A case where the rules don’t overrule common sense at American

Remember Delta’s latest TV ad, which I thought was pretty awesome? Here it is, for those of you that haven’t seen it:


My favorite line in it is “we must never let the rules overrule common sense.” That’s pretty damn rare in the airline industry, though I had a case of it with American today which I feel like sharing. No, it’s hardly earth shattering, but it’s still an example where I feel the agent didn’t “let the rules overrule common sense.” You’d think most agents in airline lounges would be exceedingly friendly and professional since they’re dealing with the airline’s premium passengers, though in my experience American is the only US legacy airline with consistently friendly lounge agents (as they call them, “AAngels”).

I’m flying with my parents out of JFK this evening on American, and we all have American Express Platinum cards so would have had access to the Admirals Club. However, I’m also British Airways Gold (OneWorld Emerald) thanks to the British Midland takeover, which gets me and one guest access to the Flagship Lounge (American’s international first class lounge) even when traveling domestically.

Of course there were a couple of obstacles. One of them was that I didn’t have my new British Airways Gold card yet, and one of the requirements for access is that you have the card. Second, while I can take two guests into the Admirals Club, I can only take one guest into the Flagship Lounge. My ideal situation would have been that the agent let my parents use the Flagship Lounge and let me use the Admirals Club, though we did even better than that.

I first presented the agent my American Express Platinum card and said “I have two guests, please.” Once she processed that I handed her my old British Airways Gold card and said “and I believe I can take one of them as a guest into the Flagship Lounge as a OneWorld Emerald with British Airways, right?” The agent pointed out that my British Airways card expired, though I explained I hadn’t received the new one yet. She offered to try and look up the number, and manually verified that I was indeed OneWorld Emerald with British Airways, so admitted me with a guest to the Flagship Lounge.

I then asked nicely if there’s any chance she’d let my parents use the Flagship Lounge and let me use the Admirals Club? She said “oh, you’re traveling with your parents?” I explained they were, and she said “don’t worry about it, I’ll be glad to make an exception and let the three of you enjoy the Flagship Lounge this time. Thanks for your loyalty.”

Let me be clear. Her letting the three of us into the lounge wasn’t “common sense,” but it was generosity. What was “not letting the rules overrule common sense” to me is not requiring that I have the British Airways card (I’ve seen a million people turned away from United Clubs for not having their cards). Furthermore, I thought my request to have them access the Flagship Lounge in my place was reasonable given the circumstances. It’s not a request they had to honor, but to me it’s logical, since either way one of us was going to be in the Admirals Club and two of us in the Flagship Lounge, and a kid trying to make their parents happy seems like it’s in everyone’s best interest.

But thanks to this awesome agent for going above and beyond. AAngels do exist… at least in Admirals Club.

Filed Under: American, Travel
  1. Wait, why wasn’t your EXP card good enough to get in the FL? I’ve used my EXP status to get into the FL even when traveling int’l coach.

  2. @ Corey — Except I was flying domestic.

    @ Suspicious — I’m a customer of their’s. I pay them for their services.

  3. I think the fact that you are a popular travel blogger helps Ben. I see how they bend over backwards for you on twitter. I wonder if others would be treated the same. Kudos for thinking of your parents first. I’m a DL platinum based in Tampa and have been thinking of a match to AA because of your positive experiences with them, but I tried to fly them twice and had dismal service on both flights .

  4. @ Winston — Out of curiosity, how do you think I received preferential treatment in this instance as a travel blogger?

    Was the bad service you received with American onboard? I actually don’t think their flight attendants are that much better than the competition. It’s their club agents, phone agents, and frequent flyer program that make me love the airline.

  5. Yeah Ben, you’ve got to stop wearing that pajama top that says ‘DYKWIA? A blogger. That’s who!’ when you travel. It clearly gets you preferential treatment!

  6. You people are idiots if you think that AA employees know who Lucky is, and because he is a blogger, they give him special favors.


  7. Yes it was onboard Ben. I guess the fact that I hate the Miami airport doesn’t help. Not really sure if you received preferential treatment but just curious to also see if it makes a difference. Your tweets are very powerful man! 🙂

  8. What’s funny is that having had top tier status on UA and AA, I can say unequivocally that the “new” UA (also known as Continental) is a much different lounge experience than AA.

    AAngels do go the extra mile for members–in the United Club nowadays its a struggle just to get in, waiting in line–Just find AA lounge experience much more “premium”

  9. The last time I was in an Admiral’s club, the AAngel went the extra mile making sure I was ok with using up a day pass at their small location on a short layover – very helpful and caring. The lounge was nice as well. Bar and snacks were rather sparse.

    I can’t recall receiving anything less than friendly service at a skyclub either, to be honest. Maybe just the UA folk are a bunch of grumps?

  10. for all the crap AA gets, and usually deserved, I do find that the Admirals staff continues to be the best lounge staff in the industry.

    The gate agents and FA’s are sometimes annoyingly privileged, and I have had plenty of bad experiences mixed in with quite a few good, but I have never met an Admirals Club rep who was not polite, courteous, and willing to bend the rules for me (tons of preferred seat assignments or exit row assignments without status >30 mins out). Even when they can’t help, they are usually empathetic and professional.

  11. The problem with bending the rules is that it creates a sense of entitlement and expectation that the rules should always be bent.

  12. Definitely nice of the agent to make an exception for you guys, and agree that the expired card issue is pure common sense. I do think you were pushing the envelope a bit by asking her to let your parents in the FL while you went to the AC, as I suspect you were probably hoping she’d let all three of you in as she did. If she’d gone by the book and only allowed you and one guest in the FL, would you really have left one parent alone at the AC or would you all have just stuck together at the AC? Is the Flagship that special?

  13. I have to say as one of the people that got the presidential plus card during the UA merger and had to fight relentlessly with dragons all over the US to let me in for 3 months while UA continued to not process my membership despite multiple calls and notes on my account, i can truly appreciate this and is just another reason why AA sounds better and better every day!

  14. An AAngel may have lost her job for “breaking the rule”, and ultimately because you publicized it on your blog.

  15. the flagship lounge at JFK admitted me and 2 guests (as an exception as well) a month ago!

    the food was amazing as I was there for lunch and then the dinner menu changed shortly afterward.

    the best italian wedding soup i’ve ever had was at this lounge

  16. Well done by an agent who felt empowered to make the right decision. That says something about her and, perhaps, about the management above her.

  17. Good post. It’s always nice to encounter someone that uses some latitude when dealing with customers regardless of location. For every poor airline agent I keep telling myself there are good ones just like you mentioned here.

  18. At JFK T7, I found the agents at the Flagship to be total dragons, but the Admirals Club in the same terminal were Angels.

    I just arrived on CX F YVR-JFK. (The rules say F from Mexico City and AA premium cabins get access, but CX Global F does not, unless I could show a HKG boarding pass) I very kindly asked for entry and explained I was connecting from CX888. Instead of working with me, they were extremely rude and unapologetic. I asked if I could at least use the AC, having come in on a global F flight and in need of a shower before my connection. No was the answer, unless I wanted to shell out $50.

    I walked to the detached AC, and was admitted without question. I also was admitted to the AC in DCA without question.

  19. @ Kevin – Seems extremely unlikely in a service oriented industry that someone who earned their employer positive publicity through an above average (though far from absurdly so) act of Customer Service would lose their job. If she was giving out entrance to everyone who slipped her a $10 bill, then it would likely be a different story.

  20. @Lucky — Were you crediting the miles to AA?

    I’m wondering if AA allows you to credit the miles to AAdvantage but use another OW carrier’s elite status FF card to access the Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge?

    I’d guess this wouldn’t be an issue, but you never know!

  21. @ John777 — I was crediting to American. You most definitely can credit to American and still use another program’s status to access a lounge.

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