DFW Lounge Showdown: Bouncing Between Capital One, AmEx, & American Airlines Flagship

I was recently in Dallas doing a panel with Peter Greenberg and Scott McCartney. I decided to fly back to Austin, because when I’m driving I’m behind the wheel of a car. When I’m flying I can work and read. I arrived at Dallas – Fort Worth about two and a half hours before the flight – I booked something with a good buffer, and the earlier flight that would have worked with my schedule was pricey.

With plenty of time, I went straight to the D terminal which has the best lounges, even though I’d be flying out of A. The A Concourse American Airlines Admirals Club was done in their new ‘modern hospital’ style and opened in 2018. I’d much rather visit one of the lounges in D.

My first stop was the American Express Centurion lounge across from gate D12. I saw a line to get in and went to check out Capital One instead.

I hadn’t really decided what lounge to visit while I was in the airport. And since I didn’t think ahead, I didn’t use Capital One’s mobile app to join the queue before reaching the airport. It turned out to be a 30 minute wait to get in on Sunday around 2 p.m.

I don’t consider many lounges worth waiting for. The whole idea of the lounge is undermined, I think, when you camp out for half an hour to get in. However I’ll say this for Capital One:

  • You can join the line via the app, so it won’t be long once you arrive.
  • Regardless of whether you join the line in advance or on arrival, they text you – you don’t have to stand there like an idiot.
  • You’ll have 15 minutes to show up to get in once it’s your turn.

You can go somewhere else, do something else, sit down and work for instance rather than just standing. And once you get in the place isn’t packed. They manage their queues so people wait longer to get in, since they don’t let as many in as they might possibly. Once you’re in it doesn’t feel that crowded. There was no line at the bar when I got a drink.

Capital One’s lounge still has excellent food. I love their grab and go setup, also. And they have bottled water for takeaway now, too.

Two things that were frustrating. There was a line for the restroom. They have four private bathrooms for the lounge. The one I wound up with had almost zero water pressure which made washing my hands a chore. Also, I went to their soda fountain and it sprayed out all over me.

What made me curious was – maybe I saw this before but it never sunk in? – there were ‘reserved’ signs on several tables. American Express reserves tables for their Black Card customers.

I don’t know who these tables are reserved for in the Capital One lounge, or how one becomes one of those people. I’ve inquired.

The lounge where there’s no wait, though? The American Airlines Flagship Lounge. I had a single visit pass that was expiring and no other use for it before it does, so I visited there as well. I like the Capital One lounge better. The food is better. Staff there have told me in the past that they feel the same way. But honestly the value of the Flagship lounge is that there’s food and drink and no wait to get in.

I didn’t have access to the Flagship Lounge’s First Dining and if I did that would be the best lounge in the terminal. But maybe it is anyway just by not having to wait? If you’re headed to DFW and have time to spend on the D concourse, Capital One’s lounge is really nice… just be sure to join the virtual queue before you get there.

Otherwise, wait out the time between joining the virtual line and when it’s your turn by walking directly across from the Capital One and Flagship Lounges to the Be Relax Spa and having a free chair massage using your Priority Pass card. There was no one inside on Sunday at 2 p.m. and it’s far better than you’d think!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary, @Anybody: How does Capital one, or any club with a reservation system, manage their capacity? Do they actually count net exits to determine free space? If so, using what technology? Thks.

  2. @Gary: ” American Express Flagship Lounge”

    Same branding as American Airlines Flagship Lounge?

  3. @Gary: You omittd gthe Collinson-run P:riority Pass lounge. Maybe not worth considering?

  4. I cannot seem to locate the capital One lounge virtual queue on cap one app.

  5. The DFW Lounge does not offer “bottled water.” It’s boxed water. And the reserved tables are set aside for families and large groups, so entitled parties of one don’t manspread.

    “I was recently in Dallas doing a panel with Peter Greenberg and Scott McCartney.”

    My condolences to those who had to endure that. More “I”s than Mississippi.

  6. The reserved tables are for when they’re nearly full, they like to seat people so that one person doesn’t take a 4-seater, for example.

  7. @L3 – It is not comparable, though of course if it is the place you have access to and it isn’t overrun then it’s great!

  8. What a joke. The food in flagship is way better even before you consider flagship first dining. There are plenty of bathrooms and even showers. Plenty of places to sit or even snooze. And no line to get in. One more time, no line to get in. If you have to wait to get in the lounge you are missing the entire point of lounges

  9. $150 gets you into the Flagship Lounge, which tbh isn’t really worth it versus the AC, especially at peak hours. If you’re ticketed in any premium cabin, $650 you can get you Five Star Select service which includes access to Flagship Dining inside the FL. That’s where the real magic is. Dead quiet and mostly empty most of the time, stellar service, remarkably elevated food, and all the JW Blue one can drink. Add a companion for $150 more. Once you’re full, enjoy your golf cart to the gate where you’ll be first to board (sometimes even before wheelchairs). Expensive, but quite the treat.

  10. I don’t understand this obsession with lounges. Lines to get in? Spend a few bucks on a decent sandwich and drink. Find a quiet spot in the airport and you’re set.

  11. As a frequent visitor to the Capital One lounge, my 2 main complaints are the constant line for bathrooms and the kids. People walk in with 5 kids and they’re running around everywhere. Not sure what the answer is but as a business traveler, it’s an in inconvenience.

  12. @David You are 100% correct. Nearly all of today’s lounge operators have completely lost the plot. The entire point from the inception of the airline lounge in 1939 was to create an exclusive respite from the chaos of the terminal. In many instances that now been completely turned on its head.

  13. @Heidi

    My CapOne app does not have the ability to be added to the lounge queue either.

  14. No chance would I wait even 15 minutes to get into a lounge. The sprawling Flagship First Lounge at O’Hare is busy, but has a nonstop supply of freshly-made food, a wok station, and lots of space. It is always my first choice.

  15. AS Gold 75K flying AA to So. America gets me in the Flagship Lounge. A glass of champagne when I walk in, decent food offering, no wait… Will never stand in line to get into a lounge…ever.

  16. @ David
    You def nailed it in your statement
    I go to Pappadeaux have a great meal and find a gate area with nobody or few around
    I hate most lounges now and refuse to pay outrageous annual fees to enter a busy mass zoo
    Unless it’s Qantas first in Sydney I don’t have much interest any more in lounges as they have become as exclusive ,premium and quiet as a greyhound bus terminal

  17. @Allie# – Flagship lounge passes are available as loyalty choice benefits at various loyalty point thresholds, but in my case I was given 2 passes when I was downgraded from conciergekey

  18. Many of the lounges today have become as exclusive as being a United 1K. The lines are just as long.

  19. @David +1. I would never stand in line to visit a lounge, and honestly most packed lounges nowadays makes me turn around and exit within a minute. Would much rather sit in peace and quiet with a coke and my computer in an empty gate area. The lounges that get high remarks from me are the empty ones, which can still be found in most places outside of the US (for instance, this morning I was in a completely empty LH business class lounge at FRA, which was a real treat) 🙂

  20. @David is right. Lounges used to be a luxury, but have ironically become a mess hall for penny-pinchers. A “good” lounge has mid-tier food/drink and an “average” lounge has pretty terrible offerings unless you pay extra. Both will be crowded; both will be cafeteria style.

    Compare that to a “good” airport restaurant which is more relaxing, has good food/drink, and probably costs about the same as an Admiral’s Club day pass. These restaurants don’t get hyped on the travel blogs because there’s nothing sexy about getting what you pay for.

  21. The Amex lounge used to be wonderful including the food, now it is crowded and not so wonderful. The best Centurian lounge I have been to so far is at LAX. The Cap one lounge in DFW was also excellent.

  22. @Gary: Leff: Regarding the Capital One DFW Lounge, you wrote, “They have four private bathrooms for the lounge. The one I wound up with had almost zero water pressure which made washing my hands a chore. Also, I went to their soda fountain and it sprayed out all over me.”

    My time-saving pro tip: Skip the Capital One lounge bathroom lines and wash your hands with the water at their soda fountain. You can also get boxed water and napkins from the takeaway area to help sanitize your hands before enjoying a wide selection of delicious Capital One lounge food choices.

  23. Lounge overcrowding is getting ridiculous nowdays.
    It’s another lost benefit all due to the masses joining in the ranks of elite flyers.
    I see kettles getting access all due to credit cards.
    I think lounge benefit should be available to C class and up.
    This is another hassle that I don’t want added on when flying.
    Mileage award for front cabins are few in between as well.
    Now I just suck it up and pay revenue.
    Sadly the golden age of mileage era has ended.

  24. I agree with @Tim, lounge lines are becoming an increasing inconvenience for business travelers. It is time for “Business Only” lounges. Member + 1 guest (max). No one admitted under 18. Have an allowance for a certain amount of booze as an add-on option to the annual fee. If you have kids in tow, go to the regular lounge and fight over cookies.

    The DFW lounge situation depends on time of day. Haven’t had waiting-time issues Capital One Lounge…yet. The AMEX lounge got out of hand long ago and I ended up punting and ditched my AX Platinum card. AA lounges are kind of meh. The Terminal D regular lounge is useless. Haven’t spent much time in Flagship Lounge. Frankly, the lounge situation has become so irritating that I may throw in the towel and cxl my Venture X and AA Executive cards. The money saved on those annual fees will buy lots of meals in the better airport dining places. Lounges mattered more in the olden days when airport food meant mediocre rotisserie hot dogs, leathery personal pan pizza and lukewarm beer. Now I can cop a table at Bar Louie and have a far better experience than fighting over the carrot sticks and pretzels in an airline lounge.

  25. Agree that Capital One is the nicest lounge. Flagship first food without the dining option just isn’t very good. The self serve alcohol is nice though.

  26. Based on the photos and narrative, not missing much at DFW lounges.

    You may get better food and service at a full fledged airport restaurant.
    And you would not have to tolerate someone laying down in a booth snoozing like the 3rd photo.
    For what you pay for such lounge access, is the “free food & WiFi” worth it anymore??

  27. Timing of your post was great. We had a trip through DFW coming and going from Burbank to Jacksonville. On the way to we only went to the Capital One lounge. I got on the waiting list as soon as the plane landed. When we got to the lounge it was still another 15 minutes wait before they called our name.

    We have started taking advantage of the Be Relax lounges. there’s one 200 feet away from Capital One at DFW. Priority pass gets you 30 minutes free chair massage. You can also upgrade to their better chair (not sure if I’d do that again) or pay for additional parts of your body to be massaged by hand. You must go to their location to get on their waiting list. Of course as soon as we cleared Capital one wait list we got notified that it was our time for the massage….

    On the return trip we ended up spending the night at the Hyatt Regency at DFW due to a missed connection (not weather related). 8p.m. on a Sunday night there was no wait for massage chairs, and no wait for either the Centurio or Capital One lounges. We both did the 30 minute chair massage.

    I liked the hot food selection at the Centurion lounge better than Capital One. But, Capital One had a greater selection and assortment of food, fresh fruit and grab and go. We loved the lounge hopping experience.

    I knew we were going to miss our connection so I booked the Hyatt Regency directly. it would NOT have been available as a voucher with AA. It took maybe 10 minutes from our front door to TSA to check in. It was a fantastic hotel experience and Globalist well recognized. Our flight left too early for our free breakfast so they gave me 10000 Hyatt points to compensate. WOW.

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