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
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.
Inside the lounge is a further reception desk, with a couple of tables and chairs.
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.
The centerpiece of the lounge is a wine and champagne display, which almost reminded me of one of British Airways’ lounges.
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.
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.
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.
Then further inside the lounge were a few more partitioned off seating areas with a couple of TVs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Toiletries were provided by CO Bigelow, which I quite like.
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.
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.
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.
As much as I’m not an Old Fashioned fan, I thought the “create your own Old Fashioned” station was cute.
Next to that was an area with an espresso machine and a tea selection. American really needs to improve their coffee game.
They should be able to get a better machine than this in their premium lounge, in my opinion.
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.
The food selection wasn’t terribly inspiring, though I also didn’t try anything.
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?