Review: The New American Flagship Lounge New York JFK

Update: As it turns out, the lounge I visited was just a portion of the new lounge, which is still under construction. Furthermore, the new food & beverage offering hasn’t yet been rolled out. The entire lounge should be complete with the new food & beverage offering starting later this spring.

Last February, American announced that they’d be making some major changes to their lounges, including the following:

  • American will be renovating and expanding their Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
  • American will be adding Flagship Lounges in Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia
  • American will completely be changing access rules for these lounges; previously Flagship Lounges were open to those in international first class and oneworld Emerald members, while under the new rules they’ll be open to oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, as well as all passengers in international first & business class
  • American will be introducing Flagship Dining, where international first class and A321 transcon first class passengers will have access to a la carte dining at Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York

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Rendering of the new American Flagship Dining facility

Overall I’m excited about American’s lounge improvements, though I’m very concerned about crowding in the new Flagship Lounges. If oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members, as well as international first and business class passengers have access to these lounges, I imagine they’ll be packed.

Anyway, American recently completed renovations on their New York JFK Flagship Lounge, and I recently had the chance to visit it. As of now it’s still only open to oneworld Emerald and first class passengers (so it’s being marketed as an “International First Class Lounge” for the time being), though starting later this spring the new access rules will apply.

As a point of comparison, here’s my review of the “old” Flagship Lounge JFK.

Anyway, I visited the new Flagship Lounge JFK in the evening. The lounge is still one level above the main concourse, and shares an entrance with the Admirals Club. Once at reception the entrance to the Admirals Club is to the right, and the entrance to the Flagship Lounge is to the left. There’s a long hallway leading into the Flagship Lounge.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK entryway

Inside the lounge is a further reception desk, with a couple of tables and chairs.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK reception

Design wise, I think American did a very nice job with the new Flagship Lounge. It’s sleek and stylish, and is designed in such a way that there are plenty of seating options, ranging from semi-private couches, to communal tables, to high-top seating.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

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American Flagship Lounge JFK communal seating

The centerpiece of the lounge is a wine and champagne display, which almost reminded me of one of British Airways’ lounges.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

While the seating towards the front of the lounge is more cafe style, the seating towards the back of the lounge and closer to the windows is furnished in a more traditional way, with lots of comfortable leather chairs.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

My favorite seating option was the semi-private couches they had, which were in sets of four. They had conveniently placed outlets; these seats felt a lot more private than the rest of the seating options.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

Along the wall to the back of the lounge were some small cubicles built into the wall. Some of them had PCs, while some just had an empty workstation. While they look stylish, I don’t find these setups to be especially comfortable or private.

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American Flagship Lounge New York workstations

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American Flagship Lounge New York workstations

Then further inside the lounge were a few more partitioned off seating areas with a couple of TVs.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

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American Flagship Lounge JFK seating

Back by the entrance was a separate quiet room, which seemed to be the least busy part of the lounge. There were leather chairs with ottomans, more semi-private seats, etc.

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American Flagship Lounge JFK quiet room

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American Flagship Lounge JFK quiet room

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American Flagship Lounge JFK quiet room

Overall I thought the decor of the lounge was very nice, though I have serious concerns about crowding. I took the above pictures when the lounge emptied out, but towards the beginning of when I arrived there, it was nearly full. Keep in mind the new rules haven’t yet kicked in, so soon all international business class passengers and oneworld Sapphire members will have access to the lounge as well.

The bathrooms and showers were located towards the back of the lounge, and were very nicely updated. The bathrooms were to the left, while the showers were towards the back and to the right.

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American Flagship Lounge New York hallway to showers and bathrooms

This is an area where the improvement was huge, since previously the Flagship Lounge shared showers with the Admirals Club, meaning there was often a wait. This time around I had no trouble getting a shower.

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American Flagship Lounge New York shower rooms

The shower rooms are large, and feature both a fixed showerhead as well as a handheld one. My one complaint is that the shower wasn’t fully enclosed, so water sprayed into the rest of the room; make sure you leave your bag a good distance from the actual shower.

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American Flagship Lounge New York shower rooms

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American Flagship Lounge New York shower rooms

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American Flagship Lounge New York shower rooms

Toiletries were provided by CO Bigelow, which I quite like.

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American Flagship Lounge New York CO Bigelow toiletries

Now let’s talk about the food and drinks. The buffet area was located at the very front of the lounge.

Frankly it looked to me a bit like a makeshift setup, rather something that was well thought through. As I see it, the selection seemed to be almost identical to what was available in the old Flagship Lounge.

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American Flagship Lounge New York food & drink spread

There was an area with drinks, including individual bottles of Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino (which is what I was most excited about), as well as self serve liquor.

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American Flagship Lounge New York drink selection

I was pleased to see Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick’s, but other than that am not much of a liquor person, so I’ll let you guys judge the selection.

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American Flagship Lounge New York liquor selection

As much as I’m not an Old Fashioned fan, I thought the “create your own Old Fashioned” station was cute.

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American Flagship Lounge New York drink selection

Next to that was an area with an espresso machine and a tea selection. American really needs to improve their coffee game.

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American Flagship Lounge New York coffee & tea

They should be able to get a better machine than this in their premium lounge, in my opinion.

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American Flagship Lounge New York espresso machine

Then back in the center of the lounge was a selection of self serve wine, including champagne. They had Bollinger on offer, which is pretty good.

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American Flagship Lounge New York wine selection

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American Flagship Lounge New York wine selection

The food selection wasn’t terribly inspiring, though I also didn’t try anything.

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American Flagship Lounge New York food spread

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American Flagship Lounge New York food selection

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American Flagship Lounge New York food selection

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American Flagship Lounge New York food selection

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American Flagship Lounge New York food selection

What do I make of the new American Flagship Lounge?

I guess I’m somewhat conflicted. The lounge is physically much nicer than it used to be, but I also can’t help but think “so… that’s it?” We’ve seen the incredible Polaris Lounge that United opened in Chicago, which features table service, premium drinks, and looks great. To me it seems like “business as usual” as far as Flagship Lounges go. The service and offerings are the same, but the lounges are being renovated and expanded.

So I guess to sum it up:

  • This is a huge improvement for business class passengers and oneworld Sapphire members, who previously only had access to the Admirals Club, but will now have Flagship Lounge access
  • For oneworld Emerald members this is sort of a devaluation; the lounge is nicer physically, but is going to be way more crowded
  • That’s perhaps my biggest concern — while the lounge is bigger than the old Flagship Lounge, I have no clue how it’s going to accommodate all first class, business class, oneworld Emerald, and oneworld  Sapphire members during peak times
  • So it’s nice enough, but it’s certainly not a United Polaris Lounge
  • I’m excited to check out Flagship Dining when it opens, and am also excited that the footprint of Flagship Lounges will expand to Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia

What do you make of American’s new Flagship Lounges?

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Comments

  1. Lucky,
    do you know whether the renovated JFK flagship lounge is going to offer a la carte dining at some point?
    That will be a significant improvement.

  2. Do you have to be traveling internationally to use the Flagship Lounges or as long as you’re a OneWorld Emerald/Sapphire member you should get access?

  3. @Tom
    LFirst set of bullet points at top:

    “American will be introducing Flagship Dining, where international first class and A321 transcon first class passengers will have access to a la carte dining at Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York”

    Or did you mean for the Hoi Pilloi non-First customers?

  4. To clarify: the lounge experience for Emerald elites traveling in (international) First Class will be identical to that of Sapphire elites traveling in Economy Class?

    Seems a bizarre devaluation of the experience of the highest-revenue passengers. Does any other three-class OneWorld airline do that at its hub?

  5. I’m not sure I understand your criticism of the espresso machine, I think that’s a $20-25k machine (same as the cent lounge in LAS)

  6. I love the semi-private couches. They are genius. I was in an Admirals Club in PHX the other day that had them. They don’t take up a lot of space, and yet offer a lot of privacy. They also have power outlets on them.

  7. Used this lounge on a Saturday night in January. It wasn’t crowded at the time, and for filling in 4 hours between a HEL/JFK 10 hour flight in Y+, and heading to Vegas that night, it was an improvement over the old flagship lounge at JFK.

    The easy access to showers was appreciated, and given my next flight was going to be meal-less, I did take advantage of the hot buffet. There was a reasonable lamb dish, which was a pleasant surprise given I don’t regularly see lamb on menu in the US generally.

    Obviously not a patch on other oneworld first class lounges offered by Qantas in SYD & MEL or Cathay’s in HKG, but I would say that it is around the same as BA’s offering in LHR, and streets ahead of BA’s JFK first lounge, which I’d equate with Malaysia’s first lounge in KUL.

  8. Lucky,

    Let me get this right, as a Plat for life, I am sapphire. When the Flagship lounge in Miami opens, does this mean that I can use it on a mere Y tik to BZE? (I know the Caribbean is not “international”, but I’ve qualified for Admirals club going to BZE, which qualifies as international.

    If so, that would be a major improvement for me.

  9. I was there on March 17,22017. Here’s my take on it. http://salsaworldtraveler.com/2017/03/20/american-airlines-jfk-international-first-class-lounge-progress-report/

    Also those highback quad seats are popular right now as Delta uses them in it’s new lounges as well.

    If EXPs have no access to the First Class dining areas in the new lounges, then this will truly be a major devaluation. Right now EXPs have access to the First Class Dinning area at DFW (food is similar o the current set up at JFK) which is the only First Class Dining area AA has right now. It would be ironic if AA EXPs have access to Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Etihad first class dining but not the same thing on AA’s own system. Or perhaps that is a hint of things to come.

  10. Why does American Airlines insist on being the leading airline when it comes to confusing lounge access rules?

  11. Agree – not sure how they will accommodate the crowd. I have been in the Flagship Lounge in JFK several times since the new one opened, and it is very crowded already in the early evening.

    Maybe AA is trying to match both Star Gold and UA Polaris. Star Gold’s (50K level) get Senator’s Lounge access and UA business passengers get Polaris.

  12. I asked the bartender at the LAX Admirals Club where the new FL will be and he said its the main bar room that currently faces TBIT. I was surprised to hear this – I had assumed it would be in the same space as before but just redone. It seems much like JFK they want the room with the best view to be the FL

  13. Seriously. That’s the best they could do with renovation and redesign? The furniture isn’t bad, but the sterile-looking, all-white decor reminds me of a hospital cafeteria.

    The buffet and bar isn’t too inspiring even if the food and booze selection is decent enough. Presentation is everything these days. I doubt anyone will be fawning over the design on Instagram. A first-class lounge should have menu service.

    How many toilets and urinals were there in the men’s bathroom? My biggest complaint with small-f flagship lounges is there are never enough stalls or urinals.

  14. does first to mexico/latin america/caribbean have access? I know they often don’t count these countries as “international”

  15. @Lucky, while I am not a fan of super-automatic/self-service espresso machines, what didn’t you like about the Franke SA espresso? The model is your photograph appears to be a Franke FM850, which I believe, starts at $22,500 . . .

  16. Sorry kids EXPs in coach won’t have dining service.

    Overall a downgrade unless you’re in First and get the dining service, and even then you’re subject to the over crowded setup when you’re not eating.

  17. @FNT Delta Diamond As I recall here are about 3 urinals and around 4 stalls – more than before at JFK – but could have had more. Unfortunately the stalls do not have standard, full doors – just normal stall doors (with a barn door design) and they open at the bottom and the top.

    I was unimpressed with the restroom. F lounge restrooms should offer more private stalls and urinals. The wash basins are directly across from the stalls.

    Another issue is that the paper towels are hidden above the sinks – not obvious where they are. Plus no trash cans, you need to carry the used paper towel to the space by the exit door.

    But the showers are a BIG improvement over the old ones at JFK. So no complaints about the showers.

    The FS lounge is nice and new looking – but not overly impressive.

  18. I think that this is very necessary. I recently had a flight on Cathay in business class. JFK to HKG. Guess what lounge. No British Airway lounge….. Admirals club. Yuck. Talk about an insult for departing Cathay business class customers. No free food (except pretzels) pretty departure. AA drastically needs to do something so this is at least a stop gap measure.

  19. I’ve been to this lounge 3 or 4 times since the renovations, over the span of a few months, and for that whole time the wifi has been abysmal. Sometimes doesn’t work at all, and when it does the speed is 3G-ish. Unacceptable.

  20. @Lucky How about those who are arriving on a one world international business class award ticket and connecting onward AA express flight (no F cabin). I seem to have read a note that said that would be included in the access rules this Spring a la the Polaris lounge in ORD. Has this been implemented yet?

  21. Been there twice in 2017. I like the design and the champagne 🙂
    But too many obnoxious fliers talking loudly on their cellphones as if they were in their living room

  22. @lucky….another gin drinker! YAY!! Lately I’ve been drinking Botanist….quite good. Aviation and Hendricks make me happy too.

  23. As @Mike says above, the wifi is super slow in the lounge.

    I didn’t find the crowd to be that bad when I was there… albeit on a Monday evening from 4-6pm in mid February.

  24. Wi-Fi is terrible. Hopefully a temporary situation.

    I assume the current food buffet is a temporary set-up and that the lounge itself will be bigger when the construction is fully complete. I assume the area behind the wall where the buffet is hides the rest of the lounge, which is still under work.

  25. That pretty much looks like the JFK SkyClub, which is one of Delta’s nicer lounges, but doesn’t try to sell itself as international first class specifically. If you hadn’t said what this was, I would have expected that it was a redesigned, slightly enhanced standard Admiral’s Club.

  26. Those who think Ben is whingeing about the pathetica coffee machine should bear in mind that -:

    A) your country almost universally has truly AWFUL coffee (I mean filter? Really? No wonder the Italians laugh at you), and

    B) many lesser lounges like Virgin Australia and Qantas have human baristas in their basic business class domestic lounges (technically below these lounges’ level) with cafè grade coffee.

    He called it. Sorry, but expensive in this instance doesn’t necessarily equal GOOD.

  27. @Nathan. Yes, Euros are laughing at us as they line up at Starbucks worldwide for their favorite American brand. C’mon dude, stop making this a cultural thing…we are really not that much different and, quite frankly, I can get a crappy or wonderful cup of coffee in Europe (or anywhere) as well.

    Not to say that I also agree that AA and most U.S. carriers could do a better job with coffee offerings.

  28. American is a joke, the polaris lounge is much better… AND it is business class.

    This “flagship” lounge from AA is supposed to be First Class. This looks like a medium level Business Class lounge. Like what an admirals club should be like… NOT a “flagship” First Class only lounge.

  29. Randy is right. I’m amazed at how many small-f flagship lounges — by that I mean an airline’s primary lounge at a hub — don’t have enough toilets or urinals for the amount of passengers in the lounge.

    For example, the relatively new Delta lounge in Atlanta — Terminal B, right? — only has four urinals and four, maybe five, stalls. On most mornings and evenings there is a line of seven or eight gentlemen waiting to use the facilities. That’s simply unacceptable. The lounge is plenty big enough for Delta to have installed more than one bathroom.

    Moreover, I’d rather an airline just have 12-14 enclosed one-person toilets that either gender can use. You see this increasingly in Europe.

  30. yeah a little bit nicer than when I was there in October and felt like i might pick up MRSA showering there lol.

  31. The lounge stays open for the Cathay Pacific JFK-HKG 1:35 AM flight, despite the sign on the door stating otherwise. The lounge is overrun with noisy children. And for some odd reason the staff are quick to collect the drinks but not quick to collect the mess on the tables. Three times the drink disappeared but the mess on the table remains after 4 hours in the lounge. The lounge does have a luggage storage area. The lounge does not close for 2 hours but the staff are quite busy tearing down the lounge. The staff are quite disinterested overall.

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