[OPENS OCTOBER 25] What American’s Newest Lounge Looks Like, And I’m Blown Away

The new Admirals Club on Washington’s National airport’s E-concourse, featuring American’s gorgeous new design template, will officially open to passengers on Tuesday, October 25. They’re planning for the Denver and Newark lounges, sharing similar design motif with local characteristics, to open “mid-2023.”

Original October 13, 2022 post follows:



Back in August American Airlines teased a new design template for its Admirals Clubs, starting with the new club opening on the E (regional jet) concourse at Washington’s National airport.

We got clues to what American was thinking design-wise when they shared renderings last year of the delayed new Austin club. It’s a total departure from the current design template that’s most generously described as sterile and institutional. It’s gorgeous and feels genuinely high end. In other words it feels too nice for American Airlines and I’m struggling to know what to make of it.

The new National airport lounge will be 14,500 square feet with seats 236 customers (real capacity will be lower as passengers will take more than one seat, and seating areas designed for two but taken by one aren’t exactly available). Still, this is larger than the two existing American Airlines clubs at the airport. And the U.S. Capitol is visible from the new club.

When I was at National airport on Saturday I learned that the club was nearly done, and that employees would be able to tour it this week. There had been hopes it could even open next week! But it won’t be much longer than that, once some final touches are done and permits received the lounge should be welcoming customers within a few weeks.

Now, for context, let’s look at the current design motif of American’s clubs.


Dallas – Fort Worth A Club

And let’s look at the new Washington National E pier club.

Here’s the entrance, which they describe as “inspired by [DC’s] Museums and Monuments…imagined being carved out of one block of stone.” Whether you see it that way or not, this is the first time I really recall American Airlines credibly describing their lounge design in architectural terms.


Credit: American Airlines

Here are the agent and check-in desks, “designed with locally sourced American walnut, which is used throughout the lounge.”


Credit: American Airlines

There’s much to say about the lounge seating as well, but just take a look.


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

Here’s how they tout some of the design elements,

There’s “locally sourced American walnut” and “natural materials designed to stir feelings of being outside.” The club’s “carpet pattern comes from an abstracted mapping of DC and cherry blossoms.” They have a reason for the pattern in the carpet, not just it was carpet and it was cheapest.

The Dining Pavilion offers a sense of communal, together alone, never alone, connected, collective and conversational space for customers.

The wall covering in the Dining Pavilion is inspired by an imagined dream sequence of DC monuments. In this image, if you look closely you can see the Jefferson Memorial through a custom metal screen of AA wings adds dimensionality.

Custom side tables inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr. monument detailed with smooth carved and raw/rough surfaces.

They describe the lounge as having ‘fireplaces’ but this strikes me as more of as indoor fire pit.


Credit: American Airlines

Here’s he dining area.


Credit: American Airlines

Even the restroom in the lounge gets a design treatment. (I’d be happy if the DFW C concourse restrooms just got new tile and paint…)


Credit: American Airlines

The bar area, where “below the bar counter, a thin stripe of light shines at the AA wing angle down the penny-tile and [t]he 1/4 torus turn of the bar counter is a nod to the jet engine itself.”


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

They do a lot to both bring in light and to manipulate light in this lounge. Here’s a balcony overlooking the concourse that’s inside the lounge:


Credit: American Airlines

One noteworthy feature is the VIP room inside the lounge, which is unique to Washington National. The airport sees a large number of Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, heads of Executive Branch agencies, as well as visiting dignitaries from abroad. You and I won’t be invited in.

They describe it as “inspired by the Library of Congress” and it’s located behind the registration desk.

If you look closely, you can see a black mirror floating above the floor to ceiling bookshelf which draws the eye up to only reflect back down an image of self.

Special services for VIPs has a long tradition at the airport. Two decades ago, when US Airways was going through bankruptcy and furloughing employees, the late Senator Ted Kennedy interceded to ‘save the jobs’ of the special services staff who took care of him at the airport. He didn’t want the dominant carrier there to stop offering special treatment.


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

We should see similar designs, tailored to the local city, coming to Denver and Newark as well. By the way did you know that throw group parties in 10 American Airlines Admirals Clubs?

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. Enjoy it now! The downside of such intensely detailed contemporary design is that it will looked dated very quickly.

  2. Does look sharp. And thanks for calling it “National”. That’ll what it always should be.

  3. @Drrichard, absolutely, here here!! Now don’t you forget where I got my IM name from !!lol. Beautiful and very nice lounges…however… I can’t tell much difference between these and United’s new lounges at EWR and PHX. Somehow, these 2 are always trying to outdo each other. Anyways, my 2 cents.

  4. Aren’t we getting this in AUS? I feel like I heard it’s going in by gate 14, but I can’t figure for the life of me where they’ll put it. Have they started?

  5. @ TM — I agree. Let’s hope American actually cleans their furniture. Alaska’s lounges are disgustingly filthy.

  6. This lounge looks great. Just about every new lounge does — when its empty and there aren’t people, luggage and uncollected garbage messing up the vibe. Add 236 or so folks and it won’t look so nice. Still, better to start with a nice hard product.

    But the tale of a lounge is primarily told by food and beverages. I don’t see much improvement if the same old Admirals Club fare is featured. That’s where American could really make a difference. SkyClubs are way better in that department.

    It is somewhat surprising that American hasn’t done a better job with lounge design previously. Bricks and mortar are the cheapest cost of a lounge I imagine. It is basically a one-time expense, and depreciation rules reduce the real cost further. I agree that the new Alaska Lounge at SEA is a huge improvement with the firepit, design and décor.

    Interestingly, many lounges in China also have VIP rooms. Those rooms serve a similar purpose in that they are reserved for CCP officials I’m told.

  7. There’s always something negative to say about each of the airlines. But, let’s be optimistic about this. Delta has rolled out impressive new Sky Clubs. AA is rolling out this. AA & BA are rolling out the new combined lounge in JFK’s T8 and leaks suggest it’s pretty nice. Let’s hope that this is the start of a comprehensive expansion and enhancement of lounge experience (including the food).

    We can hope for free wifi and better food in the sky. But, one step at a time.

  8. Reminds me of CX’s design template, and even taken a step further. But American travelers are not kind or gentle in nature. They don’t give a s*** about others or the next person to use a space, so this will get beat up pretty quickly unfortunately. Hope I’m wrong though.

  9. “Reminds me of CX’s design template, and even taken a step further. But American travelers are not kind or gentle in nature. They don’t give a s*** about others or the next person to use a space, so this will get beat up pretty quickly unfortunately. Hope I’m wrong though.”

    And that’s why we (American travelers) can’t have nice things, lol.

  10. This feels a lot like the CX Pier in HKG, and is such a departure from the normal AA nonsense that it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. Is this really AA? Is this real life?

  11. Effing wow! They did that well. That’s instant top rung on lounge design. Thanks for sharing, Gary.

  12. Ny husband would love this lounge as it would remind him of the CX Pier in Hong Kong where he sits around all day eating Butter Chicken while all the ladies circle his table flirting with him and complimenting him that he looks like the Abbotabad George Clooney. When they hear he is a CK, they all want pictures with him as AA status is like being royalty outside the United States.

  13. And at the other end of the new terminal, they are building a Centurion. Though I cringe to think of how crowded that could become.

  14. I am having trouble spotting electrical outlets. I hope the pictures just don’t do the space justice for all that it is.

  15. Looks like the high end design rivals the new Capital One lounge at DFW. I wonder if AA will upgrade the food too.

  16. This looks relaxing, and I love seeing continued investment in airline owned lounges.

  17. Amazing design. We deserve it – but Kudos to the design team. Can’t wait to see this elsewhere. Also love you calling it National Airport – DCA will ALWAYS be National to me.

    Regarding Austin – I’ve heard from the lounge team the project is on hold pending another airport expansion review (yes, they just finished an addition!) But it’s apparently going to be years.

  18. The” I’m blown away ” immediately brought to mind a flailing George Steinbreiner,as portrayed by Larry David on ” Seinfeld”..

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