In recent weeks, many travellers have found themselves being incorrectly denied access to the Oneworld Business Lounge and Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles – despite their visit being completely within the bounds of the published Qantas and Oneworld lounge policies.
Among those turned away at the door: Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers travelling on Qantas partner and Oneworld member American Airlines' domestic flights, along with AA’s own business class and first class passengers with a domestic connection before or after their long-haul international flight.
Some of this misunderstanding seems to stem from confusion over the fact that, while the Qantas and Oneworld lounges reside in LA’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, American Airlines operates a number of domestic services from TBIT.
There's also the little-known convention that passengers departing from any terminal at LAX may also clear security at TBIT to enjoy the lounges before returning to their terminal of departure.
Australian Business Traveller contacted Oneworld's Vice President Corporate Communications Michael Blunt to clarify the lounge access rules in Los Angeles, and whether these were being correctly applied.
Oneworld: airport lounge access policies
Through Qantas’ membership in the global Oneworld airline alliance, Gold frequent flyers receive Oneworld Sapphire recognition while both Platinum and Platinum One are classed as Oneworld Emerald. Both those membership tiers permit lounge access before American Airlines and other Oneworld flights.
While AA exempts its own AAdvantage Platinum and Executive Platinum members from that perk when flying within North America, Blunt confirmed that Qantas frequent flyers and all other Sapphire/Emerald members “should be granted access” to the TBIT lounges prior to all AA domestic flights.
Similarly, AA’s long-haul business and first class passengers “travelling on a domestic flight to connect to or from an international long-haul flight in a premium cabin as part of single itinerary … too should have (lounge) access.”
Blunt also stressed that “the LAX Tom Bradley lounge developed and operated by Qantas on behalf of its oneworld partners is NOT among the small number of lounges excluded from the oneworld agreement, as detailed at oneworld.com.”
“We have been liaising with Qantas and have asked them to remind their colleagues at Los Angeles of the oneworld lounge access rules – which they tell us has now been done."
"We do also make clear that some lounges may get busy at peak times, and access to them may be restricted as a result.”
New airside link between TBIT and Terminal 4
While American Airlines uses Terminal 4 as its home hub in Los Angeles, a number of its domestic flights also depart from the international terminal.
As a result, a new airside walkway between T4 and TBIT is currently under construction and is expected to open in 2016.
Although primarily serving these passengers, the link will also have the effect of providing an easier opportunity for T4 travellers to stop by the Oneworld Business Lounge or Qantas First Lounge at TBIT before their American Airlines flight out of Terminal 4.
“In theory, eligible customers (as detailed earlier) departing on flights from Terminal 4 should be able to access the TBIT lounge(s),” Blunt admits to Australian Business Traveller.
However, “they are generally not likely to find this practical bearing in mind check-in times for domestic flights and distances from the (TBIT) lounge to the Terminal 4 boarding gates, and remembering that there are oneworld lounges (American Airlines) in Terminal 4 anyway.”
In short, the TBIT lounges are certainly ideal for American Airlines passengers departing from the same, but for everybody else with a flight from Terminal 4, you’d realistically need to have several hours to kill before your flight to make the trans-terminal voyage worthwhile.
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