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Inside American's stunning new DCA Admirals Club, the 1st of its kind

Oct. 13, 2022
9 min read
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American Airlines' Admirals Club network is entering a new era with the opening of its latest outpost.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will officially open its new 14,500-square-foot Admirals Club in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) — the first of its kind to feature American's newest design motifs.

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Gone are the drabby recliners and uninspired artwork. Instead, you'll find stylish touches, crisp lines and modern finishes that may convince you to book a longer connection.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While the biggest news is the upgrade for American's DCA flyers, this new design concept is only just beginning to take off. The airline's upcoming clubs in Austin, Denver and Newark will all sport the upgraded design when they open.

For now, though, it's all eyes on Washington, D.C., where the new club couldn't come soon enough. Read on for an inside look.

Admirals Club DCA shines in DCA's new pier

Currently, American operates two clubs at DCA — one in the C pier and another in the D pier — but both of them still feature outdated designs.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

When DCA opened the Gate 35X replacement last April, American confirmed that it would open a new lounge on the upper level overlooking the new E pier.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Fast forward 18 months and this signature new club is ready for its big debut.

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You'll find the light-washed, stone-lined entrance between the Capitol File News and soon-to-open P.F. Changs near Gate E47.

The entrance might be somewhat shocking for long-time American flyers. That's because it's so much more inviting, welcoming and regal than anything we've seen before in an Admirals Club.

This stands in stark contrast to the airline's other DCA lounges, which are hidden away — accessible only via a fire stairwell or slow elevators.

This new stone-lined entrance features a dramatic staircase and a single elevator decorated with illuminated cherry blossom artwork. (It's nice to see the Texas-based airline paying homage to the capital's famous blooms that line the Tidal Basin each spring.)

The entrance, inspired by D.C.'s iconic monuments and museums, leads to an even more exciting space inside.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The 2 seating areas

After arriving on the upper level, you might do a double take when you see the new reception area with American's logo etched into the stone-lined welcome desk.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

From the minute you step in, it's clear that this is a big upgrade in Admirals Club design.

Turning right will bring you to the lounge's servery, as the airline calls the food and beverage area in this space.

Here you'll find a snazzy bar surrounded by plenty of seating areas ranging from standard two-top dining tables to high-top counters to private nooks.

No matter where you turn, your eyes will be in for a treat with the new design. The bar is lined with mosaic tiles. The sconces match the upscale ceiling pattern. The subtle gray fabric on the bench seating feels inviting.

The American flight symbol is even etched into the walls lining the perimeter of the dining room.

This attention to detail feels much more like something you'd find in one of Delta's newest Sky Clubs than in an Admirals Club.

While we couldn't get a sense of whether American will bring its famous cheese cubes, crackers and hummus bowls to the new lounge, the renderings make it seem like we should be in for a big culinary upgrade when the lounge opens.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

The other side of the lounge is located to the left of the entrance area. This is where you'll find most of the club's seating and relaxation areas as well as a fireplace.

A fireplace in an Admirals Club

Yes, you read that right: The centerpiece of the main relaxation area is a decorative fireplace that feels especially homey and inviting.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Surrounding the fireplace is plenty of seating. There are couches and recliners lining the interior area of the lounge, while individual chairs along the perimeter of the space offer travelers amazing views of the airport's northern operations, the Washington Monument and beyond.

In total, the lounge boasts seating for 236 guests.

The lounge has the basics covered: You'll find AC outlets and USB-A ports at nearly every seat, though you'll have to dig a little bit deeper to find a USB-C port. (I only spotted a handful of these newer ports during our tour.)

American has even added a modern take to the TV area. Gone is the wall of plasma displays with rows of chairs lined up like a movie theater.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Instead, you'll find just two TVs built into the floor level with some seating nearby. This way, the screens blend into the overall lounge aesthetic without feeling too much like a doctor's waiting room.

American didn't just invest in high-quality furniture in this seating area. The carrier even thought through the details of the carpeting.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

For one, the carpeting is much thicker than what you'd find in the airline's existing lounges, which should help to absorb some ambient noise.

Beyond that, the design is unique: It's based on an abstract mapping of D.C. and cherry blossoms. The blue hues are a nod to the carrier's color palette, American's manager of lounge products, Gill Sukhtej, told TPG during the tour.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

You won't find any nap rooms or spa suites in the new club, but you will find a quiet area with dome-shaped chairs designed to resemble the Capitol Building (which is visible from the Club's north-facing windows).

The dome-shaped light fixtures hanging in this area are lined with sentence fragments from important speeches from the nation's history. Some of the phrases are even spelled backward. (Game idea: See how many you can identify during your visit.)

Big amenity upgrades

Even if American had stopped there, the airline still would've knocked it out of the park with the new lounge design. However, the carrier's latest motifs extend to the various amenities that you'll find in the space.

There is one set of restrooms located near the servery area. Each gender-specific bathroom features multiple vanities and a handful of stalls with green/red indicators to show whether they're occupied or not.

The dark hues of the restrooms are accented by stylish lighting fixtures and plenty of mirrors that make the space feel quite luxurious.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The lounge also features three private phone booths, each featuring accent lighting and wood paneling along the walls. You won't find any seating in this area — American wanted to ensure that no one would turn the lounge into their personal office, Sukhtej said during our tour.

In addition to the enclosed phone booths, you'll find eight workstation areas lining the hallway near the bathrooms. These nooks are standing-room-only and are great spots to take a quick call or focus on polishing off a slide or analyzing a spreadsheet. (One of these nooks is oversized for those who use wheelchairs.)

You won't find any showers in this space. Sukhtej explained that since DCA is primarily a domestic hub for the airline, showers aren't an essential lounge amenity. (Interestingly, the airline added two showers to its expanded lounge in New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA), another primarily domestic hub for the carrier.)

Other than the restrooms and phone booths, you'll find one private nursing mother's room near the entrance.

There's also an exclusive VIP room just to the right of the reception desk. This room features a conference table, individual recliners, a reading nook and private bathrooms. I'd imagine that this area is reserved for only the most important travelers and dignitaries — being Concierge Key alone likely won't cut it.

Bottom line

With the new DCA lounge, American has made it clear that it can deliver an impressive hard product.

The physical space is modern and inviting, and it's a big leap forward in the airline's Admirals Club design. If you're looking for the nicest American club in the country, this one might just be it.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Now, the real question is whether American can deliver on the softer elements — the food, drinks and service — to really elevate the lounge experience.

Will you need to subsist on cheese cubes, dollops of hummus, carrots, chocolate chip cookies, house vodka and — if you're lucky — a piece of avocado toast in this beautiful new Admirals Club?

If the answer is no, then American might've just hit a home run.

Why fight for the armrest when you can rest easy? The difference between cramped flying and classy flying is just a matter of points away with the free TPG App!

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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
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4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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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.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees