Something I Didn’t Know About American’s New Flagship Lounges

In February I first wrote about the major changes that American is making to their lounges. Perhaps most significantly, American is greatly revamping their Flagship Lounge concept. Flagship Lounges are American’s international first class lounges, which up until now have been available to the following passengers:

  • Passengers traveling in oneworld longhaul international first class same day
  • Passengers traveling in first class on American’s A321 between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco
  • American Executive Platinum members traveling on a longhaul international itinerary, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight, even if it’s domestic

Flagship-Lounge-Renovated
Rendering of American’s new Flagship Lounge

As part of these Flagship Lounge changes, American will both be renovating their existing lounges and changing access requirements. Specifically, American will basically be turning Flagship Lounges into international business class lounges, meaning that passengers in first class, business class, and oneworld Emerald members will have access to the lounges.

However, what I hadn’t realized until now is that AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, and oneworld Sapphire members will also have access to Flagship Lounges. Per American’s lounge updates page:

  • First and Business Class customers (on qualifying international flights or 3-class transcontinental markets)*
  • AAdvantage® Executive Platinum and Platinum members in any cabin (on qualifying international flights)*
  • oneworld® Emerald and Sapphire members in any cabin on all flights**

This doesn’t apply yet, but rather only once the new lounges open next year (to avoid confusion, American is renaming their Flagship Lounges “International First Class Lounges” for the time being).

I realize American is increasing the size of their Flagship Lounges, but they’re going to have to increase their size by a lot to accommodate all these passengers. The way I see it:

  • This is great news for AAdvantage Platinum and other oneworld Sapphire members
  • At the same time, this is sort of a downgrade in terms of Executive Platinum benefits, since Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members will have access to all the same American Airlines lounges (fortunately oneworld Emerald members still get access to oneworld first class lounges, like Cathay Pacific first class lounges, Qantas first class lounges, Japan Airlines first class lounges, etc.)
  • I imagine that Flagship Lounges will be really crowded with all these passengers in them
  • As a point of comparison, United’s Polaris Lounges are only open to business & first class customers, and elite members just get access to United Clubs

united-polaris-lounge-chicago-4
United Polaris Lounge Chicago O’Hare

For what it’s worth, the first physical space of a new Flagship Lounge is now open. Specifically, the Flagship Lounge New York JFK has opened, and you can find some great pictures of it on The Unaccompanied Flyer blog. It does look a lot bigger than the old space, though I still suspect the lounge will be overcrowded once these access policy changes kick in.

flagship-lounge-jfk
New Flagship Lounge JFK, per The Unaccompanied Flyer

Bottom line

I’m happy to see American trying to update their lounges, though I’m a bit skeptical about crowding issues. Now all business class passengers, as well as oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, will have access to the same lounges. I assume American has run the numbers on this in terms of allocating space. One of the nice things about Flagship Lounges has long been that they’re generally a bit quieter than Admirals Clubs, though I doubt that will be the case anymore.

Are you happy to see that oneworld Sapphire members will get access to Flagship Lounges?

Comments

  1. That *really* puts a downer on the idea of the Admirals Club and being the idea of Emerald status flying in the US. We get access to the same lounge as a level below us? How is this even possible? I get if they had the actual first class lounge, an Emerald, then a Sapphire lounge, (Like BA lounges in London w/ Concorde) but to lop the latter two into one is deteriorating.

  2. I visited the JFK International First Class lounge on Sunday afternoon before my HiFly flight to Helsinki. It is a nice upgrade over the old flagship lounge. How ever even at this point it was kinda full, most of seats with power outlets were taken except bar counter type of seating. Good thing that there was plenty of drinks (soft, beer, wine) available, champangne bottle used to be always empty, now there were multiple bottles available at the same time. I don’t think this is a good change if you travel during peak hours.

  3. Award flights count as well, correct? So my AA ticketed ORD-MAD Business class award on Iberia would get me access, correct?

    I wish AA I.T. could somehow make a feature on teh website/app that would tell you in your reservation section what lounges you are able to access on any given reservation…..would make it much easier for everyone.

  4. If you look at the bottom of that page, you can see that the double asterisk notes that:

    “**AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Platinum members traveling solely on North American itineraries will not qualify. North America is defined as the United States (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.”

    So it looks like no actual change there – Platinum and EP members traveling domestically in the US will not get lounge access.

  5. @ Alex — The change is that AAdvantage Platinum members traveling internationally get Flagship Lounge access, which they didn’t previously.

  6. @lucky – yeah i reread that right after I posted and then couldn’t find the delete button to remove it. Oops!

    Gotta agree though, can’t imagine how this doesn’t end up overcrowding those lounges unless they are increasing capacity even more than it seems.

  7. I wonder what the plans are for Admirals Clubs? The only people accessing a regular Admirals Club will be passengers who buy a membership (or have the Citi card that includes membership). Admirals Club will be totally based on revenue members in locations where there’s also a Flagship Lounge. (locations having only an Admirals Club without a Flagship lounge will see all eligible passengers in the Admirals Club).

    For the fees they’re charging for membership now, are they going to increase the free food offerings? Doubtful. Qantas has a similar concept in Australia with separate Qantas Clubs and Qantas Business Lounges domestically. Status (Oneworld Emerald / Sapphire) or business class travel puts you in the Qantas Business Lounge, leaving paid Qantas Club members and Qantas Gold (lowest tier) as the only folks in the regular Qantas Club. Food, beverages, and coffee in the regular Qantas Club are a significant step-up from the Admirals Club.

  8. I strongly dislike that American doesn’t differentiate the tiers while boarding, they call first, then they call anyone with status. What’s the point of being EP when all the Gold & Platinums are rushing the gate with all the other gate lice. They really need to separate those during the boarding process and they should absolutely acknowledge EP over the other tiers for lounge access rights as well.

  9. Maybe AA knows something we don’t, i.e., like the actual number of PLTs taking international routes of five or more hours on any given day isn’t significant enough to cause a big problem in these lounges. Also, can the numbers of EXP and PLT members be going down now that there is EQD requirement? At this time these lounges may be overcrowded but over the next two years it may be a changing landscape.

  10. They’re just encouraging people to hit the Platinum level really. The benefits of Platinum pro and ExPlat in the go forward world are diminishing. This kind of tempers the gloom/doom of the whole revenue model. The drop from ExPlat to plat in the 2017 revenue model now doesn’t seem as bad.

  11. These new rules seem to be in effect already for Platinum members.

    Last month I checked into the new Admirals Club in Rio (GIG), I handed my economy boarding pass over while I pulled out my Prestige card. The lady told me that I dont need my card since I am Platinum…

    I assumed it was a mistake, but didnt argue. I then tried to get into the new AC in Miami with just my boarding pass, and again was let in.

    I would agree that it could lead to overcrowding in 2017, but probably not many people know about the perk. By 2018 there will be a lot less passengers with status…

  12. One of the reasons I haven’t dumped BA’s executive club is the better lounge access I get in the US as a OW sapphire. I can think of really no reasons/excuses to stick with them now that they’ve devalued so heavily and keep those horrid fees.

    Is AAdvantage the way to go or is there another OW program? I’m stuck with OW being based in South Florida…

  13. @Chris, was it the regular Admiral’s club or Flagship lounge in Rio? Platinums have always been able to get into Admirals club when traveling internationally, just not Flagship. The change is that now they can get into Flagship.

  14. So are the new flagship lounges basically going to replace the admiral’s clubs?
    The access policy for the new flagship lounge seems to imply this.

  15. @Tom Yes and no. The new International First/Flagship Lounges won’t completely replace Admiral’s Clubs. They will replace Admiral’s Clubs to the extent that Admiral’s Clubs will no longer serve as premium class or elite flyer lounges. Admiral’s Clubs will likely be something CC holders, paid members, and one-day pass holders will choose to use.

    -Max P.

  16. I visited the JFK International First Class lounge on Sunday around 11 am. There were maybe 10 other passengers in there at that time. Unfortunately, couldn’t take pictures but the lounge is indeed a MASSIVE upgrade over existing lounges. It’s huge. Upon entering there’s a long-ish hallway and you enter the main lounge area. To the left is some restaurant style seating and a wine island. Straight ahead is an area with different types of chairs and couches with a view of terminal 8 tarmac. There are ample power outlets everywhere. The two surprising things for me were: (1) the food spread was very limited – cheese, crackers, 2 types of soup, cold cuts, bread; (2) there’s no coffee machine but just a few coffee dispensers with regular and decaf colombian coffee. The restrooms and showers are to the left and back of the lounge. Apart from the lack of food, I found the lounge to be a very pleasant place to be (taking into account how empty it was).

  17. @Supropal

    The food spread varies by the time of day. Lunch departures are very limited out of JFK so you managed to catch possibly the worst time for the buffet! Other than that, pretty much my exact same experience.

    -Max P.

  18. Passengers flying on First on cabins with three cabins from MIA to LAX also get access to the Flagship lounge.

    MIA-LAX always gets lost in the premium transcon routes.

  19. @Wayne, I was just in the LAX lounge and was told it would be something like 6 months, they didn’t know exactly. But the Flagship has been relegated to the back corner of the Admirals, at the end of the hallway past the bathrooms. Not sure how big it was because I was only flying domestic and didn’t have access but it was pretty small.

  20. **Sort of related**

    My wife and I recently used the Flagship Lounge at LAX (thanks Mero). It was quite full and the only seats were near the entrance. We weren’t very happy at first, but then we spent a memorable hour watching all the wannabes try to enter the lounge which was guarded by a very efficient and “firm” lady. The excuses were hilarious but as you’d expect the DYKWIA people were the best!

  21. I was at the JFK AA first lounge last Friday and thought it was great. Plenty of free flowing champagne and some half decent food. I was on AA100 departing 18:20 and the lounge was pretty busy then. I agree with some of the comments here, it’s going to get crowded with the new access rules.

  22. This is insane. Where’s the incentive to earn EXP if everyone gets the same lounge access? This lounge is going to be packed to misery-inducing levels and frankly I’d rather be at a Starbucks than a lounge where I have to fight for seating. And AA lounges are notoriously dirty w/ poor clean up of dirty cups and plates. Now it will only get worse. When I heard Cathay was relocating to American’s Terminal 8 at JFK, I was excited. But now I’d rather have British Airways’ under-par First Class lounge at Terminal 7 (which is usually a quiet and uncrowded space when I travel on CX out of T7) than a jam-packed AA lounge at T8.

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