As a big AA traveler, I frequently find myself in Admirals Club lounges. Recently I spent some time at the Santiago SCL airport and left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the lounge was significantly better than the airport public areas. On the other, SCL underwhelmed in comparison to other Admirals Club lounges.
First, the positives. The Santiago SCL airport is a crowded mess without free WiFi, many food options or decent seating. The positive in that is the Admirals Club is downstairs and away from a particularly strong commotion of passengers. That is the entire point of airport lounges, but it was especially valuable at SCL.
Computer and printer access was another big plus for me, as I sometimes like to have flight details in paper when passing through immigration. The open bar was also nice, as were the showers. While I didn't have time for a shower myself, I did peek inside an empty one and it looked clean and usable.
Now, the negatives. One of the best value adds of lounges is being able to take water with you on the flight. The Admirals Club at SCL had water solely in jugs, not bottles, so our 14 hour flight to Sydney was made sans any "backup waters" for brushing teeth or when you don't feel like asking the flight attendant for many cups of water.
Also of note was the food. Great food at an airport lounge is hard to come by, but here the selection was particularly minimal (and processed). There were wrapped salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts, but nothing was made to order or could be taken away. I ate a little, but ultimately opted for Qantas in-flight food.
Finally, seating in the lounge was pretty crowded at the time, which was at noon on a Saturday. Not a big deal but we shared a small table with another couple folks. One last nit-pick: I prefer open designs with a big view of the tarmac for plane watching, which was not the case (as shown below).
How To Access
Admirals Club lounges - including Santiago's - can be accessed in three main ways:
- Buy a membership (with dollars or miles - see prices below).
- Fly first or business class on the day of travel (even when using miles).
- Have a Citi AA Executive or Citi Prestige card in your name (the latter requires a boarding pass on an AA flight within 12 hours).
Some quick notes on the above: buying a membership almost never makes sense, especially the day pass for $50 or 30-day pass for $99. Airports almost always have WiFi - although Santiago's is reportedly slow and not free, I didn't try it - and seating, so that $50 could be put to better use.
Paying with miles is interesting but ultimately a very bad value proposition. 80,000 miles gets a non-elite member a year of access which can be bought for $500 (or $450 - the non-waived annual fee of the cards I mentioned above). Those same miles could book two $1,000+ international flights.
My pick: if you want to specifically access Admirals Clubs and no other lounge, apply for the Citi AA Executive card. This will net you 50,000 AA miles along with the Admirals Club lounge access - easily the best way to earn access for you and up to two companion guests.