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TPG reader Lydia sent me a message on Facebook to ask about lounge access:

“I will soon reach AAdvantage Platinum status and wanted to make sure I understand the benefits. Will I get access to the Admirals Club or other lounges?”

I’m a big fan of the AAdvantage program and I’ve found plenty of reasons to love Executive Platinum status over the years, but unfortunately, lounge access isn’t one of them. American Airlines is pretty stingy with regard to the Admirals Club: Elite members get a modest discount on an annual membership, but no complimentary access. Even first-class passengers have to pay for entry when flying within North America (with the exception of certain transcontinental service).

While the lack of lounge access is disappointing, it’s mostly in line with the other domestic legacy carriers. United also offers lounge access to some premium international and transcontinental flyers, but not its MileagePlus elite members. Delta offers Sky Club memberships to top-tier Diamond Medallion members, but its policies are otherwise similar.

AAdvantage Platinum status earns you Oneworld Sapphire status, which gets you into most Oneworld frequent-flyer and business-class lounges (like the one that opened at LAX last year) when you’re flying on a member airline. However, Oneworld elites who have earned status through the AAdvantage program are ineligible regardless of status or class of travel when traveling solely within North America. That means Lydia and many other US-based frequent flyers are once again left out when flying domestically.

It’s a shame that flyers who have Sapphire status via another Oneworld carrier are free to use lounges here in the US (including the Admirals Club), but AAdvantage elites get nothing. That doesn’t inspire much loyalty in my opinion.

Depending on how much you value Admirals Club access, you could pay for it outright. However, if you’re willing to pay $450 for a new annual membership, I think you’re better off getting either the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (which comes with a full membership) or the Citi Prestige card (which gives you access when you’re flying on American Airlines). Those cards come with lucrative sign-up bonuses, as well as other benefits that will help offset the annual fee ($450 in either case).

There’s only so much lounge space and an increasing number of elite flyers, so airlines are doing what they can to prevent overcrowding. That’s understandable, but I’d like to see access granted at least to top-tier elites and first-class passengers. On the other hand, if lounges remain exclusive and membership fees continue to increase, then the product needs to offer more consistent value.

For more information about AAdvantage elite status and lounge access, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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