The first Capital One Lounge opens soon, but it’s unlikely to be free

Capital One is the latest financial institution to jump on the airport lounge bandwagon. After a COVID-induced hiatus, the company shared more details today. The first Capital One Lounge will open at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport (DFW) in late summer 2021, followed by another location at Washington-Dulles (IAD) in 2022. The clubs will be packed with amenities, but there’s a catch: they’re unlikely to be free. Here’s what we know.

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What are Capital One Lounges?

Capital One Lounges are new luxurious airport clubs that will open starting late summer 2021 throughout the US. The first location will be at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.

Capital One is the latest financial institution to make a foray into the airport lounge market. Most major credit card issuers have dabbled with the concept: Citibank and MasterCard operate a handful of clubs worldwide, while HSBC used to run a lounge at the now-defunct Istanbul Ataturk airport. The undisputed heavyweight, American Express, pioneered the concepts many years ago and operates an impressive network of 26 Centurion Clubs and Lounges worldwide.

Capital One might be joining a crowded market, but there’s still plenty of room for innovation and differentiation as appetite for travel picks up, demand for airport lounges grows, and competition in the premium credit card segment continues to heat up.

A rendering of the Capital One Lounge bar area.

Where will Capital One Lounges be located?

Capital One has announced two lounges in the US:

  • The Capital One Lounge at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport (DFW) is scheduled to open late summer 2021. The 10,000 square foot club will be located in Terminal D, near the Centurion Lounge by American Express. We understand that the new lounge is likely to be built in the footprint of the former Centurion Lounge (which moved late 2018), or possibly occupy the space formerly dedicated to The Club at DFW (which also moved to a new location.) Incidentally, Dallas-Ft. Worth airport was the site of first Centurion Lounge in the US, so it would be fitting for Capital One to move into their competitor’s former space.
  • The Capital One Lounge at Washington-Dulles airport (IAD)—just 15 miles away from Capital One’s McLean, VA headquarters—will open in 2022. The club will be located in the main terminal, immediately past the Pre-Check security standpoint. The lounge will be a short hop from the check-in hall, but a 15 to 30 minute trek to and from United’s mid-field terminal.
Capital One Lounge lobby concept.

What amenities will Capital One Lounges offer?

Capital One has announced an impressive line-up of amenities. And while the financial institution is largely following the Amex playbook with an emphasis on elevated dining, a fully-stocked bar, shower suites, and family rooms, Capital One is set on differentiating their product with a number of unique perks.

Renderings shared by Capital One show a modern and airy design, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a décor reminiscent of a modern café. In terms of essential features, guests can expect high-speed Wi-Fi, as well as dedicated work areas with power points.

Capital One promises superior dining and refreshment options with:

  • Sustainably packaged grab-and-go items such as sandwiches, bottled water, snacks, salads, and fruit. Taking food out of airport lounges, long a frowned-upon practice, has become more commonplace in the last few years. Lufthansa and Air Canada have popularized the concept, while COVID forced many operators to offer food to go in lieu of the traditional in-house snacks. We’re glad to see this option, which allows travelers to benefit from the lounge even on short layovers.
  • Buffet dining, with “chef-inspired foods” and local ingredients catering to a variety of diets.
  • A full bar serving wine, craft beer, and “signature cocktails on tap”—whatever that means.
  • Handcrafted espresso beverages, along with popular favorites such as cold brew.

Relaxation options will abound, with shower suites stocked with luxury bath products, soundproof slumber rooms stocked with blankets and sleeping masks, and wellness rooms for parents with chairs, bottle warmers and minifridges with beverages.

In addition, Capital One announced a few amenities that, while not technically unique, will serve as a differentiation factor:

  • Cycling and yoga rooms will be outfitted with exercise bikes and yoga mats. The concept of airport lounge gyms was becoming ever-so-slightly more popular before COVID (you’ll find fully-equipped gyms at the new SAS Lounge in Oslo and at the Etihad First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi, for example) but the pandemic put a damper on new developments. It’s an interesting idea on paper; in practice it’s only workable if travelers pack a change of clothes and do not have to wait for a shower after their workout.
  • Meditation and prayer rooms will welcome all guests for prayer or quiet reflection. Prayer rooms are a common amenity in the Middle-East but are seldom available in the US.
  • Bag lockers should be available, though it remains to be seen if they will materialize. While luggage lockers are commonplace in Europe (Lufthansa offers them at most lounges), the TSA frowns upon the idea in the US. American Express had to take all bag lockers out of service shortly after Centurion Lounges opened.

Families will also find a kids’ area, though it’s unclear if it will be physically separated from the rest of the lounge.

Assuming that the final product matches expectations, Capital One Lounges have the potential to be a game changer, especially for domestic and long-haul economy travelers who do not have access to premium airline lounges such as the United Polaris Lounge (scheduled to open later this year at Dulles airport) or the American Airlines Flagship Lounge at DFW.

Capital One Lounge seating area.

Who has access to Capital One Lounges?

So far Capital One has revealed few details on access and guest policies. What we know is that “Capital One customers will be eligible for special cardholder pricing, depending on their card.” Simply put, Capital One Lounges will be open to all travelers on a pay-in basis, and Capital One card holders will be eligible for a discount. There is no mention of any form of complimentary access at this time.

It is possible that Capital One premium cards will entitle customers to a set number of complimentary visits, or that Priority Pass members will be admitted, or that Capital One will eventually introduce a high-end card with complimentary access, but that’s mere speculation.

Bottom line

Capital One will soon be launching airport lounges, starting with locations at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport in late summer 2021, and then Washington-Dulles in 2022.

The financial institution is promising a superior line-up of amenities including grab-and-go healthy snacks, elevated in-lounge dining, a full bar, relaxation and slumber rooms, shower suites, and extra perks such as mini-gyms and meditation rooms.

However, Capital One will charge for access—though the details are still unknown at this time.

Overall, Capital One Lounges appear to be an expansion of the Capital One Cafe concept—branded spaces open to everyone—and not exclusive clubs like American Express Centurion Lounges.

It isn’t entirely surprising that Capital One would charge for their lounges. American Express treats Platinum and Centurion card members to complimentary access to Centurion Lounges, but Amex cards carry a much heftier annual fee than Capital One cards. American Express is also backpedaling on complimentary access: guests will be charged $50 starting in 2023.

Charging even a token amount can be a pragmatic way to limit visitation and ensure a more premium experience for guests. But it also drastically reduces the appeal and allure of the product. How much Capital One charges, whether the financial institution entices customers with free passes, and whether the amenities live to expectations will ultimately determine the success of the project. We’re eager to follow Capital One’s journey and look forward to visiting the lounges!

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