Even though my flight from Honolulu to home was in Economy class, I was able to use the American Airlines/JAL Sakura lounge because of my American Express Platinum Card. Airline lounges, once reserved for First/Business Class passengers or those with VIP loyalty cards, are now also available to any economy class passenger with the Platinum Card.
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(This post was contributed by the Thrifty Tourist.)
I only have the American Express Platinum Card because of its multiple travel benefits (for full disclosure, please note that I do NOT receive any commission or compensation from American Express or any other Credit Card Company). I rarely use the card for any purchases and only carry it in my wallet when traveling. As you may know, the Platinum Card comes with a pricey $475 annual fee, $200 of which is refunded for numerous airline-related fees/charges or even gift cards.
In December I purchased $200 worth of American Airlines gift cards using my Platinum Card (which were credited back to my account within a week). I then used those gift cards to purchase my airline ticket to Hawaii. So, technically the annual fee for me is only $275 a year ($475 – $200). While the card offers numerous travel benefits, I personally value the lounge access I receive from the card to equal the $275 annual fee. I could discuss my valuation and the other travel benefits in greater detail, but since this is not a post about the Platinum Card, I’ll leave it to you to determine your value of such a card.
The unique thing about this lounge is that it is cobranded with Japan Airlines. Usually international airlines have far better lounges than domestic airlines in the United States, so I was eager to try out this lounge. The lounge itself is located on the 3rd floor of the overseas terminal, across from the Ralph Lauren retail store. It is open from 5:30am-9:00pm. As you exit the elevator you walk past the bathrooms and a mother’s nursing room and into the main lounge where you are greeted by two hosts who verify your eligibility to enter. The two hosts, one from American Airlines and one from JAL, check in their own airline’s respective guests.
The 6000+ SQFT lounge has ample seating and seemed empty for a Saturday afternoon. The lounge has a great view of the runway on one side and a garden view on another. There is a separate dining area where you can sit and enjoy some snacks or some self-service alcohol including beer, hard liquor and several wine offerings. Since the food offering was rather sparse and only included cookies, crackers, soup and dinner rolls, I was shocked to see a large sign that banned the admittance of outside food. If a lounge doesn’t offer meals (for free or for a charge), I would like for them to allow me to bring my own food from outside.
I began taking pictures for this review and was immediately asked by one of the hosts to refrain from taking pictures. Unfortunately, I was only able to snap pictures of the dining area before I was “caught”. I’ll do my best to describe the lounge as vividly as possible in words, but if you’re a visual person you can use your favorite search engine to find additional pictures of the lounge. FYI, even without pictures, you aren’t missing much since this was a very typical lounge in terms of layout, furniture & view.
Since I wasn’t able to take pictures, my wife and I decided to get something to eat for lunch. The only non-snack item the lounge featured was a Potato Cheese soup, but since it was outside we were in no mood for soup. We left our luggage in the holding area that’s located near the front desk and proceeded back to the terminal downstairs to see our lunch options. This lounge is conveniently located directly above the Kona Brewing Company, which is also adjacent to the food court, making it easy and quick to grab a bite to eat and then walk back upstairs to enjoy the quiet lounge.
Once we were back in the lounge I noticed a rather large bathroom, but it didn’t have any showers. Previously the American Airlines lounge in Honolulu (before it moved into a shared lounge with JAL) included showers. The host informed me that this was the largest complaint among passengers who visit the new lounge. My visit took place in January, but apparently a shower is a much needed relief to passengers during the summer.
While walking around the lounge, I noticed a small enclosed kids’ room with a few toys and games for the little ones to pass the time before their flight. No kids were inside at the time so I couldn’t verify the noise reduction capabilities of that room. The lounge not only featured free Wi-Fi, but included PCs with internet access. The Wi-Fi itself was pretty fast for an airline lounge, but I expect the speed would decrease slightly if the lounge was fuller.
While waiting for my boarding time, I noticed one of the lounge hosts refilling the cookies/crackers in the dining area. But instead of simply placing individual bags for guests to take, she would open each bag and fill a plastic container on the counter. The same was done for the crackers and chips. My only guess is that they feel that guests will take large amounts of snacks with them on their flight if they are prepackaged in smaller quantities.
When it was time for boarding, one of the hosts came and made verbal announcements throughout the lounge to alert passengers to head to the gate. There are no digital screens with boarding information, so when the lounge is busier, I doubt the hosts would have time to leave the front desk and alert passengers.
We spent a good 2 hours in the lounge before our flight and felt it was nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of a busy international airport. With my American Express Platinum card we were able to use this lounge while flying in Economy Class. Again, I personally find the $275 annual fee for the card to be a great value, but everyone values lounge access differently.
If you have any detailed questions regarding this lounge or the American Express Platinum Card, please Contact Me and let me know, I’d be happy to help anyway that I can. As always, Live Frugal….Travel Rich.