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.
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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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 up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
- 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
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.