American Express-American Airlines Lounge Relationship Ends March 22, and Other Big Amex and American News

There Has Been Speculation About the End of Amex Lounge Access on American Since October

Back in October there was a good bit of speculation that American Airlines would stop offering lounge access to American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders.

A few people reported being denied access, but that seemed anomalous. What was telling was that American Express seemed to stop listing American Admirals Club access as a benefit in their card marketing materials. They didn’t want to promise it to new cardholders, it appeared, perhaps suggesting they couldn’t guarantee it would be an ongoing benefit.

Both American Airlines and American Express strongly confirmed that Admirals Club access remained a benefit of Platinum and Centurion American Express cards.

Very explicitly they claimed there had been no decision to end the relationship.

I concluded at the time, then, that the benefit well might change though it had not yet changed:

Neither company’s statement made explicit assurances about the future, at some point there’s a contract that will have to be renegotiated. “No changes to announce” is not the same as “there will be no changes.”

American Express Cardholders Will Lose American (and US Airways) Lounge Access, After All

I spoke with American Express and to American Airlines this morning, and they’ve let me know that American has “chosen not to move forward with lounge access.”

They told me that March 22nd would be the last day for Platinum and Centurion cardholders to access American Airlines lounges. US Airways lounge access will terminate the same day.

While the decision wasn’t a shock, I was surprised by the date – I had been under the impression the current American Airlines contract runs through 2014. American Express explained that it was terminated early.

There will be emails going out to members over the next few weeks, and card statements will include a notification in January.

Remaining Lounge Options for American Express Platinum Cardholders

American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders still of course get access to:

  • Centurion lounges in Las Vegas and Dallas. There has been plenty of speculation about a coming lounge in San Francisco, and some speculation about Newark, New York JFK, and Miami.
  • American Express has signed a lease to build a new Centurion lounge at New York’s LaGuardia airport. It will open in 2014, but I do not yet have information on location.
  • Delta lounges when flying Delta same-day.
  • Priority Pass Select lounges. This means Alaska Airlines clubs and a variety of clubs in the US and abroad.
  • Airspace lounges in Baltimore, Cleveland, and New York JFK.
  • And the $200 airline fee credit that is provided to cardmembers (must choose one airline for the whole year) can be used on lounge day passes.

This Affects Centurion Cardholder Benefits on US Airways, Too

American Express Centurion cardholders will also be losing US Airways Platinum status. Here’s what American Express told me:

The Status benefit will also end with lounge access. Centurion Members who have enrolled or renewed their US Airways status prior to March 22, 2014 will continue to access Platinum Preferred status benefits through the end of their current membership period.

So any Amex Black Card holders should make sure their status is re-upped before the benefit ends in order to enjoy US Airways status through February 2015.

This Improves the Relative Value of the Citi Executive Card

This leaves the Citi Executive card as the best way to secure American Airlines lounge access for most regular American Airlines flyers.

There’s currently a 60,000 point signup bonus for the card after $5000 spend wtihin three months which runs through the end of the year.

In addition to lounge access, the $450 annual fee card offers:

  • 10,000 elite qualifying miles after 40,000 miles in spend
  • No foreign currency transaction fees
  • First checked bag free for up to 8 people on your reservation
  • Priority check–in, airport screening and boarding privileges

What This May Mean for American Airlines Co-Brand Credit Card Holders

My guess is that the exclusive credit card lounge relationship between American Airlines and Citi is another indication that Citi will become the exclusive card issuer of the combined airline… eventually (and perhaps when that happens that we will also see additional card benefits coming with their premium Executive card product, since at the price point it really ought to be a bit richer for elite members who don’t benefit incrementally from the free checked bags or airport priority services).

Clearly a series of steps needs to be taken if the two card issuers are to be deepening their relationship. This makes Citi’s products more attractive to American’s regular flyers, something they wouldn’t be attempting to do if there was a likely transition away from Citi. On the contrary, it’s likely something that Citi was looking for and American must be getting something in exchange to the extent that American is giving up the American Express revenue stream.

How This Change Affects My Credit Card Strategy

My own strategy this coming year that I’m considering is getting the Citi Executive card and keeping the US Airways MasterCard in order to meet required spending on both cards ($40,000 and $25,000 respectively) to earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles apiece. My bet there is that 2014 status miles from both US Airways and American will eventually be combined towards 2015 status, and that would be a great head start on requalifying for Executive Platinum next year.

I’ll keep at least one of my American Express Platinum cards, too (I have both a personal and a business) because they approve the biggest charges for me and I’ll need it for work reimburseables — plus I love the Centurion lounge in Dallas.

Disclosure: there are no referral links in this post.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was told by someone in customer relations that bc I received a 1 time retention bonus last year for 15,000 miles, I was definitely not entitled to any further miles bonus and the most I could get was a $100 credit. I was told that nobody gets miles or more than $100, but when I offered him proof, he knew all about the blogs before I opened my mouth.
    Do I need a platinum Amex? Definitely not with the citi exec card.

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