American Airlines Opened One of the World’s Biggest Lounges and It’s Fantastic

The lounge game in the US has improved markedly over the last four years. American Express has been growing their lounge network. United, Delta, and American have been refurbishing their clubs. We’ve seen new openings like the Qantas first class lounge at LAX and the Turkish Airlines lounge at Washington Dulles.

United opened its gorgeous Polaris business class lounge at O’Hare although the rest of their promised new lounges have been delayed.

And American has been quickly opening new Flagship lounges.

  • These are international business class lounges. If you’re flying business or first you have access. If you’re a Concierge Key member, an AAdvantage Platinum or above flying internationally, or a oneworld mid-tier elite you have access.

  • Premium cabin and American’s own Platinums flying in coach get access not just on flights to Asia, Europe and South America but also to Central America and Mexico City — but not elsewhere in Mexico, not Canada, and not the Caribbean.

  • Some of these lounges also have Flagship First Dining. A separate dining room for American Airlines 3-cabin first class passengers only, although in New York Cathay Pacific first class passengers have access to.

  • So far lounges are open at New York JFK (lounge and First Dining), at Chicago O’Hare, and Miami (lounge and First Dining).

  • Los Angeles lounge and First Dining is expected to open this week.

  • Next year we’re supposed to see lounges at Dallas Fort-Worth (lounge and First Dining), London (lounge and First Dining), and Philadelphia.

The pace at which they’ve opened these lounges is a credit to American. And it’s noteworthy that while I generally think Delta Skyclubs are a bit better than United Clubs and American Admirals Clubs, Delta doesn’t have anything comparable to United’s and American’s new business class lounges. And the First Dining concept — a sit down restaurant and private bar inside the business lounge — is really fantastic.

And the American Airlines Flagship Lounge Miami is a great addition to the fold. The lounge is located by gate D30 and is open from 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. It’s not far from the middle of the American concourse in Miami, and there’s a Skytrain station nearby.

Opening One of the World’s Biggest Airport Lounges

The challenge, as United has learned (they’re already expanding their Chicago lounge) and American Express has learned, is that nice lounges always get busier than the airline expects even accounting for the most generous of assumptions they make during planning. It turns out that passengers want to use nice lounges and they spend more time in the lounges than anyone ever assumes. So while JFK First Dining is a haven, the Flagship lounge there gets very busy at peak early evening departure times.

The American Airlines Flagship Lounge Miami is 29,000 square feet. By comparison the massive Turkish Airlines CIP lounge in Istanbul is reported to be about 32,000 square feet by Architectural Digest though it seems bigger than that to me. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow is reportedly 27,000 square feet. This has to be among the biggest lounges in the world. Not the biggest of course, I believe that the Emirates business class and first class lounges on the A concourse in Dubai are each 136,000 feet.

My first thought on seeing it was ‘finally a lounge that won’t be overcrowded’ but that was in the late morning when I arrived. It was filling up quite a bit come mid-afternoon and a manager in the lounge tells me that it does get very busy at peak evening times. Every mid-tier elite member and every business class passenger on every one of American’s Central and South America and Europe flights has access.

Flagship Lounge Features

The Flagship Lounge is huge, and there are several different spaces and elements to the lounge. As a result much of the day you have a spacious place to sit, work, or relax.

I don’t think the furnishing is particularly inspired. The lounge is bright, modern, and … generic. There’s not much of a sense of place, nothing that says Miami, or even that really tells me I’m not in the Flagship Lounge Chicago. And I’m not sufficiently in love with the aesthetic to simply want it repeated over and over.

The lounge does offer fantastic showers though.

And there are some day beds, though I really think American could have done better here. There’s no privacy at all to them. Some sort of partition would be nice, creating a sense of a private space. In fact there’s really nowhere in the lounge that offers privacy.

In fact the bathrooms, too, would benefit from privacy — somewhere you can take your stuff when you use the facilities, because I don’t think I’d want to leave my laptop bag out in the lounge while heading to the restrooms. Private washrooms would have been ideal, but don’t work as well for the volume of turnover. At the same time maybe just larger stalls could have done the trick or a place in the restrooms that’s consistently clean to leave bags.

Dining in the Flagship Lounge

The Flagship Lounge features a very nice self serve bar and champagne bar.

Behind the bar is Flagship First Dining, which is accessible only to three-cabin first class passengers and which I will review separately.

The bar is across from the dining area and buffet.


Can you spot the Easter Egg in this photo?

The buffet is being constantly refreshed by staff as customers finish dishes.

I arrived during breakfast offerings and stayed through the changeover to lunch.

There’s also a drink station as well.

This isn’t the only place in the lounge with refreshments, which is nice as well.

Of course here one of the staff members is doing her hair by the bar. This is American Airlines of course, so you’ll see things you’d never find in Lufthansa or Singapore premium lounges.

The ‘Chef Action Station’ Serves Arepas From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Flagship Lounge isn’t just a buffet. There’s a chef preparing arepas from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Arepas are made from ground maize dough or cooked flour and are a South American specialty. It’s the most ‘Miami’ thing about the Flagship lounge.

This is like the Chicago Flagship lounge where there’s a “chef action station” preparing one custom item in the lounge, and in contrast to the New York JFK Flagship Lounge where they allow ordering off of a limited menu of some of the things provided in First Dining.

American has been scaling back the ambition of their cooked to order Flagship Lounge concept, originally the Flagship Lounge in New York was going to allow ordering from a menu anywhere in the lounge. Then they limited it to a specific ‘Bridge’ area of the lounge. And the more recent openings haven’t had this concept at all, favoring the chef station instead.

It wasn’t yet open for the day when I was in the lounge.

The Future of Lounges in Miami

American is still to re-open the D30 Admirals Club, which will be smaller since the Flagship lounge took a portion of the old Admirals Club. Once that happens, a manager in the Flagship lounge told me that the Premium Lounge on the E concourse (which Admirals Club members have access to while the other lounges have been under renovation, but before that was primarily for British Airways and Iberia premium passengers and only admitted Admirals Club members whose flights departed from the concourse) will be renovated and will again be an Admirals Club.

American Express is also expanding their lounge in Miami. The Flagship lounge should help with crowding there, and the expansion with crowding here. I’d actually choose this one over the American Express lounge — despite the Centurion lounge having a spa — because the Flagship lounge isn’t crowded most of the day it seems.

There’s no ‘wow’ factor to the Flagship Lounge in Miami, other than sit down dining which I’ll review in a separate post and which most passengers won’t be able to access. Still American has done a really nice job with the refreshed space in providing a lounge that should be almost big enough for the passengers that will be using it — a huge improvement over what was available previously.

Ultimately with the introduction of the American Airlines Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining I think it’s fair to say that Miami goes from a terrible place to connect to a positive place to transit for elites and premium cabin passengers.

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. In LAX, they basically swapped the flagship and Admirals Club area. So now the Admirals Club experience in T4 is much worse (except for an improvement in food offerings).

    So my experience is far worse overall, even though I fly internationally in business class 2-3 times a year. I feel like a schmo paying for the club membership.

    Given the absolutely minuscule number of 3 class F flights out of MIA, I just see this as evidence of AAd management incompetency. While the Flagship dining is built in MIA, they are reducing the number of eligible planes. In fact they clearly have a strategic direction on plane acquisition deemphasizing first class.

  2. @Gary

    Mr. Benjamin Scha-something-diffult-pig, from OMMAT 😛

    @Barry Lipton
    Maybe the revenue provided by all these flights to/from Latin / Central America are worth the investment and AA is still the king of the region. No comparison with United or Delta whatsoever.
    If you think LAX, there are tons of competition…

  3. @George

    How many flight to Central and South America have 3 class planes? Is it just GRU? Unless several more, my point on Flagship First Dining still holds.

  4. I’ve never had concerns about leaving my items at my seat when using the washrooms in any airline lounge. Never had anything stolen. Though when using the shower, I do tend to have all my items/bags since that’s my first stop before encamping if I need a clean up. (And yes, having used the JFK Flagship showers, they are huge as the ones at MIA appear from your photo…actually identical.)

  5. I visited the new MIA lounge a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it is a tremendous improvement over the previous Admirals Club. It is bright and airy, despite being somewhat repetitive in design. The food offering was impressive, and the food was presented in an impressive way. On my recent visit two things overshadowed the experience.

    Firstly, despite all the improvements to the hard product, they are are run by staff who lack decorum, or show pride in what they do. The casual service at the entrance and in the lounge is second rate. I’m not sure what American can do about that. Give them all raises, perhaps? We all know how that revolutionized in-flight service (not).

    Secondly, First Class dining is so restricted that it is mostly for PR value. There will only be a miniscule number of elite passengers that will gain entry. Incoming First Class passengers on 3-class 777-300ER’s connecting to domestic First aren’t even eligible.

    As the post points out, the pace in delivering a higher quality lounge experience is impressive. It can’t come soon enough to replace Heathrow’s ‘bus terminal chic’ aesthetic, and DFW Terminal D.

  6. Wow, AA has really come along way and has really stepped up their game.
    A positive review from vftw is a good indication that I should try this club.

    What is the least amount of miles I can spend to enjoy the Miami First Class club? I see 27,500 for Business/First Class Mexico/Caribbean. I guess that is the cheapest amount of miles to enter the Flagshio lounge right?

  7. The Premium Lounge is already an Admirals Club. At least according to AA website although signage does not acknowledge this. It will be a shame if the Premium Lounge is converted to a full-fledged Admirals Club because the food and beverages will be seriously downgraded.

    I believe that the MIA Centurion Lounge will only be 4,000 square feet after expansion. Still tiny especially compared to the Flagship Lounge.

  8. @beachfan

    If I am not mistaken, 1 daily to EZE, 2 daily to GRU right now out of 3 (1 being with a 772) and 1 daily to LHR?

    How many flights does LAX have with First Class? You also have to think that there is the OW lounges over there and some AA flights still leave from TBIT, right?

  9. Thank goodness for the Flagship First Dining. What used to be an exclusive experience with the Flagship lounges is now grand central, with everyone and their brother/sister being allowed in. We fly the transcon between LAX and JFK twice a month and at least can now escape the maddening crowds by sitting in the quiet pleasant Flagship First area which has a bar when we don’t want to dine. Haven’t yet experienced the new lounge in T4 at LAX as it was not yet open
    It’s true that AA has cut back on it’s 3 class service on many of the Int’l flights, which is quite unfortunate – merely pushing those of us who travel frequently (and I’ve been EXP and Lifetime PLT for many years) to seek out other carriers (the foreign ones) that continue to have 3 class equipment for our travel.

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