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The Honeymoon’s Over – My Issues with Capital One Lounges

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Capital One Lounges

Capital One Lounges

Like many of you, I’m enjoying the airport lounge arms race.  Whether from an airline,  bank, or other lounge operator, it’s seems there’s always something new, and more around the corner.  Active points and travel hobbyists are often faced with which lounge to visit, or maybe they’ll shove a ton into one pass through an airport.  But with more lounges, there’s more of that shiny veneer to wear off.  What’s impressive one year, month, or week can drastically degrade the next.  I fear Capital One Lounges are headed that way.  Based on my recent experience, the limitations of Capital One Lounges are harder to ignore.

A Second Visit to Dulles

Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) is probably my least favorite big airport in the States, and I’ve purposely avoided it for years – until recently.  I ended up back there a second time in a matter of weeks due to some flight changes.  I decided to make a second visit to the Capital One Lounge within a few weeks after my first visit, which was soon after the grand opening.

As with my first visit, the perky front desk attendant immediately granted me access.  But the similarities pretty much ended there.  I made a couple deliberate laps around the lounge, hoping to find a seat – anywhere.  No dice.  Finding a place to deposit myself while waiting was even a challenge.  About 15 minutes in, I finally found a table on the lounge’s western side.  The crowd size was remarkable, worse than anything I’ve ever experienced at a Centurion lounge.  I felt like I was in the way everywhere.  But one area was the worst.

Shocker, it was the bar area.  The line for drinks snaked through the bar and surrounding seating area and onto the main walkway around the lounge.  The line for alcohol rivaled ones I haven’t seen since college.  I wasn’t drinking on this short visit, anyway, but the chaos carrying over to other areas of the lounge was off putting, nonetheless.  Regardless, I was happy not to sit in the bar area with line waiters’ rear ends in my face.  The restroom lines were backed up.  I could go on, but I think you get it.  After about 45 minutes in the lounge, I sighed in relief after leaving.

Capital One Lounges
The entrance is wide open for anyone to access a Capital One Lounge.

Wide Open Doors

I usually think of those three words above positively.  But when they apply to a lounge, said club just becomes an extension of a miserable airport terminal.  In my opinion, the access policy for Capital One Lounges is out of control.  Let’s review it again.

Primary cardholders of the Capital One Venture X or Venture X Business have unlimited access to the lounge, plus complimentary entry for two guests and the ability to pay $45 each for additional ones.  Venture X authorized users also have complimentary access.  Venture and Spark Miles cardholders get two free visits annually and pay $45 per additional visit.  If this isn’t enough, any random traveler can buy into the lounge for $65 per visit.  Children two and under are free with a parent or guardian.

That’s quite a wide swath of Capital One customers and hangers-on, plus anyone willing to blow a few bucks.  Skeptically, it seems the $65 is the cost of admission to what some may view as an all you can drink and eat buffet.  But hey, that’s a better deal for certain travelers than what they would receive at airport terminal restaurants and bars.  So that serpentine line I saw stretching to the bar in the sardine can of a lounge wasn’t surprising at all.

Lounge Size

Currently, three total Capital One Lounges are open for business: one each at DFW, IAD, and most recently DEN.  None of the lounges are tiny, but they’re all relatively small compared to their competition, notably many Centurion lounges and domestic airline lounges at hubs.  The IAD lounge size comes in at approximately 8.5k square feet, smaller than the around-10k and 11.2k square feet DFW and DEN lounges, respectively.  Marry these size limitations up with allowing pretty much anyone in can easily lead to an unpleasant, crowded mix.

Capital One Lounges
Three now, and only one more on the way? Really?!

Lounge Network

I use that second word loosely, as three lounges isn’t much of one.  Beyond the three existing Capital One Lounges, the bank has officially promised one other future lounge at this point, in LAS.  Regardless, it’s no surprise Capital One doesn’t exactly tout their lounge footprint in all those Taylor Swift-fueled commercials.

Naturally, Capital One tries to Band-aid this by advertising cardholders’ access to partner lounges with Priority Pass and Plaza Premium.  Nice try – many of us have access to those lounges already thanks to benefits from other cards.

Conclusion

In my view, Capital One wants the prestige of offering a network of exclusive lounges, but it rings hollow.  From what I see, it’s a few quickly-crowded lounges which no clever menu or drink name can make up for.  I feel many cardholders will catch on, if they haven’t already.  I’ve been through the DFW location a couple times and enjoyed those visits, but I’ve heard of long lines for access and crowding issues since.  Trekking back to the IAD property isn’t high on my list after my last visit.  I must say I’m intrigued to see how the DEN location ages by the time I make it there.

I know some of the issues I’m mentioning aren’t unique to Capital One.  And I’d love Capital One to prove me wrong in the future.  Tighten up that access policy, raise the annual fees on the Venture X cards, and steadily build out the network with a few bigger lounges.  I look forward to seeing how Capital One Lounges evolve, hopefully for the better.

Have you visited any of the Capital One Lounges lately?  How was your experience?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Three times that I have traveled from DFW the lounge was at capacity. I have talked with Cap One about this and they offer nothing in the way of compensation. They tell me it is a benefit of having the card and they have no control over the lounge being at capacity. The Priority Pass lounges are usually closed and that is frustrating as well. I need to decide what to do.

  2. I was at the DFW lounge last week. Very clean, not crowded and healthy food selection. Much nicer experience than I have had at most domestic lounges.

  3. To call it awful is a compliment. We decided to try out the DFW Capital One Lounge last Sunday (11/5/23). To say it was a disaster is an understatement. The “main” person seemed to barely know what she was doing, seemingly surprised that someone would pay to go into their lounge. That should have been my first hint. Her “assistant” appeared to be a trainee, and barely said a peep. We were ushered into this lounge and purveyed the food offerings. While we didn’t expect 100% of the offerings, we did expect more than the “foo foo” type of things that they had, things I suspect most people’s digestive systems aren’t familiar with, the food itself and/or the toppings. We picked a seat over by the window so as to see planes arriving and taking off, and they were wobbly, as was the table. The fellow who showed us this location told us about the table, but didn’t offer to do anything about it. When I asked about where to plug in, he pointed to the floor beneath the wobbly table, but I did not see anything silver, only black. At the adjacent bar, we were told that alcoholic drinks weren’t served until 10 a.m., so we got screwed by that, got coffees instead and took turns filling their tiny plates with their small portion items, obviously their way of forcing people to return if they want to get enough, but frankly, what they were offering didn’t include staples like French toast sticks, BBQ sliders, and many other recognizable items. We signed up for upon arrival and tried their relaxation rooms about halfway through, but the assistant didn’t tell us how to use them, there seemed to be a language barrier, and the nearby instructions missed quite a bit. Then I made a huge mistake: trying their overnight oats, 2 of them, which were mostly whipped cream. When I arrived after an almost 4 hour flight, I waited in a four-deep line for their 4 restrooms, and again I was faced with this, except I was urgent, as I was getting sicker by the moment. Once inside, both ends participated, alternating. I would return to said restrooms a third time, again awaiting 4 others in front of me. Then, a long trek to my gate for my next flight, reported a 15 minute walk but more like triple that, sweating and feeling sick for that 3 hour flight. BTW, I have been in a great lounge, my only other lounge visit: Seattle-Tacoma’s Alaska Airlines main lounge, and it was stellar. This was the opposite.

    • I’ve enjoyed my visits to the DFW lounge but your point about the restrooms happens to be my only major critique of the space – 4 restrooms is simply not enough for the number of people going through that space.

  4. In my opinion Capital One sucks when it comes to everything, I don’t even want one of their credit cards anymore, they actually turn you down for a credit card with a credit score of 825

    • When one considers the rewards, benefits, and transfer partners of each card issuer, there little to no *incremental* value that Capital One provides. On a side note, I previously banked with Capital One and its branch representatives were never of any help when I needed assistance.

    • Dean,
      I don’t feel Capital One stinks at everything, but I can definitely understand how one can easily reach your assessment.

  5. was at the IAD Lounge on Thursday 11/9 in the morning around 10:30 AM. Breakfast dishes being served. Lunch changeover at 11 AM. Not crowed. Few – no people at the bar. Was told by an employee that 4-6 PM is the most crowded time of the day. Enjoyed our second visit.

    • I’m glad it worked out, Randy! Undoubtedly, there are better times to visit than others. But I feel Capital One Lounges are more quickly susceptible to crowding issues due to the items I mentioned.

  6. Visited the DFW lounge on Friday. It was busy, but no line, was admitted very quickly. And found a table for my guest and I in about 3 minutes. Loved it compared to the Centurion. Will go here instead of Centurion every time.

  7. $395 annual fee – $300 statement credit = $95 net cost of unlimited lounge access. Whether it’s Capital One or any other lounge operator, access is way too cheap. Such a proposition is like dumping chum among sharks. I’d bet there are even some low-class types who would bring an empty carry-on or gym bag to a lounge just to stuff it with food. Too many people with no sense of propriety. That’s the essence of the problem.

        • I have the Venture Rewards card.
          Yesterday I was denied access to the Dulles Capital One Lounge.
          Reason:
          “The QR code is not on your app sir.”
          The concierge gave a card with the phone #
          844-390-4890 to call.
          12/13/2023 9:54 a.m. With Capital One on the line confirming “Sir, you have 2 available unused passes you can use. They should admit you.”
          They wouldn’t, saying “It appears you still have the Venture One.”
          Observing the situation, a lady with a Venture X graciously added me to her visit.

          Checking the app today, I just found this update:

          Capital One Lounges

          You have 2 complimentary lounge visits per calendar year to use by December 31, 2024.

          Effective January 1, 2025, Venture cardholders will no longer receive complimentary lounge access. You will have 2 complimentary visits to Capital One Lounges or Plaza Premium Lounges to use by December 31, 2024.

  8. I fly out of IAD all the time and have set foot in a lounge there only once. My goal is to spend as little time in an airport as possible so I never allow enough time to visit a lounge. Do people just arrive for flights insanely early or are these long connections? The layout of IAD is a nightmare so normally you need to take a tram to get from the lounge to the terminal for your flight so it really requires a ton of extra time.

  9. I’d like to see a list of future lounges, as C1 doesn’t seem to be very open about what, if any, are in the works.

  10. I am with you. I have waited about 2 years for the Denver one to open (which opened later than was promised; much later).

    My first instance using the card was in DFW this year and I was greeted with a 30 minute wait to get in. I can use the card at PP, but as you say, I have had a PP memberships for years with my other card(s).

  11. Been there five times since it opened a few months ago and never had a significant problem. Understand your complaint, but you are complaining about something that is free with the credit card. It’s not like you paid for a lounge membership. Consider the alternative which is just not to have a lounge which was the case for many years with Capitol One.

    • Except even w basic Priority Pass there are better lounges at IAD (I love the Turkish lounge). Why go to a crowded mediocre lounge just because it is “free”? I have access to about any lounge w various cards and airline status. However if there is a line or I can’t find a place to sit (taking about you DEN Centurion Lounge) I leave and just hang in the terminal. Not standing in line or putting up with massive crowds just to be in a lounge.

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