Middle Age Miles

Negative Changes Coming for AA Admirals Clubs – Higher Fees, Less Access

Entrance to DFW Terminal A Admirals Club

Yesterday, American announced negative changes coming for its Admirals Clubs. Specifically, starting February 1, 2019, individual membership fees will increase by $100 across the board, and household membership discounts will be discontinued. Then, starting November 1, 2019, same-day boarding passes on AA, a oneworld partner airline, or Alaska Airlines will be required for entry.

Details & Analysis of the Changes

These changes are uniformly negative – prices increase, and benefits decrease. These changes definitely fall on the “hate” side of our love-hate relationship with AA.

Increases in Price

As we mentioned, AA is increasing the price of Admirals Club memberships by $100 across the board.  In addition, AA is eliminating household discounts and will now charge a flat $600 more than the Individual membership rate, for a Household membership.

Here are the old and new rates for Admirals Club memberships in dollars:

American tries to soften the price increases by saying that it is decreasing the price if paid in AA miles. However, the new prices simply allow you to redeem AA miles for membership at exactly 1 cent per AA mile (at the new, higher price).  1 cent per mile is below our baseline value of 1.25 cents per AA mile, so to us, using AA miles to purchase your Admirals Club membership isn’t a good use of your miles. We would expect that you can get better value elsewhere.

That said, in case you’re interested, here are the old and new rates for Admirals Club memberships if paid in AA miles:

I’m not sure there is a bright side to this, but on the non-dark side, there are ways to obtain Admirals Club membership or access that are not changing.

First, we get our Admirals Club membership through the Citi AA Executive card. For an annual fee of $450, the cardholder receives a full Admirals Club membership, plus up to 10 authorized users receive Admirals Club access for themselves and up to 2 guests. In our household, Philly is the primary cardholder with the full membership, and each of the Middle Age Miles kids and I are authorized users. For us, this gives 7 of us Admirals Club access for the $450 fee. As a cardholder, Philly also has the option of spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the card to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). We’ve taken advantage of this option the past 2 years to help Philly toward Executive Platinum elite status, so it’s been very valuable to us.

Second, at this time AA has not announced any increase in the cost of obtaining Admirals Club membership using Business Extra points. For now, you can still purchase an Admirals Club membership with 3,000 Business Extra points. We generally value Business Extra points at about 10 cents per point. At the new increased rates, this redemption would give you 18-22 cents per point depending on your elite status level. Thus, this would be a reasonable and relatively high-value use of Business Extra points.  So, if you have Business Extra points and don’t want to (or can’t) get the Citi AA Executive card, this remains a very solid option for an Admirals Club membership.

Changes to Restrict Access

Traditionally, AA has not required Admirals Club members to be flying on AA (or a partner) in order to access its Admirals Clubs. As long as a member has cleared security, he or she can get in to the Club, even if flying on a different airline. In our experience, the same has held true for AUs on the Citi AA Executive card – we’ve been able to access the Admirals Club even if we’re flying a different airline.

Unfortunately, as of November 1, 2019, that will be changing. Starting on that date, a same-day boarding pass on AA or a partner airline will be required for entry. Partner airlines include all oneworld airlines (such as British Airways, Iberia and Qantas), plus Alaska Airlines.

This is a flat-out negative change. We usually fly AA, but not always. And the Middle Age Miles kids are pretty much airline free agents. They often fly on other airlines, as none of them currently live in the Dallas area and aren’t captive to AA. Therefore, this change to Admirals Club access policy directly hurts us. I’m sure there are many other Admirals Club members who are similarly impacted.

The only silver lining is that the new, more restrictive access policy won’t go into effect for another year.

This may well be worth a complaint to AA, as we’re not happy at all about this.

Hat TIp to View from the Wing for information that helped us with this article.

What do you think about the negative changes to the Admirals Club fees and access rules? Are you impacted? Will you complain to AA? Please let us know in the Comments!

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