When Will American Airlines Flagship Lounges Re-Open?

American Airlines has Admirals Clubs which are accessed primarily by paid members – whether via an annual membership or a premium Citibank credit card – and Flagship lounges which are accessible by international business class passengers along with the airline’s mid-tier elites and higher traveling internationally, and oneworld partner mid-tier elite frequent flyers as well.

Lounges were largely closed in March, as passenger volumes fell and the need to social distance grew. Initially modified service was offered, such as packaged food rather than buffets, and local lock down regulations in some places meant alcohol couldn’t be served. At some clubs packaged food could only be eaten in the lounge. In other locals food could only be taken away and eaten outside the lounge.

American Airlines Flagship Lounge LAX

Faced with a patchwork of rules, and a shrinking airline, American made the decision to shutter lounges. Air travel is beginning to come back, admittedly off of a very low base. However forward bookings for domestic leisure destinations especially are performing better in June and July.

At the Wolfe Research Conference airline analyst Hunter Keay asked American’s executives whether Flagship lounges would open before Admirals Clubs re-opened?

American President Robert Isom said that flagship lounges “will be closed until we see demand that warrants opening them back up.”

American Airlines Flagship Lounge Chicago O’Hare

This is an important point: clubs remain closed not just for social distancing reasons, but to control costs. They’re only going to make clubs available when there’s a revenue proposition to do so. And international travel demand, and especially international premium cabin demand (which relies heavily on business travel), is expected to come back last.

Bottom-line don’t expect Flagship lounges to re-open quickly. And, I’d add, don’t expect new lounges like Philadelphia to come online right away because discretionary capital spending is among the easiest of cash burning endeavors to defer.

When Flagship lounges do come back the challenge exists of what sort of service to offer, as well, because these facilities have had extensive buffets which are largely frowned upon in the COVID-19 era. The JFK lounge had ‘Bridge dining’ which offered prepared-to-order menu items. Other lounges had ‘action stations’ with a single potentially customizable hot item prepared by a chef.

American Airlines Flagship Lounge Buffet New York JFK

That may not scale well for the volume of passengers historically supported in the lounges (at New York JFK dishwasher capacity was an issue early on), though of course that volume may not return before COVID-19 is less of an issue.

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 »

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  1. Are the airlines extending expiration dates for cards offering lounge access since that amenity (primary reason for some to obtain such cards) is not available?

  2. I know that Citi is cutting the renewal fee in half for this year ($225 vs $450). Since we primarily use it for domestic travel (business) and some leisure for the Admirals Club (which will open first, again once demand picks up) it will be a nice to have once again.

  3. They’re getting it backwards. I won’t pay to fly international J if the lounge isn’t open as I am not getting the full experience for which I have paid.

  4. @Ryan…I would agree with you ; Im an award traveler, and I like to splurge my miles the best way possible. If flying in a premium cabin doesn’t have the usual perks that come with it, the experience will be no good.

  5. Airlines will no doubt use the “threat” of surface contamination as a reason to cut back on food service and other lounge-related expenditure. Welcome back to the era prepackaged cheese and crackers…

  6. Why should airlines open the executive lounges anytime soon? If we, as customers are not complaining, they will give us the bare basics, and tell us to like it. We’ve become sheep and will be content with anything. The damn masks are cutting our oxygen and immune system and we just bend over and ask for more!

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