Upgrd Podcast 15: Battle of the Lounges

Listen in to this week's frequent flyer podcast where we discuss:

  • Continued discussion of the double elite qualifying promotion and our current progress
  • We start discussing how we can rate our flights. What criteria do you think we should use?
  • Price comparison of the major airline lounges
  • Amenity differences between carrier lounges
  • Are they worth it? We chime in, but what do you think?

Please leave a comment or quetion below.

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BarkinJ April 5, 2009 at 08:27 pm
1. Barely any discussion about the American lounges. This is becoming a theme... you guys keep lumping American with United. Different airlines, different programs, different lounges. Yeah, I know they're similar in many ways. But they're not identical.

2. In a related note, you guys didn't address the "higher-level" lounges, like American's Flagship Lounges. At least with AA, these are the real lounges you want to be in. Really good free food, free booze, lots of "first class" treatment. I don't know about the other airlines, but the rules for who can and cannot get into these lounges is an interesting discussion. Some members claim that they get different answers from the counter staffs at different clubs.
Lucky April 6, 2009 at 07:15 am
Thanks for listening, BarkinJ. In our discussion we were talking about basic membership lounges. The question, ultimately, was whether or not it makes sense to join an airline club, so I don't think the Flagship Lounge is really relevant. United has an international first class lounge as well, but we left that out of the discussion. I think if we were talking about non-membership clubs the Flagship Lounge and United IFL would be near the bottom of the list, while Lufthansa's First Class Terminal, Thai's First Class lounge in Bangkok, etc., would be the topics of discussion. I hate to say it, but American and United *are* very similar.
Hunter April 10, 2009 at 01:24 pm
BarkinJ: As usual, the only thing Ben and I agree on is that we're glad you're listening. As an outsider, I too would say that American and United are very similar, but - I've been in a few AA lounges, and I would say that there are some distinct differences. We're certainly attentive to the "lumping" of AA and UA, and I would offer you two thoughts: 1) we'll pay more attention to that issue, and we'll do a better job of breaking them apart, and 2) FLY DELTA.
Lucky April 10, 2009 at 04:42 pm
@ Hunter -- I, for one, would love to hear what you think the "distinct differences" are, or for that matter the distinct differences between which two products we're talking about, given that you've never been into an RCC.
Hunter April 10, 2009 at 04:47 pm

Wow - harsh criticism from a guy who sleeps through podcasts.  You're right - I've never been in an RCC.  But I would never assume that they are the same product.  That's almost as bad as saying the a WorldClub and a Crown Room Club are "the same thing".  This guy makes a great point - we lump too much of the #2 and #3 airlines together.  It's easy to say that because I'm associated with #1.  That's the end of my thoughts on the matter, as I've actually got real work to do.


Suck it,


Lucky April 10, 2009 at 04:50 pm
Sorry, not intending any "harsh criticism." I'm just trying to offer my view, as someone that has visited several RCC's and AC's.
lloat April 21, 2009 at 01:34 am

So this is off topic to the lounge topic, but hopefully something you can touch upon anyway.  When you guys talk about the perks of Elite status, you often talk about international travel, and the perks afforded to elite members.  That's usually where you talk down Delta because of the lack of (valuable) upgrade certificates and talk up both UA and AA. But with AA the BA restriction is a huge issue.

Can you add a topic to an upcoming podcast about AA award travel to Europe and any tips on booking awards there?  With the block on BA transatlantic, unless you're looking at a direct AA city you need to find an onward connection on BA, right?  Or can you interline an award to (say) AF or LH or LX for the last hop.

Also, when searching for awards to Europe, you trip into two problems: first, how do you easily search for award availability since AA.com doesn't seem very partner-friendly.  I heard something about BA.com search being good, but that has the problem of showing you BA which you can't book, right?  Second, what happens with your upgrades?  Do they only get you to LHR or do they go beyond?  And, any inside info / speculation on the BA/AA ATI application and how long it would take to take effect if approved?

Another topic I'd suggest is searching for award bookings on DL/NW.  The DL website just isnt very flexible and transparent with the 3-tier awards, and even less so with partner awards, while CO has a great website that seems to have excellent search features.  Is there a better search for SkyTeam (and OneWorld, per my earlier point)?

Lucky April 21, 2009 at 09:36 am
Thanks for the comments, lloat. Ultimately I agree with you re: AA award availability to Europe. I'd say it's one of the biggest weaknesses in the AA network, due mainly to the fact that BA awards are restricted. Yes, you only real option is flying AA across the pond and then connecting onwards with a partner airline. You can also fly Finnair, but there aren't all that many cases where that's useful. I beleive Brussels Airlines also joined OneWorld, which is another option for the intra-Europe hops. You have to stick to OneWorld airlines, though. As far as searching goes, I find the BA and QF tools to be quite good. Just stay away from BA routes and it will show you the availability on partner airlines. Unfortunately SkyTeam doesn't really have a great award search tool, in my experience, and it's also important to keep in mind that Delta blocks international first class partner award inventory. We'll discuss this further in a future episode, but those are my (general) thoughts.