For many years, the exclusive airport clubs that cater to the needs of business travelers and other frequent fliers have offered more than office support, help with travel arrangements and free beverages. They've served as a tax write-off as well.
But the benefit of belonging to an airline club was one of the casualties of the new tax law that went into effect at the beginning of this year. Now, cost-conscious airline passengers and the airlines themselves are taking a closer look at the clubs, what they offer and how much they cost.
In a few cases, airlines are considering changing their fee structures as a result of the change in tax law. Most, however, said they are still studying the situation, and none have taken any action yet.
A rundown on current airline club room programs:
* American Airlines Admirals Club: Forty locations. A one-year membership costs $150, plus a $100 initiation fee. Adding a spouse costs $75. Lifetime memberships are $2,600, plus $1,500 to add a spouse. A senior lifetime membership (for ages 60 and up) costs $700, plus $200 for a spouse.
The clubs provide televisions, personal computers, phones, desks, fax machines and copy machines. Conference rooms can be reserved for a fee. Coffee and tea are complimentary, and cocktails and other beverages can be purchased in the United States. In Europe and South America, drinks are free.
* Delta Airlines Crown Room: Clubs in 39 cities. A one-year single membership costs $150, plus $50 to add a spouse. Three-year memberships are $360, plus $100 for a spouse. There are no lifetime memberships or initiation fees, and you can use frequent-flier miles toward the purchase of a membership. There are no senior discounts.
Group meeting rooms are available at no charge. Although club rooms have fax machines and phones, there are no copy machines or computers. Crown Rooms offer complimentary beverages, including cocktails. Members can cash checks for up to $50, and each club is staffed by a concierge to assist in travel arrangements.
* United Airlines Red Carpet Club: Thirty-five locations, with plans for two more at the new Denver airport. A one-year membership costs $175, plus a onetime $100 initiation fee. Adding a spouse costs $75. Three-year memberships are $475, plus $200 to include a spouse. A lifetime membership is $2,600, plus $1,500 for a spouse. There are no senior discounts.
Conference rooms are available for $25 per hour and must be reserved in advance. Nearly half the clubs also include office modules with desks, fax machines and computer hookups. The staff can provide a computer, but a reservation is required.
Personal checks can be cashed for up to $100. Each club room has a concierge staff to assist with travel plans and questions. The clubs also offer free continental breakfast, beverages and snacks. In the United States, cocktails are sold; overseas, all drinks are free.
* Northwest Airlines WorldClub: The airline has 29 clubs and is in the process of expanding in Minneapolis and Detroit. One-year membership is $175, plus a onetime $50 initiation fee. A three-year membership is $450, and the lifetime membership is $2,500. Adding a spouse costs $60 for one year, $175 for three years and $1,250 for life. A one-year senior membership is $115, plus $40 for a spouse. Lifetime senior membership is $850, plus $425 for a spouse.
Conference rooms are available for $25 an hour. The lounges offer copy machines, fax machines, personal computers, phones and televisions.
In addition, members get a 40% discount on Northwest's VIP Express letter service, an overnight delivery service. Northwest offers a free bar (including liquor) and snacks throughout the day.
* USAir Clubs: Twenty-five clubs at 19 airports. Annual membership is $150, plus a $50 initial processing fee. It costs $50 to include a spouse. A three-year membership is $375, plus $150 to include a spouse. Lifetime individual membership is $2,000, plus $1,000 to include a spouse.
Senior lifetime memberships (ages 62 and older) are $350, plus $100 for a spouse.
Fax machines and phones are available, and some locations also have work desks. The clubs don't have computers. Cocktails are priced the same as in-flight, but coffee, soft drinks, juice and snacks are free.
* TWA Ambassadors Club: Twenty-three locations. Annual membership is $125, plus a $25 initiation fee. Adding a spouse costs $25. A three-year membership is $300 (no initiation fee), plus $75 for a spouse. A lifetime membership is $1,500, plus $250 to add a spouse.
In addition, club members receive frequent-flier miles for joining. A one-year membership yields 5,000 bonus miles. Three years earns 10,000 miles, and a lifetime membership gives 15,000 miles. There are no senior discounts.
Some clubs have conference rooms available for a fee, and all clubs have fax machines, phones and personal computers.
Receptionists are on hand to assist with check-in, seat assignments and boarding passes, as well as flight information. Morning pastries, juice and coffee are complimentary, but soft drinks and cocktails must be purchased.
* Continental Airlines Presidents Clubs: Sixteen locations. Annual membership is $150, plus a onetime $50 fee, and $75 for including a spouse. Three-year memberships cost $375, plus $150 for a spouse. Lifetime membership is $1,825, plus $675 for a spouse. Senior lifetime memberships (ages 62 and older) are $952, $400 to add a spouse.
Club rooms include phones, fax and copy machines, computers and laser printers and are staffed with a concierge to assist with travel plans. Coffee, juice and snacks are free. Conference rooms and cash bars are available at most locations, and members can cash checks for up to $100.
* Alaska Airlines Boardrooms: Clubs in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Anchorage. The airline also has a joint arrangement so members can use TWA's Ambassadors Club at Los Angeles International Airport. Annual memberships are $150, plus a onetime $100 initiation fee. Spouses can join for $70. There are no senior discounts.
Fax machines are available, but personal computers are not. Snacks and soft drinks are free.
* America West Phoenix Clubs: Two locations, both in Phoenix. A one-year membership costs $100 ($25 to add a spouse), plus a onetime $50 initiation fee. Three-year memberships are $225, plus $125 for a spouse. Lifetime memberships are $550, plus $200 for a spouse. There are no senior discounts.
Passengers can also apply frequent-flier miles toward membership.
Clubs have fax machines, copy machines and personal computers. Conference rooms can be reserved at no cost. Snacks and beverages, including cocktails, are free. Members can cash checks for up to $100 at ticket counters.