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If you’re a frequent traveler on American Airlines, the world’s busiest airline by passenger volume, access to an Admirals Club lounges can be your oasis from a crowded airport terminal. Today we’ll take a look at the various different ways you can gain access to this network of lounges, including through credit cards, elite benefits and paid memberships.

Credit Cards

There’s only one credit card that gives you access to Admirals Club lounges, AA’s most premium cobranded credit card, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. This card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, worth $700 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

In addition to double miles on AA purchases and the ability to earn 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 a year, the primary way this card justifies its $450 annual fee is with a complimentary Admirals Club membership. This allows you and two guests traveling with you to enter these lounges, and you’ll also gain access to a number of partner lounges, including Alaska Board Rooms when flying Alaska or AA. You can even get in when you leave your card at home. Unfortunately, you will be required to show a same-day boarding pass for American or a partner airline starting Nov. 1, 2019, so bear that in mind if you’ve been enjoying access to these clubs on other carriers.

The real reason this card is such a hidden gem is because you’re allowed to add up to 10 authorized users for free, each of whom gets their own Admirals Club access privileges. This applies whether the primary cardholder is flying with them or not, a terrific perk that is notably different than similar premium cards offered by other US carriers. When you factor in the guesting privileges, a single card could get 33 people into an Admirals Club for free (one primary cardholder and 10 authorized users, each with two guests). In fact, you could even discuss splitting the annual fee with several of your authorized users to bring down everyone’s lounge costs.

Just be aware that authorized users do not get a full membership, just access. This is critical, because their privileges only extend to Admirals Club locations, not partner lounges. Nevertheless, it’s still a valuable way for you to make the travel experience easier and less stressful for your friends and family members who travel on American.

Paid Membership

Of course, you can always purchase a membership the old fashioned way: by paying cash. Unfortunately, as of Feb. 1, 2019, the cost of doing so has increased. The chart below shows both the old and new prices, though these rates are discounted for all AAdvantage elite members.

Type of Member (Individual) Old Annual Price
New Annual Price
Increase
Regular $550 $650 +$100
Gold $525 $625 +$100
Platinum $500 $600 +$100
Platinum Pro $475 $575 +$100
Executive Platinum $450 $550 +$100
Concierge Key Free Free N/A

While AA raised the cash price of a membership, it simultaneously decreased the cost to purchase one with miles. You can see both the old and new prices below, as well as the value of the miles you’d spend based on TPG’s latest valuations:

Type of Member (Individual) Old Annual Price (AA miles) New Annual Price (AA miles) Amount Decrease (AA miles) “Cost” of Membership
Regular 85,000 65,000 -20,000 $910
Gold 75,000 62,500 -12,500 $875
Platinum 70,000 60,000 -10,000 $840
Platinum Pro 65,000 57,500 -7,500 $805
Executive Platinum 60,000 55,000 -5,000 $770
Concierge Key Free Free N/A N/A

As you can see, it’s generally never a good idea to redeem miles for a membership. Even at the discounted rates for Executive Platinum members, you’re still using a large number of miles that could be redeemed for other, more valuable redemptions.

Select lounges also sell day passes for $59, and while this represents a relatively poor redemption, you can also redeem AA Business Extra points for lounge access, with a day pass costing 300 Business Extra points and a membership costing 3,000 points.

Elite Status

Mid- and upper-tier American elites (specifically Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members) can access Admirals Clubs on qualifying long-haul international itineraries operated by AA or a Oneworld partner, no matter what class of service they are flying. Concierge Key members have it even better, as they earn a complimentary Admirals Club membership. Finally, if you are a Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire member with another Oneworld carrier, you’ll also enjoy access when traveling on eligible international itineraries, and your privileges include one guest.

For international travel, AA and Oneworld elites would be better off seeking out one of AA’s new flagship lounges for a better food, drink and service experience. Flagship lounges are currently open in Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-JFK and Miami (MIA), with future plans for Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Philadelphia (PHL) and London-Heathrow (LHR).

Access rules for these lounges are the same as those for Admirals Club locations, though note that only qualifying first class passengers can utilize the Flagship First Dining facilities located inside select clubs.

Ticket Type

While standard domestic first class tickets won’t get you access to Admirals Clubs, the following types of tickets will:

  • Premium cabin tickets on qualifying international American- or Oneworld-operated flights
  • Premium cabin tickets on American’s premium transcontinental service between New York-JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and between Boston (BOS) and Los Angeles (which launches in April 2019)

Again, if you’re flying through JFK or LAX, you should seek out a Flagship Lounge over an Admirals Club, but for premium transcontinental passengers originating in Boston or San Francisco, this can be a nice benefit. However, gaining access based on your ticket type does not afford you guesting privileges unless you’re flying in international first class, in which case you’re allowed one guest.

Bottom Line

Lounge access can go a long way towards making a stressful travel day more manageable, and American Airlines offers a plethora of different ways to gain access to its network of Admirals Club lounges. Unfortunately the quality of these lounges varies heavily, so before spending $59 on a day pass you should do some research on what type of experience you’ll get. And with a single credit card providing a membership for you and access for your guests, that may be your best option.

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines

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