While US airlines typically don’t allow their elite members to access lounges when traveling domestically, this isn’t the case with foreign carriers. In other words, a Lufthansa Star Gold member can access a Lufthansa lounge on an itinerary traveling within Germany, and a British Airways OneWorld Sapphire member can access a British Airways lounge on an itinerary traveling within the UK.
Here in the US, lounges are a profit center for airlines whereby they try to sell memberships, day passes, etc., while abroad they’re usually reserved for premium cabin passengers and elite members.
One of the benefits of having elite status with a foreign carrier is that it gets you lounge access whenever you travel, even domestically. For example, I have British Airways Gold status, which equates to OneWorld Emerald status. Thanks to this I get access to OneWorld first class lounges whenever I travel, like American’s Flagship Lounge, even if it’s a domestic flight.
At least that was the policy up until now, as the verbiage on the OneWorld website has just changed:
American Airlines AAdvantage® members and oneworld top tier status holders, regardless of their tier status, cannot access lounges when travelling solely on North American itineraries within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
Previously just AAdvantage members were excluded from accessing lounges on itineraries within the US, so the “oneworld top tier status holders” verbiage is new.
I really hope this isn’t the case, as making this change without any advance notice isn’t fair. There are plenty of people I know that qualify for elite status with a foreign airline solely for the lounge access benefit, so taking that benefit away overnight seems drastic.
And if this is in fact a new policy, I have to wonder who prompted it. American gets paid every time someone enters their lounge with an elite card from another airline, so surely they loved the revenue. Was it British Airways or Qantas that wanted the policy change, given that they probably have the most OneWorld Sapphire/Emerald members traveling in the US?