by Anura Guruge
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As a 1 Million Mile lifetime American Airline AAdvantage member I still receive, by mail, regular updates and promotions from AA though I no longer fly anything like the frequency as used to during two periods of mu life 1985 to 1986 and 1992 to 2000. During those periods I would typically flying every week, usually 3 to 4 days a week — red-eyes back from the West Coast a given. During the first 10 months of 1985, I was in the top 2% of frequent flyers at both American and United.
When I received my May 2014 AAdvantage ‘brochure’ I was surprised to see an announcement on the back page that the Admirals Club was turning 75 this year.
This meant that the Admirals Club, a much beloved second home for me during 1995 to 2000, was older than the IBM mainframes. I had not expected that.
I had thought that the Admirals Club was a ‘recent’ innovation and by ‘recent’ I was thinking 1970s.
As a Marketer I, like so many, think that American Airlines pioneering Frequent Flyer program, i.e., now AAdvantage, was THE MOST innovative customer loyalty program ever. Had assumed, obviously incorrectly, that the Admirals Club came after the Frequent Flyer program — and that was launched in May 1, 1981. [I had to look that up.]
Wow. 75 years. 1939. October 1939 or shortly after — but before 1940.
I had to go look up how the Admirals Club came to be in (October) 1939.
It all had to do with New York’s LaGuardia Airport and the man it is named after, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia (1934 to 1945). I knew that LaGuardia was named after a mayor. Probably had seen a bust of plaque at that airport — which I used to be very familiar with.
Didn’t realize all the politics that had been involved in getting LaGuardia built. Fascinating. Wikipedia has a decent introduction that should get you going. So that was the genesis and impetus. 1939.
The last time I was in an Admirals Club was in 2006. Deanna and I flew to San Francisco — I was doing a presentation at a NetManage sales conference. I used some of my Frequent Flyer miles to get us two first class tickets — back and forth. Since it was classed a transcontinental flight and we were travelling first class we were given complimentary passes for the Club. Deanna was impressed. It was nostalgic for me. I had spent so many DAYS at the Club in Boston — Boston my ‘home’ airport because I invariably flew AA. Frequent Flyer loyalty — and given my ‘seniority’ in those days I could invariably get upgrades for free or for ‘not much’. I was never much for travelling in the back of planes. I had a wife who used to tell folks, partly in jest, “Anu doesn’t know that planes have seats with numbers greater than 6“. That was true. 6 was about my limit. I preferred Row 1 with the added leg room.
So AAdvantage and Admirals Club.
But, I always reckoned that there was a THIRD items of GENIUS by AA in parallel to AAdvantage and Admirals Club.
The stitched BUTTONHOLE in the blue linen napkins in First Class, in my opinion, is UP THERE as sheer genius. IF you ever used them YOU would never forget. The buttonhole enabled you to button it to a top button on a shirt or even a blouse so that it stayed in place. I could tuck my tie behind it. Perfect. Kept the food and the Hot Fudge Sundaes from getting on yours shirt or tie. Not sure that they still have them. I think they still had them in 2006.
But, enjoy. I am a huge fan of AA. We flew AA to Phoenix and back last year when we went to the Grand Canyon.They were very good to us. So I tip my hat to AA and the Admirals Club — and remember, with nostalgia, the blue linen napkins with the buttonhole.