Inside a Room You Won’t See at DC National Airport: American Airlines Admirals Club VIP Space
The new American Airlines Admiral’s Club in Concourse E at Washington National Airport is stunning. I like the design elements there more than any other living room in the United States.
Windows overlook both the work of the airport and the terminal itself, and it has plenty of seating. But most of all, it’s the subtle details, from tables inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, to lampshades inspired by the Capitol’s dome, to jet-engine-inspired tables, and carpeting that reflects the view of the ground below, as seen from an airplane window at altitude. 30,000 feet, this cabin has more detail than I can imagine.
Perhaps the only place in the airport that I prefer in terms of design is the Qatar Airways al Safwa Lounge in Doha, where almost a thousand years old objects provided by the Museum of Islamic Art are literally on display.
At the new club at Washington National Airport, even the serving dishes are thoughtfully designed to make regular Admirals Club dishes look downright inviting.
All this immediately catches the eye of those who visit the space. The new club attracts many passengers flying out of Concourses C and D, despite both having their own Admirals clubs. It’s a comfortable easy walk and it creates huge repair opportunities these clubs as there is now plenty of room to close one of these pre-existing clubs at a time. I don’t expect this anytime soon.
One thing that most people miss out on when visiting the Admirals Club in Concourse E at the Washington National is the VIP Lounge. It is hidden right behind the reception desk on the right when you exit the elevator.
This is a unique space among clubs, built because the airport is visited by a large number of members of Congress, Supreme Court judges, heads of executive agencies, as well as dignitaries from abroad. You and I are not invited (usually).
The space is “inspired by the Library of Congress” and includes a table, a sofa and a bookshelf filled with books that look so old their spines have worn off all identification marks. Above the sofa is a black mirror. When the Americans announced space, they described the purpose of the mirror as “drawing”.[..] eye up, only to reflect down an image of yourself.” Favorite image of almost everyone who will sit there!
And, perhaps, the main VIP privilege – the room has a private bathroom.
Special services for VIPs at the airport have a long tradition. Twenty years ago, when US Airways was going through bankruptcy and layoffs, the late Senator Ted Kennedy petitioned to “keep the jobs” of the intelligence officers who cared for him at the airport. He didn’t want the dominant carrier there to stop offering special treatment.
Previously, DC airports were operated by the federal government. One of the major stumbling blocks in the handover of control to the airport regional authority in 1987 was that senators and representatives were reluctant to give up their nearest free airport parking lot, so the new airport management committed to keeping it. (This parking lot was temporarily closed due to ongoing airport construction in mid-2017, with those who were eligible getting free parking in regular garages in the meantime.)
While LAX is visiting celebrities, DCA is meeting people who are “famous for DC” (DC is known as “Hollywood for ugly people”). And they have their own dedicated seat at the American Airlines Admiral’s Club in Concourse E of the airport.