What Upgraded Food In An American Airlines Admirals Club Looks Like

With an increase in Admirals Club membership fees and premium credit card annual fee American Airlines is investing more in the food in its lounges. The offerings still significantly lag what you’ll find in a Delta Air Lines Sky Club, but they’re better than they used to be and previous offerings were themselves an improvement over the food you used to find in Admirals Clubs.

Overall I’m torn what to think about the improvements, because they are improvements yet American hasn’t gone far enough.

  • A new Admirals Club membership now costs $850 (discounts up to $100 based on status), and $50 less for renewals.

  • In contrast, Delta charges $695 (without guests) for a membership, and their premium co-brand is less expensive too.

While American will let you bring more people into a lounge than Delta does, and recently-announced changes starting in 2025 (which we may see rolled back) limit frequency of access, Delta’s access has been historically more expensive justified by providing guests more while American was cheaper but provided less. They’re no longer cheaper.

But they’re trying to make it look like they’re offering a lot more than they really are! I have to chuckle at the menu in the National Airport E Concourse lounge, which if it wasn’t placed right beside the food would make you think that the offerings were actually quite extensive.

The ‘menu’ includes details of the snack tower of sadness (“assorted snack mix”) and separately lists crackers and pita chips as standalone items. “Grab and go” is… packaged fig bars and a bag of chips. In fact the chips get listed twice on the menu, once as a food item and once as a… local purveyor?

The new crab cakes were mostly breading.. yet still really delicious, actually.

The new serving ware used in the new template Admirals Clubs make meager salads looks really appealing. Presentation matters!

On the other hand, the mini-eclairs were disappointing and stale (hard).

Add in that the Coca Cola Freestyle soda machines are excellent – though sadly, after many years still not available in all lounges – the offerings really are much improved compared to cold cereal and fruit and sliders and mushy pasta, both of which had been improvements over what came before.

In Austin new food has meant sweet chili meatballs and peas and sweet potatoes. The facilities in Austin aren’t conducive to robust meals, and though a new club lounge for Austin was announced two years ago nothing has actually been done on that score.

Like much of what American does, it’s still a me-too product responding to the competition but with a little bit less. In many Delta clubs you’ll find legitimate buffets.

Ultimately the lounge food, which reminds me of a domestic Sheraton in the evenings, is probably better than eating on board. Here’s my lunch last week on an American Eagle Embraer E175. They’re still serving boxed, packaged meals (labeled only as vegetarian or protein) and this one had far less in it than on recent trips.

Flying mainline on the return I wound up with a ‘hot meal’. American Airlines middle managers love short rib because it’s relatively cheap, and because it’s so fatty it reheats well. It’s supposed to stay moist. I know better than to ever select this mystery meat, but since my alternative was the grain bowl that never goes away on a dinner flight I decided to give it a try. It was so tough as to be inedible, and so salty that I wouldn’t have wanted to eat it even if I could.

American Airlines food (whether in lounge or in air) isn’t a reason not to book American, and I suppose that’s what they’re going for.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I’m Executive Platinum

    I shouldn’t have to have a certain credit card or pay for membership

  2. I was in the DCA lounge Sunday and yes the crab cakes were eatable surprisingly though bland & bready 😉

    I was impressed with the food in the DCA United Club @DCA last month

    Next month I’m looking forward to Flagship Dining @DFW on way to LAX and Qantas First

    Safe Travels

  3. @ Gary — AA with a short connection in MIA is THE choice for those looking stay in shape. No food followed by a brisk mile-long walk followed by no food. Just think of all the pounds one can drop!

  4. Mets Fan has a good point. Given that the size of the US frequent flyer pie is fixed, and travelers are basically playing musical chairs as they swear off one airline and defect to another (only to have another flyer make the exact opposite swap!), one of the majors could make a *big* splash and grab some significant market share by giving top elites lounge access (perhaps even cutting the line!) on domestic flights, the way that it is done in…oh, you know, the rest of the world…

  5. It’s a shame that the Austin club isn’t being updated. The staff there is the absolute best and they elevate the experience. Hopefully Austin gets it stuff together soon.

  6. I never found “eating” in a lounge, other than perhaps Polaris and Flagship, satisfying. Even Centurion and CapitalOne weren’t particularly fulfilling. If one is available, a Priority Pass restaurant, even a relatively lousy one, has always been a far better option for actual dining. And then, a lounge for, well, lounging, and maybe some coffee.

  7. The food at LAX is so bad. Not even more options. The chicken is flavorless, the wine is super cheap, the mimosas suck, the omelettes have barely anything inside. The fact they feel they can increase the price for this paltry food and poor ambiance is beyond ridiculous.

  8. Price gouge increase to thin out the riff raff and offer smoke and mirror improved offerings.I can’t run far enough from these overpriced sardine cans.
    Thanks but no thanks
    AA wouldn’t know what a premium lounge is if they were even in one.Here is how they order
    What is the cheapest thing we can buy?Is anybody throwing food away something we can still serve?
    Qantas First in Sydney is the only one I really enjoy
    The vast majority just simply suck

  9. As long as the hotdogs at the terminal concession stands are good and the iced teas are icy cold then I’m satisfied.

  10. Definitely not shilling for Delta, but the food, drink and comfort of the Delta lounge in the regional flight portion of JFK terminal 4 (near gate A8) is better than the SoHo lounge at JFK T8. The “standard” Delta lounge surpasses the AA business class elite lounge. Is this a function of money — does Delta just have more money to invest in lounges — or just AA;s view of lounge quality?

  11. So many thoughts: DCA edible crab cakes seems like a regional favorite (well knowing that the crab source is SE Asia and not the Chesapeake) and I’d love to try it. I do like the DCA Delta SkyClub food options, although the bar is understaffed by clueless ESL staff. The DCA United lounge is okay with its soup and crackers, but its bar maids are too occupied with their shopping lists or some other wierd task.

    I”m so tired of being taken for granted. My last taste of the domestic Golden Age of Travel was the inflight warm chocolate cookies on MIdwestern Airlines (even putting up with a weird stop in MKE.) I have had it with Delta. After slowly getting used to the cold hard cookies, they took them away. Then brought them back on some flights. So confusing. DL keeps changing its in-flight food and beverage and all the changes are misses, no hits. DL is so abusive, I got matched to AA Platinum and Frontier loyalty status. I really might try Frontier, DL’s WiFi is slow, if at all, and the video selections are wretched. The nice thing about AA is that it’s OW with QR, and I adore flying QR.

    I remember discovering Cancun on SY’s all-you-can-fly pass a dozen years ago. I just might try F9’s all-you-can-fly pass, with 100k status, free checked bags, free extended space seats. I am so sick of Delta’s abusive narcissism.

  12. The other thing with the “upgraded” food options is that at peak times, it’s as picked-over and messy as the Buffet Line at Luby’s. They need constant attention with it or it just ends up looking tacky.

  13. Just visited the AA DCA B concourse lounge. It was fine. The food is just fine. It was not super overcrowded. The staff helped me greatly with an earlier flight. I have not tried my “avocado toast” perk because I saw the sign too late.

  14. Whatever their system, it is working. For the first time in over 3 years, I had an empty seat next to m in Coach.
    I am ExecPlat and was in coach. I saw at least 2 bags in front cabin that were Concierge Key bags in Front Cabin!
    It is very competitive.

  15. Was recently in the main lounge at CLT. Asked for a Bloody Mary and was told they didn’t have any mix. I asked them to make one from scratch with tomato juice and other ingredients and they were clueless—bartenders who don’t know how to make a Bloody Mary. SMH. Food buffet was so picked over I couldn’t tell what the offerings were. I tweeted AA asking just WTH I was paying so much money for if they can’t stock basic bar ingredients. Got the usual apology which meant nothing.

    Contrast that with my visit to Air Canada Signature Suite at YYZ Tuesday! Maybe not a fair comparison as it’s international biz class vs domestic lounge but holy crap! The difference was striking to say the least.

  16. AA just keeps downgrading food in the air. I flew DFW to LHR recently and the food in Flagship First was equivalent to what used to be served on many domestic flights of 3 hours or more. It was ok but it was not up to par with what used to be served in First on international flights. Domestic front cabin food is disgusting. It has really been downgraded compared to what was served Parker turning AA into a glorified Spirit airline. I was impressed with my two recent visits to Flagship First Dining at DFW airport. Meals were very good. I have not been in an Admiral’s Club since August, so I have not seen any updated food there. But most anything will be an upgrade over the poor offerings of the past.

Comments are closed.