American Airlines Turning Away Eligible Passengers From Flagship Check-in

American Airlines has a private check-in for top customers at facility at Chicago O’Hare, LAX, London Heathrow, Miami and New York JFK called Flagship First Check-in. But because this is an airline, the rules around who can use it are complicated. It’s for,

  • 3-cabin and 4-cabin first class (but not business class) on long haul flights and on certain cross-country domestic routes.

  • Those who buy access via American’s Five Star service

  • Concierge Key members on any American Airlines flight

  • oneworld partner ’emerald’-level elite members on any American Airlines flight (e.g. British Airways Gold members and above), however Alaska Airlines emerald (MVP Gold 75K and above) are excluded.

  • American’s Executive Platinum members flying American Airlines long haul international

conciergekey members can use flagship check-in at lax
Flagship Check-in, LAX

This isn’t just confusing to customers, for instance whether checking in at Chicago O’Hare for an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles before connecting to long haul international on Qantas.

But it’s also confusing for American Airlines employees. And in particular even for the American Airlines employees charged with allowing or denying access to passengers. There are myriad reports of eligible passengers being denied access. While the airline produces a report of those who are supposed to be allowed entry, that list isn’t comprehensive, and agents frequently misinterpret the rules.

I reached out to American to see whether rules had actually changed, but the website not updated, and that perhaps this is what led to confusion? But that hasn’t happened. Instead according to an American Airlines spokesperson, they’re sorry.

We work with our agents at Flagship First Check-in to ensure customers are greeted upon arrival and that customers meet the qualifications. Our agents are trained and reminded of these qualifications which customers can also access on We want all customers who are eligible to be welcomed and are very sorry to anyone who may have experienced issues.

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. Is there a separate “Flagship Business” check in? My business class flight from JFK-LHR is clearly marked “Flagship” on their website.

  2. David, there is not a separate “Flagship Business” check-in. One would normally use the Priority Check-in in the main part of the terminal for such a booking.

    However, as Gary noted, if one is a Concierge Key or Executive Platinum with American Airlines, one can use Flagship First check-in for such a booking.

    Or, if one has One World Emerald status with a non-US carrier, one can use it for any American Airlines flight, domestic or international, irrespective of cabin class.

    Don’t forget, you will be able to use the Flagship Lounge at JFK but would not have access to Flagship First dining. If you are a Concierge Key member, you would have access to Flagship First dining when traveling internationally in business or first.

    Safe travels.

  3. “Sorry” is more than I got when AA’s plane had a flat tire in SAN, they had no spare, and I had to rent a car to drive to LAX to make it to my European destination less than 24 hours late. My letter requesting compensation was responded to, exactly a month later, full of how AA is not legally required to reimburse me but will consider something if I produce receipts.

    Longtime EXP and 2.8 million miles with this airline doesn’t get much respect these days.

  4. It seems like AA is missing the point about retraining the agents on this convoluted policy — what they really need is to add to the end of the training “if there’s any doubt, just check them in…” The people being turned away here aren’t once-a-year leisure travelers. They are still very high-value customers, and not worth being alienated by an unclear policy and unhospitable service. It’s not like they’re demanding an upgraded seat they aren’t entitled to — it’s just a check-in! It doesn’t cost anything, and probably delays things more debating over the policy than it does to just check them in and say “Have a great flight…”.

    Not surprised, but this seems so short-sighted by a US airline.

  5. @Diego Dave I concur. Unless you are CK on AA, they really don’t care.
    I’m a 3.8 MM’er butt-in-seat, multi-decade ExPlat that, after some truly horrendous service lapses, finally capitulated and moved my business over to United. That is not easy since I’m based in Dallas. But it is a decision that I’ve not regretted and am, in fact, glad I made.

  6. @Diego Dave & DFWSteve: I am a MM’er with UA, several years holding 1K status. Few days ago, I called UA to change my trip + pay for the difference with their future flight credit. The 1K agent has no knowledge how to apply the “Future Flight Credit” and put me on hold to go somewhere to find out (who knows where she went) for 50 minutes. I couldn’t wait anymore and hung up, called back at another time to change my trip. If carriers do match lifetime status, eg. MM status match, I’d leave UA to either AA or DL and never come back. I regretted choosing UA to start with.

  7. @T At Delta as a top elite you’ll wait on hold for 30-60 minutes before you even speak to the first agent. That’s before they need to wrangle a support desk.

    Good luck getting E+ seats last minute in the tiny Delta Comfort “cabins” vs UAs generous seat plans that support your loyalty

  8. I feel like these rules change every time I fly! I’ve felt 100% justified to use the FF checkin and they are like nope you can’t. But the place is empty… EXP flying international business, NOPE not for Brazil. Nope not if you’re connecting to the international flight!
    Flying is the worst when you have any kind of expectations… you’ll just be disappointed …

  9. @ Reno Joe

    So.. once you get thru the gate (bouncer) keeper, there is another VIP section Flagship dining). It’s like ‘Mean Girls’ “You can’t sit here!”

  10. Got denied soon after the merger when first leg was on US Air metal connecting to Flagship First. That did leave a bad impression.

  11. Flagship dinning? Who actually goes there. The Wardens do not let anyone in ever. in 20+ yrs i have NEVER seen a body there, except cleaners . I really think in some airports it is the employee lounge.

  12. Not exactly the same case but a year ago we were flying from Austin to Miami for an international connection. In Austin the gate agents called us up to the desk and very kindly told us, because of our status we were eligible to use the Flagship lounge in Miami. We were pleasantly surprised. Once in MIA we used the directions provided by the Austin team to make our way to the lounge. At the entrance desk we were met with a long wait. Once at the desk, with poor communication skills and disdain that we dared even enter the door. No eye contact and very rude. It was classic AA fubar, especially in MIA. Wish we had some way to avoid AA all together. Really left a bad taste on top of the rude gate agents there. Sent a comment and heard nothing. US airlines are bad and getting worse. At least the flight crew was good, but why in the hell does this seem to be standard operating procedure for AA?

  13. @dillon York Flagship lounges have only opened 3 years ago , so the 20yrs you are talking about ?

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