British Airways Concorde Room New York JFK
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Brussels Airlines Business Class A330 Brussels To Frankfurt
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Andaz Wall Street New York
While I’ve flown BA first class several times before, including from London to Los Angeles, London to Seattle, and Seattle to London, this was my first time flying British Airways in first class out of New York. It’s their second largest longhaul station, and aside from London Heathrow, the only airport with a Concorde Room.
Because of just how many flights British Airways has out of New York, their lounge system is rather complex. They have:
- The Concorde Room, which can exclusively be accessed by British Airways first class passengers
- The Galleries First Lounge, which can exclusively be accessed by oneworld Emerald members and passengers traveling in first class on a partner airline
- The Galleries Lounge, which can be accessed by oneworld Sapphire members and business class passengers
- Then they have a pre-flight dining facility, for British Airways business class passengers and Cathay Pacific first class passengers traveling to Vancouver
Anyway, I made it to JFK at around 7PM for my 9:30PM departure to Heathrow. Terminal 7 is primarily run by British Airways, but also shared by United, several oneworld partner airlines, and a few other random airlines.
The premium oneworld check-in is located at the far end of the terminal.
At the far end of the terminal you have a variety of counters, including ticket sales, as well as first and business class for most oneworld airlines.
It’s a fairly nice space, and in my experience never really crowded, even during peak travel periods (probably since many premium passengers on British Airways are checking in online and not checking bags, so there’s no need to stop by the counter).
There’s even a seating area in the business class check-in section.
Then at the far end of the check-in area, right next the Fast Track security, is first class check-in.
While the business class check-in area has couches, the first class check-in area has fancy British couches — sweet!
The check-in process was efficient, and within a minute I was issued a boarding pass. Bonus points to anyone that can figure out who I by chance snapped in the below picture (and later proceeded to fanboy over).
Ordinarily they escort British Airways first class passengers to the front of the Fast Track queue, though in this case there was no wait, so I wasn’t brought to the front of the line. I thought it was nice that the agent at least acknowledged the service by saying “usually we’d escort you to the front of the line, but there’s no line right now.”
The Fast Track security lane is usually pretty efficient (though good exercise, since it’s built on an uphill slope), and then once through there the Concorde Room is located immediately to the left.
At the desk was an older New Yorker lady and a young British guy.
This was my first time in the New York Concorde Room, so I had no clue what to expect. The lounge was reasonably nice. The long walkway led to the main area of the lounge, which had the bathrooms to the left and a place to store bags to the right.
The left side of the lounge consisted exclusively of “living room” style seating. The decor was very…
Well, I think my friend Eric summed it up well on my Facebook wall when I posted a picture of the lounge:
Why does it look like my grandmother’s basement rec room?
It was nice enough, it just wasn’t especially modern, I guess.
There was some more seating on the right side of the lounge.
That’s also where the business center was located. I ended up picking a “cove” in the back corner of the lounge where I eventually settled down.
That might mainly be since it boasted a nice view of the tarmac — in particular, the A318 that operates the British Airways Club World London City service.
It’s worth noting that the Concorde Room doesn’t have shower rooms — the Elemis Spa and showers are located in the Galleries Lounge, which is on the other side of the terminal. The bathroom in the Concorde Room just had a couple of stalls and sinks.
Once settled into the Concorde Room I decided to walk over to the Elemis Spa to make an appointment. Like I said, it’s located on the other side of the terminal, so is maybe a three minute walk. I asked the agent at the Concorde Room entrance whether she could help with a spa appointment, though she explained that there’s a phone in the Concorde Room that you can pick up to make an appointment. Instead I figured I’d just walk over there.
The Elemis Spa is located at the far end of the Galleries Lounge.
You can choose from a variety of 15 minute treatments.
Much to my surprise, there was availability immediately, so rather than schlepping back and forth I figured I’d have my treatment right away. I was directed to wait in the “relaxation area,” which consisted of a few lounge chairs.
I decided on the “stress-away shoulder to scalp” massage in the “intelligent massage chair.” So while it was mostly the chair itself doing the work, it was a refreshing 15 minute treatment. The chair focused on my back and legs, while the masseuse worked on my scalp and shoulders. As usual, there was a sales pitch and survey after the treatment.
Once that was done I figured it was dinner time, so I headed into the Concorde Room dining area. The dining area features both “traditional” restaurant style booth and chair arrangements, as well as some more private dining “nooks.”
Right next to the dining area is the bar, which has a full selection of drinks as well as a small cheese buffet.
It prominently displays their selection of a dozen or so wines.
The centerpiece, of course, is their champagne selection. As much as I give British Airways crap about a lot of things, they hands down have the best lounge champagne of any airline in the world. They serve Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle and Laurent-Perrier Rose in the lounge, both of which are lovely.
British Airways Concorde Room champagne selection New York JFK
Once seated a server came by to introduce herself and present me with the dinner menu.
The dinner menu read as follows:
In addition to the dinner menu was an iPad with the beverage list.
I hadn’t really eaten anything substantial all day, so ordered the crab cake to start, then the filet mignon, and then the hazelnut chocolate torte. I of course had some Grand Siecle to accompany the meal.
The meal was served at a decent pace — the crab cake was served about 10 minutes after I ordered it, and was surprisingly tasty and artfully presented.
For the main course I had asked the server whether she recommended the filet mignon or seared scallops, and she said “definitely the filet.”
The filet was rather disappointing. It tasted like a sirloin you’d get at Outback Steakhouse, and not like a good filet mignon.
The hazelnut chocolate torte for dessert, however, was rich and delicious.
I stayed at the dining table for a while. Boarding was scheduled for 9PM, so I stayed there till about 8:45PM. My one frustration about the dining area is that they didn’t have any power outlets nearby. Surely I’m not the only one that wants to get some work done and charge my electronics while having dinner in an airport lounge?
The one other thing I have to note about the lounge are the people. And I realize this may just be because I don’t come from old money (or money at all, for that matter), and am not British. But I don’t think I’ve ever eavesdropped on such pretentious conversations. There were these two British twins traveling with their mother sitting near me, and they both had matching Rolexes. They loudly discussed sailing, and then moved on to how excited they were to get back home and “ride” (presumably horses).
Meanwhile back here on planet earth…
Anyway, at around 8:45PM I left the Concorde Room and headed to my departure gate, Gate 10. It was located on the other end of the terminal, so was just a short walk away.
Much to my surprise, boarding was well underway by the time I got there, and they were boarding all rows and zones.
Bottom line on British Airways Concorde Room
On the plus side, their champagne selection is excellent. The lounge itself is reasonably nice, though the decor is definitely dated. I liked the sit down dining concept, vs. the buffet they have for business class passengers in the other lounge. All the staff in the lounge were friendly enough.
I do think it’s a bit annoying that the spa and showers are located in the other lounge, so you have to trek across the terminal if you want a shower or 15 minute massage. Beyond that, and I’m not sure if there’s a good way to explain it, the lounge just felt stuffy. Like, it wasn’t actively fun to be there. I felt like I was sitting in a stiff country club more than anything else… and I bet that’s what they’re going for, so I’m not blaming them for that.
But really let me just briefly contrast it to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at New York JFK. And let me preface that by saying that I’m not the typical “Virgin” customer. I’m not a hipster, I don’t think I’m cool, and I refuse to even try to dance. Despite that, their lounge at JFK just has such a fun vibe. It’s fun to be there, the staff all love what they do, they have a sit down restaurant, and the spa has a larger variety of services, including haircuts (which, when you live in hotels full time, comes in handy).
The only downside to the Clubhouse is that the champagne selection isn’t as good, and the food isn’t quite as “high class” as in the Concorde Room, though it is well executed.
That being said, I would hands down rather use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse than the British Airways Concorde Room. And that applies in both New York and London.
Am I the only one that feels that way?