I recently found myself in Austin, and a few days before my trip, Brad mentioned that he had an expiring American Airlines Admirals Club pass and wondered if anyone could use it. I said that if he had no other use for it, I’d use it to check out the Admirals Club in Austin. After all, I had never actually been to an Admirals Club before! I’m a United Club member, and as I frequent the Austin United Club, I figured this would be a good opportunity to compare the two head to head.
Both clubs are located on the second floor of Austin’s airport across from gate 13. They are the only two facilities on that floor. Left to United and right to American. Keep in mind that neither of these two clubs is very large. Austin, despite its continued growth, it still more of a regional city, but it’s still large enough for both carriers to want to have a club there.
I started with the United Club. The entrance to the United Club is a bit more obscure. It’s just a big wooden door.
Walking into the United Club, there’s a luggage area immediately on your right, followed by a business center. The business center, mostly comprised of cubicles, is on the right, and the hall window to the left has views of the pre-security side of the terminal.
In terms of food offerings, the selection is pretty meager, but it’s not much worse or better than most United Clubs. You know those three towers where they constantly rotate fantastic snack options through where they have literally no variety at all? Well, if you’re familiar with those, you won’t be surprised to see them here. There are some fruits and packs of carrots as well. If you head over to the bar area, they’ll often have milanos or walkers shortbreads.
Speaking of the bar, the bar has plenty of high tables to sit at, some TVs with ESPN, and a bar.
There is nothing remarkable at all about this United Club. It offers the same thing you would expect at most smaller United Clubs.
On to the Admirals Club…
The entry way of the Admirals Club has a putting green, and while I didn’t use it, that’s a nice touch.
The food options are either better or worse, depending on your opinion on clubs selling food. If you don’t feel like paying for food, you’re limited to a couple towers of pretzels. Tower one has yogurt covered pretzels. Tower two skips the yogurt.
Look! They stole United’s towers! Or did United steal theirs? Hungry for something else? I hope you brought your wallet.
I’m a bit mixed on the food options. On the one hand, I feel like it’s great that they offer so many other options than the United Club. However, my prevailing thought is that I’m pissed off that they’re trying to charge me for food for a club that I pay to be a part of, especially for things like chips… I somewhat understand if they want to have a full meal service and charge for that, but to charge for basic snack food seems silly. Better to have the option to buy snacks than no option at all? Perhaps. It just rubs me the wrong way. In any case, if you want food, Austin Airport has fantastic food offerings, with Amy’s Ice Creams (get the Mexican Vanilla), The Salt Lick, etc. I wouldn’t buy any microwaved stuff at a club when you can do so much better just out the door!
Speaking of free vs. paid, the complimentary beer is pretty weak, and this is one area that I need to give United kudos. For as poor as their onboard beer selection is, they have great beer in their United Clubs for free! In San Francisco, i can get a Big Daddy IPA or a Sierra Nevada. In Chicago, I can get Goose Island. (since I first wrote this article, United has changed their beer policy. Now only crappy beer is free in the club). At American, it’s only the urine flavored water beers that are free. Anything nicer and you’re paying for it.
The bar area at the Admirals Club was nice, but i had a tough time finding the bar tender, as he was in the back every time I went for a refill. I had to rustle some change or bang a cup around to get attention.
I forgot to take a picture of the larger lounging area at the Admirals lounge, but it is similar to that of the United Club. The one advantage is that they had more charging stations near all the seating areas. I had a lot of work to do and a couple calls to make so I settled into the cubicle area of the club.
Which club is better? I think it’s a toss-up. They both offer the same thing: a quiet place to sit and work outside of the main terminal. Both have meager snacks, with United having a better free selection, but American sells a larger variety. I guess my conclusion here is that if you’re a club member for either one, this will likely meet your low expectations. If you’re not a club member, skip it – don’t pay the fee. Austin has free wi-fi and great food options. Post up elsewhere.