The Surprising Way You Can Throw Big Group Parties At 10 Airports – Whether You’re Flying Or Not

Geoffrey Palcher made a brilliant move as his fiancé was headed off on her bachelorette trip. He booked the conference room at the American Airlines Admirals Club for a pre-trip party. He went in early and got it decorated, too. Most people don’t realize it’s possible to customize a celebration at the airport, but Palcher was all over this. And he was taking advantage of a service American offers – that United and Delta do not.

Washington National Airport Admirals Club Conference Room, Credit: Geoffrey Palcher

This is brilliant on several levels,

  • Admirals Club conference rooms are accessible to both club members and non-club members
  • Members can’t visit the club when they aren’t flying American, but conference room guests can be traveling on any airline.
  • You don’t even have to be flying – the Admirals Club will write gate passes for meeting guests.

Geoffey’s fiancé Katie, credit: Geoffrey Palcher

With the American Airlines premium co-brand that comes with lounge access (Citi Executive card), a cardmember can add up to 10 authorized users at no additional fee and everyone with a card can bring in two guests, so if there’s room one person could potentially sponsor a group of 33 in an Admirals Club.

However as a one-off, with people who aren’t members, there’s nothing like inviting them into a private room in an airport that you can customize for your party. Here you’ll even see wine, with the bottle procured from the Admirals Club bar.

Which Airlines Let You Rent Conference Rooms

United Airlines stopped taking conference room reservations in 2016. Spokesperson Jonathan Guerin tells me, “The privacy (phone) booths replaced conference rooms in direct response to customers wanting more private spaces to take calls.”

Delta, too, converted its conference rooms to seating in its clubs and business meetings are not permitted there.

American Airlines, though, offers conference room rental at 13 locations: Boston; Washington National B and C clubs; Dallas – Fort Worth A, B, and C; Newark; Houston; Los Angeles terminal 4; New York LaGuardia; Miami D30; Chicago O’Hare H/K, San Francisco. Pricing is:

  • $65 per hour for members ($90 for more than 10 people)
  • $85 per hour for non-members ($110 for more than 10 people)

Bookings can be made directly at the club or via Member Services (1-800-237-7971, Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Eastern) at least 24 hours in advance and providing names and dates of birth of guests. Payment is required at time of booking.

Once inside the lounge all of your non-club members, flying or not, can go get free drinks from the bar of course!

This is an under-advertised and under-appreciated opportunity that American Airlines provides, and one that should be earning them some revenue if it was publicized better.

A Cost-Effective Way To Access A Club

An American Airlines Admirals Club day pass is $59 per person, though it allows visits to multiple clubs on the same day. A family of 6 stuck at the airport would pay $354 to access the club without memberships. Renting a conference room in the club is cheaper and it even gives you private space, not merely a license to hunt for a seat.

Use The Airline Lounge Even When You’re Not Flying That Carrier

United, Delta, and American have all placed restrictions on lounge access so that members can only access their respective clubs when they are flying that airline or eligible partners on the same day. American and Delta make an exception for lifetime club members. United does not – not even for Cleveland-based members who no longer even have a hub to make selecting United travel a viable option.

I can no longer use the American Airlines club in Austin, for instance, when I’m flying Southwest. Unfortunately the Austin club became so crowded (and the airline put off its investment in expanding the space into adjacent offices the airport no longer uses) that they converted their conference room into additional seating. They converted their entryway into additional seating, too. And the club still was packed at peak times – before quadrupling the number of destinations they serve from the airport.

This doesn’t help me at my home airport, but in cities where it’s an option you can rent a conference room in the club before your flight on another airline when your membership doesn’t give you access.

Meet Your Friends At The Gate When You Aren’t Flying

Gate passes are hard to come by these days. Some people will buy a ticket even when they don’t intend to fly, just to get through security. (Then they’ll cancel the trip, either for a refund or future travel credit.) That’s not exactly kosher, but it’s not that uncommon either. Just don’t try this trick to access lounges, Lufthansa won a judgment against someone who used their lounges this way when they weren’t really flying.

Getting an actual invitation that lets you through security is so much better! The only downside is that gate passes aren’t eligible for PreCheck so you have to clear regular security, remove your shoes, and take out your laptop.

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. I’d imagine most people would kill you if you told them they’d need to navigate airport parking and make it through airport security just to get to a bridal shower. Heaven help Aunt Bertha when the TSA agent tells her he needs to unwrap her gift to see what’s in it, or grandma can’t give you the cutlery set in person. Or when Cousin Karen learns she has to wear a mask just to get to the party!
    How popular that bride will be!

  2. Too much effort. For her bachelorette party, my fiancé will be getting a T shirt that says “Same Penis Forever”.

  3. Sounds like fun…wish I’d known sooner before life had other plans and mom’s dementia has impacted her ability to leave the house because dad would have loved to celebrate a birthday with a runway view. He’ll be 105 next May…but I know his heart would be broken without mom to share the experience. Even if we could figure out a way to do it, it might be too overewhelming for her…but the idea of it all sounds like so much fun….thanks for sharing. as for comment above by Qinxuan Pan…hope your fiance reconsiders when you give her that gift….

  4. @Iolaire McFadden I have been to many events there, but it’s a bit of a different topic because it doesn’t get you behind security

  5. Two silly questions:
    1. If you have a gate pass to go to a bachelorette party, why would you bring your laptop? I mean, sure, maybe you’re the poor schmuck chosen to give the PPT presentation with the Chippendales video, because, honestly, booking the real thing would involve moving some suspiciously large packages through security. Otherwise, though, why you lugging the Ultrabook? Do you really need to update the spreadsheet while being chauffered back from the party to Westchester?

    2. English: is it fiancé now and not fiancée, even if she uses female pronouns? I mean, whatever people want to do, but I can’t help but see the gender of the noun, and fiancé is a dude. Yet y’all seem to use it consistently and discuss among yourselves, so maybe I’m just wrong. I’ll still pretend that this was a self-identified queer party, ‘cos that makes it all the more epic: the Admiral hosted a queen by the Tower of Sadness to celebrate the beginning of the end to nubility. Thereafter, the queen and entourage would visit the Dry Oasis, where nary an appletini could be had, before finally alighting in the Destination that shall not be Named, to engage in mortal combat with the Leather Stallion.

  6. For future reference, fiancé is male, fiancée is female. You gave Katie a grammatical sex change. And misspelled Geoffrey’s name in the photo caption.

    I know you won’t bother fixing these things, but I had to get it off my chest.

    Best wishes to the happy couple.

  7. Lets get it right guys can have a party too. And guys do marry guys. Using the word queer is offense. DO NOT USE IT We are not in the Regan Presidency. END of discussion on it.

  8. @tomri: it’s the Q in LGBTQ+ (or LGBTQIA). In the Reagan era, it was just LG. While once derogatory (and like ‘moist’, some people are oddly offended by it, hence the “self-identified”), it’s been largely reclaimed as a blanket term to avoid the heteronormative identity politics of applying a rigid label to our malleable selves.

    And indeed, I would never infringe on anyone’s right to party. Some things are sacrosanct. Besides, what would be the point of having a party?

    Now, however, I’m tempted to refer to the conference room in the back of AA lounges as “The Rear Admiral’s Club”.

  9. @bubba it is LGBT and you are the reason why airlines have duct tape on board for saying offensive remarks like that.

  10. I guess gay English majors need to have something to do these days? Or is that you Debit? #offtopic

    Gary, Interesting blog post. Thanks.

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