American Airlines Has A New Design Template For Its Admirals Clubs, And That’s Fantastic

The current ‘new design’ of American Airlines Admirals Clubs feel very institutional, from the lighting to the furniture. The perfect example of this is the A concourse club in Dallas which I think of as having hospital lighting. The smaller club in Charlotte follows this same motif.

Great news – they’re walking away from that design in upcoming new builds and renovations with a much more attractive template!

American hasn’t renovated all of their lounges with design from the second half of the twenty-teens and that’s a good thing. Even better are early glimpses of what’s to come. We already got a hint of this with artist renderings of the new Admirals Club in Austin that’s under development. It looked nothing like the standard design!

In fact, the Washington National regional gates club will be the first to feature something new this fall and also in the queue are Austin, Denver, and Newark. The early graphics look very promising, and the nod to the local area of each club is important (and something American talked about last year for the Austin club, “reflecting the urban fabric of Rainey Street, Austin Parks, local art and music”).

“The new Admirals Club interior design is inspired by our customers, who tell us that their favorite aspect of visiting our lounges is feeling like they’re ‘coming home,’” said Clarissa Sebastian, Managing Director of Premium Customer Experience & Onboard Products. “This design is the culmination of a partnership between American and an award-winning architectural firm well known for their designs in the hospitality space. Each element was thoughtfully developed to create an environment of calm, with natural woods and open spaces, so our customers can relax and feel their best as they prepare for their flight.”

Chicago-based DMAC Architecture & Interiors created a unique vision for American. When customers step inside, they will be welcomed by signature brand elements and references from local landscapes and landmarks that tell the story of each city and create a sense of place. Wellness will uniquely shine through selective design elements that set a tone of calm and familiarity. Sustainability is also built into the new design in intentional ways, such as branded elements made of renewable American walnut in every lounge.

The new National airport lounge will be around 14,000 square feet with seats 236 customers. Of course if the lounge is well enough designed with tables, coat hooks and other amenities the seating stretches better – because passengers don’t take up multiple seats, using one for themselves and another for their stuff. The real capacity of a lounge is not its number of seats – it’s the number of functional spaces that are offered.

I can’t wait to see the new lounge open this fall, and no doubt will soon enough since this airport remains my most frequent travel destination. In the meantime these renderings look great.

The frosted glass and American logo on the outside of this lounge are nice. I actually like looking down at the terminal, though that was especially true when American was using the gate directly below the Admirals Club in Austin (and it was my most frequent departure gate) – always great to see when your flight is actually boarding and it’s mere steps away. That may almost be recreated here.

Credit: American Airlines

The lighting and wood design elements aren’t an abrupt departure from recent American Airlines clubs, but the interior design certainly seems softer (and so less institutional).

Credit: American Airlines

I like these tables and this eating area. It’s a great illustration of how the actual lounge capacity is below the number of seats – someone will take a booth or table even if they are traveling solo. But it’s an attractive space, though these seats wouldn’t be ideal for families. Perhaps the center tables and chairs can be moved to create a makeshift four-top.

Credit: American Airlines

These more open spaces are attractive as well, as long as they don’t get too busy.

Credit: American Airlines

Credit: American Airlines

The buffet and bar area is nice, may get too congested, and will see its value really driven by the food actually offered. American should offer mileage redemption for premium drink options, at reasonable value!

Credit: American Airlines

Zach Griff argues that the new lounge is an extension of what American has already done with the LaGuardia club opening, and there are certainly elements of the new design there, but also a lot more that ties into the existing model. I suppose renderings aren’t enough to really decide that, and we’ll have to see the new DC lounge to say for sure.

Ultimately the most important element of a club is size and seating configuration, so that there’s enough space to make it a retreat from the terminal, accommodating all eligible guests without feeling crowded or limiting access the way that Delta and American Express have done (or having a queue to get in).

The seating should almost all have readily available power so you can charge up before your flight. Wifi should be fast. And there shouldbe helpful and experienced agents to assist with travel disruptions. There should be food and beverage offerings, and they should taste good and look appetizing. A buffet shouldn’t sit unattended for hours, and food shouldn’t be shrink wrapped sandwiches, just veggies and dip, or a snack tower of sadness.

A lounge should have restrooms. Don’t send customers into the terminal. These restrooms should be kept super clean. A lounge at an international hub needs showers. Real pluses are great dining, a variety of different kinds of spaces in which to relax, and interior design that feels special.

Hopefully this new Admirals Club design template will contribute to an improved premium experience in new lounges and in each lounge where renovations occur.

In the meantime I keep expecting to see a higher-priced premium co-brand credit card. Perhaps that will come with the re-up of a co-brand deal. As it stands now $450 a year for the card which comes with lounge membership and up to 10 no annual fee authorized user cards, each providing lounge access including up to two guests is simply much too good a deal for an American Airlines regular.

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, 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. Phoenix Admirals Clubs need some serious updates and also space. It’s the worst one I’ve been, and I unfortunately have to use it regularly. Since Alaska joined One World Alliance, Alaska’’s Board Room at SEA/TAC N-gates is awesome. It feels like a night club that I’m walking into. AA should definitely take some inspiration from that.

  2. The warm wood is nice but enough of the grey / black flooring and accents all over the place in recent years. It’s so brooding and depressing, and kills the warmth. Who wants to live in a place like that. The new EWR United Club has lots of great spaces but so much dark grey / black it’s uninviting.

  3. Leaving aesthetics of lounge design aside, if the new UA Club is any indication, the problem isn’t what these lounges looks like, it’s the behavior of the people who use them. Last week caught multiple people sleeping on the couches, with their shoes off and feet exposed at 2pm in the afternoon.

    So United pours millions into this new Club, and passenger treat this like it’s their bedroom.

    This was in the NYTimes yesterday.

    We can never expect to have anything nice, if people have no respect for their surroundings and their fellow passengers.

    Rant over

  4. I would think an annual fee increase on the Citi Exec card is due soon- perhaps to $550? But if so, hopefully they refresh the card itself- it would be nice to have some bonus categories on that one

  5. I expect the rollout of new clubs to be similar to the free wifi that AA announced – sometime between never and eventually.

  6. As with wpr8e, putting aesthetics to the side, it comes down to customers being willing to PAY what it costs to thin the crowd out and create a pleasant lounge environment. But, we live in a gimme-gimme society. In a comment to a different article, a guy asked “Why do the people in first class always get the champagne on flights? Why don’t the people in economy ever get any?” To which someone answered, “Because they pay for it.”

  7. @Gary :”In the meantime I keep expecting to see a higher-priced premium co-brand credit card. Perhaps that will come with the re-up of a co-brand deal. As it stands now $450 a year for the card which comes with lounge membership and up to 10 no annual fee authorized user cards, each providing lounge access including up to two guests is simply much too good a deal for an American Airlines regular.”
    Which might be a good time to remind everyone that CITI did a real bait and switch with the Exec card that grants AC access and removed all the other benefits that had any value a couple of years ago.
    That said, I agree *10* extra cards with lounge access is too much.

  8. Now if they could only improve the “interior design “ of their current aircraft, it would be even better! They’re pure Garbage, with a capital G. Pls AA, put capex in areas that really matter.

  9. @wpr8e,

    Don’t forget Rudy Colludy shaving while seated at his table in JFK Terminal 4 Delta Sky Club last year!

  10. I wish the planes would match the nice clubs – experience an Admirals Club is generally nothing like the actual plane which is cheap/dull/boring/plain looking.

  11. Why is the worst network airline in the US spending money on lounges before spending on things that matter to premium customers, that is onboard product and service?

  12. Agreed with the other comments, they should be putting this money into reversing Oasis. I have no issue with the current Admirals clubs, but am appalled by the level of discomfort in the planes.

  13. It does seem odd that the lounges, which are for anyone with a high-fee credit card, are starting to really out-do the first class onboard soft and hard product on the US airlines.

    I also wonder if the addition of more independent card lounges like Capital One at IAD and Centurion at DCA will wind up reducing the crowding at the airline credit card lounges. I mean, when the Centurion at DCA opens, who would go to the AA lounge across the way unless the Centurion is at capacity (which I suspect it will often be).

  14. @Arthur – So far those indie lounges have increased the demand for the cateogry, kind of like when multiple restaurants open up clustered together

    So hasn’t been much of a relief

    That said, at SFO for example the Centurion lounge in the UA terminal has resulted in much less overcrowding of main UA lounge there, while the Centurion lounge is chronically over capacity

  15. I would also say at Houston the E UNITED Club is often busy but not overcrowded with the Centurion and several other Priority Pass lounges in D – and Polaris lounge above it

    Compare that to Delta where I can’t think of a hub lounge that isn’t chronically overcrowded

  16. EWR terminal C is a mess for United – the new club is overrun – but they closed the older club for renovations, so when that reopens hopefully will balance it all out

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