Earning Oneworld Sapphire Status To Access American Flagship Lounges

Filed Under: American, British Airways

American is in the process of revamping their Flagship Lounges. This spring, American opened their new Flagship Lounge in New York, and over the coming months they’ll be opening new Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia.

These lounges feature a better food and drink selection and better decor than before, and are also significantly larger. The reason the lounges are larger is because American is modifying the entry requirements for accessing these lounges.

How the Flagship Lounge access policy is changing

With the changes being made to Flagship Lounges, American is also changing the access policy for these lounges. At the moment the situation is a bit confusing, because the access policy changes as each new lounge opens. In other words, as of now only the Flagship Lounge New York has the new entry requirements, though as the new lounges open in Chicago and Los Angeles over the coming months, they’ll change there as well.

Under the old policy, the following passengers received access to Flagship Lounges:

  • Passengers traveling in oneworld longhaul international first class same day
  • Passengers traveling in first class on American’s A321 between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco
  • American Executive Platinum members traveling on a longhaul international itinerary, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic

Previously only three cabin first class passengers received access

Under the new policy, the following passengers received access to Flagship Lounges:

  • Passengers traveling in oneworld longhaul international first and business class same day
  • Passengers traveling in first class and business class on American’s A321 between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco
  • American Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members traveling on a longhaul international itinerary, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members traveling on any oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic

Now business class passengers receive access as well

So that means a lot more people than before have Flagship Lounge access. I’d guess at least twice as many people. Maybe three times as many, or even four times as many.

Flagship Lounge access as a oneworld Sapphire member

Back in the day I had British Airways Gold status, which was awesome since it got me access to oneworld Emerald lounges, even when flying domestically. So I could use the Qantas First Class Lounge LAX, American Flagship Lounges, etc.

Oneworld Emerald members have access to the Qantas Lounge LAX

Any oneworld Emerald status would get you that, with the exception of Emerald status through American AAdvantage. US airlines are notoriously stingy when it comes to providing free lounge access on account of status, so lounge access on domestic itineraries is one of the best elite benefits of non-US programs.

However, with these changes, those earning oneworld Sapphire status through any program other than American AAdvantage would get Flagship Lounge lounge access whenever flying American, even domestically.

Since I used to have status with British Airways, lets use their Executive Club program as an example. They use “Tier Points” as a means of qualifying for status, and Silver status requires 600 Tier Points, while Gold status requires 1,500 Tier Points. So Silver status only requires 40% as many Tier Points as Gold status.

However, the catch is that you need at least four flights on British Airways in order to qualify, though any revenue flights will do the trick. Frankly that’s an easy enough threshold, in my opinion.

You’re awarded Tier Points on a per segment basis, and you earn based on the distance, fare class, and airline. You can find the British Airways Tier Points calculator here.

For example, I have an upcoming ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to New York via Doha in Qatar Airways business class, and that ticket alone would earn me 600 Tier Points roundtrip. So I’d need to fly four segments on British Airways, and I’d have Silver status.

Qatar Airways has lots of discounted premium fares, which are a great way to earn status

On the surface that’s sort of tempting, and I’m sure many feel similarly. Being able to access Flagship Lounges regardless of which domestic flight I take is a nice perk. I’m at the point where I should quite easily requalify for Executive Platinum status, so I’m very tempted to do this.

British Airways is just one example, though maybe others know of an easier program with which you can earn oneworld Sapphire status.

This is also another reason to be on the lookout for airlines offering oneworld Sapphire status matches, since it’s the equivalent of a Flagship Lounge membership when flying American.

Bottom line

A lot more passengers than ever before have access to American’s Flagship Lounges, and in many cases this even opens up these lounges to more passengers on domestic itineraries. Even for a domestic flyer, it might be worth earning oneworld Sapphire status with a oneworld airline other than American.

Does anyone know of an easier oneworld program than British Airways Executive Club for earning oneworld Sapphire status? Anyone else considering this strategy?

  1. I am surprised you didn’t compare many of the oneworld programs, especially the less known ones… this article was a disappointment.

  2. I don’t really see the value. As a Platinum or above you already get Flagship lounge access if you fly internationally or in business/First on a transcon. For domestic AA flights, do you really need to get to the airport early and spend time in a Flagship lounge? Why not just get AAdmirals Club membership, which gets you into a wide variety of clubs nationwide (and may also help you get into a club when you actually need it during IRROPs).

  3. Iberia – uses Elite Points that are quite similar to Tier Points. Only one flight on IB or their budget carrier Vueling.

  4. I have semi-permanent Oneworld Sapphire status through the JAL Global Club program. In Japan, you can retain the status by continuing to use their credit cards. Elsewhere, it’s just 5,000 miles a year to re-qualify every March or 25,000 FLY-ON points a year.


    Good to know that I’ll be covered on all my OW lounge needs going forward!

  5. Lucky, I’ve already earned Executive Platinum this year. what would be the next easiest Emerald status to hit?
    considering i will be visiting HK, Australia, and Europe multiple times in the next 3 months, would you recommend
    Cathay, Qantas, or BA? all flights are paid business, via work.

  6. But isn’t AA expecting the number of Platinum and Executive Platinum pax to drop due to the new program rules?
    I mean, everywhere you read there’s a pax saying that they dropped AA.

  7. This is a bit of a misleading article title – this doesn’t say how to get the status (other then the very obvious), more what the benefits are.

  8. I fly BA several times a year, usually ORD-LHR-CAI mostly in Premium Economy but occasionally in Business too. So far I have been focused on AA and only credited those flights to AA. However, your article is making me wonder if I should look at BA. How many tier points would such flights bring?

    For those considering this, I’ll the obvious observation that this makes sense only after you have qualified for EXP. Complementary domestic upgrades and SWUs are still more valuable than domestic lounge access.

    I also agree that domestic lounge access could be less of a deal than the first excitement suggests. (1) While I appreciate a lounge plus shower in the middle of a 30 hour journey with two connections, the need is less pressing before a two hour flight. 🙂 (2) We’ll have to see what new food offerings are like, but so far this has not been a big draw for AA lounges, even Flagship. (3) If you just want a lounge, some access is also available via credit cards. (4) Finally, just purchasing club membership has got to be cheaper than earning Sapphire status in a separate program.

  9. Aktchi

    BA tier points are class and distance based. So for example SFO-LHR in J is 140 points. In F its 210 points. So three one-way legs gets you BA silver (if you fly one more time on BA to meet the 4-flight minimum).

    An AA domestic flight over 2,000 miles (so SFO-CLT but not SFO-ORD) gets you 140 points.

    So it’s easy to get BA silver (sapphire). Gold (emerald) takes more effort but I’m on track for this year.

    The BA site has a “tier point calculator” although it has a few errors in it, annoyingly.

    All that said, AA lounges aren’t that great, and perhaps that’s because AA pursues the paid membership model for its lounges

  10. I was wondering if you had a chart of how you value other frequent flyer points. For example, I know that you value AA at about 1.3, DL about the same, and Alaska a little more I think 1.5 cents.

    What value do you give to other Oneworld programs. Qatar, JAL, Cathay, Qantas, and British Airways for example?

    Also are there any short cuts to getting any of the above saphire or emerald status?

  11. I was wondering if Qatar silver privilege club is worth it? Vs Emirates

    I have a couple of flights this next month and contemplating whether to fly with Qatar or Emirates. I’m 50 points away from Qatar silver but still good to know if i could jump ship

  12. ME3 airlines are great unless you live in the US, because they are really not on the way to anywhere. If you’re heading to Europe then they are hours out of your way. While if you’re heading to East Asia, you’re going across the Pacific.

    Maybe South Asia and Africa, and obviously West Asia. But we are not geographically well suited to fly ME3 however good they might be

  13. I suggested this in the comments of your DL fast track comments to go for lifetime BA Gold n access domestic lounges.

    I think on balance, BA track is still the best. U can redeem your avios relatively easily as well. And for your case, lifetime BA Gold and Gold Guest List are possible for yourself.

    Whether u can upkeep both DL and BA status at the same time might be worth thinking about. But having more DL flights will certainly delay your lifetime BA Gold.

  14. I’ll be flying HAN-DOH-JFK with QR in February, and plan to credit it to British Airways as well. The two Avios programs – BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus – are the only two programs where that one roundtrip gets you enough status points/miles to achieve a status I believe.

    Given that I do a couple of trips to Europe a year, it should be no problem to squeeze in four BA segments.

    Also, for those that have no problem doing either four BA or four IB segments, and are in similar situation, I suggest to look at when your membership year ends/starts with British to maximize the time you can get your status for. (While Iberia has a fixed membership year, with British Airways it depends on when you signed up, so you might be able to get a couple of extra months of status depending on which one you go for.)

  15. @Flyingfish, you’re hilarious. Up to 250 flights in BA business class to earn Lifetime access to AA Flagship on domestic. I’m 2,000 tier points short of BA Lifetime gold and will be pretty happy if I never step on another BA plane. They really have no idea how to run J or F products!

  16. Having maintained QF Platinum and not requalified in July I was downgraded to Gold which still gives me AA access domestically which is great. I might just consider maintaining that in addition to my AA Exec Plat this coming year. No reason to pay for Admirals Club.

  17. I usually do two club world BA trips to LHR and one F AA to get BA Silver for OW Sapphire each year – glad to hear I could use IB too – always forget about IB

  18. I am EXPLAT on AA and Platinum on QR Privilege Club. Just recently I dropped the Admiral Club Membership and started using my QR card for Lounge access: Flagship at JFK and ORD for example. In Miami, I prefer Centurion Club. Emerald status either on AA or QR has been handy to access MH lounge in KL as well as Plaza Premium in Siem Reap.
    I look forward to Al Mourjan or Al Safwa lounge at DOHA, very few lounges compare to them (except the usual luminaries)

  19. @John. not sure if i caught your humor. u do not need to book majority of your flights on BA. if anything, u can fly all the rest of your favorite OW airlines n hv just that 4 BA flights yearly to achieve it. and once u are lifetime BA gold, u do not even need to worry about 4 bA flights yearly. so u do not need to love BA, but u do need to like OW alliance.

    its the same with Aegean air previously with Star Alliance Gold. how many truly flown a single a Aegean Air flight then on their way to *A gold?

  20. This article has confirmed my decision earlier in the year to re-focus on obtaining oneworld status on the BA Executive Club program. As a UK-based Executive Platinum (2 years), I decided that the changes introduced earlier this year were a huge negative for non-US based members. The EQD especially was a hurdle too far. The BA program does not (yet) have a revenue threshold.
    I have a couple of trips to Asia, and one or two to the U.S. later this year in business, and I have calculated that I would barely reach Gold on AA (equiv of BA Bronze), but easily achieve Silver on BA (Platinum on AA) and be just a trip short to get Gold (Exec Platinum). It’s a no brainer.
    The AA domestic upgrades are practically useless to me, and the SWU’s are difficult to redeem with any confidence. Add to that the fact that saver award space on AA metal is non-existent means that my Executive Platinum days (and my preference for AA) are over.

  21. Ben what do you reckon the impact of the EQD will be on the number of people qualifying for ExPlat this coming year? Do you think it will drop substantially?

  22. @Flyingfish, haha. Got it, I forgot about the 2 million Avios and the $20,000 of surcharges to redeem them! (I know, don’t forget, I could shuttle to and fro between LGW and AMS for 9,000 Avios and ten cents).

  23. Remember AA earns money from fellow OW members for each person that uses the lounge, so the more customers they can get into their lounges, the more $$ is made.
    AA has to recoup the lounge overhaul cost somehow.

  24. Oh please. You push lounge access by getting their credit card while now u complain about too many people. Which is it?

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