Review: American Airlines Flagship Check-In/Lounge JFK

I was lucky to find a First Class Saver Award on one of the 3 inaugural Airbus A321T flights on January 7th (there was a 4th out of LAX but it was a redeye that landed on the 8th, so I don’t count that).  I actually originally found a First Class Saver Award on the first flight of them all, AA #118 from LAX to JFK at 7am, but I’m not about early morning flights.

Instead I used 37,500 Avios for a First Class seat on AA #181 from JFK to LAX at 4:45pm when that flight opened up, and bought a coach ticket for the night before to meet up with the flight.  As an Executive Platinum, my upgrade for the coach ticket cleared at 100 hours out, so I flew a banal redeye in business on the old 767-200, then a flight back on the A321T in first class. I’ve never done an inaugural type flight before, so I was looking forward to this, especially since I fly the LAX-JFK route frequently!

I’ll be breaking the report down into two parts – this part will include the Flagship Check-In, Flagship Lounge, and pre-boarding (lack of) festivities.  While not necessarily new, they are a part of the Transcontinental First Class experience.

The second part will include the actual flight on the A321T.

Flagship Check-In

I went out into New York City for a while, but the 8ºF temperature quickly brought me back to JFK airport to wait it out for my A321T flight.  As a 3-class First Class passenger on a transcontinental flight, I was allowed access to the JFK Flagship Checkin area.

Terminal 8 on one of the coldest day at JFK, ever.

Terminal 8 on one of the colder day at JFK

American Flagship Check-In at JFK

American Flagship Check-In at JFK


Flagship Check-In Signage

American Airlines has Flagship Checkin at JFK, LAX, ORD, and MIA.  They are meant for passengers in 3-class transcontinental or international first class, Concierge Key members, or people paying $250+ for Five Star Services.  Status has no say in this – not even an Executive Platinum flying Business Class gets to use this.

There's still a Christmas tree at the entrance

There’s still a Christmas tree at the entrance

Check in AAgent

Check in AAgent

With online check-in and mobile apps nowadays, the Flagship Checkin isn’t all that useful for a trip like this, where I had a simple direct flight and just a carry-on bag with no checked bags.  However, it’s a  serene area of the terminal, located just next to the elevators to the AirTrain.  I had to give a door guardian my name and flight number, and after verifying I had access, she let me in.  The agent within noted I was the only passenger she had seen in an hour, and I actually hung around for 10-15 minutes after checking in to charge my phone, and no other passengers or employees entered during that time.  Plus it was a special First Class journey, so I definitely wanted to have the cardstock boarding pass that requires visiting an AAgent.

Flagship Check-In

Flagship Check-In

Flagship Check-In

Flagship Check-In

The best part about the Flagship Check-in is that the exit door deposits you directly at the front of the TSA Pre-Check line.  Given how hectic JFK security can get, this in itself is a great reason to use Flagship Checkin if you have access.


Almost private line to security

 Flagship Lounge

After going through security, I made my way to the Flagship Lounge, located within the Admirals Club near Gate 12 in the main concourse.  This again was a product of my transcontinental 3-class First Class ticket.  I would normally get it as Executive Platinum on international itineraries, but not on domestic ones.  After checking in to the main Admirals Club, the lounge agent escorted me to the Flagship Lounge and swiped me in.

The Flagship Lounge is American’s version of an international First Class lounge – it’s not on par with places like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal or Thai First Class lounge, but it’s certainly better than the Admirals Club outside.

First order of business was to take a hot shower, not for cleanliness, but to warm up after walking outside in 8º weather.  Showers are technically part of the Admirals Club, you’ll have to re-enter the Flagship Lounge.

Since I entered the lounge right around a menu change, I nibbled on the light lunch (11am-2:30pm) and afternoon tea (2:30pm-5:00pm) selections, the latter being surprisingly more filling and scrumptious.

Flagship Lounge Light Lunch menu

Flagship Lounge Light Lunch menu


Soba noodles and cucumber salad, meats and cheeses in the back.


Cheese platter, hummus, olives, tomatoes


Bread and cracker board


Drink selection


Cookie selection

No need to skip out on Admirals Club fare in the Flagship Lounge

No need to skip out on Admirals Club fare in the Flagship Lounge

And the afternoon tea ….


Afternoon Tea menu


Mini scones (with clotted cream) – pretty good!


Wraps and sandwiches


Wraps and sandwiches


Chicken noodle soup and sweet corn fritters

A321T pre-boarding

In between, I met another FlyerTalker in the Flagship Lounge, SFO777, who writes some of the best trip reports on FlyerTalk.  He was on the earlier flight, so I went out to the gate with him to see if there were any festivities lined up.  There were no special gate announcements, and many people who had booked this flight for no special reason asked why so many of us were taking photos.

I bid adieu to SFO777 and agreed to compare experiences in LA as he had a connection to wait for (long story short, no matter what the hard product, a crew can make all the difference on a flight).  I hopped over to my gate to meet the arriving A321T that would act as my flight, only to see none other than Gary walk off the plane. We chatted a bit about the plane and he told me to look out for a couple of things.

The first JFK A321T departure...

The first JFK A321T departure…

Ready to board my A321T!

Ready to board my A321T!

I was ready to experience that new plane smell!

Continued here

Comparing Airline Elite Status in 2014
Review: American Airlines Inaugural A321T First Class
  • Jamison @ Points Summary

    Five Star Service used to be cheaper lol

  • Ryan

    ORD has Flagship Check-in as well, not just JFK, MIA, and LAX

    • Amol

      Yeah, forgot they added them. Thanks.

      • David

        The ORD FL is really just embarrassing though. It’s not shocking people forget it so often.

        • Amol

          I knew ORD had an FL (haven’t visited it yet) but I forgot about the Flagship Check-In …

          • David

            It was more of a tangential post. But same goes for Flagship Check-In at ORD. Tiny compared to elsewhere. There’s just no room at ORD to give things a spacious feel.

          • Amol

            As long as they keep those Eames chairs in the H/K AC …. that’s my favorite spot. Only in the FL at JFK!

  • tringuyen82

    sorry – so business class on int’l trips dont count? i mean in terms of getting into the flagship lounge…

    • Amol

      Nope, has to be first class on AA or oneworld

  • Scottrick

    Is that clotted cream with the scones?! Enough excuse for me to pass through there if I can.

    • Chris G.

      I was about to ask the same thing….If so I would love to have an excuse to try them out.

    • Amol

      It sure is! It was pretty good too.

  • Jim

    Sorry for off topic, I am trying to book award flight, united or AA or us airways from ORD- MAUI and return to Buffalo NY for 4 days and than to ORD. Thats called stop over right? Can I book that kinda flight online or or without wasting more miles? or it will be extra miles on return since I am doing a stop over in Buffalo?
    Do I have to call? I checked on but it is asking for more miles on return.

    • Amol

      You can’t have a stopover on a domestic AA or UA itinerary without paying extra miles.

      What you could do is book Chicago to Maui and Maui to Buffalo, then pay only 4500 Avios to bring you back from BUF to Chicago.

  • surang

    the food spread looks much better than what is offered at LAX.

    • Amol

      In general, I like the JFK Flagship Lounge more than LAX.

      • Gary Leff

        Funny… i have the exact opposite opinion!

        • Amol

          The JFK one feels more open – but you definitely have more experience with the Flagship Lounges, Mr. BA Gold! 😛

        • Jamison @ Points Summary

          I agree with Gary that the LAX Flagship Lounge is better. It’s never crowded and the lounge agents try and get to know you on a more personal level whereas the JFK agents are robots. The Flagship Lounge at JFK is always crowded as well

          • Amol

            It was the opposite for me, but I’m a newbie EXP so perhaps it was a one-off day.

  • Eduardo Morales Rodriguez

    Hi Amol nice post, i just got my elite status in AA and hilton so i read a lot on HMT blog, but i have always wonder about the lounge showers. In a few months i’ll have a layover at JFK for over 7 hours betwen a 11 hours and a 7 hour flight. My question is about the amenities like shampoo and stuff my girlfriend is complaining about it. I supposed they offer those amenities since you can pass shampoo throught TSA

  • Pete

    The A321 Is AWESOME!!!!

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