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Airport Lounge Battle: American Air Versus American Express

Airline lounges are a great place to relax before a flight. They offer comfortable seating, snacks, free drinks and travel assistance in the event of delays or cancellations.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge, Frankfurt
Photo by Darren Booth for CNBC.com
Lufthansa Senator Lounge, Frankfurt

But what if they weren't airline specific and instead operated by a third-party?

American Express received approval this week to operate a VIP lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The airport's concessions committee approved a seven-year lease for American Express to operate a lounge for its members in American Airlines' Terminal D at DFW.

And American isn't too happy about it.

Kevin Cox, American's vice president of real estate told the airport committee that the new lounge would put American at a disadvantage because the travel company would pay a lower rate per square foot, according to a report in the Dallas Star-Telegram.

"Never in our wildest dream did we anticipate that there would be a third party building a club in Terminal D," Cox told the board according to the article.

Cox claims American's Admirals Club in the same concourse is never full, even during peak times. He also notes travelers already have a third-party option available at The Club at DFW — a lounge that also doesn't require airline membership, according to the Dallas Star-Telegram.

American Airlines spokesperson Stacey Frantz tells CNBC.com in an email, "At American, we certainly encourage healthy competition including choices for customers traveling through DFW airport. However, the conditions of the American Express contract put us and other tenants at a significant competitive disadvantage. We applaud the board's desire to generate additional revenue, but feel the terms should be based on a more level playing field."

But are the contract terms the only thing angering American?

Any road warrior who has traveled internationally knows how poorly U.S. lounges compare to their foreign counterparts. From food options to shower facilities, airline-operated lounge amenities in the U.S. pale in comparison to those offered overseas. (More:Road Warrior Tested: Lufthansa's Senator Lounge at Frankfurt Airport)

And I believe American Express knows this and plans to bring a new level of service to the typically sub-par U.S. airport lounge experience.

Desiree Fish, American Express vice president of public affairs, tells CNBC.com in an email that, "American Express has decided to invest in airport lounges now because our research shows that there's a clear appetite among Cardmembers for a differentiated lounge experience in the U.S."

Access to the new lounge will be available to select American Express cardholders and their invited guests. Non-cardholders will be able to purchase a day pass for $40 to $75, according to the Star-Telegram report.

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