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A taste-test of American Airlines’ new Admirals Club fresh food options

Oct. 12, 2019
5 min read
A taste-test of American Airlines’ new Admirals Club fresh food options
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In a welcome change for those of us who frequent American Airlines' domestic lounges, the airline has been — slowly, but surely — adding new fresh food options to its network of Admirals Clubs.

A few years ago, American Airlines started serving made-to-order guacamole in select locations. Then, AA upped its game by adding avocado toast, starting in March 2018.

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RELATED: Here's which Admirals Clubs serve avocado toast and guacamole

This campaign to swap out the so-called Snack Towers of Sadness for fresh food has taken a major step forward in the past few weeks. Earlier this week, we shared how American Airlines has starting introducing local food options, including mac and cheese, to 13 different Admirals Clubs.

I just so happened to be flying through one of the select airports on my way down to Australia the day this news was being shared. So, I whipped out my Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and headed to the LAX Terminal 4 Admirals Club to check out the new options.

Sure enough, where I was accustomed to seeing cheese cubes, hummus and chips, there was now a make-your-own salad bar with a Roma lettuce blend, diced chicken, bacon, tomatoes, green onions and a black bean and corn relish.

And where there's typically a soup option, there was now a souplike container of mac and cheese:

I served myself a bowl, made myself a salad and then got in line for fresh-made guacamole. Adding in a complimentary beer from the bar, I compiled a pretty decent meal for just a few dollars in tips.

The big question coming in was whether or not the mac and cheese would be good. My take from my first serving: not especially. And, I wasn't alone. From fellow lounge-goers to a lounge employee taking a bowl to go, everyone was pretty "meh" on the taste.

It turns out that the trick is to add toppings from the salad bar — such as bacon — as well as the spicy corn chips that were inconspicuously set to the side of the mac and cheese.

Indeed, when I went back a couple of hours later for a second round, adding toppings of bacon and spicy corn chips brought some much needed flavor to the otherwise-plain mac and cheese.

These toppings also are what helped make the salad tasty. The generous servings of chicken cubes, bacon and black bean and corn that I piled on top of the lettuce made my dish resemble more of a lettuce-based burrito bowl than a salad.

As someone who has grown tired of the same Admirals Club food options over the past few years, these new fresh food items are welcome replacements to the previous fare. And, it's especially nice that American Airlines is incorporating local food options at some locations, so there's more diversity from lounge to lounge.

Getting access to the Admirals Club

In order to get access to the Admirals Club, you're generally going to need to be flying as an AAdvantage Platinum (or higher) elite on a qualifying international itinerary, flying business or first class on a qualifying international itinerary, have an Admirals Club membership or be an Citi AAdvantage Executive cardholder.

While the $450 annual fee on the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card isn't cheap, the card is still the most cost-effective way to get Admirals Club access. Buying an Admirals Club membership outright costs $650 per year for nonelite members. Top-tier Executive Platinum elites get a $100 discount off of that base price to pay $550.

In addition, each primary cardholder is able to add up to 10 authorized users to their account for free, and each authorized user can guest two additional passengers into the lounge. So, one $450 annual fee can provide access for up to 33 different travelers.

Just note that the Admirals Club access rules are changing on Nov. 1. Currently, you can access the Admirals Club with a membership or Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card no matter which airline you're flying. Starting Nov. 1, you'll need to be flying American Airlines or one of their partners to get lounge access.

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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.

TPG featured card

Best for American Airlines lounge access
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 2X miles
2X2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
1X1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases

Intro offer

50,000 miles
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Annual Fee

$450

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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.

Why We Chose It

 includes a complimentary membership to the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge. Users can also add up to 10 authorized users (for no additional cost), and they get their own access — including two traveling companions. The primary cardmember also enjoys priority check in, screening and boarding for themselves and up to eight travel companions. Other perks include a free checked bag for domestic travel, 25% off eligible inflight purchases and $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Pros

  • Offers Admirals Club lounge access.
  • Help earning up to 10,000 EQMs that go toward elite status.
  • Priority check-in, airport screening, boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to 8 travel companions.
  • 25% discount on inflight food and beverages.
  • Receive a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Fee Statement Credit.

Cons

  • No travel protection benefits.
  • Miles redemption limited to American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.
  • 25% inflight credit doesn't include Wi-Fi.
  • 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 up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • 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
  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from 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
Best for American Airlines lounge access
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

2X2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
1X1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

    50,000 miles
  • Annual Fee

    $450
  • Recommended Credit
    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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

 includes a complimentary membership to the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge. Users can also add up to 10 authorized users (for no additional cost), and they get their own access — including two traveling companions. The primary cardmember also enjoys priority check in, screening and boarding for themselves and up to eight travel companions. Other perks include a free checked bag for domestic travel, 25% off eligible inflight purchases and $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Pros

  • Offers Admirals Club lounge access.
  • Help earning up to 10,000 EQMs that go toward elite status.
  • Priority check-in, airport screening, boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to 8 travel companions.
  • 25% discount on inflight food and beverages.
  • Receive a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Fee Statement Credit.

Cons

  • No travel protection benefits.
  • Miles redemption limited to American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.
  • 25% inflight credit doesn't include Wi-Fi.
  • 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 up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • 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
  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from 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