Worldwide elite frequent flyers usually get airport lounge access. U.S. airline frequent flyers generally have to pay for lounge access, at least when traveling domestically. This is ironic because in Asia and often in Europe the lounges are better.
This dates back to the Civil Rights era, before formal elite programs. The government told U.S. airlines they could either let everyone into their lounges or let everyone buy memberships. They couldn’t have an invite-only program out of fear the subjective criteria for admittance would be discriminatory. And once there was a revenue stream attached to the lounges, we’d reached a different equilibrium where airlines weren’t willing to give that up.
However if you are a oneworld sapphire member – think British Airways Silver – you get lounge access domestically within the U.S. even though American Airlines frequent flyers don’t. (The same holds true for Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Gold elites flying on United within the U.S., accessing United lounges, while United’s own frequent flyers cannot do so.)
In fact oneworld sapphires, which is the mid-tier elite level, get American’s Flagship lounge (international business class lounge) access on U.S. domestic itineraries. American gets a carve-out in oneworld rules so they do not have to offer this to their own members.
American Airlines Airlines AAdvantage members, regardless of their tier status or class of travel, are not eligble for lounge access when travelling solely on North American flights within or between the U.S, Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Carribean.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
Alaska Airlines will get the same carve out as American when they join oneworld, so that their elites will not get lounge access on domestic trips. (Alaska does offer their elites access to their own lounges when flying paid or award domestic first class.)
If the carve out wasn’t extended to apply to Alaska, then Alaska’s mid-tier elites (MVP Gold) who will presumably become oneworld sapphire members would get:
- Alaska Club access without a membership, and those clubs are already crowded
- American Airlines flagship lounge access (as well as Admirals Club access) on domestic itineraries
The American Airlines Flagship lounge at LAX especially would be overwhelmed.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge LAX
Meanwhile it wouldn’t surprise me to see Alaska no longer willing to status match American Airlines elite members so if you want to match to Alaska you may need to do it soon.