Live: American’s New International Lounge Access Policy

Filed Under: American

A couple of months ago American Airlines announced updates to its lounge access policy. This is a reminder of that, as these changes kick in as of today (April 1, 2021), and apply for a “limited time.” Unfortunately the changes are a bit worse than we were initially told.

As it’s described, this updated policy is intended to “streamline” lounge access. For some people these changes will be good news, while for others they will be bad news.

American offers Admirals Club access on all international flights

Let’s start with the good news. As of April 1, 2021, the following customers 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.

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 (of course the border between the US and Canada is largely closed right now, so for the time being demand is very limited).

With domestic travel having recovered the way that it has in recent weeks, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll start to see some lounge capacity issues sooner rather than later.

American cuts Flagship Lounge access on some international flights

Now on to the bad news. Also as of April 1, 2021, the following customers no longer receive Flagship Lounge access when traveling to Mexico City, Central America, and Northern South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Suriname), 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, but is a mixed bag

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

  • Now anyone flying in a “Flagship” branded premium cabin gets Flagship Lounge access, while all other international premium travelers 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 turned away from lounges over confusion regarding which lounge they had access to

So whether or not these changes are positive really depends on where you usually fly. I would guess that the number of people who gain access to Admirals Clubs exceeds the number of people who have been “downgraded” from Flagship Lounges.

Then again, for the time being the downgraded lounge access is a moot point, since Flagship Lounges are closed.

Flagship Lounge access is being cut for some international travelers

Bottom line

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

The downside here is that Flagship Lounge access is being cut for Mexico City, Central America, and Northern South America. While many people will no doubt be frustrated be these changes, I do think there’s something to be said for the logic of “Flagship Business” passengers getting Flagship Lounge access, and others getting Admirals Club access.

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.

  22. You need a geography lesson. They have cut lounge access for EXPs to most of South America. Not just Central America. They have also cut Flasghip check in for these routes. This is NOT a positive change at all. And you should stop spinning it as one.

  23. Never been to an admirals club before. I’ll be platinum pro in 2022 and emerald or sapphire something whatever that is. I always wonder what’s behind those sliding tinted white glass doors .

  24. @ Brian — You need a lesson in being polite — how about nicely suggesting I check my info, rather than telling me to get a geography lesson? It does indeed appear that now doesn’t list Flagship Lounge access for some points in South America, but this contradicts what I was told by an American spokesperson.

    I’m following up and trying to figure out what happened here.

  25. I have a same ticket Business Class flight from Bogota to JFK with a 3.5 hr stop in Miami. Can I access the lounge in Miami as I arrived from Bogota but continuing on a domestic flight?

  26. To echo Brian’s point, pulling the Flagship Lounge access from Northern South America destinations seems a step too far, and also one that everyone seems to be missing in their coverage.

    And, I always thought MEX always made sense to be included for some sort of lounge access as more of a business destination. Of course, I go to MEX a lot, so I might be biased. 🙂

  27. Sorry Ben, just saw your response. Looking forward to the follow up. Seems like an excessive exclusion. (Also maybe remind AA they stopped flying to Bolivia.) :p

  28. IMO they should go further and align flagship lounge access more closely to the United Polaris Lounge rules. Or at least use the same rules that BA uses for first lounge access at LHR.

  29. @ Travis — Thanks for bringing this to my attention in a nice manner. And yes, you are indeed right, and that change is disappointing. I updated the post to reflect that. When this change was first communicated there was no mention of changes to lounge access for Northern South America, but it does indeed appear that was snuck in. Thanks again!

  30. It would seem to me that with the change to N South America FL access being cut, they should treat these destinations the same as Caribbean/Central America/Mexico for upgrade purposes and not require SWUs.

    And a second question, is it likely this policy will be applied to all OW lounge access? Previously an EXP flying to MEX could hit the Qantas F lounge in LAX.

  31. Just wanna add my +1 to the question of two previous posters: If I’m a non AA elite, nothing changes, right?

    That is, I will still receive flagship lounge access regardless of destination (even on a purely domestic AA flight).

  32. If I am flying on an itinerary such as AUS-DFW-MTY ticketed in I (business) do I get access to the lounge in AUS and DFW or just DFW?

  33. If you read back at my comments from January I pointed this out. Perhaps you could have updated this a bit before you reposted an almost three month old article. And even worse you act like this is a positive move when in fact it’s terrible for EXPs. Do a little more research next time, don’t fall for the PR spin, and I won’t have to “be nice”.

  34. Travis / you’re exactly right and their previous policy was spot on. MEX is really a business destination. Other spots in MEX and Caribbean are more leisure. Cutting access for South America is a step too far. And unless you start in Miami, places like Colombia are long trips. To cut flagship access is reprehensible. I encourage everyone to write to AA and complain. And really wish the bloggers would have covered this properly instead of calling for the PR spin that AA was somehow expanding lounge access. This is a major takeaway.

  35. Hi Ben, thanks for covering this. These type of changes are not easy to dissect and I appreciate your willingness to do what you can to explain what AA seems to be not fully explaining. And I would add we as readers don’t pay for your expertise. So thank you.

    May I also wish you and your family (including Winston – how is he doing in hotel life??) a wonderful Passover.

  36. If they want to “reduce confusion” allow all
    Ticketed first and business class international pax use the flagship lounge. It’s dumb. A business class tix to Toronto can be more expensive than to Paris. I don’t understand why destination matters. Maybe someone can clue me in.

  37. Brian says:
    Do a little more research next time, don’t fall for the PR spin, and I won’t have to “be nice”.

    Brian you can disagree with what Ben writes but there is no need to be disagreable about it.

  38. D3kingg says:
    April 1, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Never been to an admirals club before. I’ll be platinum pro in 2022 and emerald or sapphire something whatever that is.

    One World Ruby / Saphire / Emerald is a way to give some consistency across OW where there are different programme status levels in individual airlines.

    Your AA Plat Pro = OW Saphire for example. As does my BA Silver.

    AA Exec Plat = OW Emerald as does BA Gold

    Whereas AA Gold = OW Ruby. AA gold is far worse a status than BA gold so this is a way of equalising things.

  39. @ Shawn — I mean, similarly, a business class ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles could be more expensive than a business class ticket from Chicago to Toronto, so I guess some might argue that all premium passengers on all routes should get Flagship Lounge access? The reality is that the line has to be drawn somewhere, and no matter where you draw it, people aren’t going to be happy.

  40. @ Brian — First of all, let me rephrase my initial statement. Instead of politely asking you to be nice, I’ll simply inform you that if you can’t be nice, you’ll no longer be welcome to comment here. This is my site, and just as you’re allowed to not read, I’m also allowed to not have you commenting here if you can’t be polite. It’s not a big ask.

    Regarding Mexico City, I see a lot of people mention “well it’s a business destination.” While that might be true, the fares aren’t really more expensive than to other points in Mexico, on balance. For example:
    — American’s cheapest published business class fare from LAX to MEX is $670, while American’s cheapest published business class fare from LAX to SJD is $750
    — American’s cheapest published business class fare from DFW to MEX is $706, while American’s cheapest published business class fare from DFW to MEX is $766

    So personally I don’t see anything wrong with the Mexico City exception being eliminated, because the pricing really never justified the logic to me. If Flagship Lounge access is all about “business travelers,” maybe they shouldn’t offer it those traveling to Athens and Venice in summer?

    And competitively, United doesn’t offer Polaris Lounge access to Mexico City, and Delta doesn’t even have premium international lounges. I agree on balance this is negative for Executive Platinum members, but I don’t view this as “reprehensible.”

  41. Does United offer Polaris access to all South American destinations? That is the big takeaway here for EXPS. Hopefully you can find out why these exclusions were added.
    You may also want to update that these exclusions also apply to Flasgship check in. Also a big takeaway for EXPs, especially in a place like Miami.

  42. @ Brian — United doesn’t. United only offers Polaris Lounge access for South America flights when traveling to Buenos Aires, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Santiago.

  43. Ben

    ” If Flagship Lounge access is all about “business travelers,” maybe they shouldn’t offer it those traveling to Athens and Venice in summer?”

    Perhaps it’s time to get rid of this antiqusated term of ‘business class’ (ditto with the much misused and misunderstood ‘flag carrier’ term) It simply does not mean what it used to be when once ir basically was only people flying on their company expenses flew in the cabin and had access to the business class lounge.

    And who decided what a ‘business’ route is? Especially given these days a lot of business destinations often have an often large tourist segment as well.

    BA hasn’t has a cabin called ‘Business’ for a long time. They call it Club and the ‘business’ lounge is ‘Galleries Club’. VS never had an offering called business they call it Upper. And the same with lots of other airlines too – they got rid of the ‘business class’ name because it no longer accuratly reflected what it is now.

  44. As a long-time EXP, I don’t waste my time on the small stuff like the lounges…unless it’s one of the spectacular First lounges of oneworld airline partners, then maybe I’ll hyperventilate like Brian.

    The discussion about MEX is interesting, and I don’t have a clue, but suspect AA has a ton of corporate contracts related to the city which affects decisions.

    @Mike – your kindness shines in the posts!

  45. What a dog’s breakfast! AKA a mess. Can any carrier in the USA make things straightforward and simple? Where do 1W emerald passengers go irrespective of the cabin they are in?

  46. “We talkin about—lounge access? Lounge access”. Seriously, y’all crack me up. What is a lounge today. Heh.

  47. As an AA EP member who lives in the Caribbean, I’m completely fine with this change as obviously all of my PNRs start and end in the Caribbean weekly – I did not renew my AC membership because of the change this week. I’ll see how long it last – until then I’m glad to move the few hundreds to flight budget. You know one thing that annoys me the most is people dismissing leisure travelers – in fact this was the position of the airlines until last year – the reality is that a plane carriers more leisure travelers than they do business travelers.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.