Thank You British Airways! The American Airlines JFK Flagship Lounge

American Airlines first class lounges are called “Flagship Lounges.” There are currently four Flagship lounges, in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and London. There used to be one in Miami, renovations closed it and they never brought it back. It’s always struck me odd that they don’t have one in Dallas.

American is seriously revamping and improving its business class product (though the rollout will take awhile), and in the process is removing first class from much of its fleet over the next few years. Eventually only their Boeing 777-300 aircraft will offer three cabins in international service. So I don’t expect an expansion of the Flagship Lounge product.

Currently in order to access a Flagship Lounge, you need to:

  • Be flying first class on an American Airlines or oneworld international flight in first class on a 3-cabin transcon (JFK to Los Angeles or San Francisco); discounted or upgraded first class doesn’t qualify for these latter domestic flights though award first class does.
  • Be an American Airlines Executive Platinum on an international itinerary regardless of class of service flown. The access rules actually say that the Executive Platinum must be on an international flight, but in my experience connecting off of an international flight works, as well as taking a domestic flight to an international one works as well. (The rules also specify what international means, in practice the only destination in North America that qualifies is Mexico City otherwise it must be transoceanic and the Caribbean doesn’t count.)
  • Be an American Airlines Concierge Key member. This method isn’t listed in the online access rules, but invitation-only Concierge Key status entitles use of Flagship Lounges when flying on or connecting to or from oneworld flights.
  • Be a oneworld Emerald (top tier elite, but excluding American’s own top tier elites) flying on or connecting to a same-day oneworld flight. While the rules say you must be at least connecting to or from an international flight, in practice you do not need to be, and if you did the rule wouldn’t exclude American’s own top tier elites since they get access when they are connecting to or from an international flight.

Thanks to British Airways acquiring british midland, and offering elites in the bmi Diamond Club status matches over to Executive Club, I’m now a British Airways Gold. That’s oenworld Emerald, top tier in oneworld, granting me access to American’s Flagship lounges even when flying purely domestic itineraries.

I don’t have my membership card yet, I’ve been a BA Gold for a month now and they say that it can take up to 8 weeks to receive the card. That means I have nothing to flash for access. I also wasn’t even crediting my flight to my British Airways account, I was crediting it to American AAdvantage, so my boarding pass didn’t identify me as a oneworld Emerald via an airline other than American.

Still, I approached the Admiral’s Club that’s just after security, the Flagship Lounge is located apart from but inside the Admiral’s Club there. I walked up to the desk and asked if they wouldn’t mind verifying my status if I gave them by British Airways frequent flyer number. Seemingly a bit annoyed, the woman at the desk complied and handed me a key card to get into the Flagship lounge.

It’s directly to the side of the checkin desk, the door is locked and the access badge unlocks it. Once inside there’s a desk with another employee who greets you, and you return your access card.

Roughly speaking a Flagship Lounge is an uncrowded, more comfortable Admiral’s Club with complimentary food and better alcohol.

There are (5) food services a day: Continental breakfast (though with eggs, sausage, and bacon), light lunch, afternoon tea, supper, and late night snacks (this last not offered in London, as American has no late evening departures from there).

Breakfast was available before my 11am flight from New York to DC.

I had already had my fill before leaving for the airport, so I just made myself a coffee and poured a glass of water.

The lounge was mostly empty, only a couple of other customers, and plenty of seating with nice views as well.

Nobody was in the business center. I appreciate the ability to print, for sure, I do wonder how necessary it is to set aside of a room full of computers. Personally I like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal approach, if someone really needs a computer just lend them a laptop… (a privilege I’ve never taken them up one, as I am almost never without my own, in any context).

I had a seat by the window, caught up on a bit of work.

Then it was the long schlepp down to the 31 gates where Eagle flights depart from, there’s an Admiral’s Club much closer to those gates but it lacks the Flagship Lounge. I’m going to make the walk either before or after the lounge visit, and since both are post-security I’d just assume make it later. Plus since I was on a regional jet, I was going to be checking my rollaboard planeside anyway, there was no need to arrive at the gate early to secure overhead space.

I’m looking forward to availing myself of better lounge facilities, especially in New York and Chicago (I’ll use Los Angeles far less frequently, though it’s often considered the best Flagship Lounge), over the 21 months or so that my British Airways Gold status lasts. I do miss the value of my bmi miles, but in some way with their merger I do come out ahead.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Last time I was in the LAX flagship I was sat directly opposite Al Pacino (with very beautiful latin american girlfriend) and right behind me was Don Johnson. My best celeb spot for sure!

    Enjoy the one year of BA Gold courtesy of BMI!

  2. On the first access criteria, there are also two daily LAX-MIA 3-class flights on 777-200 (and sometimes a 767-200) that qualify.

  3. The AA Flagships are always the better choice when you have the opportunity. However, The AA arrivals lounge at Heathrow is spectacular. First class is automatic entry, others at a price, is my understanding. An incredible spa with everything you might want (fluffy towels, toiletries, hair dryer, nice attendants, very spacious shower/spa rooms with ultimate privacy and as much time as you want to take…). I planned ahead, had fresh clothes easily accessible to change into after a long, long shower and then on to a little breakfast after an overnight flight and a wait for my connecting flight to Dublin. The breakfast room was a bit pedestrian (kind of a college cafeteria feel) – but quiet, air-conditioned and nice to just read the newspaper and catch up before leaving again.

  4. Question for you re: access as CK member. You say “American Airlines Concierge Key member. This method isn’t listed in the online access rules, but invitation-only Concierge Key status entitles use of Flagship Lounges when flying on or connecting to or from oneworld flights.”

    When connecting to or from oneworld flights, would access be via EXP status rather than CK? I ask only because I have often wondered why AA doesn’t just allow CK member to use flagship lounge all the time. Can’t imagine the incremental burden on the flagship lounges would be too onerous given the relatively small number of CK members. But am I missing something? Are there cases where a CK member would be granted access and and EXP would not?

  5. Concierge Key members can use Flagship lounges all the time. Executive Platinums need to be on an international itinerary

  6. “Be an American Airlines Executive Platinum on an international itinerary regardless of class of service flown. The access rules actually say that the Executive Platinum must be on an international flight, but in my experience connecting off of an international flight works, as well as taking a domestic flight to an international one works as well. ”

    I am AA EXP and on an April trip ORD-JFK-BRU and return in cheapo coach was able to access ORD Flagship on the outbound and JFK Flagship on the return.

    So I got access just prior to domestic legs connecting both to and from international flights.

    My expert AA friends tell me that’s the same for them.

  7. According to LAX CK rep today, CK access rules for flagship lounge are same as EXP. No access for CKs on domestic itineraries other than trans-cons in first.
    The only changes to the rules she was aware of was they they were allowing those on A fares transcontinental into flagship.

    I continue to think that adding flagship lounge access would be an easy and cheap enhancement to the CK program.

  8. Currently sitting in JFK flagship lounge. I guess timing is everything. It is packed, hot, loud and I just ate an undercooked piece of chicken. It did get louder when a family of 5 with 2 little girls walked in. Those 2 wont shut up. This reminds me of my only other AA lounge experience. It was last December in GIG Admirals club. It was full of families and loud kids running around.

  9. The JFK Flagship Lounge is usually quite pleasant
    but yes it varies with the traffic.

    That said, LHR is considerably better
    whatever the traffic.

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