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In 1939, American Airlines made a groundbreaking investment in customer satisfaction by purchasing a fleet of 14 limousines to transport travelers in three AA cities to and from the airport. Alas, as much as our customers enjoyed the extravagance, the limousine service did not last. However, another industry-first innovation, the American Airlines Admirals Club, launched that same year, and it has stood the test of time. I’m pleased to devote this month’s column to that 70-year-old institution.

Spurred by company patriarch C.R. Smith, American introduced the Admirals Clubs -- the first at what is now New York’s LaGuardia Airport -- as a way of honoring the airline’s best customers. People sometimes ask about the name, since it sounds more nautical than aeronautical. In the 1930s, Mr. C.R. dubbed AA’s new DC-3 aircraft the Flagship Fleet. Sticking with the maritime theme, American started honoring some of its best customers, along with the occasional movie star and public official, as “admirals.” With the opening of the industry’s first VIP club in 1939, the admirals had a port to call their own, a sanctuary where they could relax between flights.

Back then, membership was by invitation only, and members were required to wear a jacket and tie. Seven decades later, our Admirals Club lounges are both less formal (there’s no longer a dress code) and less exclusive (anyone can join) than they were in 1939. But they remain oases of calm and comfortable places to relax or to get some work done amid the hustle and bustle of airports.

In recent years, we have invested heavily to ensure that our network of more than 40 clubs around the world remains the industry standard. We have opened new clubs in Tokyo, New York (John F. Kennedy), Dallas/Fort Worth, and Miami, and we’ve refurbished many of our existing clubs, adding new furniture, showers, children’s rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi, and other amenities. We recently completed a major renovation of our largest Chicago O’Hare club, and we currently have big renovation projects going on at Boston Logan and London Heathrow airports, both of which will be completed next year.

An Admirals Club membership is an investment in a more relaxing, more comfortable, and, for many people, more productive travel experience, and we appreciate that you take all your investments very seriously, especially in tough times. We also understand that, depending on the frequency of your travel, an annual membership might not make sense for you. Or you may want to take your local Admirals Club for a spin before you commit. That’s why we offer the One-Day Pass, a great way to discover all that our clubs have to offer. One-Day Passes can be purchased online or at the Admirals Club of your choice and can be used at multiple clubs throughout your day of travel.

Air travel has certainly changed a lot since 1939. In all sincerity, I doubt we will ever bring back the limousine service of years ago. But the Admirals Club lounges are here to stay, and I encourage you to check one out in the near future. In the meantime, wherever today’s travel takes you, thanks for flying with us. Have a great trip!

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Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines