American Opening New Flagship Lounges With More Access and Introducing Sit-Down Dining

American is introducing new sit-down dining options for their premium Flagship lounges, adding new lounges and renovating others, and making their first class lounges available to more customers.

Currently American has two primary types of lounges:

  • Flagship lounges. These are American’s first class lounges, for those flying international first class (and 3-cabin first class transcon) and that American’s top tier elite members can use when flying internationally.

  • Admirals Clubs. These are most of American’s clubs. Members buy access, use a premium Citibank credit card to gain access, or have access based on the class of service of their ticket.

The “Flagship” name has an interesting history. American opened the very first airport club lounge in 1939. New York’s Mayor LaGuardia was criticized for having too big an office at New York LaGuardia airport so he rented out some of the space to American. They couldn’t name it “Admirals Club” because a judge determined people might think it was for Navy Admirals only, so it was named “Flagship Club.”

(The second club was at Washington National airport. They weren’t allowed to serve alcohol, so they stored bottles for members. This practice continued until liquor laws were changed in 1970.)

Paid memberships to American’s clubs weren’t introduced until 1967 (previously they had been given out by AA Sales). The price was $25 per year or $250 for a lifetime membership.

American is Introducing Tableside Meal Service in (4) Flagship Lounges

Although predominantly buffet, American opened a Flagship Dining Room inside the Admirals Club on the DFW D Concourse in the fall. This was temporary and an early test.


Credit: Hans Mast

American will introduce pre-flight meals “with full tableside service and elegant dining” at New York JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami.


Rendering of New Flagship Dining, Courtesy American Airlines

American is Building New Flagship Lounges in Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia

American will be renovating the New York JFK, Los Angeles, and Chicago Flagship lounges starting this spring to offer “more expansive spaces” and “more modern furnishings[.]”


Current Flagship Lounge, Chicago O’Hare


Rendering of New Flagship Lounge Seating, Courtesy American Airlines

They will also add Flagship Lounges at:

  • Dallas Fort-Worth at the D concourse Admirals Club lounge, which currently hosts Flagship dining – the lounge will be renovated to add space. (Back in June DFW Airport confirmed for me that a Flagship Lounge would be coming.)
  • Miami at the D30 Admirals Club, which will be renovated to add space.
  • Philadelphia at the A West club between Gates A15 and A16.

In the near-term this should be seen as a vote of confidence in international operations at Philadelphia.

More Customers Will Have Access to Flagship Lounges

Access has been for international first class passengers, premium transcon first class passengers, Executive Platinum members flying internationally, and Emerald members of oneworld partner frequent flyer programs.

Starting in 2017, long haul and premium transcon business class passengers will have access as well.

Renovating the London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge

American starts renovations this month on the London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge.

They say the “space will be renovated with private showers and dressing areas, food and beverage service and valet pressing service to help customers feel and look their best after a trans-Atlantic flight.”

Of course, the lounge already has private showers, food and beverage service and valet pressing service. I’m actually quite a fan of the Heathrow Arrivals lounge.


Existing London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge

New Admirals Clubs

Construction on new clubs in Houston (IAH) and Orlando (MCO) is scheduled to start in the next few months.


Rendering of Orlando Admirals Club, Courtesy American Airlines

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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Comments

  1. They’ll need to be a lot more expansive if they become business class lounges. Hopefully the dining will be more than what was previewed in DFW which was on par with a Luby’s cafeteria.

  2. This is terrific news. For one, the Flagship Lounges were starting to look SO tired. And second, extending the premium space to business class passengers makes more sense given what competitors are doing. AA has been behind for so long. Glad to see them stepping it up.

    Any word on timeline for completion of renovations at JFK?

  3. For Philadelphia, there aren’t any transcon first class flights…and I think the only first class transatlantic flight is BA and maybe Qatar? So is this more of a 2017 improvement for Philadelphia when the business class customers will have access?

  4. Referring to the first picture in this blog entry, you write, “American opened a Flagship Dining Room inside the Admirals Club on the DFW A Concourse in the fall.” Having just eaten there (and having used the exercise equipment and cool showers in the A Concourse club), I am pretty sure that picture is of the Flagship Dining in the D Concourse club.

  5. Are you sure about Premium biz class transcons being eligible. The announcement said A321T bus passengers (i.e., LAX-JFK) but was specific to that aircraft type, and didn’t mention 777s which are premium transcons LAX-MIA.

  6. It’s good that they’re renovating the Flagship Lounges–which are at best (LAX) a nice alternative to the AC, but I’m skeptical of how America West management plans to offer “elegant dining” experience. What does that even mean? Sodium-filled soups? Sara Lee bagels with Philadelphia cream cheese? Meh. And for expanding access to include business class? That’s a disaster waiting to happen, just look inside the JFK Flagship Lounge on any given evening. Do they mean expanding access to *paid* J? Who then uses the AC? Members and OW Platinum?

  7. @beachfan — if they’re opening a Flagship Lounge in PHL, then it would have to include business passengers, since (as far as I know) there is no 3-cabin first class on AA anywhere out of PHL.

  8. AA will actually damage their brand further if they plan to serve the rubbish that can be founded at the Flagship Lounge @LAX
    Their food on board is vastly repulsive
    Ii stopped flying them Domestically due to the changes in the program mileage devaluations /new redemption costs that are coming shortly
    I’m in the middle of an around the world journey in First with Lufthansa Emirates Qantas Cathay Pacific and JAL
    I shudder thinking how bad AAs food is and being held captive by their inferior standards
    I’d argue that in 2000 American was doing a highly satisfactory on board meal service even domestically in business and first class
    Now they are US Air in food quality on board with more attractive presentation
    For those willing to settle with inferior quality American may be an attractive choice
    For me it would mean dining before boarding or suffering the fate of Americans clueless management which translates to dry rubber in the air
    I like American otherwise BTW

  9. Adding an Admirals Club in IAH is a huge. American uses Terminal A in IAH , which is a barren wasteland of food/drink options. Current lounge space in Terminal A only includes a small United Club, and a shuttered 3rd party lounge (which I presume the new Admirals Club will use).

    Houston is the 4th biggest city in the country and attracts lots of business travelers. The AA airport experience in IAH will be substantially improved.

  10. 1) Pretty sure they are de-hubbing PHX long term.

    2) Find it hard to believe they’d de-hub CLT, just b/c airport costs are SOOO cheap compared to MIA/Reagan/PHL/NYC. That said, might find the international flights leaking to PHL and MIA.

    3) As AA de-emphasizes A/F long haul, they’ll have to give some J customers access to make the space worthwhile. Also, some J are going to slide back to Econ+, who won’t get access.

    4) Wish there was a way to buy/earn in. I’m an EXP, but I use Cebtruion lounges where available due to better food.

  11. So then the Admiral’s Club is going to be run exclusively for the benefit of AC members, people who have credit card access and Oneworld Elite Members? Because if the Flagship Lounge will now be available to all First Class and Business Class Passengers on international and three class transcons, there will be no category of American Airlines passengers who have access to the AC but not the Flagship Lounge. Or am I missing something?

  12. Does the LHR arrivals lounge use Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge admittance rules? I’ve got a Citi Prestige, and wonder if I can get into the arrivals lounge there. Thanks for clarifying that there are different rules for admittance – I didn’t realize it (still a relative newbie).

  13. @Rikki

    The majority of folks with longer privileges are people who buy annual membership to the Admirals Club.

  14. @Gary, The announcement says that Flagship Dining will be available exclusively to first-class customers. Is that correct? If so, that is a big change from the way Flagship Dining works at DFW D23. What do you think other Oneworld carriers will say to their Emeralds being excluded when they admit AA Emeralds to all of the services of their first-class lounges?

  15. “What do you think other Oneworld carriers will say to their Emeralds being excluded when they admit AA Emeralds to all of the services of their first-class lounges?”

    Why don’t you ask BA, which excludes AA Emeralds from the Concorde Room and Pre-Flight Dining/Supper, or QR, which excludes AA Emeralds from its “real” lounges at Doha?

  16. @Mike Good point.. I’ve never been to those lounges and probably never will. I just hope CX and JL allow me to continue to enjoy all the benefits of their lounges.

  17. @David Gonzalez, I am biased as I live in PHX and hope it doesn’t get dehubbed. With the current trends, I don’t see the need to dehub. I’m fairly optimistic as I see a lot of positives out of PHX after the merger.

    At LAX, AA currently has 9 gates at terminal 4 (soon to be 11), 4 gates at TBIT (during the morning hours), 4 gates at terminal 6, and then the regional terminal (gate 44), so effectively 20 gates. At PHX they have 58 gates, though they share a couple of gates with WestJet, Air Canada, and BA, so probably 56 gates is a safe total.

    If AA could get 30 more gates at LAX, I could see them dehubbing PHX, but even if they shift a more realistic 30% of traffic through LAX, ORD, and DFW, PHX is still a hub and well located for a lot of traffic from small-medium Pacific and mountain cities to places further east..

    PHX is now the 12th largest metro area by population in the US, with a fairly strong economy, and is still growing faster than other metro areas. In contrast with cities other airlines have dehubbed, where local populations were stagnating or shrinking.

    AA has 3 PHX lounges, all of which have been renovated in the past couple of years. The airport is currently renovating and expanding terminal 3, with the goal of closing the ancient terminal 2. They then plan to expand the customs and immigration facility and add an additional pier to terminal 4, unless AA does drastically reduce service.

    At the moment, AA cannot add any more flights to PHX during peak times as there are no gates available. Pretty much every flight that arrives early now ends up waiting for a gate. On a few occasions recently I’ve seen an AA aircraft parked at a Southwest gate in the D concourse, as they needed an extra gate.

    PHX is pushing hard to get someone, either AA or one of the OW Asian carriers, to add a 787 flight to Tokyo, Seoul, or Hong Kong from PHX. While this seems very unlikely to happen, stranger things have happened. There is space for an extra lounge (the former LH lounge), but from what I understand PHX is willing to provide incentives on the route if someone commits to it, and eventually build a new pier primarily for all international flights (mostly Mexico and Canada, and the current BA daily flight to LHR).

    Will PHX ever be AA’s featured or biggest hub? No. Will it ever have enough direct international traffic to warrant a flagship lounge? No. But is it a useful domestic hub given the current state of the US airline industry? I think so.

  18. I’m pretty unbiased whether PHX is a hub or not; I have operations there, so I get there from DFW occasionally. I dislike the legacy CACTUS equipment, but that is what it is. I was simply passing on what I’ve heard from AA employees in the neighborhood over a drink, that there are better international connection and regional connection opportunities out of DFW and ORD, with plenty of space to grow in each (with AA adding ORD gates over the next few years). Whether it’s called a hub or not, these guys seemed to feel like traffic would be shifting from PHX to LAX/DFW/ORD where possible.

    The great benefit of PHX and CLT for AA is the lower cost of utilizing the airport vs. some of the other hubs in the system (esp. ORD/MIA/NYC area airports). It’s hard to see going too low in volume at either, but neither gives great hub traffic due to fewer Fortune 500 companies. BofA will certainly lobby for traffic from CLT, but DFW, ORD, LAX, NYC and PHL all have more international travelers (high $$$) coming in and needing connections. It’ll be interesting to see how they optimize the system to take advantage of PHX and CLT. The middle ground is probably more regional traffic in the Rockies for PHX and more hub-to-hub with less east coast/upper midwest options with the Southeast substituting for Rockies at CLT.

    I like the airports, though I tend to get delayed/stranded by CACTUS equipment troubles. Same with the AA MD-80s I try to avoid out of DFW, though. I’ve also found CACTUS legacy employees nicer than their reputation. I’m a 100,000+ mile flyer on OneWorld for the last 12-15 years. The added scale seems like it might actually be helpful to me, if they don’t dilute the value of being an EXP too much.

  19. Just a side note; I’ve never been denied access at any Doha airport clubs. I’m AA EXP, and when I fly Qatar, I’ve always been admitted to all clubs.

  20. @David Gonzalez, if you are flying in coach but are EXP you will be admitted to their “fake” first/business lounges, not the real Al Mourjan and Al Safwa lounges.

  21. I’ll admit to never having flown Qatar in coach, so maybe that’s the difference. I got into one of the more exclusive clubs; the other was still under construction when I was last in Doha Dec 14.

  22. I understand the hub locations but think there is significant competition amongst these new flagships in MIA and DFW considering Centurion lounges are also located there. I doubt flagships will include complimentary massages/manicures along with great food and drinks.

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