One of the first things airlines did in response to the novel coronavirus was temporarily close airport clubs and lounges. Beginning in mid-March, airlines shut down their lounges as passenger traffic plummeted. While COVID-19 cases continue to rise significantly throughout the United States, passenger traffic has rebounded. Though passenger traffic is nowhere near pre-COVID levels, airlines have witnessed a significant increase in demand. With travelers returning to the sky, several airlines have begun to reopen their airport clubs and lounges. One of these airlines is American Airlines, which operates a network of nearly 50 Admirals Clubs at airports across the globe.
Airlines that have begun reopening their airport lounges and clubs are doing so cautiously. American Airlines, one of the first airlines to reopen its lounges, has implemented a variety of procedures and measures designed to keep travelers safe. I recently visited one of American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs at Miami International Airport.
With the new post-COVID19 safety measures implemented, visiting the Admiral’s Club is significantly different from before the pandemic. Here is what passengers should expect when visiting Admirals Clubs and other airline lounges and clubs.
I checked out of my hotel around 3:30 PM. My flight didn’t depart until 8:50 PM, which meant I had almost five hours to kill at Miami International Airport. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my routine when departing from Miami International Airport included popping into the American Express Centurion Lounge. In the unlikely event that the lounge wasn’t overcrowded, the Centurion Lounge was my lounge of choice. However, American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs at the airport were undoubtedly my second choice. With the Centurion Lounge still closed, I made my way to the only Admirals Club that was open. For the time being, American Airlines’ sole Admirals Club is the club located near gate D30. The airline’s lounge located near gate D15 remains closed as of mid-July.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew I would be guaranteed entry as long as I had a valid boarding pass and my Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. However, I was well aware of capacity restrictions before arriving at the airport. That being said, I was not confident in my chances of getting into the Admirals Club.
Outside of the lounge, there wasn’t any signage or notices regarding capacity controls. The exterior of the lounge appeared as it did pre-COVID with one exception.
American Airlines has yet to announce plans to reopen its more premium portfolio of lounges, the Flagship Lounge. The Admirals Club at D30 is also the entrance to the Flagship Lounge. However, the sign outside of the lounge was covered up. Other than the piece of tape covering the Flagship Lounge placard, the exterior of the lounge was unchanged.
The second I entered the lounge; however, I was greeted with a sign noting the capacity constraints as a result of COVID-19. The sign read:
“Travel with Confidence”
“The safety of our guests is our top priority.”
“We are currently operating this location at 50% occupancy in order to better encourage physical distancing. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
I appreciated the fact that the sign was placed right at the entrance. It served as a reminder that should I have been denied entry, it was for a valid reason.
At the check-in podiums, a single agent was assisting guests. With significantly fewer passengers traveling, staffing the check-in podiums with a single agent was not an issue. A piece of plexiglass stood between the agent and I. I handed the agent my documents and my credit card. Within seconds, I was welcomed into the lounge.
At the elevators leading up to the lounge was a sign requesting that passengers distance themselves, not just in the elevator, but for the entirety of their visit.
The escort through the lounge provided by the agent is part of American Airlines’ social or physical distancing procedures. Agents would walk with guests to seating areas and assist them in finding a seat that allowed guests to remain as far apart from each other as possible.
Shortly after being seated, a lounge attendant approached me and asked if I would like anything to drink. About a minute after placing my drink order, another lounge attendant approached me with a brown paper bag. This caught me off guard as I was not expecting to receive anything other than the glass of wine I had ordered.
When I opened the bag, I found an assortment of light snacks, most of which were previously found at the club before its temporary closure. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, self-serve food and drink options are no longer offered. Instead, the club is staffed with significantly more lounge attendants.
During my visit, I was offered two of the snack bags. While not much, I was genuinely appreciative of these snack bags. Each bag featured cheese cubes, pita chips, a chocolate chip cookie, and an assortment of candies. Before visiting the club, I assumed that snacks would not be offered. Additionally, the staff at the lounge appeared to not enforce policies prohibiting outside food. I was also appreciative of lounge staff not enforcing this policy. Larger plates featuring more substantial menu items typically offered in the lounge were not available.
Lounge attendants wore masks at all times. While guests were required to wear their masks anytime they left their seats, many guests continued to wear their masks while seated. Mask compliance among other guests was universal. For the entire duration of my visit, not one guest failed to adhere to mask requirements. In addition to mask requirements, lounge attendants cleaned guest seating and tables after each guest departed the lounge. The space felt clean and physical distancing was maintained throughout my visit.
As previously noted, all self-serve food and beverage were removed from the lounge as a precautionary measure. In place of self-serve food and drinks, were placards and signs reminding guests of the new safety procedures. In the restroom, there was additional signage reminding passengers to stay physically distanced and practice good hygiene.
The Bottom Line
Many frequent flyers are still wary of getting back on the road. This is a sentiment echoed by infrequent flyers as well. Concerns that air travel creates the ideal atmosphere for the spread of a virus like COVID-19 are entirely valid. However, passengers should note that airlines are actively addressing these issues.
Addressing the concerns of travelers extends beyond the aircraft. My experience at American Airlines’ Admirals Club at Miami International Airport was extremely positive. The lounge staff was actively enforcing social distancing and keeping guest seating clean. With an increase in passenger traffic, gate areas will continue to grow more crowded. Luckily, for now, airline lounges and clubs are the ideal space for passengers with concerns related to COVID-19.