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).
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.
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.
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.
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?