American now denying OneWorld Sapphire/Emerald members lounge access on domestic itineraries?

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?

Comments

  1. As a Platinum/Sapphire I was never able to enter an AC while traveling “solely on North American itineraries within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.”

    Are/were EXP allowed before?

  2. Wow. Used the JFK Flagship lounge with my BA Gold card last Friday. Will be truly sad if that benefit goes.

    I mean, I still have Admirals Club access via my American Express Platinum card. But the Flagship Lounges when I’d fly AA domestic were really nice to have for the very short while I’ve had it. 🙁

  3. @Vinny V You weren’t as an AAdvantage member, but a Sapphire member with British Airways, Cathay Pacfic, LAN, or other OW member could. If one had non-AA OW Emerald status, that meant Flagship Lounge at JFK/LAX/other airports.

    This seems pretty customer unfriendly. I have foreign Star Gold for the ability to use United/US Airways lounges on domestic itineraries. Hope Star Alliance doesn’t follow suit.

  4. American’s website seems to indicate that the restriction applies to the flagship lounges, but the admirals club is still accessible by OW emerald/sapphire elites, but i could be mistaken

  5. Ridiculous! Airlines are in a service industry but there is not service. Something needs to be done here. On the other hand AA, and UA’s for that matter, lounges are far from some of the standards that we’ve experienced by other foreign carriers. i.e. LH, BA, CX.

    When is this going to stop? We’ll soon have to give $$ to the FA and Pilots before taking off as part of a “service fee”!

  6. AA going after “overentitled” elites now? And how have you not tweeted @AmericanAir about this yet, Ben?

  7. One more reason to have the Amex Platinum credit card. Lounge access to AA, Delta and USAirways in the US and international + lounge access to Priority Pass.

  8. If it’s true that foreign-carrier top elites can still access the basic (business class) Admiral’s Club lounge on a domestic itinerary, this seems consistent with other carriers and alliances. The enhanced (Flagship) lounge is reserved for passengers actually flying in that premium class and other super-elites specified by the operating carrier (AA). Just as a foreign-carrier top-elite member with an economy or business ticket will not get into BA’s Concorde room, American may be doing the same with access their high-end lounge for those who either have a ticket in the designated premium class of service or are their designated super-elites (their non-published elite level.)

    Of course, if this isn’t the case (as now appears to be so) and they really are cutting off ALL free lounge access to foreign-carrier top-elites on North American-only itineraries, those elites really should pitch a fit with their sponsoring foreign carrier because American isn’t playing fair.

    American enjoys a monopoly over North America within the oneWorld alliance and, while they may get a small reimbursement from the other oneWorld carriers for providing lounge access to their elites, they know they could argue that the agreed-upon reimbursement rate doesn’t cover costs and extract quite a bit more out of those elites if they really want their lounge access on a North-America-only itinerary.

    American isn’t a magical unicorn in the industry. They do need to show that they are capable of being profitable someday. At the same time, it does seem unfair to their own elites to automatically provide a benefit to foreign carrier elites that they are unwilling to provide to their own top-elite members, or even domestic paid-first-class ticket holders for that matter. The other US-based airlines, of course, are guilty of this as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if UA, US, and DL all followed AA’s “lead” on this race to the bottom.

    Rather than BA or QF being the culprits here, suppose they are actually the victims of AA throwing their weight around in the alliance. If so, what if they decide to withhold lounge access for AA’s top-elites who are not ticketed in an appropriate class of service for free access to their lounges in retaliation?

  9. If this is true, this totally sucks. I guess that shiny new BA Gold card would become basically worthless.

  10. Looks like AA is closing a (abused?) loophole.
    Many Flyertalkers/Milepointers credited flights to an alliance in order to take advantage of this loopphole.

  11. @ Dan — Not sure how this is an “abused loophole.” It’s standard practice for airlines to allow lounge access on all itineraries to their elites, and foreign carriers are the exception rather than the rule.

    Also, it’s not like crediting miles to other programs comes at no cost. You don’t earn the huge mileage bonuses you get here, you don’t get complimentary upgrades, etc. There’s a HUGE trade off.

    Lastly, keep in mind American was making money on these members, so I can’t imagine this was American’s choice.

  12. As an AA EXP oneworld Emerald this doesn’t affect me, but I don’t like the trend, so I’m worried about a reciprocal arrangement for foreign lounges.

  13. No
    This is in response to the large numbe of BMI deadbeats who were given gold on BA rather than Bronze and Silver
    Ideally BA shoul dhave given Brone to BMI silevers and Silver to BMI gold members
    BA gold is an EXP on AA
    BMI gold is ridiculous
    I do not think AA wanted large numbers of them flooding the lounges here.

  14. @ Ozaer — While they’re not as great as foreign lounges, surely there’s some value in free wifi, a quiet(er) place to work, and showers during a layover, no?

  15. Lounge access on domestic flights with OW is a benefit. Why is AA allowed to make an exception?

  16. Twitter American Air is unaware of changes.. They will get back to me shortly. No answer from QF as yet…

  17. @ Ryan — I have no direct knowledge of their compensation system, though I know that’s how Star Alliance operates.

  18. THIS IS NOT TRUE!! I just found out that this was an accident and the policy did not change. My sources say We should see something soon that corrects it.

  19. If its true that’s too bad for all the BA Golds who were coming into the lounges, but I don’t see how its “not fair.”
    The airline is free to changes its admission policies as it sees fit. Emeralds traveling on overseas itineraries still have access to the FL AC. If you want access otherwise, pay for an F ticket.

  20. I ve never been fan off american lounges,those pretzels and carrots is the most you can get,i even skip visiting the lounges,its unfortunate when america is the land of plenty,everything is large and generous but compare to european and asian/mideastern lounges,american lounges are the worst,so no regret access or not.

  21. My home airport, MCO, doesn’t even have a lounge so I lose nothing there. I agree that the American lounges are about as bad as they get anywhere, anyway.

  22. The language in this section of oneworld.com was changed inadvertently and without proper authorization – and it has now been revised to make clear that the alliance’s policy in this area has not changed. As you will see at http://www.oneworld.com/ffp/lounge-access/, it now reads:
    1. American Airlines AAdvantage® members, regardless of their tier status or class of travel, 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. For more information, visit, http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/airportAmenities/AdmiralsClub.jsp
    So everything is back to the way it was originally and to the way it should be. Top tier cardholders in other member airlines’ frequent flyer programme continue to be welcomed in lounges on purely North American sectors – and everywhere else in the world, subject to usual oneworld rules.

    Apologies to all concerned.

    Michael Blunt
    oneworld Vice-President Corporate Communications

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