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.