American Airlines has been focusing on upgrading the premium cabin experience on the ground, much as its competitor United Airlines has been doing with their Polaris lounges (currently only open at Chicago O’Hare, which we visited). I recently found myself departing New York’s JFK Airport in a business class flight on Cathay Pacific flight. This gave me access to their partner AA’s recently-opened Flagship Lounge.
This is the first new Flagship Lounge for American. By the end of 2017, they hope to have the new lounges open at Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, and Miami. These will be followed by Dallas/Fort Worth, London Heathrow, and Philadelphia in 2018.
Read on for more photos and descriptions of the lounge, including how you can access it.
I arrived at the lounge after clearing what had to be the worst security checkpoint I’ve gone through in years. No PreCheck, if you’re flying Cathay Pacific. The TSA lost one of my shoes – seriously (although it was eventually tracked down).
The lounge is right after your clear security. Once you enter the reception area, there is a regular AAdmirals Club straight ahead, and the Flagship Lounge is located to the left. Who gets access to the Flagship Lounge? A lot of people…
If you’re flying in business or first class on most international flights operated by American or their oneworld partners (such as Cathay), you get access. Same goes for those flying up front on AA’s premium trans-con flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco. A variety of American’s own elite frequent fliers get access, if they’re flying internationally (even in economy). AA’s uber-elite ConciergeKey members get access no matter where they’re flying, and can bring the whole family. Lastly, oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members get access too.
At a place like JFK, that adds up to a lot of eligible guests, especially at busier periods. I were visiting on a Sunday morning at about 8:00 am, so the lounge was pretty quiet. That said, some folks on Twitter pointed out that the lounge can get severely overcrowded at times.
The aesthetics of the lounge are quite nice. The furniture is modern but comfortable, and the views are great. The restrooms are very nice, with showers available. There are a variety of spaces in which to relax or work, including a quiet room.
The food offered was great for a domestic lounge in the U.S., although the drink options were weak. The areas that were supposed to feature signature drinks, like the Bloody Mary bar (that is shown on American’s website) and the highly-touted wine bar, were empty. I realize it was the morning in New York, but world travelers are on all kinds of schedules (it was 8:00 pm in Hong Kong, where we were heading). Before kicking off our two-week vacation, sharing a glass of bubbly with my wife would have been nice.
One area of the lounge that I didn’t get to access is the special Flagship First dining room. It is a sit-down dining option available only to travelers flying in first class on American’s own international or premium trans-con flights. That said, the food options were nice in the main lounge, so I didn’t mind.
Overall, it’s a good time to be a (premium) flyer in the U.S. After years of cost-cutting, airlines are finally re-investing in the premium product experience for their highest-value passengers. The American Flagship Lounge at JFK was a great place to spend a few hours.