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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite
TPG reader Patrick sent me a message on Facebook to ask about lounges:
“I have a seven-hour layover in Philadelphia before an international flight. Is a day pass to the Admirals Club worth the extra $50?”
Airport lounges are a mixed bag, especially for domestic travelers. The best US lounges offer a taste of jet-setting luxury, featuring amenities like beds and showers, gourmet dining and even spa treatments. However, those locations tend to be exclusive to first- and business-class passengers, or to those with high-level elite status. In contrast, the average domestic lounge leaves a lot to be desired, but depending on your itinerary, it may still be worth the price of admission.
I’d almost never pay full price for lounge access during a typical layover, but seven hours is a long time to hang out in the terminal. Airports are chaotic, so while the food and other amenities in the lounge may be underwhelming, you’ll at least get a relatively quiet and comfortable place to relax. You’ll also get free Wi-Fi, which could help you stay productive between flights if you don’t have Boingo or other internet access. Finally, lounge agents can help you avoid long lines in the event of irregular operations. Personally, I think all that is worth $50 on such a long layover.
There are four Admirals Club lounges in Philadelphia. Your best bet is probably the one in Terminal A West — especially if you’re departing on a transatlantic flight, since your gate should be nearby. The lounge between Terminals B and C is okay as well, but I’d skip the one in Terminal A East (which is tiny and has no windows) and the one in Terminal F (which is also small and requires taking an airside shuttle). A day pass allows you to visit multiple lounges, so you could check them all out and decide which one you like most.
For more information about these and other lounges, I recommend you check out LoungeBuddy. This travel app gives you details about access and amenities in over 900 lounges worldwide, along with photos and reviews from other travelers. It’s free to download for both Apple and Android, and can come in handy the next time you find yourself stuck on the ground.
If you don’t think the lounge is worth full price, you can find ways to minimize or offset the cost. There are several credit cards that offer lounge access, such as the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which comes with a full Admirals Club membership. There are also cards that offer credits for airline incidentals, which is a better option if you only need lounge access once in a while.
The domestic legacy carriers generally don’t offer complimentary lounge access to their own elite members for domestic flights, but if you have alliance status through a partner airline or if you’re traveling internationally, your elite status could get you in the door for free.
For more on the Admirals Club and lounge access in general, check out these posts:
- What It’s Like to Spend a Week at the Admirals Club
- Check Out American Airlines’ Vastly Improved Airport Lounges
- Which Cards Offer Lounge Access to Secondary Cardholders?
Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
Know before you go.
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