American Airlines Faces Backlash for Excluding Military from Miami Lounge During Overcrowding

The Points Guy‘s Zach Griff notes during his travel that American Airlines wasn’t offering complimentary access to its Admirals Club for members of the military, because the lounge was deemed at capacity. Commenters on social media seem appalled.

Lounge overcrowding has long been an issue, but what do you think about this move from @AmericanAir in Miami?

Due to capacity constraints, the airline temporarily stopped offering access to military members.

A commenter quickly calls this a “bad look.” In fact, that seems to be a common sentiment.

I disagree – and I don’t think doing so diminishes status of members of the military. Placing limits on selling paid one day access, and on offering free access to members of the military, is a better look than forcing paid members and complimentary guests to queue into the terminal Delta-style.

Prioritizing paid members seems… reasonable.

American is not selling one-off passes for $79 or admitting military members on a complimentary basis (which is, otherwise, a nice space available gesture). It’s hard to characterize American as a bad actor here when they’re even declining ancillary revenue!

There’s a limited amount of space. American’s clubs don’t usually get as crowded as Delta’s lounges for three reasons:

  1. Separate business class lounges. American offers separate business class lounges at Miami, New York JFK, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas – Fort Worth and Los Angeles. Delta doesn’t have Delta One lounges open, so long haul business class customers use their standard Sky Clubs. That’s more people.

  2. Amex Platinum. American and United offer lounge access to premium credit card customers. Delta does that and also to all Amex Platinum and Centurion cardmembers flying the airline. That’s more people.

  3. Differentiated food. Even though American has kind of sort of improved food in Admirals Clubs, they don’t come close to Delta’s offerings.

    Passengers with access have more of a reason to visit Delta clubs, and to stay longer. I often just go to the American lounge for a cleaner bathroom, and for help with itineraries during irregular operations. Although the Washington National E concourse, Denver, and Newark clubs are beautiful.

When American lounges do get crowded they prioritize customers paying for membership, either directly or with their premium $595 annual fee credit card, and to customers traveling on qualifying business class tickets. They have an obligation to deliver for those customers before offering complimentary access to others.

Would making everyone – paid club members, long haul business class passengers, and complimentary military guests alike – stand outside in the terminal in a line during their layover be better?

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. SO “derek” military members should be relegated to USO lounges? As a former USAF and combat disabled vet I think AA should taken to task on this and threaten removal of .gov subsidies unless they change their stance. How dare they!!!

  2. I don’t understand why military members should be getting this for free anyway? Thus doesn’t happen in other countries. Why is it happening here? What’s wrong with USO? Isn’t that what those lounges are for?

  3. This is a nothing burger. AA should probably just end the free entry for military altogether.

  4. Thanks for your service GhostRider. My good friend died in Iraq, a war based on lies that cost taxpayers trillions.

    Military service doesn’t entitle you to free everything. What would you suggest throwing out paying members of the club? What about non combat vets? Should sitting behind a desk for 20 years and receiving a pension in your 40s entitle you to free shit your whole life.

    There’s a USO in Miami

    The Miami Airport Military Hospitality Lounge is available seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to US and Allied active duty and retired military travelers and their authorized dependents.

  5. Well Jason, you obviously never served so you feel entitled. Well we are still “The Home of the Free, Because of the Brave”.

  6. Military get in for free. Each credit card company allows. All have Am Ex plat for free, etc. I’ve always wondered what percent of the people in clubs are actually unpaid military and their families. While I respect the military, it is an interesting perk. I think more cc issuers could go to the invite concept to prevent this – even at more ‘mid tier’ cards.

  7. Jason, military members put their lives on the line for ours every day. It’s an incredible sacrifice. I’d much rather see the military have lounge access and for AA to take it away from another tier, like lower-status FFs. There may not be a USO lounge in a particular airport or it may not be nearby. Also, who cares what other countries do?

  8. Nothing against the military (my father served during World War 2 (yeah I’m old)) and I have friends and other relatives that served. However, offering lounge access free is a courtesy and AA is fully correct in limiting access to those with paid memberships (or Citi cards that include access). Understand it isn’t only military but also day passes that aren’t allowed.

    IMHO this doesn’t take anything away from the military. I mean what is AA supposed to do, allow all military in and keep people out that paid for a membership – that just isn’t right. Again AA is doing military a favor by allowing free access (and priority boarding). Be grateful for that and understand there are times lounges are at capacity and you can’t go in. Same thing happens daily to PP members at certain lounges.

    Enough in this world to get upset about this clearly isn’t one and AA should get ZERO flack over it.

  9. We should let military members get free first class upgrades too. Top of the queue, even ahead of CKey members. Heck, let’s just give them free first class tickets. None of programmed patriots would object, right?

  10. @MadameP – lower status frequent flyers don’t receive lounge access, except for mid-tier (oneworld sapphire) members of their own and alaska’s program flying international and those members of their oneworld partners, to whom they are contractually obligated to provide access.

  11. Prior military here; 31 years of service; happily retired.

    I don’t think airlines have any obligation for free club access for the military. The USO is great (and funded by donations), if there’s one in the airport. Keep in mind active military in a travel status are usually getting per diem during the time (although it’s not always a lot of money), so it’s not like they can’t get some food, etc., at the concessions like any other traveler.

    Just my two cents.

  12. MadameP-
    Admirals club is a paid membership lounge. I pay for it. While I respect the service that military provides, that does not mean that I’m denied from the lounge, nor do I see why military should get it for free because of their service. I paid for the lounge, I get in, period. I don’t see military service- which somebody chose to do- should enable people to continue to claim these perks. It doesn’t in any other country- not sure why some people think it should here.

  13. MadameP, have you started your campaign against UA and DL for having the audacity to not allow military members in too?

  14. All AA should have done is to modify the wording saying, due to capacity control, we’re no longer allowing “selecting” qualifying members to enter. Let ambiguity play and they’ll be fine.

  15. Being in the military is just a job like any other jobs. Tons of construction workers for every year building the airports that house those lounges. I appreciate that men and women join the military in furthering rich American’s goals, but I’ll never understand this entitlement they have.

  16. I’m retired military and the sense of entitlement to all “perks” is getting to be a bit much. The righteous indignation wears thin. Some of the comments are sad, some are spot on

  17. So what if it’s a bit overcrowded? I would much rather show appreciation for people who put their lives on the line in defense for their country even if there is slightly less room inside. I’m not that privileged that I can’t make a bit of room for a service member in the lounge. It’s not called “American” airlines for nothing

  18. Boy did this conversation go south real quick. “AL” No I am not purporting to allow entry to all military I never expected anything when I was in, I traveled a great deal while in and never got nor asked for anything special. The root cause of all this is AA and their club management while allowing military in is a nice jester the “optics ” excluding military is not good. If there was a posted sign stating policy that would have ended this just like some clubs had with PP when lounges got full.

    Maybe we should let this one be taken down.

  19. @Chris
    All indoor venues have a capacity limit due to fire regulations. Packing people in above that limit is a safety hazard.

  20. @ghostrider5408 – there was a sign so not understanding what you mean! The sign simply states that non-paid memberships (or those earned through international tickets or agreed upon One World international airline status) at not allowed. Day passes and military are the only 2 exceptions to this rule. Admirals Clubs aren’t like Sky Clubs with Amex Platinum or other credit card access outside of the Citi AA Executive card so this sign clearly states who can’t be admited. Also, I’m sure this isn’t the first time this sign has been put up. Social media and entitlement are ruining this country. Maybe AA should stop allowing military to have free access (other airlines don’t) – that would clearly solve the problem and think I will suggest it to them.

  21. 85% of the military aren’t in combat. They chose this career versus being drafted. They get a full pension after 20 years. Go to the USO or buy a membership with your pension as a 40 year old.

  22. 29 years of service, retired and 90% disabled veteran here. And I’m 54 years old so I’m not some cranky “get off
    my lawn” retiree. Frankly some of these military perks have gotten out of hand. I don’t deserve a damn thing by virtue of my service. If a company wants to offer something then ok. If they can’t offer it then that’s ok too. I’m not going to stomp my feet, pout and pitch a fit whining about it. I didn’t serve all those years because I wanted a free cup of coffee. I did it because I wanted to. And if someone didn’t serve? Awesome. There are lots of noble ways to serve your country and your community without putting on a uniform. This country works only when we are all good citizens. Rant over.

  23. Completely reasonable. Military access is a privilege, not a right.

    Ghostrider5408 – you’re an entitled POS.

    American – you are what’s wrong with current military members.

    MadameP – irrelevant. a) most don’t, and b) so what? They weren’t drafted. They aren’t special here.

    Chris – ok, bootlicker.

  24. The military has enough perks. They can go visit their own lounge. I agree with American.

  25. Don’t police officers, fire fighters, and many others put their lives on the line for society’s sake? Should they have free lounge access as well? Boarding privileges, lounge privileges, privileges in general. … are antithesis to service.

  26. I agree with AA too. I can’t get into an USO lounge and it’s nice that AA offers it up to the military but agree that if it’s not busy fine but if it is, then a priority needs to be established.

    Tired of the shaming of businesses offering a free perk when available but needing to fall back to rule when busy or crowded. STOP SHAMING or AA can just say, no military ever. . .did you think of that?

  27. “A commenter quickly calls this a “bad look.” In fact, that seems to be a common sentiment.”

    That’s because the majority of people have swallowed the myth that all members of the military are “heroes”.

  28. I know it’s very unpopular view but:
    1.) I didn’t think we had conscription in this country or do we?
    2.) The police officers in my urban community who get shot at with some frequency for less benefits don’t get in for free.
    3.) Most airlines are offering other things like priority boarding and free bags to active duty and retired military.
    4.) As pointed out, military can get many credit cards on a fee-waived basis that provide lounge access.
    5.) It is an even worse look to put paying members out.
    6.) I have encountered in my career more than a few members of the military (and admittedly most were young and enlisted) coming up and asking if they can have First Class for free because they’re in the military. Or on the airplane showing a CAC card and asking if that’ll get their drinks comped. Or when traveling as a paying customer, seeing gate agents trying to shame elites for not giving away their status upgrades to uniformed military.
    7.) USO lounges are more plentiful than airline club rooms. I am glad to donate money, food, and time (especially during green days at holiday time) on my own accord.

  29. I don’t get it when it comes to American attitudes about the military. 50 years ago Americans were spitting on vets who were drafted, ie told to fight or go to jail (or risk execution for cowardice in front of the enemy). These days we have a 100% volunteer military and Americans seem to think vets should get anything they want. For doing a job. A job they volunteered for. A job that’s no more dangerous than being a fisherman or roofer.

    No happy, reasonable median. Always one extreme or the other.

  30. If American Airlines advertises that military members get complimentary access, they should honor it even if it requires first come, first served lines for all people wishing to enter with the correct credentials or passes. If it is not advertised that military members get complimentary access or if it is advertised as capacity permitting, then AA has every right to limit access. Passengers may plan their timing and eating around access to the lounge and it is American Airlines fault if they cannot fulfill what they promised.

  31. My bone spurs kept me out of serving. Can I get an exception with a note from my doc, Doctor Vinnie Boombatz.

  32. jns – nope. Even if they get comp access, AA can limit that on the fly. Paid members should come before all comps for a start. You’ve already been told there are military only lounges.

  33. @JNS – you are very entitled and also frankly a little dense. To extend your logic is AA should prioritize people that are “promised” access (BTW I’m sure if you read the fine print the military offer is space available not promised) then those that ACTUALLY PAY for access are first in line for any promises. If you are military you are giving them a bad name and display of entitlement you continue to request is totally unfounded. As I noted before, I plan to escalate to my sources at AA (have a few connections) to see about ending this practice, especially since AA has raised the price of membership and committed to a higher quality offering. About time the clubs became just a little more exclusive – no more free rides!!!!!

  34. Nobody should get a freebie just because he is military or a veteran. Joining the army is a choice and most do it for very practical reasons anyway and not to be a ‘hero’ or defend ‘freedom’. There is an unholy and society undermining fascination with military, police, and firefighters in this Nation. Those people are not heroes and they are not above the law or anyone else. They are doing a job of there own choosing.

  35. AAdmiral lounge is not a military lounge, should never being given access to begin with
    Please take note

  36. Surely there’s enough room for overflow in the flagship lounge in Miami. Why not give the overflow crowd access to the flagship lounge and keep track of who’s getting access to prevent anyone from trying to game the system by leaving the regular lounge and re-enter and then considered overflow? Make those overflow passengers lucky day. Now that would be a very good look American Airlines!

  37. It’s funny that tim Dunn hasn’t posted here since delta doesn’t allow military free access to their clubs, at all, they prefer Amex cardholders and long lines for everyone
    Props to American and United for allowing military access to their clubs when space allows. At least they offer it when they can

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