American Airlines extends lounge access to more passengers and streamlines rules
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Unless you get access as a part of a credit card benefit or paid membership, rules for accessing airport lounges can be confusing. With the big three U.S. legacy carriers, a business or first-class ticket doesn't guarantee lounge access. Rather, you'll generally only get access when flying on a premium transcontinental, long-haul international or select short-haul international routes. Even then, there can be confusion with which type of lounge you have access to — just the standard club or the more premium international lounge?
Currently, perhaps the most confusing rules are those of American Airlines. Fortunately, that's changing — at least for the time being.
American will be streamlining its lounge access rules and extending Admirals Club access to all international premium cabin passengers. The changes will take effect on April 1 and will be in place only for a limited time — at least for now.
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American's new Admirals Club access rules
Putting aside lounge memberships and elite status, Admirals Club access is typically reserved for business and first-class passengers on premium transcontinental routes and on qualifying international American- or Oneworld-operated flights. For an international flight to qualify, it must be to Asia, Australia, Central America, Europe, Mexico City (MEX), New Zealand or South America. Whenever available, passengers on these routes also have access to American's more premium Flagship Lounges. Meanwhile, premium cabin passengers traveling to Canada, the Caribbean or other cities in Mexico had no lounge access at all.
But that’s changing.
Starting April 1, business and first-class passengers will get Admirals Club on any international itinerary to/from the U.S., regardless of whether it's a 6,980-mile flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Tel Aviv or a quick hop from Miami to Nassau. Additionally, premium cabin passengers will now get Admirals Club Access on flights to/from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. You'll also get access when flying these routes in any cabin if you have AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum elite status.
While there's no end date, American says that, for now, these changes are only for a limited time. A spokesperson for the airline explained, "We’ll evaluate these changes along with customer feedback, and, if successful, they could become permanent."
As a part of these changes, American will no longer offer premium cabin or elite passengers Flagship lounge access when traveling to Mexico City and Central America. Generally speaking, Flagship lounges are intended for passengers flying more premium routes as they offer better food, drink and service. However, these lounges have been closed the past few months due to the pandemic.
Related: Which airline lounges in the U.S. are currently open?
Other ways to get Admirals Club access
You don't need to fly business or first class or even internationally to get Admirals Club access. A much easier way to guarantee access is with an Admirals Club membership. While a paid membership isn't cheap, you can get one for free with American's 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 you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $885 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
In addition to double miles on AA purchases, 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. Plus, you're allowed to add up to 10 authorized users to your account for free, and each authorized user can guest two additional passengers into the lounge. So, one card can provide access for up to 33 different travelers, which is terrific.
Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers
It's great news that American will soon offer some form of lounge access to all premium cabin passengers traveling internationally as well as to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. While it's disappointing that some short-haul international passengers are losing access to the Flagship lounges, the changes make sense and should remove some confusion.
Overall, these changes will align American's lounge access policies more closely with United's. As a point of comparison, United already offers United Club access to all international business-class passengers, while access to the more premium Polaris lounges is reserved for business class passengers traveling on long-haul international routes.