New American & United Lounge Restrictions Kick In Today

Filed Under: American, United
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If you’re a member of the American Admirals Club or United Club, then it’s worth being aware of new restrictions that kick in for visits as of today. These were announced late last year, so we had about a year of notice…

New Same Day Ticket Requirements

As of today (November 1, 2019):

  • American Admirals Club members can only access Admirals Clubs when traveling same day on American Airlines or a partner airline
  • United Club members can only access United Clubs when traveling same day on United Airlines or a Star Alliance partner airline

United Club London Heathrow

Previously there was no requirement to actually fly with the airline with which you were a member, meaning that you could visit the American Admirals Club when flying United, etc.

In this case both American and United are following Delta’s lead, as usual. As of January 1, 2019, Delta only grants SkyClub access to members traveling with Delta or a partner airline the same day.

What Impact Will These Changes Have?

It’s odd to see how airlines are redefining the concept of a lounge membership. You’d think that if you’re the member of a club you can access it anytime, but now they’re adding a same day ticket requirement on the same airline as part of it.

Presumably they’re making this change simply because they can. American and United suggest that this will reduce crowding, though I imagine that will only marginally be the case.

I can’t imagine there are that many members accessing a club when flying another airline, especially given terminal layouts, and also given that they’re likely to be fairly loyal to an airline to begin with if they buy a membership.

American Admirals Club Toronto

Bottom Line

As of today you’ll need to actually be flying with American or United or one of their partners in order to use the respective lounges as a club member.

This is a disappointing development, though for me doesn’t change the value proposition of my lounge membership. I have an Admirals Club membership through the $450 annual fee Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.

It offers an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardmember, plus you can add up to 10 authorized users at no cost, and they get Admirals Club access as well, with the ability to take two guests each. I’d say that’s a pretty great value still.

Will you be impacted by the new Admirals Club and United Club access restrictions?

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  1. For United, you wrote it applies to United Club “members”. What about those with a one-time pass like via the Chase United Explorer cars?

  2. I got a letter or email from American that my lifetime Admiral’s Club membership will still allow me to use lounge for any flight – not just AA or partner.

    Nice benefit for long time customers.

    Now I hope United does the same as I also have lifetime with them through merger with Continental.

  3. After sampling the latest food selections in the domestic United lounges that I’ve visited in the past few months, I actually started sticking to the terminal more recently, where the food you pay for is much better.

  4. The new rule could make a difference at BNA where the dominant carrier, Southwest, shares the same concourse as AA. It’s been my experience that quite a few people are flying WN and using the Admirals Club. I’ve done it myself.

    I imagine this new rule could lessen the crowds at the BNA Admirals Club. Not a bad thing.

  5. Here in Europe that had been always the case, you need have a same day flight of the airline or a partner. Even when you are entitled to bring a guest its the same restriction for the guest, he must be on a same day flight.

  6. AA turned me away on a same day flight for an AA itinerary that included a long haul leg on Aer Lingus – not a one world “partner” (affiliation by some other definition). Kinda crappy of them given the ticketing was all theirs, and indicative of the fine print manner in which lounge access will be limited as all their credit card gimmicks to buy in have generated more interest than they can reasonably (some might say honestly) handle.

  7. I figure this will lower traffic in the lounges but also bring down membership subscriptions. It was nice to access the Admirals Lounge when flying another carrier that didn’t have a lounge in the particular airport.

  8. Yeah, this is disappointing, but it completely makes sense from a business perspective. Why would an airline offer such benefits for free to customers not even spending money with them? If someone actually paid for a club membership, then they should be able to visit whenever they want. But, since so many people (including me) are gaining access through a credit card, there is very little financial incentive for Delta to allow Sky Club access to these guests if they aren’t spending money on Delta.

  9. It is worth noting that AA and DL made exceptions to Lifetime members, they can still be flying any carrier.

    UA however doesn’t seem to be budging.

  10. I doubt this new change will make lounges less crowded. I enjoyed using United’s lounge when travelling any airline. Figured it was a perk I pay for with my annual fee. Quite disappointed.

  11. I think it’s silly that airlines are now requiring a Same day ticket to use their lounges. I wonder if you could just buy a fully refundable ticket to use the lounge and then cancel it after getting in? Also what I find silly with this is Delta will allow passengers traveling NRSA to use the lounge if they have a sky club membership or applicable credit card, but a full fare paying pax can’t use it their traveling on a different airline that day. Makes absolute no sense.

  12. I assume this will result in a lot of people giving up on their airline branded credit card that included lounge access. Like many others, we used to visit UA or AA lounges while not traveling on those airlines. This was the primary benefit of paying the $450+ yearly fee on the card which has now lost most of its appeal. Unless you are a business traveler, you don’t necessarily have the luxury of always flying a single alliance or airline these days. This is sad but not unexpected news.

  13. I spent thousands of dollars on a lifetime United Club membership so I could access the club when flying another airline to a place UA doesn’t fly to. This leaves a really nasty taste in my mouth.
    DL and AA have made an exception for lifetime members. UA has to do the same to keep my business.

  14. This is one change that I’m happy with given that the Admiral’s clubs, particularly in hubs that do not currently have a Flagship Lounge, are a crowded mess. My reading of the tea leaves is that traffic in these clubs will be noticeably lighter.

  15. Slight correction. Admission to United Club requires a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner.

    So airlines such as Boutique Air would quality even if they aren’t part of Star Alliance.

  16. @jerry. So you would buy a ticket for several hundred dollars etc just to use the lounge and wait a few weeks for. Refund ? Minus an admin fee which many airlines apply. It’s also fraud. There are multiple cases of people doing that in Singapore and Germany And they have been prosecuted

  17. Looking forward to less crowded lounges… that has to be a good thing… my purpose for having DL & AA Membership is like buying insurance, you hope you never have to use it….. but if there is a significant flight delay…. it’s better in the lounge than most terminals.

  18. I think one of the reason for this change is due to employees of the said airlines have abused their memberships they purchased. Flight crew members on long sits at the airport switch out their uniforms and “hang out” in the club. Some have even gone as far as to “list” for a flight they have no intention of taking in order to get around the rules.

  19. @Tricia: “I doubt this new change will make lounges less crowded. I enjoyed using United’s lounge when travelling any airline. Figured it was a perk I pay for with my annual fee. Quite disappointed.”

    To the extent that you and others will not be using the lounge on days when you’re not flying UA, I’d venture that the exact opposite – that is, lounges being less crowded – is exactly what will happen.

  20. “I wonder if you could just buy a fully refundable ticket to use the lounge and then cancel it after getting in?”
    I’ve NEVER seen anything in a UA or AA lounge worthwile enough to compel me to do something that extreme.

  21. @Mike

    With DL doing all sorts of restrictions these days, I still do not feel SkyClubs are less crowded at all.

  22. I had cancelled both of my UA and AA club memberships when they came up for renewal a month or two ago in anticipation of this change coming down the road. I feel sorry for the AA Club staff in Denver, not too many AA partners at DEN, BA, maybe Alaskan….. I think that club may end up closing, perhaps some who is flying on an AA partner can comment on the number of folks enjoying the lounge.

  23. To be expected United is a huge disappointment and their level of disloyalty to the true frequent FLYERS is absurd and incomprehensible. I fly 130 segments and about 120,000 miles this year and because I always shop my tickets and may not reach $15000 in net airline expenditure, I may not make 1K next year. Seriously? It’s not a frequent flier program anymore but a high spender program.

  24. MichaelM. You are WRONG about airline employees using the lounges. Employees (I am one), have their own lounges but if they want to use the club lounges they must pay for membership and follow the rules like anyone else.

  25. Question – can you still use lounges upon arrival after a red-eye, if you’re not connecting that same day? Technically the ticket is for the day before, but historically I’ve always been let in (it’s nice to grab breakfast or sometimes take a shower after the long flight, especially if I can avoid rush hour traffic on the way home). Any ideas/data points?

  26. A duplicate question to Jim (first post). I have One-time United Club passes issued from my Explorer card. Will those still be honored?

  27. Nice move that I’m actually happy with. Now if only Delta would kick Amex Platinum card holders out I’d really be happy. Either get the Delta Reserve or buy the membership but having access just because you have a Platinum card sucks.

    I love when I happen to fly out of an airport that has SkyClubs and Centurion lounges as the Platinum folks tend to crowd that space out faster than they do the SkyClubs.

    Here’s to forcing Platinum card users to use either the Centurion Lounges or Priority Pass Lounges.

  28. This makes Priority Pass – a given with Chase Safire Reserve look a lot better than either premium card from AA or UA

  29. A move that I’m actually happy with. Now if only Delta would kick Amex Platinum card holders out I’d really be happy. Either get the Delta Reserve or buy the membership but having access just because you have a Platinum card sucks.

    I love when I happen to fly out of an airport that has SkyClubs and Centurion lounges as the Platinum folks tend to crowd that space out faster than they do the SkyClubs.

    Here’s to forcing Platinum card users to use either the Centurion Lounges or Priority Pass Lounges.

  30. United already lost me as a customer due to the frequent flyer changes completely screwing me as a long haul customer.

    The fact united is the only airline not to exempt lifetime club members doesn’t shock me. United is going full out to screw their customers over lately.

  31. I think its a GREAT IDEA. Many times i go in the lounge and its all these people who are from different terminals amd airlines because they are delayed on another airline. It just crowds the area. This wilp be a great way to keep down the congestion. I think the concept is a great idea. Wish it went into affect years ago.

  32. @Charlie McMillan — “After sampling the latest food selections in the domestic United lounges that I’ve visited in the past few months, I actually started sticking to the terminal more recently, where the food you pay for is much better.” —

    So totally true! The UA Domestic lounges are light-years behind (worse than) their Polaris lounges!

  33. As a tip, at least on American when you swipe your card you also need to scan your boarding pass as they don’t automatically correlate the two for you (although they should – this was a lazy implementation).

    In practice this means that if you plan on using the lounge after you land and you use your phone for your ticket you will need to screenshot your boarding pass before your flight as it is not accessible after the fact.

  34. So I had kept my admirals club membership after switching to Delta partly because in some airports it was a better option than Delta offered (inc partner lounges)…. no longer, guess that’s 450 I no longer need to fork over.

  35. I can’t believe United will not waive this for Life Members. I’ve been a Life Presidents/United Club member since 1965 — this is what I get for loyalty?

  36. This is why I canceled my Chase United Club card a few months ago and got the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to go to Priority Pass lounges regardless of my airline. Many PP lounges accept members on both departure and arrival.

    Each month I fly combinations of United, American, Delta, ANA, VietJet, Jetstar, SAS, etc.

    I don’t like landing and being told I can’t enter the lounge because my departing flight is not in the alliance.

  37. I was unaware of this new development until today at LGA when I was asked for my boarding pass. I think it’s a bad move. An individual’s club membership is for the individual’s convenience. I have occasionally used the Admirals Club when flying another airline (in Austin, Nashville and at DCA). I resent losing this capability. If the airlines want less passengers in the lounges, raise the membership fees.

    I also noted that today’s complimentary food offerings at LGA — always relatively terrible — are further reduced. Soon it will only be porridge, it seems, and cold porridge at that. I’ll continue to smuggle in my Au Bon Pain at what continues to be American’s second-saddest Admiral’s Club. DCA is undoubtedly the worst. And I’ll begrudgingly renew my Admiral’s Club membership because I need the work carrels. That’s about the only remaining reason.

  38. A fine business decision. No reason for them to wine and dine someone using the competitors product. Not sure about same day with international iteneraries, will be interesting to see how that works.

  39. I purchased a lifetime membership to the “Red Carpet Club” (United). in 1977. In the mid ‘80s I purchased a lifetime membership in the Northwest Orient Airlines ”Top Flight Club”. These were the airlines I used the most and the cost of membership made sense. I did purchase a few annual memberships with Alaska Airline. Both clubs (Now Delta and United) seem reticent to issue a new lifetime membership card upon their name change. As others noted In 2019 Delta Airlines started to restrict club use to passengers with a same day flight on Delta or an Alliance airline. This restriction was lifted on lifetime members almost from day one 2019. I do not believe it was out of the goodness of their heart. It has been my assumption that at least one lifetime member from Northwest had their lawyer write a letter. I’m encouraged to know that American Airlines (inventor of the club room) has backed off of their same day, same airline requirement for their lifetime members. United apparently stands alone refusing lifetime members access without a same day, same airline pass. I assume a sufficiently disgruntled lifetime member will require the attention of United’s management to this issue. United is still vying for the most arrogant airline. I would expect more from a spin-off from Boeing. Am I dating myself ?

  40. No impact on me. I never allow myself the insult of flying on us based carriers. I make a point of going out of my way to book a carrier that provides service such as Singapore, Ana, jal, or Cathay.

  41. For Admirals Club lounge access, does anyone know if Alaska (AS) is still considered a Partner?

    What’s funny is that Admirals Club members can still access Alaska lounges as part of their reciprocal agreement.

  42. I hope that Delta leads the way and reintroduces what was the original concept for Northwest Orient’s Top Flight Lounges. They were by invitation only from the board chairman based on actual flights flown on the company. It would create a whole new tier of loyalty. You could not simply purchase a membership.

  43. Very disappointing, especially given the combination of AA gutting codeshares with AS, making west coast travel impossible. Oh well, I’ll be canceling my AA Citi Executive card when it’s up for renewal.

    Guess it really wasn’t a membership after all?

  44. I used to be a USAirways club member. I was able to visit any time till after 9/11 when you couldn’t get through security without a ticket. I spent many happy hours hanging out in the club room in my younger days. Those were the days!

  45. These changes were needed at smaller airports where terminals are shared by more than one airline. At my home airport (PBI), Delta shares the terminal with jetBlue. Before the change, 1/2 the people in the Delta Skyclub were flying jetBlue to New York or Boston. It was out of control. Visiting the club was not a pleasure. Now it is a much much nicer experience and you can actually find a seat.

  46. I’m used to mostly flying global business or first, and most often United due to awards points. Surprise, surprise when I found out last year that a first class domestic ticket on United does not get you access into (what I used to call) the First Class Lounge.

  47. I canceled my AA Executive card. Based in BNA I typically fly AA for work but WN for leisure due to the favorable routes and times. So this is big blow to us BNA folks.

  48. I have the Citi card as well as a company travel card. It’s inconsistent as to whether or not American honors the guest member clause.

  49. Don’t know what to think about this. I’m pretty much always on *A flights anyway, so maybe this is okay for me from a United Club perspective. Still, I wish I could understand why the United Clubs are always so crowded. I’m a United Club member, Premier 1K, and Priority Pass member through Chase Sapphire — I’ve got ample access to plenty of lounges and the United ones always seem to be the worst. They’re always overcrowded, the food is terrible, and they’re hardly an oasis away from the main terminal. It’s infuriating to show up at 4:30pm for an afternoon flight from IAD to Europe and find standing room only. Maybe this change will help, but so too could charging more for membership. I would rather pay more and have a nicer experience than continue to experience the clubs as they are now. Wonder how long it will be until United club rates for 1Ks increase to $750, the Chase Club Card gets hit with guest and time of visit limitations a la Priority Pass, and they start selling Polaris memberships for $2000 per year. United does have quite the track record of stabbing it’s frequent flyers in the back (I guess they figure it’s safer than their previous MO of allowing them to be beaten and dragged off the planes).

  50. Jim 5:55pm ,that’s totally nonsense. Also for 2020 applies 120 segment’s and 100.000 miles to achieve 1K. Nevertheless I’m a loyal longtime United customer and I hate them for their many lies and the kind to kick the customer for their loyalty

  51. Now its time to say bye-bye to my Citi AA Executive card. Compared to Sapphire Reserve, its a joke.
    SR gives lounge access through Priority Pass and 3X travel points. AA exec gives neither. Pee-Yew.

  52. I would like less crowded lounges, even in a fortress hub like DFW. The food is really nonsense – cold soup in ORD and half eaten cheese is DFW. I always use the club for the airline I am flying. My weekly commute I skip the lounge and eat at my favored restaurant – club was just to save me from having to expense the meal.

    As for BNA, I always suspected the fact I had to stand up in the lounge was related to the SWA infiltration- but Tootsies has some stellar chicken and beer so I really was better off forgoing the lounge I paid for access to with the airline I paid to fly to make room for those without seat assignments on SWA.

  53. Currently my favorite club for food, drink and amenities is DELTA. Concerning club crowding, this is something club members ie; customers have no direct control over. The indirect control is with our feet. The club’s purpose has changed somewhat over the years. Currently I believe the club exists to drive seat miles. As observers we have the freedom to participate or not participate and spend our dollars elsewhere. As a person that committed the investment years ago to purchase the best accommodations UNITED or DELTA had to offer, I believe the service I am entitled to is still the best they offer. Apparently many airlines are granting the flying general public with only an ephemeral connection to the airline; the opportunity to enjoy the service of the club with almost no connection (loyalty) to the airline. The airlines have put themselves in a position where they market this product as an elite benefit for a few of its best customers. Then they turn around and bastardize the product with very low standards of entry. (A pass) The fact that the airlines have dispensed so many forms of access to the clubs guarantees full clubrooms more often than years ago. As a 42 year member of United club, I feel entitled to the best of what the club offers. All those years ago I carefully selected two airlines I believed stood the best chance of long term survival. No Pan Am, TWA, American (base of business) Air Cal, Republic, Ozark, eastern, Braniff. United made a commitment to me the same day I made a commitment them. As witness we both signed the contract and United took my money.

  54. Dropped these club membership years ago. Most airports have nice restaurants and bars now. Unless you are a total glutton and drunk the memberships just aren’t worth it. I simply pay-as-I-go and have a very nice experience.

  55. Currently AA EXP – but planning to cancel AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard. Using American Express Platinum for access to Centurion Club and – when necessary just paying for access (and getting reimbursed by Amex!) when I want to go to an Admirals Club – saving the credit card fee – there are no other benefits on this card from my perspective…

    As UA Premier Platinum I have still never bothered to take out membership to the VERY ordinary United Club…. And now that status at UA is determined only by the amount of money you spend, I will no longer be flying with them next year and will be moving my secondary status to Delta…. where my American Express Platinum card gets me into their (far better) lounges anyway!

    Priority Pass from Chase Sapphire Reserve (which allows 2 guests free) makes up for any other lounges that I might need!

    Bye Admirals and United Clubs – not going to miss you!

  56. Life time member. Only go for a bath room break. I can understand restrictions on new members or renewals as they would know the “new” rules. Ridiculous to have any changes for previous life time purchasers. This is the equivalent of changing the 100 yard dash to a 110 yard dash. Yes I know the old bromide about “we can change the rules at any time.” In this instants it makes no sense.

  57. I have 3-million miles on AA. I don’t know, but this may be the last year with the Admiral’s club. The cost went up 22% this year. The value went down with this new restriction. I have been forced to switch airlines recently from AA because the cost on AA was more than twice what it was on Delta/VA. I see that every AA flight is full and I travel about once a month… the last time I was in LA the club was closed because the flight got in in the middle of the night. Does that make it worth being a member. If the membership was free or almost free you could argue that the ticket was paying part of the price. But at $45 per each 1.5 hour visit is guess it was barely worth it in the past.

  58. There was a time when the Clubs and loyalty programs were about the passengers. Actually a method to create brand loyalty. By the time they are finishing making them a “profit” center and runoff all their customers we will see some genius realize that they can go back to what made these programs so great for building customer loyalty in the first place and there will be a whole new program and set of rules…. Of course, everyone will have 180 days to use their existing miles and the new program will start from 0. What a great idea to dump all that liability for the millions of miles everyone saved up…. Start over with the millennials.

  59. To answer one question I saw in the comments. “What about the one time United Pass”. Bottom line, good luck trying to use it for access. In any of the larger hubs and stations across the United system, 95% of the time you will be turned away during any of the busy or peak hub connection times. Was told once at the Denver hub that only thing I should do is stay vigilant close to the club entry so that when they pull in off the floor entrance to the club, the “Sorry no one time passes being accepted at this time” to bolt over to get possible access. Very convenient perk with my credit card privilege of giving me that benefit. Two weeks ago I cancelled my Delta Platinum World card because of 5he same day travel restriction on the the club airline. And also they raised the annual membership on the card, due to all the new “benefits of the card”. I primarily signed up for the Delta card when they did allow for $29 a one time pass to the club. Delta’s clubs are far superior to United’s in terms of available food an other amenities. My problem is I fly in and out of a United hub and therefore by necessity, my airline of choice is United. And now I need to pay $650 a year for club access with inferior food choices, acceptance of children, and overcrowding? No thanks. Much better off with the benefit of Priority Pass I get with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. When in Denver I get a $28 allowance toward anything on the menu. So I enjoy a quite a satisfying meal anytime of day all on Priority Pass and go up to the mezzanine area where very few go and enjoy the peace and quiet until time for my flight.

  60. The AA lounge at CLT on Sunday, November 3 seemed less crowded than the last time I was there (mob scene) of course it was Sunday. It was nice to get a seat and seemed less chaotic than usual. Lady at the desk seemed confused about the “new rules” and I couldn’t fish out my boarding pass fast enough for the next leg of my trip so I asked her to print a new one. All she had to do was look at my PNR. Status: Lifetime Member of Admirals Club.

  61. LJ- I would agree that my odds of using the one time pass are slim. I only fly United on International and have a lounge with my business class ticket. I fly SW domestically and had hoped to use the United lounge for my next trip.
    Also, unless you know different, the Timberline at DIA is no longer accepting Priority Pass. That was our favorite perk of the Reserve card. No word yet on another PP lounge in Denver.

  62. These airline lounge benefits are being clipped by all these credit cards and now even if you buy an airline membership. It’s just not worth it anymore. Why spend the money for a short visit to a crappy airline lounge? Go have a drink in the terminal and get on the plane like everyone else.

    It used to be a great perk. When you got an Amex Plat card, you used to be able to go to all the different US Airlines, AA, UA and DL. Now, only DL. Only when you fly DL. And I don’t think you can even bring a guest. And the Centurian Lounges, you can only use them on the outbound flight, and only for an hour or so before you have to go to the gate. Awful. Not worth the $450.

    So much for Amex and their Plat card.

    I’ll keep my money and sit at the gate.

  63. Since new regulations have kicked in, AA lounge at DEN and all three at ORD have been much less crowded.
    I could not be happier. Being that I fly AA exclusively…

  64. Outside of having a cushy chair, albeit no always, I have received little or no benefit as a First Class Passenger x 2. My husband and I are upper tier flyers and I have seen the quality of these airline clubs get lower and lower. I will not be renewing either Amex Centurion card, nor AA elite MasterCard as you are correct. Better service and food and comfort at the Priority Lounges . Thanks Chase.

    I just saved 5,650.00 per year so I think I can get a nice meal and a drink six or seven times a year for that without being insulted by staff when you try to use what you think you are entitled to get in these memberships.

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