I’ll say up front that I was not in a good mood when I arrived at JFK to check in for our flight to London. Most of our outbound airport experience (passing through DCA, JFK, and LHR) was poor, although I will say that JFK was my favorite of the two Concorde Rooms for first class passengers.
The physical space in New York actually worse. What made the difference is that the service and experience were superior to the Concorde Room in London. In my book, soft product wins over hard product every time.
Trip Report Index:
- Two Weeks in Spain
- Is the British Airways Travel Together Ticket a Good Deal?
- British Airways Concorde Room – New York
- British Airways First Class
- British Airways Club Europe
- Le Meridien Barcelona
- Vueling Airlines – Barcelona to Granada
- AC Palacio de Santa Paula Granada
- Hotel Alfonso XIII Seville
- AVE Preferente Class Seville to Madrid
- Day trip to Cordoba
- Westin Palace Hotel Madrid
- British Airways Concorde Room – London
We had to take a positioning flight from Washington Reagan to get to JFK after I presented at Frequent Traveler University. Despite a comfortable four hour connection, our flight was delayed an hour, then canceled, and then we struggled to get rebooked. The American Airlines agent at DCA could not have cared less that I needed to make a connecting flight, let alone that it was on another oneworld carrier or that I had Executive Platinum status. I sat with my wife in coach despite six empty first class seats up front and confirmed upgrades on our original itinerary.
If I hadn’t been rebooked, my original flight would have arrived 22 minutes before departure. It took 28 minutes to connect from Terminal 8 (American) to Terminal 7 (BA and United) after landing at JFK. Add to that the confusion in finding the check-in counter. A helpful BA agent pointed us around the corner to Club World, but first class check-in is actually further back, close to security.
As if to add insult to injury, the TSA checkpoint in T7 is on a ramp. Bags were flipping over and rolling backward as people attempted to get dressed again and collect their belongings. This was not a premium experience.
Once we arrived at the Concorde Room (directly to the left after clearing the premium security checkpoint), we were very pleased. It was no longer crowded around 9 PM despite two flights leaving that night. We cleared up a little confusion with our seat assignments at the front desk and then dropped our bags before getting a seat in the dining area. Our delay turned out not to matter much as the Elemis Spa was closed, and there was nothing to see out the windows at night.
I appreciated the high-walled dining booths, which offered a reasonable amount of privacy even though we could see directly into the booth across from us. Staggering them might have made more sense. But service was prompt and very friendly. Aside from our Club Europe flight between London and Barcelona, this was the best service we had during our entire trip with British Airways.
We had two servers during our meal who ensured we had almost everything immediately after we asked for it. We started with a glass of the Laurent-Perrier Rosé for Megan and the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle for me, but we did have to ask for the complete wine list.
The wine list was presented on an iPad, which was amusing because there were only a dozen or so entries. But it did provide a lot of detail on the individual wineries. I knew what I wanted as soon as I saw the Turley (a 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel) even though it’s not a particularly expensive bottle.
We had a comfortable amount of time before our flight and were not rushed through dinner. The menu offered only three or four options, and sadly I’ve lost the photos. Megan had fish, while I decided to start with a simple green salad and then move on to the filet. It’s difficult to re-heat food in the air, but I figured on the ground it would be easier to provide food to order.
Boy was I wrong! For all I could tell, this was the same food as the airplane catering. My steak was overcooked on the outside with a distinct core that was nearly raw — nothing at all like I would expect from a halfway decent steakhouse. It was surrounded by far too much broth, making the fingerling potatoes soggy.
So I ordered another glass of wine…
Dessert was pretty good, but still nothing I couldn’t imagine being served on the plane. I was really hoping for something different on the ground. Megan and I shared this caramel pudding (or panna cotta?) before heading out to the main lounge for a Scotch.
Due to the late hour, I really don’t have much else to judge the Concorde Room by besides the dinner service and overall ambience. I found it relaxing and suitable before traveling in a first class cabin.
A television area and business center kept all the electronics in one area. That’s good. I hate being distracted by screens when I’m traveling.
The restroom, however, was nothing special. One sink didn’t work, and there was water everywhere. Even if the fixtures and tile are nice, it’s important to keep everything clean.
Ultimately the meal was not impressive, but I did like that it was delivered with good service and can appreciate that it was not much worse than I would have expected in the air. If your goal was to relax and eat on the ground before maximizing your sleep (as it was for many other passengers in our cabin), then I think British Airways fulfilled that goal.
You’ll have to wait for my review of the Concorde Room in Heathrow. I said at the beginning of this post that I liked JFK better, but remember I visited late at night when it was empty and also found my first sanctuary after a series of poor travel experiences.
A more rational person would say that it’s a waste to get a first class ticket from JFK to London. I mean, 7-8 hours? Who needs first class? If you were going to splurge and redeem your miles for only one direction, do it on the way home when you can pick your destination and maybe enjoy a longer journey, too.