After a long slog from LaGuardia, I still made it to JFK plenty early for my flight to Los Angeles. Thanks to my ticket on American’s premium transcontinental service, I had access to the swanky American Flagship Lounge. I’ve heard great things about the Flagship Lounges, so I looked forward to my visit.
American Flagship Lounge New York JFK
Just past the security checkpoint in Terminal 8, which services American Airlines flights. Head up to the mezzanine level to find the lounge entrance. Hours are 4 am to 12:30 am daily.
American provides access to the Flagship Lounge to the following customers:
- American or Oneworld partner passengers in international first or business class, plus one guest.
- Passengers in American transcontinental first or business class.
- AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members traveling on any American or Oneworld partner international flight in any cabin, plus one guest.
- Concierge Key members traveling on any American or Oneworld flight in any cabin, plus two guests.
- Non-AAdvantage Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire members on any American or Oneworld flight, regardless of cabin, plus one guest.
Note that “International” includes flights to Mexico City, but excludes flights to Canada, the Caribbean, or other destinations in Mexico. Also, keep in mind that access applies even if you are connecting to a qualifying flight. For example, someone flying JFK to Dallas in Economy, and then Dallas to Hong Kong in Business, can access the JFK Flagship Lounge.
Date of Visit: Saturday, April 27, 2019
An AAgent quickly checked me in, though she wasn’t exactly the friendliest lounge agent. She did mention that I qualified for Flagship First dining, and asked if I wanted to try it. After confirming that I wanted to, she told me to just show my boarding pass to the attendant. I thought nothing of it, though this created confusion a little later.
Anyway, the agent pointed me left to the lounge – but there is a “hidden” lounge if you head right. Yes, I mean the Flagship Bridge next door. I meant to check it out. But after – overindulging – in the dining room, it slipped my mind. It receives less traffic and features a limited a la carte menu if you’re interested.
Upon entering, the lounge begins with a small communal seating area next to a selection of newspapers. The corridor to the left leads to the bathrooms and showers. As you can see, there’s also a self-service coffee/tea machine here.
The lounge then quickly opens up into a large dining area. The dining room begins with a large collection of small tables.
At the back of this seating area is a luggage storage area if you’d like to ditch your large roller bag.
Meanwhile, turn left at the table seating area for the impressive wine/champagne bar. All beer, wine, and liquor at the Flagship Lounge is self-serve; if you’re a champagne snob, American serves Taittinger, a nice choice for a domestic lounge.
Additional seating surrounds the bar, and extends back towards the buffet area. Bench seating also lines the windows if you fancy some planespotting as you work or eat. Needless to say, this makes for one massive seating area.
Workbench seating also lines the windows if you fancy some planespotting while you work or eat.
Continue past the wine bar for the main seating area. The lounge includes a variety of seating, starting with traditional lounge seating.
I headed over to one of the unique “personal” seats on one side. To me, these seats resemble an upright Business Class airplane seat. In any event, I found these ideal for working. The oversized armrest/table provided plenty of space for a laptop, plate of food, and a drink.
If you really want more privacy, head to the seats along the wall. These almost fully enclosed cubicles provide a quieter space to work or take a phone call.
WiFi in the lounge was excellent, plenty strong enough to handle a couple of Facetime calls back home. The main seating area also features plentiful power ports, especially the single seats. As you can see, these seats include two plugs and a USB port each. As for crowd levels, while busy, the lounge never felt overcrowded during my Saturday afternoon visit. I had no trouble finding empty seats, and noise levels remained reasonable. Should you find a crowded lounge, try the Flagship Bridge next door, which seems to attract fewer visitors.
American Flagship Lounge New York JFK – Shower Rooms
The JFK Flagship Lounge includes eight shower rooms. There was plenty of availability at 4 pm on a Saturday, though I found the attendant – brusque? Anyway, he assigned me a room at the end of the row. I found the rooms quite spacious, though with an unfortunately generic minimalist design. Showers include both fixed overhead and handheld showerheads; I found both water temperature and pressure excellent.
Both the showers and regular bathrooms at the Flagship Lounge feature C.O. Bigelow toiletries.
The rooms came already equipped with towels, so there’s no need to request one before entering. Nicely, American also provides a dental and shaving kit.
American Flagship Lounge New York JFK – Buffet Dining
The American Flagship Lounge New York JFK features two options for dining, buffet and a la carte. The buffet is actually quite impressive for a domestic lounge, with a wide selection of both hot and cold dishes. Today’s menu included salads, cold cuts, chips and cookies, and some rather tasty looking roasted chicken.
The hot items also include a couple of different soups.
Meanwhile, behind the buffet is the beverage selection, starting with teas and a coffee machine, and plain and infused waters. Not pictured: to the right of the water is a refrigerator with canned soft drinks and beer.
Next to the coffee machine is a Coca Cola Freestyle machine.
And finally in the corner is a decent selection of liquors. Like the wine and champagne, everything here is self-service.
However, I didn’t partake of the buffet. Why? I saved my appetite for the real reason I’ve looked forward to visiting a Flagship Lounge…
JFK Flagship Lounge Flagship First Dining
Concierge Key members, along with passengers traveling in international or transcontinental First Class, receive access to the lounge’s special dining room, Flagship First Dining. I especially wanted to see how it compared to the dining experience at United’s Polaris Lounges. At the JFK Flagship Lounge, you’ll find the entrance to Flagship First Dining behind the regular dining area.
The dining room attendant at first appeared confused when I entered. Turns out the lounge attendant at check-in failed to give me an invitation card like she was supposed to. No worries, though, she verified that my boarding pass granted me access, and seated me promptly. First impressions: this is a beautiful space, very nicely done. It really did look and feel like high-end restaurant.
And of course, the large windows provide unparalleled planespotting while chowing down. The Terminal 8 lineup this day included both AA aircraft, and visitors from Qantas and Qatar Airways.
The limited number of customers eligible to eat here also made the dining room incredibly quiet and private. The dining room seats perhaps 30 people, but during my time here, I saw a grand total of two other guests. Compare that to the dining room at the LAX Polaris Lounge; it seats 19 guests, but anyone with access to the lounge can eat there. I can’t help but think this makes the dining room a wasted resource to some degree. On the plus side, there’s no wait, guests receive attentive service, and it does feel exclusive.
Anyway, the attendant quickly brought me the menu and wine list for the day. (Special kudos for stocking a Finger Lakes riesling in the cellar.)
I started off with the Tuscan sausage and white bean soup.
This was a hearty soup with good flavors, giving a welcome chili-esque vibe on a chilly day. The only demerit was a Parmesan crisp that, well, wasn’t all that crisp.
Along with the soup, I received a selection of breads. Way too much for me to eat by myself, but it was fresh and quite delicious. Especially the pretzel bread.
For the main course, I ordered the filet mignon with prosciutto wrapped asparagus and horseradish cream. The filet was beautifully presented, and cooked just right.
I thoroughly enjoyed my steak, though the prosciutto suffered from way too much salt. Also, I decided to go with the menu recommendation and have the Bordeaux with the steak. The Pagodes de Cos is a nice wine for an airline lounge, usually retailing for $50-60 a bottle. I found it a bit too bold by itself, but the almost earthy taste complemented the steak well.
Finally, the server brought over the desert and after dinner drinks menu.
I ordered the salted caramel pot de crème.
I’ll confess I didn’t love the desert. First, it was just a bit too dense. Second, I didn’t care much for the banana crème. To tell the truth, I don’t care for banana in desserts, so I should have just ordered something else. For an after dinner drink, though not on the menu, I asked the server if they could make an Irish coffee. She said she’d check with the bartender, and brought out – not quite what I expected.
This wasn’t “Irish coffee” so much as a regular coffee with milk, topped with a VERY heavy dose of whiskey. I drank it anyway. The result was something similar to the “wafer thin mint” scene in Monty Python. Needless to say, it put me over the edge from stuffed, to badly overstuffed. Luckily I didn’t fall asleep at the gate before boarding…
Naturally, I expected attentive service with nobody else in the dining room, and American delivered. I found my server attentive and proactive, without being overbearing. If you’re worried about time, then entire meal took about an hour and 10 minutes from start to finish. I had plenty of time, though, so I chose to savor the meal. The server also noted that I had plenty of time, and paced the meal accordingly. If you’re in more of a hurry, you can probably finish a full meal in 45 minutes.
Overall I found this a very, very nice experience. Certainly better than anything else you’ll find in a Stateside lounge operated by a domestic airline.
American Flagship Lounge New York JFK – Final Thoughts
The Flagship Lounge, and Flagship First Dining in particular, provide one of the few genuine advantages for American over the competition, at least when flying transcontinental. The Flagship Lounge beats the likes of the United Club or Delta SkyClub. For international passengers, I’d say it and the Polaris Lounges are the closest you’ll find to a competitive offering with foreign carriers. If you have access to Flagship First Dining, though, that really puts the Flagship Lounge in a class by itself. While United also provides tasty offerings in the Polaris Lounge, American kicks it up a notch in exclusivity.
But that’s also what frustrates me about the Flagship Lounges. They pull off a great experience in the Flagship Lounge – but then fall frustratingly short elsewhere. It shows they certainly have the ability to pull off the “Going for Great” thing. But too often, they decide not to put their minds to it, it seems.