American Raises Cost Of Admirals Club Membership

Filed Under: American
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American Airlines has just announced some negative changes regarding Admirals Club membership. Not only are the prices of Admirals Club memberships being increased (when paying in cash), but there will also be added restrictions.

American notes that they’ve invested $220 million in updating and refreshing their lounges. The catch is that a vast majority of these investments have come in the form of introducing Flagship Lounges and Flagship First Dining, and so that’s not something Admirals Club members have access to (rather access to those lounges is based on the type of ticket you purchase).

American’s impressive Flagship First Dining LAX

That being said, American has also refreshed several Admirals Clubs, and has improved the food and drink selection. Unfortunately in some cases they have reduced the size of Admirals Clubs while building Flagship Lounges.

So it’s debatable whether Admirals Clubs have actually been improved or worsened in the past year or so.

Admirals Club membership cost increasing in cash

American has announced that they’ll be increasing the cost of Admirals Club memberships when paying in cash as of February 1, 2019.

For those paying for a membership in cash, the cost of an Admirals Club membership is increasing by $100, as follows:

  • Regular: $550 to $650
  • Gold: $525 to $625
  • Platinum: $500 to $600
  • Platinum Pro: $475 to $575
  • Executive Platinum: $450 to $550
  • Concierge Key: free

Note that the above are prices for new members, while renewals are $50 less.

American will also be discontinuing Admirals Club household memberships, regardless of whether you pay in cash or miles.

American Admirals Club YYZ

Admirals Club membership cost decreasing in miles

While American is increasing the cost of Admirals Club memberships when paying cash, they’re reducing the cost of Admirals Club memberships when redeeming miles, as follows:

  • Regular: 85,000 miles to 65,000 miles
  • Gold: 75,000 miles to 62,500 miles
  • Platinum: 70,000 miles to 60,000 miles
  • Platinum Pro: 65,000 miles to 57,500 miles
  • Executive Platinum: 60,000 miles to 55,000 miles
  • Concierge Key: free

Note that the above are prices for new members, while renewals are 5,000 miles less.

As you can see, with these changes American is going from offering a spectacularly bad value when redeeming miles, to offering one cent of value per AAdvantage mile. That’s still not a good deal, though better.

Admirals Club GRU

New Admirals Club access restriction

Currently Admirals Club members can access Admirals Clubs regardless of which airlines they’re flying. That will no longer be the case. As of November 1, 2019, Admirals Club members will need to show a boarding pass with same day travel on American or a partner to access the lounge.

American says this change is being made “to ensure [they] are able to deliver the level of care Admirals Club members deserve.”

The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card becomes an even better deal

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is by far the best way to access Admirals Clubs. The card has a $450 annual fee and offers an Admirals Club membership, with the ability to bring two guests or immediate family.

What sets this card apart so much is that you can add 10 authorized users at no cost, and each authorized user gets Admirals Club access as well.

This card was already the best way to access Admirals Clubs, and now the value proposition of the card has improved even further compared to paying cash for a membership, given the annual fee hike when buying an Admirals Club membership directly.

Admirals Club LAX

Bottom line

These changes to Admirals Club memberships are of course negative, and bad news. While the food selection at some Admirals Clubs has indeed improved, we’ve also seen the size of some lounges at key hubs decreased significantly.

If you’re someone who pays for an Admirals Club membership this is bad news, though I get access through the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. Assuming nothing changes with that card, the value of that increases, though I am bummed about no longer being able to access Admirals Clubs when flying other airlines.

On the plus side, at least American isn’t being as strict with lounge access as Delta is, given that SkyClub members with an individual membership aren’t even allowed to bring guests into the lounge for free.

What do you make of American’s Admirals Club membership changes?

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  1. Hi Lucky! Does having the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card still restrict me to having a valid AA or partner boarding pass for the day? Thanks!

  2. @Lucky. So that restriction of: “no longer being able to access Admirals Clubs when flying other airlines”….does that apply to current Citi AA Executive card members, too?

  3. In 1982, i had a chance to buy a Life Time Admirals Club Membership for $700. The annual fee was only $100 back in those days. I never thought i would travel all that much… and $700 was a lot of money for a single guy at that time… smh…. oh well…after 10 million miles on AA…

  4. That’s unfortunate news, and it really does change for me, the concept of it being a “membership”, that one should be able to access at any time regardless of carrier flown that day… but this is also a change that DL is making as of January 2019 so not surprised to see AA following its lead. (At least, as mentioned, AA still allows free guests.)

  5. The boarding pass on AA or partner same day is a real deal breaker. There are some times that I access AA clubs when flying on mixed carrier trips or on other airlines.

    Oh and finally AA tells us that the “real” value of AA miles has in fact gone down to 1 cent each it seems.

  6. I have the Citi AAdv Exec card. If this means I can no longer use the Admirals Club when flying another airline than AA, then it’s bye bye Exec card.

  7. does anyone know whether Citi will refund part of the yearly fee ($450) if I cancel the Executive card? They just charged me the renewal fee literally a week ago……

  8. @daniel – there should be a grace period for a full refund of the fee. At least my other cards offer that…

  9. @Daniel: Since the change doesn’t take effect until November 2019, if you just paid the fee this change would not affect your current card year. So I’m not sure why you’d want to cancel on this basis, although I do think you could, since I believe they will normally let you cancel up to 60 days after the fee posts for a full refund.

  10. Oddly the Admirals Club website still says household memberships are available after 2/1/19 but prices are increasing (as an EXP for example, the household price goes from $675 to $1150 for a new membership). Lucky – can you clarify this?

  11. @dbeach: I see! Good catch! I thought that it starts next month. Phew… Thanks for pointing this out. I will keep the card then until next October. Thanks again.

  12. This also devalues my Amex Platinum because I’d been using the $200 airline credit to subsidize my AC membership.

  13. What a scam, though I’m not surprised. AA wants credit for ‘investing’ in their lounges – that’s what you’re -supposed- to do, instead of letting them run into dilapidation (see: Admirals club EWR.)

    I have to wonder if we’re seeing a sea change here in terms of travel habits. While people are paying less for their in-the-air experience, there’s been an increased interest in a premium ground experience at airports nationwide though there hasn’t been the capacity or efficient use of resources to support them.

    Priority Pass lounges now have capacity controls in just about every airport, Alaska left the PP lounges in Seattle, Delta clamped down on access this year, Centurion lounges now have capacity limits (and are zoos), and AA is now denying access at certain clubs for Alaska Lounge members. I can’t remember the time I was in a PP lounge that wasn’t swamped (ok, CVG..) Meanwhile we’ve seen the rates nearly double for lounge memberships with little to no improvement in hard offerings.

  14. It might start to get cheaper to look for tier point runs on BA for silver. Could actually be better then getting an expensive credit card with mediocre benefits. Now that they are requiring same day alliance tickets sapphire on a partner might be a better way to go.

  15. My thought is that ultimately all the carriers and AMEX are going to have to do this to control crowds. The only practical solution to crowding is to charge more to make it more exclusive. That will cut off a percentage of people who don’t want to pay the extra cost.

    AMEX has a really bad problem. As @Alpha says their lounges are indeed zoos. Last week at SFO it was a really bad mess. AMEX probably need to either prohibit all guests, outbound travel only and charge a extra premium on over their membership fee for lounge access. That might cut off enough people to make their lounges acceptable.

  16. For the few times I need to access an Admirals Club and cannot expense it, I use my AMEX $200 credit to buy access. If I have money left over a year end, I buy an AA gift card. Works for the two or three times I may need access in a year. Otherwise I use Centurion, Delta Skyclub or Priority Pass.

  17. Looks like I will be cancelling my Citi Exec card in 2019. The boarding pass requirement is a deal-breaker.

  18. Now just hope United Club won’t follow it by restricting to those who fly Star Alliance. United Club Membership is great if you can utilize using Star Alliance Business Lounge, which is way much better than domestic United lounge and Priority Pass lounge.

  19. Well, I preferred the Admiral’s Club before the renovations.
    They made them modern, sterile-looking and grey – cold
    They used to feel more rich and sophisticated – warmly inviting

  20. Not anymore (after 20+ years as a club member)…the clubs got too overcrowded with all the credit-card free-riders. Although, if this new policy reduces overcrowded clubs, I might consider re-instating my membership.

  21. Good for the paying members that only fly American or those that just choose to buy a membership. Not sure they had as many as they wanted as the value was with getting the credit card with the access. Certainly raises the value of an American Express Platinum card with Centurion lounge access as a supplement to a PP membership

  22. eds183

    Even better get BA Gold and then you can access Flagship lounges as long as you are flying a OW airline.

    Little trick. If flying SFO to ORD, buy a ticket through to somewhere like DTW or MSP. Often about the same price. You can then use the Flagship lounge at ORD based on the forward flight, even though you can cancel it once you are in the lounge

  23. @Lucky – can you clarify whether Citi Exec AA cardholders will be subject to flying OW carriers for access to clubs?

    If I’m flying Southwest and can’t access the AC, I’m product-changing the Exec card.

  24. Funny that I just got a survey from Citi asking about the AAdvantage Exec card and AA in general. One of the questions was “is this my primary spend card” and I about fell out of my chair laughing.

  25. None of these are actually negative changes. They all should result in less crowded ACs – which is a positive that outweighs the price increase. (and why anyone would pay actual dollars for AC access in the first place is beyond me)

  26. I was in the PHL (A15) Admirals Club late Monday afternoon awaiting my flight to FCO and I have never seen the place so “empty.” No wait at the bar, or guacamole table, plenty of food and available seating everywhere. Don’t know if this a downward trend for AA bookings in general or just a slow travel day. BTW, my flight to Rome had three Non-Revs in J class – never seen that on one of these flights in high season.

    Latest report is that the Flagship Lounge at PHL will be completed in February 2019.

  27. Lucky,
    I disagree completely that the “Citi AAdvantage Executive Card becomes an even better deal.” I enjoy using the Admirals Clubs a lot while flying on airlines that are not partners of American. This change makes me question whether to keep the card. I am curious whether Citibank was consulted and what they think of this change since so much effort has been made to promote the card.

  28. I’m out. I’ve had it with AA, and this is the final straw. The AC’s have been overcrowded and lousy and now a membership forces me to fly them just to use? Nah.. I’m done.

  29. Adios Admirals Club- what a stupid idea to restrict access to same day boarding pass. I wont be renewing my membership.

  30. Have only had executive card since May, after exhaustive search of the best way to go. It WAS perfect. Now, I will stay through next November, then be gone. Biggest reason: Same day boarding pass is the worst for me. Oh well, research for a great value card continues.

  31. My question is the same as many others: Will the Citi Exec card have AA (or partner) ticket presentation restrictions for access to AC?

  32. Welp- I’ll be enjoying my AA exec card for one more year it looks like. Just barely worth the $450 being able to access the admirals lounge while flying on anyone. Definitely not going to be worth it after the change on Nov 1, 2019 as I only fly AA about half the time.

  33. They let you prorate your annual membership on these cards. Will renew in July next year and say “au revoir” at the end of October. Aside from 2X miles on American purchases, the Admiral’s Club is the only thing of value in this card. I don’t think it even offers the 10% mileage redemption bonus of the $95 card.

    Guess it’s good news for people who fly a lot of American and want more peaceful lounges.

  34. Like others, the OneWorld boarding pass requirement is a deal-breaker, and I’ve been paying for Admiral’s Club since 1991, now with ExecAAdvantageMasterCard (which won’t provide an exception to this Nov. 2019 requirement). Lack of non-stops to some of our favorite cities puts on on other airlines, and the club was a real convenience. Not only does this devalue our “membership,” but also the Flagship conversions have dramatically shrunk regular Admiral’s clubs in places like LAX, which used to be uncrowded, and lately is “packed.” I e-mailed American to complain and tell them I’ll probably cancel when this kicks in unless they reverse it. Hope enough others also write American Airlines to make them change this drastic downgrade.

  35. What makes this price increase even more unsettling is the number of clubs AA has been closing over the last decade. Whereas DL and UA closed some duplicate clubs at airports after the mergers, AA has left more than a few airports completely, both before and after the merger. Also, a UA UC membership gets you access to most of the clubs of the Star Alliance members. An AA AC membership doesn’t even come close to that network.

  36. With these changes why not purchase an Alaska Club membership for $450 ($350 for renewal) which starting next year will give you the same Admiral’s Club access as an Admiral’s Club membership.

  37. If you contact Citi, it will tell you that the annual fee for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is also increasing to $550 as of 2/1/19.

  38. I actually don’t fly AA anymore but renewed my Admiral Club membership earlier this year because JetBlue uses Terminal Five in LAX. I can use the Admiral Club when I fly JetBlue. I guess that is not longer good. I will just give up on flying AA and will possibly cancel my AA credit card now! All these major US airlines really make their lounge membership rather unuseful now!

  39. Has anyone noticed that AA’s website regarding access into the Admirals Club already has the American or partner airline restriction listed on the website in the section for Executive Card Authorized users? Has that always been the case for AUs?

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