At the beginning of a recent weekend trip to Europe (trip report in the works), I had the chance to check out American Express’s new Centurion Lounge at DFW International Airport. Pictures to follow, but first, some build-up…
Life as a frequent flyer based out of DFW
I live in Dallas and my primary airport is DFW, the fortress hub of American Airlines. This is both a blessing and a curse. The pros include being a 3-3.5 hour flight from either coast, usually on a nonstop flight, and DFW is fairly easy to navigate. The cons, though, can be severe at times. American doesn’t really have to try that hard at DFW. Take DFW-LGA, for example. My daytime job as a financial software consultant has me in and out of New York fairly often, so I know the DFW-LGA market well. American, for a long time, had a monopoly on nonstop flights on this route, and would routinely charge $200-300 more than its competitors, because they knew they could and they knew I (or, rather, my clients) would end up paying it. Even when Delta recently started flying this route they couldn’t muster up more than a regional jet for it. So most people just end up paying the premium for American (although we grumble like heck).
Similarly, American’s lounges at DFW aren’t to the flagship standard of some of their other lounges. There is not a Flagship First Class lounge at DFW airport. Even though they have four Admiral’s Clubs, very seldom will you see an offering suited to the premium passenger that American so covets. The reason? No one else has a nice lounge either. The closest you get is Terminal D where Qantas, Priority Pass, Star Alliance, and a few others have contract lounges that closely resemble small closets. American’s Admiral’s Clubs are nice, but don’t compare to the Flagship lounges at ORD, JFK, and LAX.
The game has officially changed. American Express has opened its new Centurion Lounge at DFW’s Terminal D, and it’s a big-time winner. American is not happy about the lounge opening, and for very good reason: they’ve been outclassed in their primary international terminal at their home airport!
How to access the lounge
The Centurion Lounge is a new program developed by American Express for its premium cardholders. Originally, access to the lounges (so far located at Las Vegas and DFW, with rumors of a San Francisco location surfacing as the next opening) was complimentary only for holders of Amex’s Centurion Card while other Amex cardholders could purchase a guest pass for $50. This changed in the autumn of 2013, with complimentary access expanded to Platinum cardholders as well. Those holding either a Centurion or Platinum card can access the lounge for free and bring along with them two family members or two guests. Additional guest passes can be purchased for $50, as can access for those who hold an Amex card that’s not a Centurion or Platinum.
The lounge is located near the Big Blue Glass Thing in Terminal D, near gates D14-D17. If you’re facing the Big Blue Glass Thing with your back to security check, to your left you’ll see an unmarked escalator (I have no doubt signage will be coming soon). If you look up from there, you’ll see the sign for the Centurion Lounge.
At the top of the escalator, you’ll see a really nice marble sign, followed by the Big Blue Doors allowing your entry into the lounge.
What’s inside those doors is one of the best lounge experiences in the USA, if not the world. It’s that good.
The entryway to the lounge is done very nicely with wood accents with bright green leafy plants. It was very tasteful without appearing chintzy. I was welcomed by one of the lounge attendants, who checked my flight status to ensure it was on-time and presented me with a Welcome Gift. She then briefly covered all the amenities available in the lounge and encouraged me to relax and let them know if I had any questions. First things first, breakfast.
The menu for the Centurion Lounge was created by Dallas-area celebrity chef Dean Fearing and has a wonderful selection of southwestern-style food.
Menus are located here, with different menus available for Breakfast and Lunch/Dinner. My favorite item available for breakfast was the Almond French Toast, as I’m a fan of all three of those words. There were almost too many options to choose from, but I tried a nibble of just about everything and couldn’t find anything I didn’t like. I compare this to the Admiral’s Club’s selection of store-bought muffins and bar snacks and it’s a laugh.
While I sat for breakfast, I opened my Welcome Gift and was happy to see a L’Occitane amenity kit that would rival a First Class amenity kit on most international airlines. (promo: this amenity kit is one of a few door prizes that will be given away in next month’s MilesCoach.com Travel Hacking Seminar)
Next to the dining area is the bar, with a list of premium cocktails specially designed for the new lounge. All of it is complimentary.
It was 10am and I don’t have a drinking problem, so I didn’t have a chance to hit any of the heavy stuff at the bar, but found their selection of spirits very broad, with premium brands available for all. I can’t help but compare this to the Admiral’s Club in DFW, where well liquor is free but premium spirits tend to cost upwards of $7-10 (although you can get free drink coupons if traveling internationally, depending on your status.)
Around the lounge
The interior decor of the lounge is very modern. The various seating options take various shapes but all are comfy and don’t feel jammed together like you see in other airline lounges. Each chair/sofa/sitting-thing had sufficient space around it to get some work done or relax without people sitting around you.
I had showered before heading to the airport, but because I love my readers so much I took one for the team and showered again.
There was a slight plumbing problem, where the water would alternate between warm and BOILING, but I was able to time the boiling moments pretty well and avoided my skin melting off. In the bathroom area there were plenty of lotions and amenities available.
I was going to take a picture of the toilet but ew. This is the one area where the Admiral’s Club can almost compete. The showers at the Terminal A Admiral’s Club (which used to house a Flagship lounge) are wonderful, but I’d still prefer the Centurion Lounge for the amenities, assuming the plumbing issue is fixed.
After I had showered and put myself back together, I made my way to the spa for my complimentary treatment.
Spa treatments? Spa treatments.
To further distance itself from the competition, the Centurion Lounge offers complimentary 15-minute massages, facials, or nail treatments. I perused the menu and made my selection, a 15-minute facial treatment (since my face tends to dry out on long flights).
I showed up to the spa at the appropriate time and we got down to business.
It was only the second week open, but the lady did wonders in 15 minutes. I wasn’t quite sure what to tip, but figure $5-10 would be ok, so I tipped $10 and she seemed happy enough with it.
The Centurion Lounge changes the game. It also strengthens the value of the American Express Platinum Card. I don’t know why someone living near DFW would ever purchase an Admiral’s Club membership now. For about $100 more you can still get access to Admirals Clubs as well as Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, US Airways clubs, Delta clubs, Hilton HHonors Gold Status, $200 airline credit, Global Entry membership, and the list goes on.
I’ve been to some of the great lounges in the world (here, here, here, and here) and this one is up there. I look forward to seeing how it settles into part of the DFW experience. I will absolutely show up earlier to the airport just to take advantage of it, it’s that good.
Here’s hoping American takes notice and no longer takes DFW for granted (although, with Doug Parker leading the new airline, it’s doubtful). American Express outdid itself and outdistanced the competition by a mile.