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American makes VIP airport clubs available to everyone

The theme lately seems to be airlines squeezing every last dollar out of their revenue opportunities, and then squeezing a little more just to be sure they got it all. This time, it’s American Airlines trying its hand at airline alchemy—that is, taking an existing product and trying to turn it into gold. The carrier says it will now allow customers interested in trying its airport VIP club (called the Admirals Club) the opportunity to do so … for a price.

Admirals Club, like most other airport VIP lounges, offers peace and quiet, comfy chairs and couches, free newspapers, and other little perks that can make waiting in an airport a bit easier to take. They’re available to club members before and after flights. An annual membership goes for about $300 to $450. Now they’ll also be available in the U.S. to any of the airline’s customers who check in using a self-serve kiosk and are willing to fork over $50 for an all-day pass. Up to two additional passes for people traveling on the same itinerary can be purchased for an additional $25 each, and the cost of the passes can be applied to an annual membership.

So is a one-day pass worth $50? That probably depends on how long you’ll be waiting at the airport; it’s probably most valuable if you’re stuck with a long layover somewhere. The value goes up if you’re a frequent traveler and are considering an annual membership anyway. Then it becomes a case of try-before-you-buy. But, if you’re an infrequent flyer or you don’t mind waiting at the gate, $50 may be a bit steep.

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