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 by registering for a Priority Pass card. 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 you can opt into 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 got notice that amex will give plat card holders an ADDITIONAL $200 for usair and aa from march till dec for this change…thats nice!

  2. As one of the speculators, I’m not surprised by this, but I am disappointed. I probably won’t be renewing the platinum next year, Admiral’s club access is the single biggest reason I keep it. Sure will miss the centurion lounge, though…

  3. $500? You sure? Mine says $200. Boo.

    “We recognize the inconvenience this may cause you as someone who travels frequently, so we have included you in a special offer. You will receive up to $200 in statement credits toward American Airlines and US Airways incidental fees charged to your Card from March 22, 2014 to December 31, 2014.1 You can use these credits toward:
    •Membership fees in the Admirals Club program and US Airways Club
    •One-day passes to Admirals Club lounges and US Airways Clubs
    •Other American Airlines and US Airways incidental fees like baggage fees or flight change fees

    There’s no enrollment required, and purchases made by both the Basic and Additional Card Members on the Card account are eligible for the promotion. These statement credits are in addition to the $200 Airline Fee Credit benefit already included in your Membership.”

  4. Wow, this is pretty bad. Was considering getting my first AMEX plat but may still go all in on AA with the citi exec card (which is obviously exactly what Citi/AA want).

    Do you know the bonus rules for that card with respect to holding other existing Citi AA cards?

  5. So, how many trips on Delta would one have to take to break even on the Centurion membership dues, assuming 75% upgrade success? Is there another way to apply the $2,500 to get elite status anywhere?

  6. What does this meet: “…make sure their status is re-upped before the benefit ends”

    I assume this means we don’t have to do anything, right?

  7. @Gary — is earning the preferred-qualifying miles after $25k spend still a benefit of the US Airways card? I do not see it listed.

  8. Hmmm
    Looks like the first of many fallouts coming from the merger
    Hold on folks brace for impact

  9. I’m guessing this is only for the US Amex version. The Canadian one still shows as a benefit (so far at least).

  10. Wow… I just recently upgraded my Gold card to Platinum specifically for the USAir and American lounge benefits… I wonder if Amex will offer me anything since I haven’t used it yet or if I will have to call to cancel before they make any type of offer. The other perks of the card (Starwood Gold, National Executive, etc.) are nice but I don’t think the card will be worth the $450 any more if the only lounge you get is Delta.

  11. I also got $500.00 in addition to the $200 annual credit…I almost always use the Admirals Club (though when in DFW now its Centurion Lounge all the way). I have to say I am REALLY disappointed in this one (though happy for the $500 credit). Sadly the downgrAAdes are likely just starting.

    Special Offer: Up to $500 in Statement Credits

    We recognize the inconvenience this may cause you as someone who travels frequently, so we have included you in a special offer. You will receive up to $500 in statement credits toward American Airlines and US Airways incidental fees charged to your Card from March 22, 2014 to December 31, 2014.1 You can use these credits toward:

    • Membership fees in the Admirals Club program and US Airways Club
    • One-day passes to Admirals Club lounges and US Airways Clubs
    • Other American Airlines and US Airways incidental fees like baggage fees or flight change fees

    There’s no enrollment required, and purchases made by both the Basic and Additional Card Members on the Card account are eligible for the promotion. These statement credits are in addition to the $200 Airline Fee Credit2 benefit already included in your Membership.*

    *American Express relies on accurate airline transaction data to identify incidental fee purchases. If you do not see a credit for a qualifying incidental purchase on your enrolled Card after 4 weeks, simply call the number on the back of your Card. See terms & conditions for more details.

  12. For those who received an offer of a statement credit from AMEX, did you select AA or US as your airline for your most recent $200 annual reimbursement?

  13. Received the $200 email for a personal Amex MB but so far not for a Business Amex Plat.

    Obvious question Gary… is this $200 supplemental to the normal $200? i.e. on January 1st can you get $200 and then on March 23rd get another $200 via the usual method?

  14. I also got an email with a $500 statement credit offer. The fine print said that it cannot be used for gift cards but I wonder if it will work in the same way as the $200 annual airline fee credit where gift cards were coded to work. Fingers crossed…

  15. Haven’t received anything from Amex at all with regards to this. And AA is my selected $200 reimbursement program. I would love the $500 towards lounge access if I can couple that with an AA promo. 🙂

  16. Of the three PLAT AX cards in our household, we got one $500 offer and nothing for the other two. The one reeving the offer is the card frequently used to access Admirals Clubs.

  17. Gary, one of the other bloggers (Points Guy maybe?) said there is def. going to be a Cent lounge @ SFO. Can you find out which terminal?

  18. I will be happy with the statement credit and will keep the AmexPlat for a while longer to use it up. But I will be canceling the card. Not worth it. I’ve used Fine Hotels a few times, the $200 airline credit this year, but other than that…. I’ll keep my Amex Bz Gold, it’s a good card, nice bonuses, works for me.

  19. I also received the $500 email. I will likely take advantage of the $500 credit (will test AA gift cards first) + the original $200 credit. FWIW – I am a MB Plat cardmember and have visited the AC about 8 times this year and have 0 paid miles on AA in 2013. I will probably keep this card because I go through Dallas quite a bit. The Centurion lounge at DFW is worth the annual fee all by itself for me. I planned a longer than necessary stopover at DFW this friday just so I could show it to my wife (She will probably get a massage).

  20. Just spoke with Amex (I did not get an e-mail or offer).

    It’s tied to how much you used that benefit (lounge access) as to if and how much concession you got. Unfortunately, I just got the card in September for the US Air lounge access (Chairman FF level) and had not used it there yet….

  21. Another reason for me to cancel the Platinum AmEx – for nearly all (but not all) people, it just doesn’t make good business sense to keep the Platinum card. In most cases you can get more miles and rewards from your spending on other cards. The transfer partners are pretty limited. The Global Entry credit is only of measely value once every five years. The purchase protection and customer service are no longer differentiators for AmEx. I don’t want to buy $200 in AA gift cards and as a frequent flyer hope not to have to need $200 in fee reimbursements. Now there is only access to Delta lounges or those horrible independent lounges under Priority Pass. Where’s the business case to pay $450 in annual fees?!?!?! It’s time to cancel your Plat AmEx cards and get better value elsewhere!

  22. @ Stuart: I just cancelled my Citi Exec and replaced it with the Amex Plat last week so I haven’t had a chance to use the AC. Did the Amex agent give any indication on if an email offer would be coming if you didn’t get one already?

  23. @Stuart – sounds like I should have been using my Amex instead of BA status for access — but I wanted the premium drink coupons!! 🙂

  24. @The Beer Hunter — Per Chris McGinnis at the BAT, “The new lounge will be located in a space (currently under construction) in the mezzanine level above the premium security checkpoint in United’s Terminal 3 and gate 75, according to SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel. He also estimated that the new lounge will open sometime during summer 2014.”

    I’m sure UA won’t like this much, although Aegean should be thrilled.

  25. Just got the Centurion e-mail that includes the info about losing the status, but it says specifically that we will lose it on 2/28/14. If that’s true, we can’t keep it until 2015.

  26. “I’ll keep at least one of my American Express Platinum cards, too…because they approve the biggest charges for me and I’ll need it for work reimburseables.”

    Gary, what in the world are you buying that a regular credit card with a $25,000-$30,000 limit won’t approve, but the AMEX Platinum will?!? And similarly, what work reimburseables have to be put on the AMEX Platinum that can’t go on other cards?

    Is it really worth $450 to access a lounge in DFW that you might hit a handful of times a year?

  27. @Andrew I can put $200k conferences on a credit card. Amex Centurion lounges allow entrance @ $50/ea per visit so you need to be a very frequent visitor to make the annual fee worth it on that basis alone.

  28. @Gary, gotcha, thanks for explaining.

    @keith, the “Premier World Mastercard” converts 10,000 earned miles to PQM’s after spending $25 on the card in a year.

  29. I’ll add my $.02 on this – just received my email. As background I am AA EXP and conservatively used the card to visit Admirals Club lounges between 40 and 50 times last year. I’ve listed AA as my preferred airlines for incidentals.

    My offer? Nada, bupkis, zero. No $200; no $500 – go directly to jail; do not pass GO. Have been an American Express card holder since 1983 and Platinum for the past five. Needless to say, I am somewhat stunned.

  30. Update – I got my email, $200. Took a week, so maybe they still are sending offers out.

    For anyone looking for additional data points, I have AA listed as my airline benefit, but didn’t buy any airline tickets on the card (did buy a few 500-mile upgrades though), used Admirals Club only a few times last year.

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