I got my brand new Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard for two reasons: 100,000 bonus AAdvantage miles and complimentary access to the Admirals Club. As an American Platinum flyer who uses LAX as my home base, that meant I was finally going to get to enjoy the mythical club that overlooks Terminal 4 at LAX. As a fairly frequent traveler, I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without having regular lounge access, but yesterday I got my first taste of the Admirals Club life and I was… kind of nonplussed.
If this were your average lounge review, I would talk about the enormous windows and expansive layout. I would talk about the ample private business center terminals and the enclosed Children’s Lounge to keep crying kids away from adults who don’t like crying kids. I would mention the comfortable leather seats and the readily available power outlets. This isn’t your average lounge review, though. It’s a Fly&Dine Lounge Review and that means we’re talking about the food and beverage offerings.
Coming from Hong Kong, where the Cathay Pacific lounge reinvented what I thought of as an airport lounge, this experience was disappointing. There was no fresh-made noodle bar. There were no paninis. Actually, that’s not true. There’s a full menu of panini, as well as “specialty sandwiches,” salads, soups, sushi, and all kinds of snacks. The problem was, they all came with a hefty price-tag. What you gain in selection, you lose in the beauty of the word “complimentary.” I didn’t order anything off of the menu. It was mid-afternoon and I just couldn’t stomach paying $14.99 for a Kobe Classic Burger from the LAX Grill — even if it does come with a bag of chips.
I did, however, indulge in the complimentary snacks which can accurately be described as what you’d find at a PTA meeting. There was a crudite plate with carrots, celery, tomatoes, and ranch dressing; a plate of pitted (nice touch) Kalamata olives; and three kinds of cheese: cheddar, Swiss, and pepperjack. You could also get yourself a plastic cup full of an Asian snack mix (wasabi peas, rice crackers, pretzels) or yogurt-covered pretzels.
I liked that their menus highlight healthy options and signage around the lounge also touts their selection of lower calorie fare, but it’s worth noting that the Admirals Club at LAX seems to have outsourced the food service to Sodexho. Just look at that logo in the bottom right corner of the photo above. That’s Sodexho as in the massive industrial food service company, aka the same group that handled the food at my dining hall in college. I don’t know about you, but when I’m going to a luxury lounge at an airport, I expect the food to be a little better than dorm food.
The beverage list hit the same snag. If you want house selections, they’re all yours. If you want premium anything, though, you’ll have to pay for it. Even when you’re paying $50 a day (or much more for a premium class ticket that got you entrance to the lounge), you still need to contribute more to the revenue stream if you want to live it up. The one very nice (and very LA) thing the lounge has going for it is their water selection. If you want regular water, they’ve got you covered, but this place also offers a fresh lemon-lime variety as well as parsley-grape-cucumber-lemon. Well done on the H20, Admiral.
Quite honestly, though, I may be part of the problem. Not me, exactly, but anyone who holds a credit card that grants them lounge access. If jamokes like me can just walk in, then what incentive does American have to offer high-quality items for free? I’m not trying to start a revolution here, but I think the value of going to the lounge could be greatly improved if it was an all-inclusive experience and the barrier to entry was set much higher.
The Admirals Club at LAX was a nice place to relax before a flight, but with the bulk of the appealing food eating into my wallet, I don’t think I’ll be doing much dining here before I fly.