In the world of family travel, the focus is clearly on the big picture that includes making memories with your family and experiencing the world together, but it is often the little things along the way that can make a big difference in terms of the ease and comfort of that journey. Airport lounges are one of the “little things along the way” that can enhance the travel process. I used to think what lied beyond those lounge doors was reserved for traveling VIPs, but the truth is they are really designed for just about anyone with a credit card, a one time use pass, or fifty bucks to spare.
Some airline lounges offer little more than some WiFi, trail mix, and a Bud Light, and while all of those things are appreciated, they aren’t especially memorable. The brand new American Express Centurion Lounge takes the traditional notion of what a domestic airline lounge is, and transforms it into a place that you actually look forward to visiting. To put it in their words, they designed a place that they would want to visit on their travels since they are also Amex cardholders.
When I heard a couple of weeks ago that the Amex Centurion Lounge at DFW would be opening on October 15th, I immediately was interested in a visit. Anything travel-related in my own home state always perks my ears. When I confirmed it had a kid’s room (not to mention included spa services), I logged on to see if there was availability using British Airways Avios on an American Airlines flight faster than my dog rushes toward her food bowl at dinner time. It’s a short 35 minute flight from Houston, so I could be there and back before my daughter returned home from pre-school. It was pretty neat to be there for the grand opening, and while I have already shared a few sneak peeks, here is the full scoop!
In order to let you see the lounge with your own eyes, here is a short video review:
If video is not your style, or you just want a more in-depth look, then keep reading!
Location and Access of the Centurion Lounge at DFW:
The Centurion Lounge is located in Terminal D, near gate 14, at DFW airport. This is the second of “a network” of Centurion Lounges to open in the United States, with the first being located at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. I was told that they want to place the lounges where their cardholders are, and that both Dallas and Las Vegas are locations with a high volume of cardholders. The exact locations of the future lounges is a tight-lipped secret, but I was told that the locations will likely be announced in the first quarter of 2014, with the openings to follow a little later in the year. They want each lounge to be a bit unique, so don’t expect them to all feature the exact amenities as the DFW lounge.
This particular lounge was actually a little bit hard to find on opening day, even with some limited signage that was already in place. I have been told that they will be adding additional signs in the near future. To access the lounge, simply look for an escalator near gate D14 and head up. There will be no question once you are in the right spot!
The lounge is open seven days a week from 5:30AM – 10:00 PM and is complimentary to American Express Centurion and Platinum cardholders. This includes card like the Platinum Amex, Mercedes Benz Platinum Amex, or Business Platinum Amex. Platinum cardholders actually just gained complimentary access to the Centurion Lounges in recent weeks, and I think it is a real added value benefit for those who frequent locations where the lounges are present. I was told that they wanted to gauge demand and access first with just Centurion cardholders, and found they were able to open up to Platinum cardholders as well. Platinum or Centurion cardholders can bring their spouse or domestic partner and children under 18, or two traveling companions, as complimentary guests. If you don’t have one of those two cards, you can access the lounge with any American Express card, same-day boarding pass, and $50. Children 18 and under can access the lounge with a parent for free when they purchase the $50 day pass.
Lounge Services and Seating Areas:
When I entered the lounge, I was greeted by three front desk attendants who helped get me started on my lounge experience. I also met the Amex rep who gave me a quick tour of the lounge. The front desk is where you will make spa appointments, shower arrangements, and get help with cardmember issues (like lost card replacement, restaurant reservations, etc). Right across from the main entrance is a space to safely store your luggage.
The lounge itself is 9,000 square feet, and is basically designed in a horseshoe shape around the front entrance. There are ample seats in a variety of arrangements located all around the lounge. Perhaps best of all for travelers on the go, there is no shortage of electrical outlets as they are arranged around all of the seats, and even in the bar and dining areas.
I think the most comfortable seats in the lounge are these three loungers!
For those curious on how long they are, I am about 5’7 and was able to stretch out comfortably. If you are over about 5’9 or 5’10 your feet may hang off the edge some, depending on how you are positioned.
Just be careful to not get too comfortable and miss your flight! If you don’t have time to lay around, there are also plenty of work stations and some computers you can use if you left yours behind.
There is WiFi in the lounge that is accessed with a code that is provided when you check-in. Several TVs and departure screens are located around the various parts of the lounge which is handy in terms of keeping an eye on the status of your flight.
A private meeting room is available for reservation at no charge on a first come, first served, basis. In fact, nothing in the lounge costs anything at all once you are in!
I think that everyone is a winner when a lounge has a room specifically for families. Families win by having a space of their own where their children can safely play, and non-families win by potentially being exposed to a few less kiddos running about.
This family room is located right next to the meeting room, and seems to be roughly the same size. There is a large bean bag type chair, some pre-school friendly books, Melissa and Doug puzzles, a few toys, a BluRay player, and a Xbox360. You can access the video games and movies at the front desk.
The room itself is very colorful and bright. It is a rather small space with limited seating, so I’m not sure that it could accompany more than a couple of kids at once comfortably. If the kids were of an age where the parents needed to stay in the room with them, it might be a little tight if there were more than one family at a time. I’m told that the family room at the Las Vegas location is larger than this one. However, the room has a glass wall and there is seating just outside of the family room, so potentially some family members could sit comfortably outside of the room while the kids play in the room if space were an issue. I didn’t see any families using the room on opening day, but I would absolutely bring my kiddo if she were flying with me through DFW.
Another big highlight of the Centurion Lounge is the Exhale Spa. I’ve heard of free spa services in a handful of international lounges, but to be able to get that here in Texas is amazing! The spa has a pretty large menu of options, and could serve up to 3-4 clients at a time in the massage, facial, and nail care areas.
Flow Chair Massage: exhale’s signature Flow Massage uses show, sinking pressure to get precisely into the muscles that need it most.
Deep Tissue Chair Massage: Designed to relieve pain and soreness from the body, this customized therapy is ideal for everyday tightness an aches caused from sitting at a computer or lugging luggage.
Fusion Chair Massage: This rhythmic massage is designed to soothe and restore tired muscles, relieve tension and quiet the mind. Ideal for a moment of Zen before you board.
Get Glowing: Enjoy a deep cleanse followed by an exfoliating mask to clean and detoxify the skin. Finish with a refreshing application of moisturizer to leave your skin smooth and refreshed.
Soothe + Treat: Battling breakouts? We’ll clear you for takeoff! A deep cleanse is followed by a clarifying mask to calm, even and correct your skin. We finish with an anti-acne spot treatment and light moisturizer.
Red-Eye Ready: We begin with a thorough cleansing of the face, then deeply hydrate the skin with a restorative mask and overnight cream.
Perfectly Polished: We soak and soften the cuticles then gently buff and shape the nails before applying organic nail polish.
Perfectly Groomed: A good handshake begins with well-maintained hands. We cleanse, soak and soften the cuticles then trim and buff the nails.
You cannot book services in advance, but right now can only book them on-site on the same day. That means it should be the first thing you do when you arrive to the lounge. I had no issue getting booked for a massage during my visit, but once the number of visitors picks up it could get a littler harder. That said, I was told they plan to try and keep pace with demand.
All of the treatments are done while you remain fully clothed. My treatment started off with a warm scented neck pillow, and then my chair massage was not only relaxing, but actually helped my back feel a bit better! The massage lasted the full 15 minutes, and then after the treatment I was offered a small cup of hot tea to enjoy in the spa area.
While the treatments are complimentary, remember to bring some cash to tip your therapist or esthetician!
Food and Drinks:
The food and drink options at the Amex Centurion Lounge were not an after-thought, but rather were designed by Dean Fearing (of Fearing’s Restaurant) and Jim Meehan (of cocktail den PDT). I actually met Dean Fearing while on my visit to the lounge, and he seemed quite pleased with how the menu items were turning out, though he hedged in picking just one when asked which item was his favorite.
Since this lounge is located deep in the heart of Texas, some of the menu items are very Texas and Tex-Mex inspired. I was there for both breakfast and lunch (the items started to change over around 11AM) and on the menu were entrees like spinach carmelized onion white cheese tacos, almond bread french toast, south-of-the-border pulled chicken casserole, and farmer’s vegetable salad with sherry vinagrette. They did make a point to say that if a kiddo didn’t like those sort of dishes that they could make them a sandwich or similar.
My personal favorites so far were the enchiladas, salsa, bbq, and french toast. The watermelon juice was also quite good! It is a self serviced buffet-style set up with real plates, glasses, and silverware (and plastic knives).
The bar features the tradition offerings like wine, beer, and mixed drinks, but also has a list of featured cocktails.
I tried both the White Mimosa and the Tex/Mex (pictured below) on my visit and can say that while both were delicious, the Tex/Mex is a must try! The bartender told me it tasted like jalapeno cornbread, and it kind of did, though neither flavor is too overpowering. It is the perfect type of drink to enjoy over enchiladas, chips, and dip… all of which were available on the buffet. They use real fruit when making the drinks and mix the cocktails individually in a shaker as they are ordered.
I believe the bar is open from 9:30AM – 9:00PM and in addition to alcohol, it also serves some juices, soft drinks, and coffee drinks such as cappuccinos. Again, the beverages are all complimentary, but remember to have some cash on hand for the bartenders for all their hard work!
Showers and Restrooms:
The lounge has restrooms with private individual stalls and upgraded L’Occitane soap and lotion amenities.
It is certainly a much nicer spot for “potty breaks” than dealing with the restrooms in the main terminal!
And of course there is a diaper changing station as well for those traveling with babies.
There are two showers which can be reserved at the front desk. I was told that the one shower available at McCarran is getting used an average of once per day, though they believe these will be used a bit more due to the nature of flights to/from DFW.
The showers also offer L’Occitane soaps and amenities.
The American Express Centurion Lounge at DFW is nothing like any domestic airport lounge I have ever seen. From the living green wall that greets you at the entrance, to the Exhale Spa, to the comfortable lounge chairs, it is a place to really catch your breath away from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Additionally, it is a spot with some food and beverages you will likely look forward to enjoying, and there is no shortage of spots to get some quick work done before your next flight. It is a very nice space to be in that also happens to be functional.
If you have a Platinum or Centurion card and are going through DFW, it is a no-brainer to go ahead and give the lounge a visit since there is no fee for accessing the lounge. If you don’t have one of those cards, there is a strong argument for it being worth the $50 fee for other Amex cardholders if you have a long enough layover and can take advantage of the spa, food, and beverages. I certainly wouldn’t spend $50 on a regular basis to visit the lounge (just get the Amex Platinum if you want to visit regularly), but if this lounge sounds like it is up your alley, then I would pay the cash to visit at least once when you are able to make good use of the amenities. I was also told that they may be mailing out some passes for targeted Amex cardholders without the Platinum or Centurion to try out the lounge free of charge.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you plan to visit this lounge on your next trip through DFW? I’m also curious for those who are regularly going through DFW, will this influence your decision to keep or obtain the Amex Platinum card?