Washington Dulles Historic Control Tower to Become a New Lounge

Washington Dulles airport plans to open up an interesting lounge opportunity for bidding that would make a perfect (albeit slightly too-small) Centurion lounge or Plaza Premium lounge. Either could be accessible to Amex Black and Platinum cardholders, the latter also to Priority Pass cardmembers.

Goodness knows that Dulles could use more Priority Pass options, the Turkish lounge is never accepting guests when I’m there and the British Airways lounge may not yet be open.

What’s on offer is 9100 square feet at the base of the Historic Control Tower. Before the airport built the AeroTrain (and new Pre-Check Security Lanes 50-55) this space was two restaurants and a food court. Now it’s… nothing.

It’s cool space, apparently with an observation deck, but isn’t for the feint of heart – it will require not just comprehensive renovation but “running all new utilities and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning” as well. And it appears design will be subject to review by the Virginia State Historical Preservation Office.

Here’s what the airport authority wants in a deal:

  • Revenue: 10% of revenue, minimum $925,000 a year at year one, increasing 3% annually over the course of a 10 year lease.
  • Construction investment: Minimum $3 million, plus another 25% of the initial construction cost to be invested at year 5.

Since this lounge is attached to the main terminal building, it would be accessible to all passengers eligible for access. That’s exceptionally convenient for a lounge looking to serve more than a single airline, like American Express, The Club, or Plaza Premium.

We may finally see an improved lounge situation at Dulles yet — but 9100 square feet is on the smaller side for the lounges that American Express has been building recently.

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. The BA Lounge is open form 7 am to 2 pm for Priority Pass. never crowded. Always open to PP holders. BA flyers only after 2 PM. Virgin Atlantic lounge also an option for Priority Pass holders 6 am to 1:30 pm.

  2. Hmm. Not sure what “revenue” means in the context of a lounge where everything is free.

    Also, as you note that’s a pretty small space for an airport of this size but so is SFO in my estimation.

  3. @bill- the lounge operator charges for entry, either a direct cash payment by the customer, or a payment from Priority Pass for each customer who visits.

  4. it sounds as if Washington Dulles airport is allegedly struggling to make in meet. Your thoughts on this?

  5. @DCJoe

    I guess I was thinking of my experience w/ Centurion where I get in free. I don’t pay a fee. Even Priority Pass I don’t think I pay a fee but would have to pay one with a guest.

    I would love if Amex had a lounge at Dulles. As a SA Gold the Turkish Airlines lounge is my go to option if I have enough time. I’m not paying for United Club ever again.

  6. @DNN I’m sure Gary can comment on this but IAD has been having a tough time of it for awhile. One of the terminals is “temporary” and I think they were hoping United would pay for a new one. The tram actually doesn’t go all the way to the “temporary” terminal so you have a 1/2 mile walk from the tram stop. It’s a terrible airport if you have to go to C/D terminals.

    One hope in the DMV area (DC, MD, VA) is that the Amazon HQ2 will spur some investment in this POS.

  7. @Bill with Priority Pass you do not pay a fee at the point of entry to the lounge, but the lounge operator takes note that you were there and then charges back Priority Pass for your entry. That is one source of revenue, to address your first post.

  8. @ Bill,

    Actually, the train goes not only to, but past the C/D terminals, with the plans for the “permanent” (as opposed to the “temporary” terminal that has existed for 20++ years) being west of the temporary terminal, immediately over the train stop.

  9. One big reason that I cancelled the Amex Platinum card after only one year was the lack of Centurion lounges at any D.C. area airport. Amex would demonstrate its commitment to its premium cardholders by building a nice lounge at IAD.

  10. @cw

    Thanks for the clarification.


    I stand corrected. Either way, the walk is terrible and for anyone traveling with kids or elderly it’s not an insignificant factor.

    It would be great for Amex but they have a lot of projects on the board right now so this might not be the best time although I remain hopeful.

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