While American Airlines doesn't have 'first class' lounges per se, its better-than-business class 'Flagship Lounges' are where first class passengers and some top-level frequent flyers can relax in a space that's their own.
We go behind the frosted glass doors in New York's JFK Airport to see what the AA Flagship Lounge has to offer.
Location & Impressions
You'll find the Flagship Lounge adjacent to the Admirals Club at JFK – simply clear security and follow the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance, where eligible travellers will be swiped into the Flagship Lounge.
- International first class passengers of American Airlines flying to Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Mexico City and Australia/New Zealand, including before same-day domestic connections to the same
- Domestic first class passengers travelling to Los Angeles or San Francisco on three-class Airbus A321T flights, or after arriving on the same
- American Airlines Executive Platinum members travelling on or connecting to a same-day international flight with any Oneworld airline, excluding to Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean
- Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members travelling onwards with American Airlines and other Oneworld airlines to all domestic and international locations
- Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers (excl. American Airlines Executive Platinum) flying with American Airlines or any Oneworld airline to any destination
AA's Flagship Lounges differ from the regular Admirals Clubs in offering travellers a variety of cooked dishes at all times of the day at no charge, rather than providing only snacks for free and charging for any hot food.
Our morning visit found a nice selection of breads and pastries on-hand, expected of any lounge in the US...... joined by tasty parfaits of either apple or blueberry... ... plus hot items like sausages and bacon... ... scrambled eggs, spinach rolls... ... and potatoes: In the beverage department is machine-made espresso coffee or more typical American java if you'd prefer, plus a vast range of spirits, beers and wines. Champagne lovers, fear not: you'll also find Taittinger NV in the fridge, but it's a self-pour affair.
By US lounge standards where bagels are normally the dining highlight, that's a pretty solid offering for passengers travelling within the US, and is again comparable to Qantas' own domestic business class lounges: sans baristas and bartenders.
However, unlike the Flagship Lounge in Los Angeles which is primarily a domestic lounge (aside from a handful of daily overseas flights), the JFK Flagship also serves as the de facto international first class lounge for all Oneworld airlines departing New York from Terminal 8.
Along with AA that also includes Airberlin, Finnair, LAN, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian and TAM – and as far as international-grade first class lounges go in 2016, top-tier travellers now expect more than make-it-yourself coffee, pour-it-yourself Champagne and serve-yourself buffet fare.
Table service with even a limited sit down dining menu would really kick things up a notch and make the Flagship Lounge more 'first class'.
Turn right after gliding through the Flagship Lounge doors to find the quieter business area, complete with power-equipped and window-facing work stations... ... wireless printing facilities... ... and computer terminals if you didn't pack your own tech...
Peckish travellers could instead plonk their laptops at a bench nearer the buffet... ... while more casual tasks are easily done in the many lounge chairs... ... the bulk of which have easy access to AC power points inside the cocktail tables: Fast and free WiFi also blankets the lounge and proved adequate for emails and web browsing, although USB charging ports – commonly found in many newer lounges – are for the most part absent.
When your visit doesn't involve work, kick back in front of the TV or enjoy a quick drink at these 'short stay' chairs near reception... ... pick up a magazine or newspaper... ... or simply kick lean back and relax while watching the world fly by: You can also take a shower in one of several private suites... ... featuring amenities by Red Flower: All up, AA's JFK Flagship Lounge is head and shoulders above what top-tier travellers of Delta and United get to experience in New York, and may well entice premium passengers to travel with American over its competitors.
But on a more global scale, it's certainly not up there with the likes of the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney or even the Star Alliance First Lounge in LA: both of which boast a significantly more modern decor and have restaurant-style dining facilities for high-paying passengers.
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of American Airlines.
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