American Adjusts International Lounge Access Policy

Filed Under: American

American Airlines is updating its lounge access policy as of April 1, 2021, and for a “limited time.”

As it’s described, this updated policy is intended to “streamline” lounge access. For most people this change will be good news, while for some people it will be bad news (maybe).

American offers Admirals Club access on all international flights

Starting April 1, 2021, the following customers will receive Admirals Club access when traveling on any international itinerary to & from the US, plus flights to & from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico:

  • Ticketed first class customers
  • Ticketed business class customers
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum members
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro members
  • AAdvantage Platinum members

The change here is that previously Admirals Club access wasn’t offered on flights to Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico (except Mexico City). For “short” international flights, access was only offered to Central America and Mexico City.

So this is fantastic news all-around. It means that all international destinations qualify for lounge access, and not just select international destinations.

Why is this change limited time? As a spokesperson explains:

We’d like to keep the update in place during these challenging times for the industry, but we’ll continue to follow CDC guidelines to ensure we are adhering to capacity levels in our lounges.

In other words, it sounds like American wants to keep this policy around, but doesn’t want to promise anything as being permanent, because there may be some capacity issues in the future if all these passengers have lounge access. I can’t imagine how busy the Admirals Club Toronto would be if this policy sticks around.

The one thing I find confusing is why this policy change only kicks in as of April. This coincides with Alaska Airlines joining oneworld, though I’m not necessarily sure why that should matter.

American cuts Flagship Lounge access on some international flights

Starting April 1, 2021, the following customers will no longer receive Flagship Lounge access when traveling to Mexico City and Central America, but rather will be directed to the Admirals Club:

  • Ticketed first class customers
  • Ticketed business class customers
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum members
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro members
  • AAdvantage Platinum members

The Flagship Lounge is American’s premium international lounge, and historically premium cabin passengers and elite members to those destinations received Flagship Lounge access.

As American justifies this change, this is in order to “minimize confusion,” and the airline believes that this “policy will make the travel journey easier to understand for customers.”

Keep in mind that Flagship Lounges aren’t even open at the moment, due to lack of demand. However, it sounds like this cut is permanent.

American is adding Admirals Club access for all international flights

This policy change makes sense and is generally good

As an Executive Platinum member I’m sad to lose Flagship Lounge access to Mexico City and Central America, though logically this change does make sense, and I do believe it eliminates some confusion:

  • Now anyone flying in a “Flagship” branded premium cabin will get Flagship Lounge access, while all other international premium travelers will get Admirals Club access
  • It never made a whole lot of sense to me that (for example) a ticket to Central America got lounge access, while a ticket to the Caribbean didn’t
  • I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen people turned away from lounges over confusion regarding which lounge they had access to

This is also overwhelmingly positive for travelers. The number of people who gain Admirals Club access here greatly exceeds the number of people who will have “downgraded” lounge access.

Flagship Lounge access is being cut for some international travelers

Bottom line

American Airlines has updated its lounge access policy for international travelers. As of April 1, premium passengers and elite members will receive lounge access on all international flights. Those who travel to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, etc., will surely appreciate this.

The only downside here is that Flagship Lounge access is being cut for Mexico City and Central America. While I’d rather that not be cut, frankly I think that’s fair enough, especially to avoid confusion as much as possible.

What do you make of this change to American’s lounge access policy?

  1. Will Admiral’s Club Toronto reopen? This location was rumored to be on the list for permanent closure, but never confirmed. AC allows lounge access on all J itineraries so AA was always at a competitive disadvantage here.

  2. If AA is willing to re-open all lounges at hub airports I’m fine with this as a member that pays cash for AC membership. But for example at MIA if AA doesn’t re-open the D15 AC and the E AC (assuming that one has been finally renovated), and I get turned away or walk into a lounge that is packed to the gills I’m going to be pissed off. Ditto for PHX, PHL and LAX.

  3. Ben you are totally wrong. This is a horrible decision for EP’s (and Plat Pro, Platinum, etc) as almost all of them are members of the AC already. This is just a take-away. It will make AC’s more crowded with guests, etc. They should have at least added EP’s to the FL for those flights. Each time they make an announcement, the EP status gets watered down! why they want to keep pissing on their top customers in a time like this is beyond me.

  4. Providing access to passengers from Mexico City, but not on a longer flight to say Cancun, made zero sense.

  5. As a person with a vacation place in the Bahamas, which is off limits to me for the moment, I am happy to get Miami and Charlotte lounge access once travel there becomes real.

  6. Who cares about “eliminating confusion,” isn’t that where us mile/point people thrive? As an EP, I most certainly view this as a negative.

  7. I can fill in the black about the April st start date. It’s being held until Alaska formally joins OneWorld on March 31st since this will bring our lounge access policy generally in line with theirs.

  8. Also, keep in mind Flagship access for Elites on international travel is not changing, this is solely for those whose tickets granted them access. Nothing has changed for EP’s, PL’s, etc. It actually expended access for you guys

  9. This is good news for anyone travelling to/from Canada and specifically to Caribbean. Flying J from Vancouver to Dallas to Miami to Puerto Rico to Barbados and denied a lounge on any of the layovers really made me realize that travelling AA was a bad bad choice.

    Flying into DFW from UAE enroute to YVR was often a hassle until the lounge gestapo were advised by their superiors that a Business ticket from overseas allowed lounge access enroute to Canada while, of course, a domestic ticket did not. Made no sense.

    Good change for anyone travelling to Canada or Caribbean.

    Could never understand why were were allowed lounge access in MIA enroute to Curacao but not Barbados.

  10. I’m trying to decide whether to go for EP this year, and these downgrades are making the decision easier. With less travel still likely, becoming a savvy shopper and paying for front cabin access (with lounge access but also being happy with Centurion) on whatever airline fits my schedule and preferences best may well be my new MO (while still accruing miles and using them for aspirational travel).

  11. I think this does make sense with regards to Alaska joining oneworld. I assume that AS and AA will have essentially identical lounge access policies within oneworld. Simply applying the AA policy to AS would give status-based lounge access on a ground total of two routes: the two Costa Rica cities (routes which aren’t especially long or premium in AS’s network; they’re leisure routes just like the slightly longer flights to Hawaii). That’s kind of silly; makes more sense to just exclude the entire network from oneworld lounge access, or to include all international flights.

  12. Wow! As a ‘lowly’ AA Platinum from Canada, this is incredible news, was about to drop AA altogether. I may reconsider my BA Gold for Admirals Club access, but if this change is for a limited time then I may just keep BA…

  13. Will access still be given to executive credit card holders and their authorized users flying on American or Alaska?

  14. Premium passengers to the Caribbean, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, etc… are leisure travelers who are not AA’s target demographic. Flights to Central America and Mexico City are more likely business travelers, wealthy people and, in the case of Mexico City, perhaps a celebrity or two. So that is why they’ve gotten lounge access up to now and Caribbean didn’t qualify.

    Didn’t AA once have a policy that only international flights over 5 hours got lounge access?

  15. This is very misleading. They have eliminated Flagship Lounge access for many countries in South America (not only Central America as the press release and this blogger leads you to believe). MEX is one of the largest cities in the world, and a major business hub. That’s why FL access was granted for those flights. Major business route. This is probably the biggest negative change AA has made in recent months, yet they spin it as though they are “eliminating confusion”.

  16. This post totally is confusing to me. Always travel in premium cabins, but I do not hold any status. So if I travel to/from any of the Mexico airports, for example, on a Business class ticket, whether it be from/to MEX / BJX / PVR, etc., what lounge will I be able to visit in DFW?

  17. Seems like nothing is changing for OW elite and I can continue to use whatever AA lounge I like as a CX G, which keeps me happy.

  18. in Miami, pre covid days, I used my Qatar Gold card to get access to FLounge. It did not matter where I was flying to and gave up my Club subscription.
    when the FL opens let us see what happens. My flights from Miami are usually to Havana, Bogota or the Southern Cone

  19. In 1979 I paid $250 for lifetime Admirals Club membership for me and my wife. We still have the original cards and the access works fine. Best $250 I ever spent!

  20. I didn’t know there was any confusion in the past. It’s a very poor decision. They keep watering down top levels of AAdvantage and taking it away from FC and BC also makes no sense.

  21. @NSL: I don’t get that. There are a heck of a lot more itineraries that gain Admirals Club access (a benefit) than lose Flagship Lounge access. And of course, until just a few years ago, Admirals Club access was what MEX and Central America customers got anyway. I think it’s really a stretch to spin this as watering down anything except for customers who are really focused on MEX and Central America, especially when you look on a five year timescale.

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