In the past, airport lounges were designed with business travelers in mind. But as “luxury leisure” travelers begin to outnumber people traveling for work, airport lounges aim to feel more welcoming and less corporate than before.
A prime example of this is American Airlines’ Admirals Club lounges, which the Fort Worth-based carrier is reimagining to feel more like a retreat. The first to benefit from the new design improvement is the Admirals Club at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC, which will open to the public later this month.
This 14,500 square foot lounge feels more like a residence than an office, with enduring design elements, lounging areas, and a strong sense of place. Future Admirals Clubs with this new design concept are also planned for Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and Denver International Airport (DEN). American did not provide a specific timeline for when it plans to open these other new lounges.
American enlisted Chicago-based DMAC Architecture & Interiors to design these newly constructed living rooms. Known for its work on hotels, restaurants and spas, DMAC has never worked on an airport lounge before. However, Gill Sukhtej, salon product manager at American, said his intention was to find a company that does hospitality well.
“This is DMAC’s strength: providing a unique experience, knowing that it’s more than renderings. It’s the lighting, it’s the acoustics, all those sensory experiences that are important elements of this design,” Sukhtej told AFAR during a preview visit to the DCA Admirals Club on 12 october.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Dwayne MacEwen, Founder and Principal of DMAC Architecture & Interiors. “But [we had our] eyes wide open [to] the opportunities to improve that and then maybe move the needle of what the customer experience should be.
A sense of belonging
Each new salon will feature design references to the local landscapes and landmarks of the city in which it is located. Upon entering the Admirals Club Lounge in DCA’s new Concourse E in Terminal 2, next to Gate E47, passengers will be greeted by the American’s Flight Symbol logo and a winding flight of steps built to evoke iconic landmarks of DC such as the Washington Monument.
“We wanted to give the impression that it was carved out of a block of stone, very austere, more like a museum than an airport lounge. But I think it’s appropriate for where we are,” MacEwen said. (There’s also an elevator for those who can’t or don’t want to climb the steps.)
Upstairs in the Lounge Pavilion, the lounging space of the new Admirals Club, eagle-eyed guests will notice custom side tables by the fireplace that feature raw edges reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
The Capitol building, which you can see from the living room itself, also inspired the look of the pendant lights hanging above the cocoon-shaped armchairs designed to block conversation in the Quiet Room. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the domed shades are composed of words taken from important speeches given in DC And the town’s most popular season has been integrated into the decor, with Kusama-esque Cherry Blossom Infinity Windows – designed with mirrors to endlessly reflect sprigs of faux cherry blossoms at the entrance to each bathroom.
Sustainability and well-being
In terms of sustainability, the living room is fully outfitted with locally sourced American walnut, high output LED lighting that brightens and darkens as daylight comes and goes, as well as low-flow fixtures in bathrooms.
Although the lounge offers no spa amenities, efforts have been made to create a calming retreat space above the hubbub of the lobby below. For example, the walls have four inches of batted sound insulation behind them, so the lounge is quieter than the rest of the airport. There are also several private phone booths, as well as standing desk areas next to the dining room for those who need to take work calls. For families, there is a private bathroom and a mothers’ room with an armchair and a sink for those who need to pump or breastfeed during their travels.
Food and drink offers
In the food pavilion, there will be free buffet-style service, including eggs in the morning and tacos in the afternoon. Heartier items like power bowls and local dishes like crab cake sandwiches are available for sale. Free local beers are offered by Virginia Beer Company, DC Brau and Atlas Brew Works. In an effort to diversify its suppliers, American Airlines has partnered with McBride Sisters Wine Company, one of the few black-owned wineries in the country, to serve its chardonnay in its new lounges.
How to access Admirals Club lounges
There are several ways to access this new DCA lounge and nearly 50 other Admirals Clubs around the world. First, customers traveling first or business class on an eligible US airline or oneworld alliance flight automatically gain entry. Ditto if you have AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Platinum, oneworld Emerald or oneworld Sapphire status.
You can also purchase an Admirals Club membership which costs $650 per year. However, membership is a free benefit of the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which has an annual fee of $450, so it makes more sense to get your club membership that way. Plus, it’s currently offering its biggest welcome bonus in years. Cardholders may bring up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with them. You can also add up to 10 cardholders to your account at no additional cost, and each of these additional cardholders receives access to Admirals Club (with two guests each as well).
Finally, you can also purchase a day pass to Admirals Club lounges online or at select locations for $59.