When Will American Open Three Remaining Flagship Lounges?

The past couple of years we’ve seen both American and United invest in their premium international lounges, which has been great for passengers. With United having recently made quite a bit of progress with the opening of their premium lounges, I thought it was time to check up on how American is doing.

American has opened four Flagship Lounges so far

One of the things that impressed me most about American’s Flagship Lounges is the speed at which they opened them. Airport construction is often delayed, so when you combine that with the pace at which airlines take on most projects, I typically have pretty low expectations.

However, over the course of seven months, American opened four Flagship Lounges, and three Flagship First Dining facilities:

Opening four new premium international lounges over the course of seven months is really impressive, and American deserves a lot of credit for that.


American Flagship Lounge LAX

United is opening their third Polaris Lounge

United opened their first Polaris Lounge in Chicago in December 2016. Like most of the Polaris rollout, the speed at which they did things was disappointing at first. For nearly 18 months the airline didn’t open another Polaris Lounge. However, after a huge delay they seem to be taking this project seriously again, and United opened their second Polaris Lounge in San Francisco in May, and is opening their third Polaris Lounge in Newark on June 4, 2018.


United Polaris Lounge EWR

When will more lounges be opening?

With American now having four Flagship Lounges, and United having three Polaris Lounge as of next week, United has certainly narrowed the gap here. So let’s take a look at what we can expect in the future.

American is still opening Flagship Lounges at the follow airports:

  • Dallas Fort Worth (including Flagship First Dining)
  • London Heathrow (including Flagship First Dining)
  • Philadelphia

United is still opening Polaris Lounges at the following airports:

  • Hong Kong
  • Houston
  • London Heathrow
  • Los Angeles
  • Tokyo Narita
  • Washington Dulles

But it’s not just about where they’re opening lounges, but also about when they’re opening lounges. American doesn’t have a similar tracker that shows when lounges are expected to open, so I reached out to American to ask when we should expect their three remaining Flagship Lounges to open. They said:

  • The Dallas Fort Worth Flagship Lounge is expected to open in 2019
  • The Philadelphia and London Flagship Lounges are still being developed, so they don’t have a firm timeline to share

As far as United goes, they say:

  • The Houston Polaris Lounge is expected to open in summer 2018
  • The Los Angeles Polaris Lounge is expected to open in fall 2018
  • The Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Tokyo Narita, and Washington Dulles Polaris Lounges are still under development

So it’s interesting that while American opened four of their new lounges in a short timeframe, United will have more premium international lounges by this fall, if everything goes as planned.

I’m disappointed American is taking so long to open their two remaining US locations. I couldn’t care less if/when the Flagship Lounge London Heathrow opens, given that American passengers have access to the excellent Cathay Pacific Lounge and Qantas Lounge in the same terminal, which I’d probably use even after the Flagship Lounge opens.


Qantas Lounge LHR

However, both Dallas and Philadelphia are badly in need of improved lounges. Hopefully within a year or so the Dallas Lounge will be open, but it looks like it’s still going to be a while before Philadelphia gets a Flagship Lounge.

Which are better — Flagship Lounges or Polaris Lounges?

It depends how you look at it.

American wins when it comes to access requirements. Flagship Lounges can be used by international first and business class passengers, premium transcon passengers, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members, and Concierge Key members even on domestic itineraries.


American Flagship Lounge ORD

Meanwhile United Polaris Lounges can only be accessed by international premium cabin Star Alliance travelers. No elite status will get you into the lounge, and also no transcon flights come with access.

So accessing United Polaris Lounges is more difficult than accessing American Flagship Lounges.

In terms of the quality of the lounge itself, I’d generally have to say that Polaris Lounges have the edge:

  • I think the decor is a bit nicer
  • United has a la carte dining in all of their Polaris Lounges, and the food is quite good
  • United has custom made coffee drinks, which I really appreciate
  • United has day beds where guests can rest


Dining at United Polaris Lounge ORD

I’d say generally American has the edge when it comes to the food they have available at the buffet, as United’s buffet options are relatively limited. However, the difference isn’t that huge.

What this doesn’t take into account is American’s Flagship First Dining, which is by far the best lounge experience offered by any US airline. However, it’s not necessarily fair to compare that to Polaris Lounges, since Flagship First Dining is exclusively for three cabin first class, and United is in the process of eliminating that.


American Flagship First Dining JFK

Bottom line

American was leading United four to one when it came to the number of locations for premium international lounges. However, by the end of this year United will have overtaken American with five lounge locations, if all goes as planned.

We should expect American’s next Flagship Lounge to open in Dallas in 2019, while we don’t yet have a timeline for when the remaining two lounges will open (though the only one that really matters is the Flagship Lounge Philadelphia).

Comments

  1. A few weeks ago when I was in the PHL Admiral’s Club (at A15), the agents there said there is a rent dispute that is holding up the construction start of the new Flagship Lounge.

  2. The DFW Terminal D Admirals Club closed in April for the renovation that will add the Flagship Lounge and Flagship Dining. The lounge agents say they’ve been told the renovations will take about a year.

  3. PHL is in dire need of a FL. The AC and its offering is not adequate for longhaul premium customers.

  4. PHL continues to be the red headed stepchild of AA hubs. As the east coast TATL gateway for AA PHL gets the oldest planes and non-integrated cabin crews that continue to struggle with LUS/LAA assimilation. While the current Admirals Club is OK, any regular AA customer who visits Flagship Lounges can only sigh in disappointment when entering the PHL Admirals Club. A renewed Flagship Lounge would be welcomed by Qatar and BA emeralds/sapphires who could escape the confines of the small BA business lounge and the restricted access 1st class section that is often closed to OW Emeralds.

    If AA is to be taken seriously about building a strong TATL gateway at PHL they really need to step up their game with improved aircraft, cabin crews and terminal facilities.

  5. In terms of access policies, I think UA is being overly restrictive for Polaris Lounges. At the very least, they should open it up to GS, even if it comes flight restrictions. AFAIK, for lounge access, GS is equivalent to Premier Gold, which seems really stingy.

    I kind of feel sorry for those stuck with GS. They spend so much money on UA and can’t even use the nicer lounges… 😮

  6. @ Tennen…if they are GS, they are probably flying paid J to get them Polaris access in the first place 😉 (given the spend requirements to attain that status)

  7. I can envision a few years down the line, lounge access will change and it will be based on the fare one paid for their ticket. Yes, it will alienate some of the mid and top tiered members but I can’t imagine an airline making any money when they’re offering $400 fares across the Atlantic and providing a first or business class lounge. I think what will likely happen is those who paid first or business class fares get a TRUE premium lounge while those top/mid tiered members traveling in economy get an Admiral’s Club or Priority Club type of lounge. More and more airlines are doing this and that list will likely get longer in years to come.

  8. Qantas lounge in LHR is overrated. The CX one is real nice, but overall if I had access to first class dining I would chose the new AA one hands down. The wait will be worth it I assume.

  9. I’m looking for an OMAAT review of the Dallas premium lounge AA stood up at DFW for premium passengers in lieu of the flagship lounge they’re building.

  10. Here’s a semi-related question as a frequent United flier…..Shouldn’t United have its own Polaris lounge I’m Franfurt, where it has more flights than in Hong Kong, rather than relying solely on Lufthansa, which has a strict and confusing hierarchy of lounges (“Nein, Sie können nicht in Senator Lounge
    gehen!”)….?

    Also, what happens to a United benefit I have enjoyed….global services members traveling Polaris First can access the Lufthansa first lounges on outbound flights once United stops selling Polaris first later this month?

    Will there be any way for United Global Services passengers to gain access to Lufthansa first lounges?

  11. AA FL lounges are already zoos. MIA especially.

    I’m fine with UA restricting access to paid premium only.

  12. Honest question: Where did the post about American’s “only first class” advertisement go?

  13. @ Evan — I screwed up. I didn’t see that they wrote (in tiny letters) that they were only referring to US airlines. The joys of blogging while jetlagged at 4AM in Dubai. Still think it’s ridiculous, but not as ridiculous.

  14. @PsiFighter37, not if they’re on paid J transcons (or any domestic or non-Polaris international flight, for that matter). 😉 And they could very well be GS based on Y/B (or lower) fares. Anyway, it just seems odd that $50k gets access to superior lounges on AA regardless of flight type, but it gets bupkis on UA.

    AA’s access policy for FL does seem generous; IMHO, it would be reasonable to move Sapphires, Plat Pros, and Plats to ACs instead. Perhaps that would help with the overcrowding that @Benjamin Nicholas has experienced…

  15. I truly don’t understand how it’s going to take AA 8-10 months to open the FL in DFW.

    We build entire subdivisions in DFW faster than that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *