|Want to learn more about accessing US airline lounges? See my series about how to access Alaska Lounges, American Admirals Clubs, Delta Sky Clubs, and United Clubs.|
American Airlines operates a network of nearly 50 Admirals Clubs globally. There’s often confusion about who gets access to these lounges, given how policies differ around the world. In most places in the world, any business class ticket will get you lounge access, while that’s largely not true in the United States.
In this post I wanted to take a comprehensive look at how American Airlines lounge access works.
What should you expect from American Airlines Admirals Clubs?
Don’t get too excited when it comes to the quality of American Airlines Admirals Clubs.
For the most part, Admirals Clubs are just lounges that are typically calmer than the terminal, with complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, and drinks (including house beer, wine, and liquor).
On top of that, Admirals Clubs typically have more substantial food, as well as premium drinks, available for purchase.
In some cases Admirals Clubs are significantly calmer than the terminal, while in some cases they’re still quite crowded. Personally I find the Admirals Clubs at my home airport of Miami to pretty consistently be quiet, so they’re my lounges of choice here.
How to access American Airlines Admirals Clubs
American Admirals Clubs are membership lounges, meaning that they’re primarily intended for members. However, there are some other ways to access Admirals Clubs as well, depending on your status, the type of ticket you have, what credit card you have, etc. Below are all the options for American Airlines lounge access.
Buy an Admirals Club membership (with miles or cash)
The most obvious way to access Admirals Clubs is to outright buy an annual membership, which can be done with miles or cash. The cost of this varies depending on your elite status with AAdvantage, and whether you’re looking for an individual or household account.
Here’s the cash cost to buy an Admirals Club membership:
Then here’s the cost to purchase an Admirals Club membership with miles:
As you can see, this is valuing AAdvantage miles at one cent each, so in general I wouldn’t recommend redeeming miles this way (I value AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each). I’d much rather pay cash and use my miles for more worthwhile redemptions.
As a last option, you could also redeem 3,300 points through American’s Business Extra program for an annual membership. For those of you not familiar, this is American’s small business rewards program. Personally I’d rather redeem my Business Extra points in another way, but it’s an option.
A couple of things to note for Admirals Club members:
- You can only use Admirals Clubs when flying same day on American Airlines, a oneworld partner airline, or JetBlue (though you can also Admirals Clubs on arrival)
- You can either bring your immediate family members with you (including spouse, domestic partner, and children under 18), or up to two guests
Get the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) is one of my all around favorite airline credit cards. The card has a $450 annual fee, and offers an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardmember.
In and of itself that represents cost savings compared to a membership, as the cheapest cost for an Admirals Club membership is usually $550 per year.
But it gets better than that. Those with the card can add up to 10 authorized users, and each of those authorized users receives Admirals Club access when flying American or an eligible partner airline the same day for them and two guests or immediate family (they don’t have to be flying with the primary cardmember).
Yes, that single $450 annual fee can get up to 11 parties access to Admirals Clubs, which is amazing. If you want Admirals Club access and are eligible for the card, that’s without a doubt the best way to access Admirals Clubs. For that matter, this is one of my favorite perks offered by any credit card.
Buy an Alaska Lounge membership
One alternative to getting an Admirals Club membership directly is that you could instead buy an Alaska Lounge membership. Alaska Airlines offers two different lounge membership plans. An Alaska Lounge membership gets you access to just Alaska Lounges, and costs:
- $450 annually for Mileage Plan non-elite members
- $350 annually for Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K members
An Alaska Lounge+ membership gets you access to Alaska Lounges and American Admirals Clubs, as well as select Qantas Clubs (when flying Qantas) and select United Clubs (when flying Alaska), and costs:
- $600 annually for Mileage Plan non-elite members
- $500 annually for Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K members
As you can see, in some cases this could represent a marginally better deal, depending on your status and lounge needs.
Buy a Qantas Club membership
Qantas Club members also receive American Admirals Club access when flying American or Qantas the same day, and one guest is allowed when accessing lounges with this method. In general I’m not advocating buying a Qantas Club membership specifically to access Admirals Clubs, but if you happen to be traveling in the United States and are a member, this is a good option for lounge access.
Buy a day pass
It’s also possible to buy Admirals Club day passes, at the cost of either $59 or 5,900 AAdvantage miles. Between those options I’d definitely recommend paying cash rather than redeeming miles. It’s also possible to redeem 300 American Business Extra points for an Admirals Club day pass (these are different than American AAdvantage miles).
This is valid for the entire day, so if you’re connecting you can use multiple clubs. These passes can be purchased directly at the club. If you purchase them in advance, they’re valid for 12 months from when they’re issued.
While the pass is per person, you can bring up to three children under the age of 18 with you without needing extra passes. You also need to be flying American or a partner airline (oneworld or JetBlue) the same day to use a day pass.
For the most part I wouldn’t consider this to be a very good deal, unless:
- You happen to have a very long connection, or multiple connections
- You’re traveling with kids under 18, since they can come with you at no extra cost
Book an eligible business or first class ticket
A standard domestic first class ticket won’t get you access to Admirals Clubs. However, certain types of tickets will. If you are traveling first or business class on an eligible international or premium domestic flight operated by American or a oneworld partner, you do get lounge access. It doesn’t matter if you paid for your ticket with cash or miles, or if you upgraded (only staff travel wouldn’t qualify).
Qualifying international itineraries include flights between the United States and:
- Caribbean (this includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, even though they’re part of the US)
- Central America
- New Zealand
- South America
There’s just one exception — if you’re an Alaska Airlines first class passenger traveling between the United States and Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico (excluding Mexico City), you wouldn’t get Admirals Club access.
Qualifying domestic itineraries include those between the following city pairs (this even includes if you receive a complimentary elite upgrade to a premium cabin):
- New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO)
- New York (JFK) and Orange County (SNA)
- Boston (BOS) and Los Angeles (LAX) — only when flying on A321T
- Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX) — only when flying on wide body
- Dallas (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Dallas (DFW) and Kona (KOA)
- Dallas (DFW) and Maui (OGG)
- Chicago (ORD) and Honolulu (HNL)
Have Concierge Key status
This is along the lines of the Admirals Club membership above, but American’s invitation only Concierge Key members receive a complimentary Admirals Club membership, so they’d get Admirals Club access under the same conditions as members.
Have American Airlines AAdvantage elite status
American AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum flyers get Admirals Club access when traveling same day on a oneworld flight between the United States and:
- Central America
- New Zealand
- South America
There’s just one exception — if you’re a oneworld elite member flying Alaska Airlines between the United States and Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico (excluding Mexico City), you wouldn’t get Admirals Club access.
You don’t just get access at the international gateway, but rather at all airports throughout your journey. Eligible AAdvantage elite members can bring one guest with them.
Have oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status with a foreign program
If you’re a oneworld Sapphire or Emerald member who earns status through a program other than American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan, you can access Admirals Clubs whenever you’re flying oneworld same day, even if you’re not traveling internationally.
Eligible oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members can bring one guest.
Be an active duty military member
Active duty United States military personnel traveling in uniform on a same day American Airlines flight receive complimentary Admirals Club access. You’ll need to present your military ID.
Eligible military personnel can bring two guests or immediately members, including a spouse and children under 18.
What about American Airlines Flagship Lounge access?
In addition to Admirals Clubs, American Airlines also has Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. These are American’s premium international lounges, and they offer a much better selection of food and drinks, as well as other elevated amenities.
How do the lounge access requirements compare? Of the above groups, the following also receive Flagship Lounge access:
- Concierge Key members, and non-American AAdvantage and non-Alaska Mileage Plan oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members, on any American or oneworld flight (even domestic)
- Those on eligible business and first class itineraries
- AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Mileage Plan MVP Gold, Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K, and Mileage Plan MVP Gold 100K members on eligible itineraries
What are eligible itineraries for the purposes of Flagship Lounge access? Qualifying business and first class itineraries include the following:
- Between the US and Asia
- Between the US and Australia
- Between the US and Europe
- Between the US and New Zealand
- Between the US and South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela)
- Between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
- Between New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO)
- Between New York (JFK) and Orange County (SNA)
- Between Los Angeles (LAX) and Boston (BOS) — only when flying on A321T
- Between Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) — only when flying on wide body
- Between Dallas (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL)
- Between Dallas (DFW) and Kona (KOA)
- Between Dallas (DFW) and Maui (OGG)
- Between Chicago (ORD) and Honolulu (HNL)
Then Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage elite members get Flagship Lounge access in all of the above markets when not in first or business class, except the domestic city pairs above, where Flagship Lounge access isn’t granted on account of status.
The catch is that not all airports have Flagship Lounges. In other words, if you’re traveling from Tampa to Miami to London as an Executive Platinum member you could use the Admirals Club in Tampa and then the Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge in Miami (I’d highly recommend using the latter).
Lastly, American Airlines sells Flagship Lounge access for $150 or 15,000 AAdvantage miles. I wouldn’t consider this to be a very good deal unless you have a very long layover, and plan to eat and drink a lot.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to get American Airlines lounge access, in particular for Admirals Clubs.
These American Airlines lounges are primarily membership clubs, and if you are considering a membership, I’d highly recommend getting the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card instead. The card has a $450 annual fee so you’re already saving at least $100, and then you can get access for authorized users as well.
On top of that, select premium cabin passengers and oneworld elite members also receive Admirals Club access.
Hopefully the above clears up everything you could want to know about American Airlines lounge access. If I missed anything, please let me know.