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American Airlines extends lounge access to more passengers and streamlines rules

Jan. 27, 2021
5 min read
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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.

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Related: Which airline lounges in the U.S. are currently open?

The Flagship Lounge at New York-JFK is currently being used as an Admirals Club. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

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

Bottom line

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.

Featured image by American Airlines Admirals Club BOS (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023