Spending The Day At DFW Airport: 4 Lounges, Sit Down Dining, A Spa, And Free Video Games

Last week one of my cousins from Australia was passing through Dallas. He’d been in the Northeast for a few days and didn’t have time to make a visit in Austin, since he needed to make it home for my aunt’s 70th birthday right after being in a wedding. But he booked a long layover, because he was traveling on separate tickets and very badly didn’t want a delay of his first flight to cause him to miss his business class award home.

He’d be at DFW airport for about 8 hours, so I agreed to meet him there. I offered that we could leave the airport, but he actually wanted to see all the things. So we decided to make a day of DFW.

I caught a 1 p.m. American Airlines flight to DFW. My upgrade didn’t clear on the Airbus A320, but I had an exit row aisle and an empty middle seat next to me so that was perfect. I arrived at the airport around 50 minutes prior to flight, cleared security quickly, and went to the Admirals Club. There is ‘new elevated food’ to go along with the higher fee for the Citi credit card that comes with lounge membership. Here’s what that means in Austin, the sweet chili meatballs were actually okay I guess.

There’s not a lot of space to provision and display offerings in the lounge. American announced a new lounge for Austin two years ago, but then never actually did any work to build it. The airline has been silent on the matter, though I’ve written for quite some time I expect that they just aren’t building it in the location they announced and instead would put it into the West Terminal Expansion which isn’t slated to complete until 2026. Maybe in three years we’ll get more food in the Austin club. They are promoting a new $12 cocktail for sale, though.

Boarding was on time, push back a minute late, and we arrived in Dallas early.

I’d told my cousin to just head over to the Admirals club near his gate in the C terminal, as he arrived shortly before I did, so I met him over there. It’s the oldest of the five Admirals Clubs at DFW, but actually my favorite design.

Can I mention that the Admirals Club systemwide wifi password right now feels like they’ve given up? I understood when they were rotating destinations they wanted to promote with program elements (like Loyalty Points) and even ‘avocados’ because the Admirals Clubs did guacamole and also avocado toast, paid for by Mastercard. But… chickpea?

I guess that lemon herb chicken and potatoes in the DFW C Admirals Club is reason enough to spend hundreds of dollars a year more on lounge access?

We met up and plotted out our afternoon. We’d catch up on family and life as we checked out various things to do in the airport… lounges that we had access to, and activities courtesy of a Chase-issued Priority Pass (American Express and Capital One Priority Pass benefits do not cover restaurants or non-lounge experiences).

Leaving the Admirals Club we headed off to the SkyTrain over to terminal E where there were several Priority Pass choices. First stop was lunch, because neither of us had eaten – $56 credit (between the two of us) at a sports bar in at the low E gates. The burger was surprisingly not bad.

I left half the burger and only ate a couple of fries, not wanting to fill up on this sort of food, but it was pretty good and Priority Pass more than covered it for us. Then we meandered towards the center of the concourse for Gameway. We get an hour of free gaming plus a snack and a drink with Priority Pass.

We played a couple of multi-player games, including Call Of Duty (I hadn’t played video games in about 30 years, and he’s not a gamer). Then I suggested we visit the Plaza Premium Lounge. I never venture over to the E terminal, and have plenty of lounge options everywhere else. And their Orlando lounge is quite nice so I was curious. It was tiny, packed, and completely open to the terminal so we didn’t bother heading in.

From there we headed over to the D terminal, which has the American Airlines Flagship lounge, an Admirals Club, The Club (Priority Pass) along with Capital One and American Express Centurion lounges.

  • American Express has a rule that you can only enter within 3 hours of departure, unless you’re on a connection. He was on a connection. I technically wasn’t (I flew to Dallas and back same day, it was a roundtrip.) Plus I’d have to pay to guest him in. Didn’t seem worth it.

  • Capital One also has the three hour rule, but in practice I haven’t seen them enforce it. It’s my favorite lounge at DFW unless you have access to Flagship First Dining inside the American Airlines Flagship lounge right across from Capital One.

  • His Qantas business class award ticket gave him access to the American Airlines Flagship lounge, but sans guests. I had a couple of Flagship lounge passes, though. You can select them as choice benefits but American gave me two when downgrading me from ConciergeKey.

  • The Club seems not worth it in comparison to our other options.

We’d hit a couple of those, but first… we spa. The Be Relax spa offers complimentary services with Priority Pass. For a $9 upcharge each we took the more advanced chairs for 30 minutes. I was skeptical, but they were actually amazing? They have a programmed sequence that simulated a real massage of the back, legs, feet, shoulders, arms and hands. Not the most relaxing environment, it was very bright and there was plenty of talking around you, but close your eyes and it sort of works.

After that we hit the American Flagship lounge which shares an entry with Capital One. It was still about 5 hours until my flight. There was no line for Capital One. So I was tempted to try my luck, but I figured I’d show my cousin Flagship. It’s a nice enough lounge, but not super memorable. An ok buffet, self-serve bar, and while there’s plenty of seating almost all of it was taken. A much better place in the morning and early afternoon, before the evening transatlantics.

Mostly everything is self-serve. The ‘chef station’ was Texas chili being ladeled out of a large container, not anything actually being ‘cooked’ as I’ve had at other Flagship lounges in the past.

About four hours before my flight (and 4 hours 40 minutes before his) we decided to check out the Capital One lounge. Now there was a wait list. I added myself to it, and we were texted that it was our turn in about five minutes. The text made clear that if we didn’t present ourselves within 15 minutes we’d lose our spot.

There are staff at the terminal’s ground level inside the entry to the Capital One and Flagship lounges stopping people to manage the wait list. If you say you’re heading to Flagship, you go right up the elevators. If you say you’re heading to Capital One they put you on the list. I noted we had gotten our text, and we right up.

Out of the elevators you turn right for Flagship, left for Capital One. I walked up to the Capital One desk, they scanned my card and our boarding passes, and never said a word about arriving there more than three hours before our flights.

I have reviewed and covered in subsequent visits as well, so I won’t belabor it except to say it was my cousin’s favorite lounge of our tour.

  • Even though the lounge was ‘full’ with a wait list, once inside there were plenty of seats available. Amex and Delta seem to manage their lines to maximize people inside the lounge, while Capital One manages there’s to keep the lounge itself from being too crowded. That means more people in line longer, but the lounge experience itself is better.

  • There was really no wait at the bar, and there weren’t too many people at the buffet. I definitely prefer the ‘small plates’ approach that Capital One has – take a tray, take each item in a pre-plated dish. You’re not slopping around the same food as everyone else, and the vats of food can begin to look pretty unappealing quickly.

The food in the Capital One lounge is some of the tastiest you’ll find at DFW, easily.

My cousin had two friends arriving at DFW to take the same flight home to Australia in economy just after 8 p.m. He went to collect them at their gate and brought them back over to the Capital One lounge. Now, I get two free guests with my Venture X card (my cousin, and one of his two friends) but the agent told me that since the lounge closes at 9 p.m. they weren’t going to charge me for the third guest.

Since they were in economy I introduced them to the “grab and go” section near the entrance to the lounge, and they were able to prepare themselves for the long flight to Sydney in coach. Although honestly Qantas probably does a relatively better job in coach (compared to other airlines) than they do in other cabins. They’ve got their Boeing 787-9s running this route now, but the Airbus A380 coach seat is actually very comfortable. Still, bringing your own snacks is a must.

We said our goodbyes amazed by how quickly seven hours went. I hopped on over to the C terminal for my flight back to Austin. I had been upgraded that morning. We pushed back on time and arrived in Austin early. I was really fortunate to be able to spend my afternoon and evening this way!

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. Fun! I’m looking forward to Flagship Dining next month on way to LAX and Qantas First Class to Sydney.
    My July trip to Flagship Dining had great champagne – better than the lounge itself 🙂

  2. I’m glad y’all had a good time. I also have cousins who are from Australia. We have some originally from Melbourne. One cousin lived right outside Sydney for awhile. He moved farther north. He enjoys the warmer weather. So do I.

  3. The Capital One lounge is my favorite non-FC lounge in the US. Its food is considerably better than the Flagship Lounge next door in my experience.

    But, I worry about the grab-and-go because people abuse it. I’ve seen so many families come in and load up an entire bag or cooler with stuff, and all I can think is, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

  4. I did a similar thing with a friend in the BA Concorde lounge recently. He was on a cheap £40 Jersey flight and me in First (tho i have access anyways) to Mexico City both leaving 3.30pm. We met at 9am I guested him into the lounge. We then had breakfast and lunch in the restaurant plenty of champagne a couple negronis and some other cocktails before i had a 12 hr day flight with more food and drink. I woke up with a bad head the next morning… i blamed it on the high altitude in Mex City haha.

  5. C’Mon Gary

    Who cares what they want to use as their password?
    Have you become that much of a curmudgeon that you now need to go there?

  6. That seems like a fin day you had, and it was nice to read a positive travel report for once, with no drama, no violence or abuse, no sordid sex, and no social media influencers complaining about being denied their rights to entitlement..

  7. You say your cousin was traveling through Dallas…. how did you get to DFW which is in Fort Worth, more than 30 miles from Dallas? Is it possible neither of you knew where you were? There’s an easy was to know which city you are in. Dallas is where the east Peters out… Fort Worth is where the west begins…

  8. Michael Jones – you serious about your comment? It’s DFW Airport. Dallas-Fort Worth airport. One place, not two. Wow.

    Also, I flew to Haneda last month in business and had my choice of Capital One or Flagship. I’ll take Flagship any day. It was WAAAAY less crowded and just way more tranquil. The 3 Nations Capital One exclusive lager is pretty decent, though. That’s about it.

  9. Gary’s top three fears:

    1) Sharing (buffets (prefers individually-plated dishes) , wall-mounted shampoo bottles..

    2) Insufficiently creative Wi-Fi passwords.

    3) Web blog posts that don’t have spelling or grammar errors. (“Here’s what that means in Austin:”… That’s a colon that goes there Gary.)

  10. @michael
    Last I checked
    Dfw airport isn’t in Fort Worth. It’s in a cute little town called “dfw airport, tx”.

    Cute attempt at a bad joke though.

  11. Just curious: Has anyone visited the Centurion Lounge at DFW since they placed all the guest restrictions?

  12. Sign of the cultural times . . . taking in the sights means visiting the airport lounges. Your cousin should have come to ABI for a culinary experience.

  13. Just here to post my personal pet peeve. I can sit down and almost any restaurant McDonald’s or Taco Bell included. I think you mean full service restaurant

  14. @Gene: And this is why Gary and I will never get along. I absolutely put my bare feet on the bulkheads. I advise Gary stop licking the bulkheads.

    (Ok, I don’t actually do that as it would involve uncomfortable contortion, but remain mystified why anyone who isn’t licking bulkheads is bothered by it.)

  15. It’s been quite some time I haven’t visited an Admiral Clubs (i’m taking full advantage of the Flagship Lounges ), but i’m quite sure they still serve that tasty hummus and AC’s right? so the chickpea makes total sense to me.

  16. I actually thought the chicken and potatoes was much tastier then whatever “food” they had before. At least an improvement!

    As for lounge in terminal C, well, it does have a good layout…. If you’re underground lots of intimate nooks and areas you don’t feel guilty about talking on your phone. But if it wasn’t for AA branding, how would you know you’re in an airport? You can’t see the outside! That’s why D is my favorite… you can see 80% of AA widebody fleet right outside the window!

    PS I noticed they finally had a sign that tells customers which drinks are complimentary. Since at most lounges almost everything is free, it is actually quite nice to know what you are getting into before the bartender has an awkward announcement about the cost (something that I’ve never seen at any other bar anywhere in my life).

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