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Five years ago American Express opened their second Centurion lounge at the Dallas Fort-Worth airport. I was impressed. It was stylish. The food and drinks were good. There was even a spa.
It didn’t stay a secret for long and quickly eligible travelers began flocking to it and spending more time than anyone would have imagined, even factoring in knowing that people will spend more time than you expect in a lounge that’s actually nice.
A year ago American Express announced they were building a new Centurion lounge at DFW that’s about one-third larger than the old one. I wish they were building a second one and connecting the two but larger is better considering how crowded these lounges can get.
The new lounge opened at the end of September.
Despite being 3000 square feet larger — and arguably making much better use of space — they quickly found themselves crowded enough to limit customers to entering within three hours of scheduled flight departure.
I visited the lounge this past week though, and it was absolutely sublime. The trick — just like having the best resort experience or maximizing your chances of an upgrade — is to be there during less active times. I flew through on Monday but it was almost noon when I arrived, long as the outbound business traveler rush.
There’s still a spa and kids room, but of course the bar and buffet are the core of the lounge. The food was all excellent on this visit, especially the creamed corn soup. Nothing will be as good as the brisket they were serving when the lounge first opened — I don’t see much beef in Centurion lounges these days, I’ve assumed due to cost. Their food and beverage costs have to be way more than they initially expected.
With more showers than before, plenty of workspace, and a nice buffet this is a really great lounge — as long as it’s not overrun with other passengers.
An airport lounge can occupy space no one else wants, because passengers will seek it out in a way they won’t for retail or most food options. That’s the good. The challenge is that airport space is hard to come by, and enough space for a nice lounge is even tougher when the nicer the lounge the more space you need to accommodate everyone that wants to use it.
I still think American Express should try limiting the number of free visits each Platinum Card® from American Express cardholder gets, perhaps every visit after 10 in a year costs $25. But that also reduces the perceived value of the card, so it’s a tradeoff (though to me the card would be even far more valuable if I knew I could have as nice an experience in a Centurion lounge as I had this past week every time I visited).