American Is Re-Opening Its International Business & (Most) First Class Lounges

American Airlines shuttered airport closes at the start of the pandemic. They’ve gradually re-opened many clubs as travel has returned. Club members have continued to pay full price, receiving a 6 month membership extension (or equivalent premium credit card annual fee credit) against 15 months of lounges that have been only partially open.

The good news is that by August all remaining domestic Admirals Club lounges except Honolulu will be re-opened. Based on travel trends Honolulu should have been one of the first to re-open, but that’s waiting on Japan Airlines with whom American shares the club.

Even more significantly, American will be re-opening:

That’s wonderful because these lounges were fantastic. United’s Polaris lounges were probably a step above American’s Flagship lounges, but Flagship lounges were open to many more people and nicer than anything American had ever done before. American’s Flagship First Dining product was nicer than anything any U.S. airline has done in recent years, period.


American Airlines Flagship Lounge LAX

These lounges have remained closed, in airline President Robert Isom’s words, ‘until demand warrants opening them back up’.

Re-Opening Timetable For Premium Lounges

Miami’s Flagship lounge and Flagship First Dining will re-open in September. The other Flagship lounges will re-open “throughout Fall 2021.” Flagship First Dining will also re-open in Dallas and New York “this fall” however the Los Angeles location seems unlikely to re-open at that time since a spokesperson confirms “LAX Flagship First Dining is still being evaluated as part of the phased approach.”

Los Angeles has served as American’s primary gateway to Asia but recent plans have called for a shift in Asia focus to Dallas, while de-emphasizing the role that Los Angeles has played in international travel. American has joint ventures with Japan Airlines and Qantas, which both have a significant presence in Los Angeles. However support for service to China and Hong Kong is not as great.

There’s no timetable announced for opening of the planned Flagship lounge in Philadelphia, whose schedule is coming back more slowly than other hubs (since it relied heavily on transatlantic flying and Europe’s re-opening is coming too late for American to build back its schedule for this summer) – even Philadelphia’s domestic schedule was in some measure built around supporting transatlantic banks.

It appears that American’s plans for a Flagship lounge at London Heathrow no longer appear to be moving forward.


American Airlines Flagship Lounge Buffet New York JFK

Accessing Flagship Lounges And Flagship First Dining

Interestingly American shared that they will announce “plans to make its Flagship Lounges accessible to even more premium customers” this summer. Whether that’s a buy-in option or change in access rules is not yet clear. For now, access to Flagship lounges is available to:

  • Business and first class passengers flying on a oneworld airline to Asia; Australia or New Zealand; Europe; South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela) as well as business and first class passengers flying premium transcon routes (New York – Los Angeles and San Francisco and certain Miami – Los Angeles flights).

  • American Platinum members and above and Alaska MVP Gold members and above who are flying to one of these eligible destinations on a oneworld airline.

  • oneworld sapphire and emerald members in programs other than American AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan who are flying on any oneworld flight (including American and Alaska domestic flights)

  • ConciergeKey members flying on a oneworld airline, including American and Alaska domestic

Flagship Dining Dining access is limited to:

  • Three-cabin first class passengers flying American Airlines to Asia; Australia; Europe; or South America or flying between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco

  • Historically, to oneworld partners who have paid for access (such as British Airways for their first class passengers in some locations) and to ConciergeKey members who have been given a limited number of passes, as well as to those offered a buy-in option or who purchased access through American’s Five Star premium ground service


Flagship First Dining New York JFK


Miami First Dining Corn Chowder With Corn Fritters

This Should Elicit A Competitive Response

While Delta’s Sky Clubs range from being marginally nicer than American’s Admirals Clubs and United’s Clubs to being far superior (such as the incredible club in Austin), Delta lacks a premium international business class lounge product. This move by American will almost certainly spur United to have to re-open its Polaris lounges.

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. Great news! We have a Flagship J class flight from DFW to LHR on 12SEP. It seems that the lounge will be open at DFW now but any word on the Arrivals Lounge at LHR? Hopefully by mid-September it will be back in operation. Also, has anyone heard if an AA pax can use the BA lounge at LHR if AA is still closed? I’m hearing so many different answers.

  2. This is good news for UA flyers in EWR, ORD, and LAX. Those of us in SFO can expect United to keep cheaping out until Facebook and Apple restart travel. Even then, it will take a few Apple exec tantrums to get them moving

  3. I just don’t understand why there’s no word on the PHL Flagship Lounge. I have to think by the autumn there will be enough transatlantic flights again to warrant opening it at least during the late afternoon/evening. I’ve got a J flight on QR in November and I’d rather not have to use the BA lounge (assuming that will have even re-opened by then which I guess is no guarantee, haha).

  4. LAX Flagship First Dining should support the Flagship First transcontinental product – AA is nickel and diming here

  5. United’s Scott Kirby is too focused on dreams of future Carbon Sequestration and supersonic flights to care about reopening Polaris lounges.

    United has barely started reopening the dumpy hub lounges. First class is still not back up to pre-Covid on domestic flight food options while Alaska maintained standards.

  6. Any idea what expanded access means? Will they restore the access they took away for EXPs to central and some South America?

  7. Recently got cabin rolled into F on an LAX-MIA flight a few hours before takeoff. Would’ve loved to enjoy FFD. Just my luck that it happened while everything was shut down!

  8. The Flagship First transcon fares are the same as pre-covid, however the benefits outside of Flagship check-in are completely lacking. And there are numerous examples on Flyertalk where the Flagship check-in is flawed as well. When you hit the Admiral’s club you still have to pay for drinks outside of the free options. It’s all BS and AA needs to speed up that timeline in order to have the benefits match the fares.

  9. There doesn’t seem to be much indication UA thinks it needs to compete on soft product.

  10. Any word on opening showers in lounges? Recent flight flights through the Middle East where showers are wide open in lounges despite all the incredible (more than we have) COVID restrictions just shows how that is another one of our excuses. Careful. Keep the showers closed because WASHING WITH SOAP is dangerous? That’s what will get me and my money back.

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