LAX Showdown: American Flagship First Dining Vs. Qantas First Class Lounge

This past week American’s new Flagship First Dining opened in Terminal 4 at LAX. Otherwise I consider the best lounge at LAX to be the Qantas First Class Lounge, which I’ve also reviewed before. Several people have asked which of the two lounges is better (given that both are technically international first class lounges belonging to oneworld carriers), so in this post I figured I’d do a comparison across a few different areas:

Ease of access

American’s Flagship First Dining has tight entry requirements. It’s only open to those traveling in American’s 777-300ER longhaul first class, as well as those traveling in American’s A321 transcontinental first class. Elite members and those traveling in first class on oneworld partner airlines don’t have access to this lounge.

Meanwhile Qantas’ First Class Lounge is open to all oneworld international first class passengers, as well as oneworld Emerald members. With the exception of AAdvantage oneworld Emerald members, all other oneworld Emerald members can use the lounge before any oneworld flight, even if it’s a domestic one. In the case of American Executive Platinum members, they can only use it before select international flights.

So a lot more people have access to the Qantas Lounge. The only people who have access to Flagship First Dining but don’t have access to the Qantas Lounge are those traveling in transcon first class.

Winner: Qantas

Ambiance & decor — American

Both lounges are beautifully designed. Flagship First Dining feels incredibly exclusive, and like a high end restaurant. I also like that it has some natural light thanks to the apron views.

While the Qantas First Class Lounge also has a very nice design, it lacks any sort of natural light, which I find a bit depressing. So as beautiful as the furniture is, I think American wins in this category.

Winner: American

Food — American

Both lounges feature an extensive selection of a la carte dining. American’s Flagship First Dining has for the most part very well executed restaurant quality dishes, and I think the presentation of food in this lounge is a step up from what you’ll find in the Qantas Lounge. Furthermore, I feel like there are more healthy options, as so much of the food in the Qantas First Lounge is fried.

The Qantas First Lounge has a menu inspired by celerbrity chef Neil Perry, and there are many dishes I love, like the salt & pepper squid. However, given the volume of passengers this lounge serves, I just don’t find the quality to be quite as good.

Winner: American

Drinks — Qantas

American Flagship First Dining features excellent creative cocktails and Bollinger champagne, but other than that the drink selection isn’t terribly impressive. They don’t have custom made coffee, and the wine list is underwhelming.

This is an area where the Qantas First Lounge shines. They have three types of champagne (including Laurent Perrier), a more impressive and varied wine list, and custom made espresso-based drinks, including delicious flat whites.

Winner: Qantas

Service & crowding — American

Both restaurants feature a la carte dining with service from well trained staff. This is an area where American has the edge, simply due to how few people have access to the lounge. I’m not saying the servers themselves are better, but the lounge is consistently less full, so the whole experience feels calmer and more personalized. Furthermore, there’s something to be said for a lounge that feels like an oasis and that allows you to get away, and that’s something I consistently feel here.

I’ve had mixed service experiences in the Qantas First Lounge, and it’s largely dependent on what time of day you’re there. The lounge gets so crowded in the evenings due to the number of flyers on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas, so at times it feels like a zoo and there aren’t even tables available in the dining area. They make the best of the situation, but at times it just isn’t a very calm space.

Winner: American

Bottom line

Both American Flagship First Dining and the Qantas First Lounge are fantastic. For years I’ve been saying that the Qantas First Lounge is LAX’s best lounge, though I think American Flagship First Dining now takes the prize in that category. Don’t get me wrong, the Qantas First Lounge is still excellent, and a lot more people have access to it. But for the lucky few who have access to American Flagship First Dining, it really is an oasis from the rest of the airport. After all, it’s a lounge within a lounge within a lounge.


  1. The problem with that lounge is that you have to be on American metal and their 777 first class product us one of the worst in the world. I guess this helps make up for it. This gives them a huge edge over the competition on domestic legs to JFK. Delta/United do not even have international departure lounges at LAX. United Club/Sky Club are not even close to competitive for Int’l or transcon journeys.

  2. I don’t think you can say it enough Lucky but if you were told five years ago that American Airlines would have the best lounge food in LAX you would have laughed. Kudos to American for getting something right!

  3. Ben, although I have yet to visit the new AA facility, I really have to disagree (and I have last visited it in absolute peak hour for both transcon AND international departures) with your perspective that the QF F lounge can, even at times, be a “zoo”. I truly feel that there really is no F lounge amongst any of the majors that ever really descends to that level either. The AA FFD would though, I’m sure, be more “calm”, however.

    Perfectly entitled to your opinion of course, but just chiming in with mine.

  4. Lucky – I asked us in the other thread about FF Dining – but any idea if a LAX-JFK-MIA and on itinerary would give access to dining at all 3 airports if LAX-JFK is in first? The rest are in premium cabins on 2 class planes – curious how this may work

  5. So I’m a bit confused now… I am traveling LAX->PEK on AA on the 31st in business. It’s a 787 with no 1st and I’m ExPlat (and Admirals Club member). Noted above it says access to the Quantas First lounge for AA ExPlats is for select intl flights. Am I covered to go there? By my reading I would not have access to Flagship Dining while in the past I would still have had access to the Flagship Lounge in the old configuration. Can anyone help straighten me out?

  6. @Scotes: Yes, you can go to the Qantas First Class Lounge (make sure you don’t go to the Business Class one). You won’t have access to the Flagship Dining unfortunately.

  7. @Angel – Thank you. Is what I thought but wanted to check here. At least the Quantas lounge is actually pretty close to T4 through the new hallway so not that bad of a walk.

    Am kinda bummed about not getting to try the Flagship Dining – the HND and NRT routes I usually fly have gone business only so not even an opportunity to use my eVIPs….

  8. @scotes – You can access QF F and the AA Flagship Lounge – No Flagship Dining though. Limited to 3 Class aircraft

  9. American will surely expand entry eligibility to include more of their own crowd to make it a viable lounge. That will relieve pressure on the Qantas lounge, which will be a good thing. Also a good thing, would be to deny those eligible for the new AA lounge from the Qantas lounge. I wonder if this is a consideration, as the current overcrowding lessens the premium feel the lounge strives for.
    Oh, looking at the sample pics of what is on offer in the new AA lounge, personally I would head for the Qantas lounge every time for F & B. When Americans try to do ‘fancy food’ it just turns out weird.

  10. @CoolHandLuke – Autocorrect… I blame autocorrect…

    I have had the food in the Qantas 1st lounge before and did think it was pretty good. We were actually quite surprised.

  11. Food aplenty on the premium class flight. Showers with hot water is a priority not the food. I do have a 4 hour layover in SIN next month and will be flying Singapore Airlines First and so will partake in the lobster.

  12. Ryan: United elites do have access to the Star Alliance lounge which, I think, is far nicer than the Qantas business lounge but is a 20 minute hike from United’s Terminal 7. They also have access to the Air Canada lounge in Terminal 6. So United competed at business level but doesn’t really have anything at first class level like Flagship Dining.

  13. @Lucky I didn’t quite understand what you meant by this: “However, given the volume of passengers this lounge serves, I just don’t find the quality to be quite as good.” Do you mean that it’s the volume that drives the quality down? Or do you think that if it had fewer people then the lower quality wouldn’t matter as much (which is how it reads)?

  14. Justin,

    Yes, the Star Alliance lounge at LAX is actually managed by Air New Zealand, and is pretty good as a result

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