A Sublime Experience at the New Dallas Fort-Worth Centurion Lounge

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

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).

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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Comments

  1. Interesting idea re limiting the number of free visits per year. I’m sure folks’ feelings about this hinge on how often they’d be visiting. Perhaps a middle ground might be to limit the total number of free cardholder + guess visits to, say, 20 or 30. That might satisfy the individual road warriors more without displeasing family vacationers, though you could never satisfy everyone.

  2. Mr. Leff… Limiting the number of visits of the card holder would lead to a PR disaster and revolt. Limit number of guests allowed or give say 8 passes per year/per cardholder to use for guests. After that, charge per guest. For a road warrior like me, I live in the lounges every week! They have become family and I love them to death. IAH is my home airport and I cannot say enough about how amazing they are. Why should I be penalized for having a lounge at my home airport and utilizing it before every departure?

  3. I visited the Centurion Lounge in LGA Terminal B this past Thursday. It was my third or fourth visit. It was still a better experience than the SkyClub, but this time it was the most crowded I’ve seen it. I think we got the last two seats. We moaned to ourselves about the crowdedness. The food was good and staff super friendly. It was a Thursday from 1 – 3 pm. We later moved over to Terminal D (and the SkyClub) because we were flying Delta. Upon entering the SkyClub we realized what crowded really was. We had to wait for seats. So we really appreciate the Centurion Lounges. If Amex decides to take up your idea of rationing visits to 10 – 12 per year per card, I certainly hope they don’t do it the way they do Uber credits (one per month). We travel in spurts and one per month would go unused some months, and some months we would need 2 or 3 coupons. I don’t know what the answer its. But thank you Amex. Your lounges are great.

  4. It would be even better (and it would be honest) if they did not oversell the $550 card.

    AMEX is flooding the market with so many of these cards for the massive $550 fees knowing that they have no room left in the lounges. That’s the policy. It is what “membership” means.

  5. Is there any public data on how often the average Platinum card holder visits a Centurion Lounge in a year? Candidly, this is a rather stupid card to pay for unless you’re truly a road warrior — who happens to have a Centurion Lounge at their home airport! Otherwise, there are a lot of MUCH cheaper travel credit cards that give you Priority Pass membership which (again, candidly) would be more valuable to most travellers. Now if you’re getting your Platinum card for free, which I assume many of your readers are, that’s another story.

  6. Not sure if I like the 3 hour limit. I ran into that in the SF Centurion. I would be very unhappy if they limit the number of visits. I have had the Platinum card most of my life, so I doubt I would give it up. But my opinion should count anyway.

  7. Would also be interesting to know how many people are renewing in year 2 – I would think it tends to be people that use the lounge a lot. I think a lot of the increase in lounge usage is due to the 100k sign up bonuses for year 1, then there’s really no question of the value of the card.

  8. Yes please limit guest access. The intent of it is to let a spouse who doesn’t travel frequently get access on vacation or holiday time.

    Not to subsidize travel hacker couples who use the lounge together 10+ round trips a year.

  9. Limiting access to the user isn’t going to change the crowded conditions at the lounges. Limit their guests to ONE. As @Joel Hahn explained above, I practically live in the DFW lounge, it’s not my home airport, but 85% of my AA flights connect there. The other 15% though CLT.

    I would certainly drop the Plat if I was restricted to X number of visits. I put up with losing the previous lounge accesses available on the card, but I wouldn’t hesitate to cancel in that case. PP select is no replacement.

  10. Sublime, @Gary? Really? I don’t think you’re getting out enough 🙂
    I will give the new DFW Centurian lounge a try since the AA T4 “Premium” (sic) lounge is really a bit sad pending completion of their Flagship Lounge.
    That said I have largely given up on American Express’s lounges, they are always wayyyyyy too crowded. I abandoned the DFW Centurian lounge after finding a several minute queue to take a pee. (That is a universal complaint of mine though: Delta, AA included. The restroom sizes never match the lounge capacity.)
    I agree with limiting guest access, and it makes sense. Unlike my CITI card, Amex does not give my wife a full-blown second Platinum card gratis, so why should I reasonably expect them to extend her the same courtesies elsewhere? I will add that I have seen card members checking in their extended tribes into Centurian lounges, which doesn’t exactly help the capacity problems…

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