United Polaris has more marketing hype, but despite starting later, updates of American’s premium lounges are much further along. American now has 4 Flagship Lounges open (ORD, LAX, MIA, JFK), and 3 more “coming soon”, (DFW, LHR, PHL). First Class Lounge access while flying on (most) international flights is a great benefit of Emerald status in the oneworld alliance. The best lounges are usually in international locations, but I visited the new Flagship Lounge at Chicago O’Hare and came away impressed.
I enjoyed the older and much smaller Flagship Lounge at the far end of the K concourse many times in the past. A recent trip connecting in Chicago was the first time I had access to the new and much larger lounge which opened in late 2017. Well done American.
The American Airlines Flagship Lounge at Chicago O’Hare
The new Flagship Lounge is located on the 2nd floor in the main American Airlines lounge complex at O’Hare, near the split between H and K concourses. The lounge check in desk on the ground floor will provide a paper invite to those eligible for Flagship Lounge access. Exit the elevator on the 2nd floor, and hand off the invite to the agent there. The Flagship Lounge now takes up the entire 2nd floor. The Admirals Club is on the 3rd floor. This is an enormous increase in space compared to the old location. Of course, much of that is a necessity due to the strange new access policy.
The lounge is open daily between 5am and 10pm. Unlike other locations with Flagship Lounges in the AA network, O’Hare does not have Flagship Dining, so this lounge is the top offering at this station.
Who is eligible for access?
The oneworld standard is to allow Emeralds flying in any cabin on a member airline to access First Class Lounges. American Executive Platinum flyers have the additional requirement of a same-day flight beyond North America, with a few exceptions, including Mexico City. For these new American Flagship lounges, oneworld Sapphire (AA Platinum Pro and Platinum have the same caveat as above) flyers can now access Flagship lounges. This drastically increased the pool of flyers who can access these lounges.
On past trips through the old O’Hare Flagship lounge, it was small, but rarely full, although it could get somewhat crowded before various flight banks. In my visit to the new lounge, there were clearly many more people. Since the lounge is drastically larger, it was easy to find some privacy. I’ll keep on eye on this during future visits, but there aren’t that many international departures on American from O’Hare. A few Asia departures during the day, and then a few departures to Heathrow. JAL and Iberia each have one departure a day from Terminal 3, and during summer, American has a few more European departures.
How’s the Food?
My visit was around midday, after arriving from Europe, and awaiting my flight home. I had a great breakfast including my usual Dan Dan noodles in the Cathay Pacific Lounge in London before the trans-Atlantic flight. I kind of picked at the mediocre food on the flight in American Main Cabin Extra, so I was excited to see what was on offer in the Flagship Lounge.
The buffet is located on the far north (to the left after entering) end of the lounge. The lunch options on offer were pretty substantial. Lots of food choices, and various beverages as well. American calls the food chef inspired. I’m not sure what that means, but there was a good mix of items, and one could definitely make a meal here. Cold cuts, and various salads are available, plus a wide array of hot items. Meals seem to rotate throughout the day, and on occasion during the year. I have a few more visits to come soon, so I can gather more data points. It was busy enough I didn’t take more photos, and I didn’t take notes on menu options.
As for beverages, there are solid options for a self-service bar in a US airport lounge. For the beer snobs like myself, I enjoyed a local craft brew from Pipeworks. There are also some local liquors, including from Koval distillery. I stumbled across this place in Chicago a few years ago, and really enjoy their products. I thought it had mostly regional distribution, but I saw a Koval bottle in a bar in Brisbane, Australia, so it seems their reach is further than that. Overall, a pretty diverse selection of higher end liquors are available in the lounge.
There is also a featured bar on the other side of the lounge. This feature has been around for some time in these lounges. I remember an Old Fashioned bar in the past, but during my recent visit, custom Bloody Mary’s were available.
Showers in the Flagship Lounge
American seems committed to keeping showers in their Admirals Club lounges which is appreciated. Over at United, the showers that used to be part of the United Club in the O’Hare C concourse, are now only accessible in the Polaris Lounge. The showers in the Flagship Lounge are nice, although I haven’t compared them with how they are in the renovated Admirals Club. The old Flagship lounge at O’Hare didn’t have showers, so this is appreciated. Fixtures are decent quality (Hansgrohe), with both a rainfall shower head and a handheld sprayer. There are C.O. Bigelow shampoo, conditioner and body wash dispensers in the shower, and soap and lotion near the sink.
Flagship Lounge Seating options
As mentioned, the lounge is large with a wide array of seating areas. During my visit, the areas close to the food buffet were the busiest. It seemed that areas further away had lots of open space. On the opposite side there is a media room with a large TV where I never saw more than a couple of people. I also spent a little time in a relaxation area. Tempted to nap, but didn’t do much there,other than rest. I’m a fan of massage chairs, but this is Chicago, not Tokyo, and the loungers were pretty comfortable.
A nice feature that I’ve seen in several new/renovated AA lounges is Qi wireless chargers on some side tables. Newer Android phones and iPhone 8 and X can wirelessly charge when placed on this pad. Nice not to have to dig out charging cables.
The lounge is long and skinny, and there are windows on one side across nearly the whole width of the lounge. In all, despite many more people having access, hopefully there still will be places where one can find some quiet.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge O’Hare Bottom Line
I am pretty impressed with this lounge. American has done a good job with these lounge renovations, and I’m glad they are moving so quickly to get them opened. I’ll continue to enjoy this lounge during my international trips through Chicago.
Have you visited this lounge? What did you think?