, and, of course, the baklava, which was divine.

The food was absolutely wonderful and the portions were the perfect size for savory foods, in that they packed a lot of flavor but weren’t so rich that I felt weighed down or anything like that.  I went back for more baklava but they were out.  I felt they needed a handle you could pull, similar to a fire alarm, when the baklava was running low, but oh well.

The Lounge Seating

There are a few different seating areas in the lounge, loosely assembled around the central column area and the bar.  There were all manner of seating styles available, from tables and chairs for dining, bar seats, and fancy solo loungers.  Everywhere you looked, there was art on the wall (55 different pieces, sourced or commissioned from local artists) and live plants.  The floor-to-ceiling windows stretched out across the tarmac, similar to the American Airlines Admirals Club in Terminal D.

Health + Wellness

This is another area where the Capital One Lounge shines.  The Health + Wellness area has amenities for the body and the soul.  Along with the restrooms, there are shower suites that are open (many lounges have closed their showers due to the pandemic), which is great news. 

They have two multi-faith rooms for those who need to pray or practice their beliefs.

They have a small fitness studio with two Peloton bikes and various mats/weights for yoga.  This studio can only be used by one party at a time due to covid regulations.

And, one of the coolest places in the entire lounge, they have a sleep pod!

You can set a program and a cover comes around to ensconce you in a pleasant environment for a quick nap.

So, what did I think?

I loved the Capital One Lounge at DFW Airport.  I think it was smartly designed and is practical in the right places.  My worry is how they will scale up the variable timing items, like food, with the crowds that will inevitably find their way to the new lounge, including millions thousands tens of people from this blog post.

I enjoyed it so much that I have a big conundrum.  With the American Express Platinum Card’s annual fee rocketing up to $695 for access to a thorough-yet-overcrowded Centurion Lounge network, should I consider giving it up for a Venture X card that is almost half the annual fee for a (my opinion) better-designed lounge?  On its face I see how you could easily say no, since the Centurion Lounge network is far more vast than Capital One (although they plan to add lounges at Washington Dulles and Denver in the near future), but I spend most of my lounge time at DFW.  The Capital One Lounge was nice enough that I’m thinking very hard about getting rid of my Amex and going all-in with a Venture X card so I can access the lounge.

Job well done, Capital One.  There is a new strong player in the lounge game.  It’s worth a visit next time you pass through DFW!

 

Have you been to the new Capital One Lounge at DFW Airport?  What did you think?  Tell me in the comments below!

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