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capital one lounge crowding

As Airport Lounges Overflow With Travelers, Capital One Gets It Right

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No matter the airport, the scene is often the same these days: Long lines of travelers waiting outside a lounge, then struggling to find an open seat to get their fill of stale crackers and cheap prosecco.

From the most popular Delta Sky Clubs to Priority Pass lounges and even the once-vaunted Amex Centurion Lounges, many airport lounges around the country are packed to the brim with travelers getting in with premium travel credit cards. But Capital One is doing its lounges differently … in a good way. 

Don't get me wrong: You may still have to wait to get inside the Capital One lounge in Dallas, Denver, or Dulles. But once inside, it doesn't feel like every other overcrowded airport lounge. Capital One is clearly making a conscious choice to manage capacity more carefully than many other companies, and that makes it much easier to enjoy the tasty food and drinks and friendly service without feeling packed in.

Combined with a convenient mobile check-in process, we think Capital One lounges are still living up to the hype – despite the growing popularity of the *venture x*.

Read next: A Complete Guide to Capital One Lounges


What Sets Capital One Lounges Apart?

Mobile Check-In

Gone are the days of trekking through the terminal just to see how crowded the lounge is – at least with Capital One.

Earlier this year, Capital One rolled out a customer-friendly feature that allows cardholders to scope out how full their nearest Capital One Lounge is … and, more importantly, join the waitlist to get in if it's full.

That means you can digitally queue up while going through security (or getting off your connecting flight). By the time you actually get there, you won't have to wait to get in – or at least not very long.

Simply join the digital waitlist on your phone and Capital One will send a text with a pass to get in when it's your turn.


capital one lounge waitlist
Courtesy of Capital One


Cardholders with Capital One Lounge access still can't reserve their spot in the lounge ahead of time, unfortunately. But this feature takes the frustrating guesswork out of the “Will I have to wait? And how long?” question that many travelers confront when heading for an airport lounge these days – let alone the need to hoof it all the way to the lounge only to find you can't get in.

To check out how crowded your Capital One Lounge will be and join the waiting list (if necessary), start by logging into your Capital One banking app. Click “Travel” under Rewards & Benefits, then select “Lounges” in the upper right. That'll bring you to a dedicated tab for all things Capital One Lounges.


capital one lounge app
Courtesy of Capital One


Click the lounge you're planning to visit and, within a few seconds, you'll see a capacity indicator showing how full the lounge is. If it's at capacity, you'll see an option to join the waitlist as well as the estimated wait time.


capital one lounge wait list
Courtesy of Capital One


Just fill out the waitlist form with your name, phone number, and how many travelers are in your party hoping to get into the Capital One Lounge. Once it's your turn, you'll get a text from Capital One.


capital one lounge phone



When that comes, you've got 15 minutes to get to the lounge before you lose your place. Just head back to your Capital One app to open your pass into the lounge.


Top-Notch Food & Drinks (Still)

When Capital One debuted its first lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) back in 2021, we wondered how long it would be before the food and beverage offerings were scaled back. With locally-inspired menus and food you actually want to eat, it just seemed like something would have to give. 

Fortunately for us, nearly three years in, the menu at the original Capital One Lounge in Dallas has hardly changed. And if you ask us, that's a good thing. 

With its signature, small-yet-reasonably sized portions, you can sample a little bit of everything without getting stuffed. The menu rotates throughout the day with a variety of breakfast options available in the morning before shifting to lunch and dinner plates by midday. 


Capital One Dallas Lounge food


With a good mix of local craft beer, wine, and pre-made cocktails on tap (as well as drinks made on the spot), each Capital One Lounge delivers when it comes to both food and drinks. 

But it's not just the boozy drinks where Capital One excels. There are also soda pulls with fun options like black cherry with tarragon and pineapple cream soda and even a craft coffee bar at the Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) outpost. Unless you're trying to buy a top shelf bottle with SkyMiles, Capital One does better than anyone in the drinks department. 


capital one lounge food

capital one lounge dallas drinks


One area that's felt destined to be cut is the dedicated grab-and-go case of salads, sandwiches, and snacks. We first saw this concept debut with the Dallas location and while airlines have since copied this approach at their own lounges, it still sets Capital One apart.

This is especially useful for those pressed on time or anyone looking to take a snack for later in the day. 


capital one lounge food


At the newest Capital One Lounge in Denver (DEN), there are snack dispensers with trail mix and other goodies, a cooler stocked full of sandwiches like a Japanese egg salad, apple and almond butter, vegetable hummus wraps, and several freshly packaged salads.

Agents manning the grab-and-go area even offer to bag up anything you want to take on the road with you.


Clean, Well-Staffed & Not Too Crowded

It's what's on the inside that counts. And this is where Capital One really sets itself apart. 

In our experience, Capital One has done a better job than any other lounge operator at managing capacity inside its lounges. While this might result in a slightly longer wait on the front end, you won't be fighting to find a seat or grab the last carrot stick and bag of chips once you're in. 

Compared to the battle to find an open seat among throngs of fellow travelers you'll find inside most Centurion Lounges (and many airline clubs) these days, it's a literal breath of fresh air. 


capital one lounge denver seating


If Capital One is intentionally limiting capacity to ensure guests have a better experience, they're not saying so. When Thrifty Traveler reached out to the bank for comment on how it manages lounge crowding, we were pointed back to the new mobile check-in process and other ways the bank is leaning on tech to help ensure a positive customer experience.

Whatever they're doing, it's for the best. 

And at a time when most of the world is operating short-handed, Capital One Lounges never feel light on staff. There are always plenty of people working to make sure dishes are cleared, food is stocked, and that there isn't a long wait at the bar. 

This is completely anecdotal, but I often see the same team members working at the Dallas lounge that I saw on my first visit over two years ago. That kind of longevity in the service industry is practically unheard of these days. And these aren't people that I've had lengthy (or frequent) interactions with – the fact that I remember them at all just goes to show that the service they've delivered over the course of my visits has left a lasting impression. 


How & Where to Get Into Capital Lounges

There are three Capital One Lounges and counting – and they're all among the best lounges in the U.S., period.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) was the first to open back in fall 2021. It's located near Gate D22 in DFW's D Terminal.
  • Denver (DEN) opened this past fall, located just up the escalators near Gate 34 in Concourse A.
  • Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) opened in the fall, too. You'll find it in the main terminal building directly across from the TSA PreCheck security checkpoint

The bank has tapped New York City (JFK) and Las Vegas (LAS) for its next locations, though the timeline for both those lounges is unclear. And they're also working on dining spaces called Capital One Landings in Washington, D.C.-Reagan (DCA) and New York City-LaGuardia (LGA).


Dulles Capital One Lounge


While the *venture x*  (and the *venture x business* for small business owners) are the best ways to get into Capital One lounges, they're not the only options:

  • *venture x* and their authorized users enjoy unlimited complimentary access to Capital One Lounges, plus complimentary entry for two guests per visit — and special pricing of $45 per visit for additional guests.
  • *venture x business* primary cardholders enjoy unlimited complimentary access to Capital One Lounges, plus complimentary entry for two guests per visit — and special pricing of $45 per visit for additional guests.
  • *capital one venture card* cardholders currently receive two complimentary visits to Capital One Lounges — or Plaza Premium Lounges — a year … but only through 2024: That benefit is being cut. After that, Venture cardholders can purchase day passes for a discounted rate of $45.
  • Same goes for the *capital one spark miles for business*: Cardholders currently receive two complimentary visits to Capital One Lounges a year, but that is ending come 2025. Additional visits can be purchased for a discounted rate of $45.

Travelers can only get into Capital One Lounges starting three hours before their flight – and that three-hour limit is enforced even for travelers making a connection. That's another small way that Capital One may have ensured its lounges don't get out of control.

Visiting a lounge upon arrival to Dallas, Denver, or D.C. is not allowed.


Bottom Line

For better or worse, the golden age of airport lounges is likely behind us … unless you're visiting a Capital One Lounge, that is.

Like other lounges around the country, Capital One Lounges have gotten far more popular as word has spread and more travelers have picked up the credit cards to get them in the door. But unlike many other banks and airlines, Capital One Lounges have never felt overcrowded – at least not in our experience. 

Whether that's due to the company's digital check-in process, capacity constraints, staffing, or a combination of all three, it's working well. 


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

1 Responses

  • Nice article, Jackson. The uniqueness of the Capital One Lounges is well highlighted. That said, however, the paucity of sites after this many years, limited to just three, makes the utility of them virtually useless to anyone doing most airline travel in the United States. Say what you will about the Delta and Centurian Lounges……but at least they are relatively ubiquitous.

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