Inside A Room You Don’t Get To See At DC’s National Airport: American Airlines Admirals Club VIP Space

The new American Airlines Admirals Club on the E concourse at Washington’s National airport is absolutely stunning. I enjoy the design elements there more than any other lounge in the United States.

There are windows overlooking both airport operations and the terminal itself and there’s plenty of seating. But most of all its the subtle detail, from tables drawing inspiration from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, to lampshades drawing inspiration from the Capitol Dome, to tables inspired by a jet engine and carpeting that mirrors the view of the ground below as seen out of the window of a plane at 30,000 feet, more thoughtful detail has gone into this lounge than any I can think.

Perhaps the only airport space I prefer in design is the Qatar Airways al Safwa lounge in Doha which literally has nearly thousand year old items on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art.

At the new club at Washington National airport, even the serving dishes are thoughtfully designed such that they make the usual Admirals Club fare look downright appealing.

All of this is readily apparent to guests who visit the space. The new club draws many passengers who are leaving from the C and D concourses, even though both of those have their own Admirals Clubs. It’s a convenient easy walk, and this creates a huge opportunity to renovate those clubs since there’s now a plethora of space to close one of those pre-existing clubs at a time. I don’t expect that soon.

One thing that most people miss when visiting the Admirals Club on the E concourse at Washington National, though, is the VIP Room. It’s tucked right behind the checkin desk on the right as you get off the elevator.

This space is unique among clubs, built because 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 aren’t be invited in (usually).

The space is “inspired by the Library of Congress” and features a table, couch, and a bookshelf of books designed to look so old their spines have worn off all of their identifying marks. Above the couch is a black mirror. When American announced the space they described the purpose of the mirror being to “draw[..] the eye up to only reflect back down an image of self.” The favorite image of almost anyone who will be sitting there!

And perhaps the ultimate VIP perk, the room features its own bathroom.

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.

The DC airports used to be managed by the federal government. One of the major stumbling blocks transferring control to a regional airport authority in 1987 was that Senators and Representatives did not want to give up their close-in free parking at the airport, so that was something the new airport authority committed to retain. (This parking lot was temporarily closed for the airport’s ongoing construction in mid-2017, with those eligible receiving free parking in regular garages in the interim.)

While LAX sees celebrities, DCA sees people who are ‘famous for DC’ (DC is known as ‘Hollywood for Ugly People’.) And they have their designated place in the American Airlines Admirals Club on the E concourse of the airport.

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. It’s a nice warm design agreed

    Interesting the best lounge experience is for DC pax…soft lobbying on AA’s part

  2. I’m not sure I agree with giving special privileges for “the people’s” servants, but it has been common and remains so. Same with “gifting” them all the highest elite airline status on which they pay no tax because the airline sets the value at zero. Simply bribes.

    There are other “secret” areas at IAD like the BA Concorde Room, the upstairs room at the TK lounge, and the AF La Premiere dining area, but at least those can be used by others with money, not just bribed officials. I also remember the old GFL for UA, which was a great place for spotting celebrities, political and otherwise.

  3. Seems like a nice and vaulted “ mini prison “ more than anything else. A simple kiss in the ass of our nicely elected officials and minimalist leaders, on behalf of AA of course. I bet they just can’t wait to break out and enjoy the rest of the lounge, food buffet included!

  4. The design with books with no readable spines is a sad reflection of this county — no longer reading books, only using them as decoration. Particularly problematic since this room is for the vips who make government policy.

  5. The new Terminal E Club is my favorite hands-down. The earthy tones, the wood and the FIREPLACE! It’s like being at a ski lodge…just incredibly well-done.

    Hoping they upgrade others soon (their literature says yes…but how soon is soon?). If the new, ginormous Club at CLT is like this one, it will be a home run!

  6. What a sad joke on the U.S. taxpayer. The American dream has become a nightmare for U.S. citizens.

    AA seems as corrupt as Sri Lankan Airlines.

    Can’t wait to ditch my us passport for a Caribbean passport.

  7. Let the VIPs have their own room. I once got ordered away from where I was sitting in the DCA Delta Sky Club by Secret Service because the President of Liberia was arriving and she wanted to sit by the windows, so they closed off that whole section and made everybody move. Wonder how she liked that CRJ she went down to board up to JFK. 🙂

  8. NedsKid: Actually, you’re right. Put them into their own room and let the rest of us out-of-pocket, cash-paying passengers peacefully relax in the lounge.

  9. @Chad – Congress renamed it as part of Grover Norquist’s fundraising efforts, sure, but I lived in DC before that happened and long-time locals still call it National for non-political reasons.

  10. Actually, the official name is five words long: “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” It took a while for WMATA to change the signs at the Metro stop. A statue of President Reagan stands at the traffic circle near Terminal A aka the Historic Terminal. The three-letter acronym, DCA, should suffice for VFTW afficionados.

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