It lives up to the hype: Our review of the world’s first Capital One Lounge at DFW
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When the American Express Centurion Lounge network first debuted about a decade ago, it raised the bar of what to expect from a domestic airport lounge and what it took to gain entry.
No longer were flyers confronted with a sad selection of cheese, crackers and pretzels and a mediocre lineup of drinks served under fluorescent lights. Nor did you have to be loyal to or flying a specific airline to enjoy the amenities, such as they were.
Instead, this was a lounge with complimentary craft cocktails, stylish decor and hot food for anyone with a same-day flight and the right credit card.
Now, at the end of 2021, it’s safe to say that Capital One is the credit card issuer on pace to change the airport lounge game in as dramatic of a way as Amex did so many years ago.
TPG went to the preview event for the first Capital One Lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in October and was sufficiently impressed. However, a preview event can only tell you so much about day-to-day operations — so we went back on a normal midweek day to see how things were cooking.
Not to spoil the whole story in the introduction, but it lived up to our (admittedly lofty) expectations.
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Location and hours
Right now there is only one open Capital One Lounge and it’s located in DFW’s Terminal D, near Gate D22. That puts it adjacent to the still-closed American Airlines Flagship Lounge. The DFW location is open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
Additional Capital One Lounges are scheduled to open in both Denver (DEN) and Washington Dulles (IAD) in 2022.
There are a few different ways to access the Capital One Lounge. Exactly how that works will depend on what type of Capital One credit card you have, or don’t have, in your wallet.
Those with the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card get to enjoy unlimited access for themselves and up to two guests per visit. If they want to bring in additional guests above and beyond that allowance, it will cost $45 per person. This is the card you’ll want if you are a frequent visitor to the Capital One Lounge.
Next, those with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One Spark Miles for Business receive two complimentary lounge visits per calendar year. Additional visits can be purchased for $45 apiece if you have one of those cards and have used up your two included annual visits. This is a good solution for a once- or twice-a-year visitor.
Official application link: Capital One Venture X with a 100,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $10,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.
Authorized users on the Venture X, Venture and Spark Miles cards may use the account’s complimentary visits and are eligible for the same discounted prices for additional guests or visits.
Children under 2 years old can get in with their caregiver at no additional charge.
Finally, everyone else who doesn’t have one of those cards can pay $65 per visit for access.
You’ll need to present your Capital One card if you want to use its included visits or the $45 discounted rate. All guests will also need to present a boarding pass for a departing or connecting same-day flight.
Related: Capital One Venture vs. Venture X
Layout and amenities
To access the lounge, you enter a foyer from the terminal and then take the elevator to the second level, which is shared with the American Airlines Flagship Lounge.
Once off the elevator, turn left to find the lounge’s welcoming open concept along with a clearly marked check-in desk that was staffed by friendly agents during my visit.
As soon as the formalities are over, you get to explore. The lounge itself makes a circle around the central area, which is home to the majority of the food and beverage stations, excluding the bar.
In addition to the central hub of the lounge being where much of the food and beverages are located, there were also pastries available in a slightly different section, thus spreading out people even further.
While it is an open-concept lounge, there are multiple semidivided spots that you can decide to call your “home” for the duration of your visit.
As you can see, this section located to the right when you enter the lounge has a variety of booth and chair seating with multiple tables available for the taking.
If you instead go left once you’re in the lounge, you’ll find a family-friendly area that isn’t overtly for kiddos but does feature some lower-to-the-ground seating options.
This photo from the preview event gives an even better sense of what this space is like and why this might be a top choice within the lounge for those with kids.
Then there’s the bar area, which features traditional bar seating as well as a few different lounging areas.
There’s no shortage of cozy spots to claim for your own in this section of the lounge, including some armchairs and sofas clustered around tables.
If I had to pick, I’m partial to the section of the bar area with the best views … of the tarmac, of course.
This lounge is more than just seating and eating, though, so you’ll also find a variety of other spaces, including a Peloton room. The two bikes were available for the taking during my midweek visit, though I didn’t have time for a ride on this trip.
If you make time for a workout, you may want to follow that up with a rinse in one of the lounge’s shower suites. To avoid missing out, you should request your time with the shower and/or the bikes at the front desk when you check in.
Another lounge amenity I skipped on this visit was the nap pod room, but again, you can ask and see if it is available during your visit if you’re after a brief snooze.
And while I can’t personally vouch for the bikes, nap or shower that’s offered, I can say that the restroom is several notches above what you are likely to find in the terminal.
Food and beverage
The approach to dining at the Capital One Lounge was different than at most U.S. airport lounges. Not only were the food stations spread out, thus eliminating one central spot for folks to crowd in, but the items were pre-plated in reasonable (but not stingy) portions, often with lids.
You could grab a sleek, metal tray and load it up with ramekins of macaroni and cheese with bacon, hearty bibimbap, beet salad or chicken pot pie and then carry your haul back to your seat without spooning your serving out from a buffet trough.
As for the temperature and flavors — they were right on the mark. From cannoli to brownies, there was a veritable cornucopia of tantalizing desserts, too.
But back to the entrees. This stuff was good. Really good. I wouldn’t have been mad if I had paid for that lunch at airport prices, but other than having to have the right credit card in my wallet, I didn’t have to pay anything at all.
It didn’t stop there, either. Not only was there the self-service food, but a server came around offering bite-sized treats every few minutes, too. Honestly, it felt a bit like I was at a cocktail party … within the DFW airport.
The only sad part of the dining experience at the Capital One Lounge was when I was too full for it to continue.
Fortunately, that isn’t really a true problem thanks to the grab-and-go selections that are designed to be enjoyed later. And as good as the lounge is, this may be my favorite element, given how revolutionary it really is.
I was worried that this was a gimmick at the preview event and that once real people started using it, it would be reduced to bags of pretzels you could load up on in a hurry. To be honest, that’s still my fear. But for now, the quality of items is outstanding.
From salads to sandwiches and juice to granola bowls, you should be set for hours after you leave the lounge. Prepare for jealous seatmates on your departing flight.
If the dine-in food wasn’t high quality or unique enough, the grab-and-go concept most certainly is.
After a while, the biggest problem that the Amex Centurion Lounge network met was … itself. It got to be so popular, with so many cardmembers looking to pop in for a visit, that locations quickly became far too crowded. In fact, many Centurion Lounges must now utilize a waitlist for access, and restrictions on guests are set to go into place in 2023.
While that same fate may certainly await Capital One as word gets out and its popularity grows, the grab-and-go option can brilliantly help mitigate that issue by making it possible to enjoy the perks of the lounge without needing to take up a dedicated spot for an hour or more.
With airport space both expensive and constrained, this model has the potential to be a win for all involved.
Last but not least in the food and beverage section are the beverages. First, there’s a coffee and water section located near the entrance to the lounge — and there you’ll find cold-brew coffee on tap, which is reason enough to be excited.
Another bank of options in the central area where most of the food is located proffers tea, ginger ale, root beer, lemonade and more. I can say with confidence that the lemonade was delicious.
But maybe you’re in the mood for something a little harder than root beer, in which case you are still in luck and should head over to the bar, where there is an extensive menu of complimentary beverages.
In fact, it’s really hard to narrow it down as so many things looked enticing, including a selection of local beers and a variety of wines from around the world. There are also half-bottles of wine and specialty spirits for purchase.
In the end, the bartender recommended the Airmail cocktail, made with rum, lime, guava and sparkling wine, and it didn’t disappoint. But I could come here a dozen times and still have plenty more to try, including the Nickel City frozen Irish coffee with whiskey, cold-brew coffee and vanilla cream.
Rarely do I meet an easily accessible airport lounge that is worth a trip from another terminal. The Capital One Lounge at DFW fits that bill, though, and it is worth budgeting in a little extra time at the airport to take advantage not only of what it has to offer while you are there, but even after you leave thanks to the grab-and-go items.
As hard as it was for me to believe, the lounge absolutely lived up to the hype. My only remaining question is: Can it sustain this quality of offering as word spreads and visitors inevitably flock here? Only time will tell and, at least for now, that’s a future problem. If you can swing by, you’re in for a treat, so make sure you have that Capital One Venture X, Venture or Spark Miles card at the ready.
Or, if you think this will become a part of your regular travel pattern, I’d prioritize adding the Venture X to your wallet while it has those 100,000 bonus miles on offer.
But no matter how you get into the Capital One Lounge, I’d bet my next Airmail cocktail that you’re going to enjoy it.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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