American Airlines operates a network of nearly 50 Admirals Clubs globally. While some temporarily closed during the pandemic, a vast majority of lounge locations have reopened.
There’s often a lot of confusion about who gets access to these lounges, given how policies differ around the world. In most places in the world, any business class ticket will get you lounge access, while that’s largely not true in the United States.
In this post I wanted to take a comprehensive look at how American Airlines lounge access works, especially since American has tweaked some policies recently (especially as it impacts Hawaii flights, as well as short haul international flights).
What should you expect from American Airlines Admirals Clubs?
Don’t get too excited when it comes to the quality of American Airlines Admirals Clubs.
For the most part, Admirals Clubs are just lounges that are typically calmer than the terminal, with complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, and drinks (including house beer, wine, and liquor).
American Airlines Admirals Club Miami
On top of that, Admirals Clubs typically have more substantial food, as well as premium drinks, available for purchase.
In some cases Admirals Clubs are significantly calmer than the terminal, while in some cases they’re still quite crowded. Personally I find the Admirals Clubs at my home airport of Miami to pretty consistently be quiet, so they’re my lounges of choice here.
American Airlines Admirals Club Miami
How to access American Airlines Admirals Clubs
Admirals Clubs are membership lounges, meaning that they’re primarily intended for members. However, there are some other ways to access Admirals Clubs as well, depending on your status, the type of ticket you have, what credit card you have, etc.
Below are all the options for American Airlines lounge access.
Buy an Admirals Club membership (with miles or cash)
The most obvious way to access Admirals Clubs is to outright buy an annual membership, which can be done with miles or cash. The cost of this varies depending on your elite status with AAdvantage, and whether you’re looking for an individual or household account.
Here’s the cash cost to buy an Admirals Club membership:
Then here’s the cost to purchase an Admirals Club membership with miles:
As you can see, this is valuing AAdvantage miles at one cent each, so in general I wouldn’t recommend redeeming miles this way (I value AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each). I’d much rather pay cash and use my miles for more worthwhile redemptions.
As a last option, you could also redeem 3,300 points through American’s Business Extra program for an annual membership. For those of you not familiar, this is American’s small business rewards program. Personally I’d rather redeem my Business Extra points in another way, but it’s an option.
A few things to note for Admirals Club members:
- You can only use Admirals Clubs when flying same day on American Airlines or a oneworld partner airline
- You can either bring your immediate family members with you (including spouse, domestic partner, and/or children under 18), or up to two guests
Get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) is one of my all around favorite airline credit cards. The card has a $450 annual fee, and offers an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardmember.
In and of itself that represents cost savings compared to a membership, as the cheapest cost for an Admirals Club membership is usually $550 per year.
But it gets better than that. Those with the card can add up to 10 authorized users, and each of those authorized users receives Admirals Club access when flying American Airlines same day for them and two guests or immediate family (they don’t have to be flying with the primary cardmember).
Yes, that single $450 annual fee can get up to 11 parties access to Admirals Clubs, which is amazing.
Buy an Alaska Lounge membership
One alternative to getting an Admirals Club membership directly is that you could instead buy an Alaska Lounge membership. This also gets you access to most Admirals Clubs when flying Alaska or American same day.
For most this will be a significantly better deal than outright buying an Admirals Club membership. That’s because an Alaska Lounge membership costs $300-450 per year, depending on your status, compared to American’s pricing of $550-650 per year.
This has been an awesome arbitrage opportunity, as it has almost always been a better deal than outright buying an Admirals Club membership.
Unfortunately this opportunity will soon come to an end. As of October 2021, the cost of an Alaska Lounge membership will increase. If you want an Alaska Lounge Plus membership (which gets access to Admirals Clubs as well), you’ll have to pay:
- $600 annually if you’re a Mileage Plan non-elite member
- $500 annually if you’re a Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, or MVP Gold 75K members
Alaska Airlines Lounge New York
Buy a day pass
You can buy an Admirals Club day pass for $59 per person, or for 300 American Business Extra points (these are different than American AAdvantage miles).
This is valid for the entire day, so if you’re connecting you can use multiple clubs. These passes can be purchased directly at the club.
While the pass is per person, you can bring up to three children under the age of 18 with you without needing extra passes. You also need to be flying American or a partner airline the same day to buy a day pass.
For the most part I wouldn’t consider this to be a very good deal, unless:
- You happen to have a very long connection, or multiple very long connections
- You’re traveling with kids under 18, since they can come with you at no extra cost
Book an eligible business or first class ticket
A standard domestic first class ticket won’t get you access to Admirals Clubs. However, certain types of tickets will.
If you are traveling first or business class on an eligible international or premium domestic flight operated by American or a oneworld partner, you do get lounge access.
Qualifying international itineraries include flights between the United States and:
- Caribbean (this includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, even though they’re part of the US)
- Central America
- New Zealand
- South America
There’s just one exception — if you’re an Alaska Airlines first class passenger traveling between the United States and Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico (excluding Mexico City), you wouldn’t get Admirals Club access.
Qualifying domestic itineraries include those between the following city pairs:
- New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO)
- New York (JFK) and Orange County (SNA)
- Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA)
- Dallas (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Dallas (DFW) and Kona (KOA)
- Dallas (DFW) and Maui (OGG)
- Chicago (ORD) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Charlotte (CLT) and Honolulu (HNL)
Select business class passengers receive lounge access
Have Concierge Key status
This is along the lines of the Admirals Club membership above, but American’s invitation only Concierge Key members receive a complimentary Admirals Club membership, so they’d get Admirals Club access under the same conditions as members.
Have American Airlines AAdvantage elite status
American AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum flyers get Admirals Club access when traveling same day on a oneworld flight between the United States and:
- Central America
- New Zealand
- South America
There’s just one exception — if you’re a oneworld elite member flying Alaska Airlines between the United States and Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico (excluding Mexico City), you wouldn’t get Admirals Club access.
You don’t just get access at the international gateway, but rather at all airports throughout your journey. Eligible AAdvantage elite members can bring one guest with them.
Have oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status with a foreign program
If you’re a oneworld Sapphire or Emerald member who earns status through a program other than American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan, you can access Admirals Clubs whenever you’re flying oneworld same day, even if you’re not traveling internationally.
Eligible oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members can bring one guest.
Be an active duty military member
Active duty United States military personnel traveling in uniform on a same day American Airlines flight receive complimentary Admirals Club access. You’ll need to present your military ID.
Eligible military personnel can bring two guests or immediately members, including a spouse and children under 18.
What about Flagship Lounge access?
In addition to Admirals Clubs, American Airlines also has Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. These are American’s premium international lounges, and they offer a much better selection of food and drinks, as well as other elevated amenities.
These lounges have been closed during the pandemic, but are expected to reopen soon. Specifically, the Flagship Lounge Miami is expected to open in September 2021, and the remaining Flagship Lounges are expected to gradually reopen throughout the fall of 2021.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge Dallas
How do the lounge access requirements compare? Of the above groups, the following also receive Flagship Lounge access:
- Concierge Key members, and non-American AAdvantage and non-Alaska Mileage Plan oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members, on any American or oneworld flight
- Those on eligible business and first class itineraries
- Those AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Mileage Plan MVP Gold, and Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K members on eligible itineraries
What are eligible itineraries for the purposes of Flagship Lounge access? Qualifying business and first class itineraries include the following:
- Between the US and Asia
- Between the US and Australia
- Between the US and Europe
- Between the US and New Zealand
- Between the US and South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela)
- Between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
- Between New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO)
- Between New York (JFK) and Orange County (SNA)
- Between Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA)
- Between Dallas (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Between Dallas (DFW) and Kona (KOA)
- Between Dallas (OGG) and Maui (OGG)
- Between Chicago (ORD) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Between Charlotte (CLT) and Honolulu (HNL)
Then Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage elite members get Flagship Lounge access in all of the above markets when not in first or business class, except the nine domestic city pairs above.
The catch is that not all airports have Flagship Lounges. In other words, if you’re traveling from Tampa to Chicago to London as an Executive Platinum member you could use the Admirals Club in Tampa and then the Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge in Chicago (I’d highly recommend using the latter).
Lastly, American will also start selling Flagship Lounge access for $150.
Admirals Club & Flagship Lounge Miami entrance
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to get American Airlines lounge access, in particular for Admirals Clubs.
These American Airlines lounges are primarily membership clubs, and if you are considering a membership, I’d highly recommend getting the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card instead. The card has a $450 annual fee so you’re already saving at least $100, and then you can get access for authorized users as well.
On top of that, select premium cabin passengers and oneworld elite members also receive Admirals Club access.
Hopefully the above clears up everything you could want to know about American Airlines lounge access. If I missed anything, please let me know.