Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK (And Bottom-line on the Rest of the First Class Lounges, Including the Secret One)

American continues to offer ‘Flagship Lounges’ or first class lounges in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York JFK, at London Heathrow.

There are no longer Flagship Lounges in Dallas or Miami. The Dallas lounge still has the dedicated room, just walk into the Admirals Club in the A terminal and when you get upstairs and come out of the elevator you are facing the desk with reservations agents. Turn completely around, because right behind you is the room that used to be the Flagship Lounge. Almost no one is ever in it, it has separate restrooms, it’s great for quiet and privacy even when the rest of the lounge is busy. In Miami the Flagship Lounge closed, and didn’t re-open.

My favorite flagship lounge is Los Angeles, I think the food offerings are pretty good and you frequently see Hollywood celebrities (you see them in the Admirals Club sometimes, too).

I like Chicago because of the staff there. Certain Admirals Clubs — especially Washington National and Austin — are staffed with really phenomenal people. Chicago is as well, with agents who welcome you and take great care of your reservation when things go wrong.

Heathrow is well-provisioned, but it’s also frequently super-busy, because American gives Flagship Lounge access to Executive Platinum (100,000 mile flyer) members when flying internationally. And all American Executive Platinums are flying internationally when they’re at Heathrow.

The one I like the least is JFK. It’s one large room that gets busy before the transatlantic and evening South America departures. The staff isn’t nearly as good as in Chicago. And the food isn’t as good as Los Angeles.

But it’s better than an Admirals Club because there is food and a self-serve bar as well. There are showers that it shares with the Admirals Club.

In 2012 I outlined the access rules for Flagship Lounges and reviewed the JFK lounge. At the time I mistakenly thought that American’s Concierge Key members got access.

I had access to these lounges whenever flying American domestically because I was a British Airways Executive Club Gold member, which I received when BA acquired British Midland. I was a bmi Gold member, and my BA Gold status lasted for 21 months. I no longer have that status, though I was soft-landed to BA Silver which does get me American Admirals Club access.

I also reviewed the JFK Flagship Lounge (and showers) back in March.

I found myself there last week enroute to Argentina. Back in March there was a business class fare for New York JFK – Buenos Aires that was pricing out for less than coach. I bought it, expecting that I’d be able to upgrade to first class using my systemwide upgrade certificates as an Executive Platinum. Space for the upgrades didn’t clear until a couple of weeks out for the outbound, and a couple of days out for the return, but they did clear.

When I arrived at the lounge, there was a line to get in (the entrance is shared with the Admirals Club).

The lounge is a big space with tables in a ‘dining room’, work spaces, and reasonably comfortable seating.

As I say, it gets busy when the international flights cluster. And it looks busier than it really is because staff don’t really clean up well after guests who have left.

There’s both hot food items, and cold. I was there this time during dinner service.

There’s soup as well.

And self-serve cocktails, plus soft drinks in refrigerators below the bar. The best thing perhaps is that there are bottles of water you can take, always good to be prepared to hydrate on the flight.

Bottom-line is that the American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK is perfectly serviceable. There’s food, drink, and showers. But it’s not a place you want to set aside extra time for, showing up early at the airport to visit.


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 InsideFlyer.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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  1. It’s great that most of AAs finest customers fill up the “well provisioned” Flagship lounge. (define well provisioned :/)

    If they’ve know any better, they’d take the trip to the Cathay First lounge 200 yards down the hall which is provisioned with Perrier Jouet and Veuve Champagne (yes, both), has showers with no lines and several tasty food options. Or even the BA First lounge which is right down the hall from AAs lounge.

    I do like the Flagship lounge at both LA and Chicago (minus the Nestle instant coffee machines), but it’s pretty sad that this is the best of the best American has to offer.

  2. How are international arrivals handled at DFW? We’re flying in from NRT in first class, then heading to NY.

  3. That cheese tray could not look any less appetizing. Honestly, US-based carriers do not do lounge catering very well. I can’t help but think they’d do better (both financially and customer satisfaction) if they partnered with a slightly upscale quick serve place like a Chopt, Chipotle, Panera, etc to open up locations in the lounge and make edible food to order.

  4. @dhammer53: Just like any other international arrival, even in first. Clear immigration and customs, at Terminal D I believe. Migrate to the terminal where NY flight departs.

    Another tip: the AC in Terminal A, with the secret (non)-flagship lounge, also has the best shower in the system.

  5. @dhammer53 as noted above, you’ll clear immigration and customs, drop off any bags you picked up at customs for re-check, then re-clear security. you will go to whatever terminal your onward flight departs from.

  6. I think the food in the Flagship lounges, especially JFK is a disgrace. There should be catering with well prepared dishes. NY has an attitude problem with general culture in the area; it’s not as if anyone is going to get well trained staff from the Grand Hotel, more like “self-catering” and a “what’cha lookin’ at?”

    Gary’s pictures for the Flagship NY lounge catering say it all.

    In Chicago, yes the staff are nice and the provisions adequate for that small lounge, but come on. One bathroom, one toilet, no shower, and a considerable distance from many flights (although the International flights are out the backdoor). I could complain about it until I’m blue in the breasts, but it’s always been that way; therefore, it’s probably a plus that that lounge is that way.

    Terminal A for the “secret lounge” is something, but that should be in Terminal D where all of the International flights generate.

    Boston used to have a Flagship lounge as well….and that one was really good—the secret room for all EXP/Emeralds. Very disappointed that was taken away.

    Lastly LAX. Yes, the best of the current Flagship lounges.

    I’ll say it again, when President O’bola is impeached or has to resign with his ‘War on Fliers’ and his hatred for Caucasians, things will improve. Thanks.

  7. @Gary and tommy777 – I’m flying CX F from HKG-JFK and then transferring to a domestic AA F flight. Am I able to use the CX F lounge or am I relegated to an Admirals Club?

    @ED – thanks for telling me the President hates me; I hadn’t noticed in the past 6 years. I guess that means he hated his mother as well, eh? Surprised you didn’t manage to work Benghazi into your rant as well.

  8. Only have had the chance to visit the JFK location. First time there had to argue with them for 10 minutes to let me in with an outbound CX F boarding pass.

    Not bad for a domestic lounge, but then on the other hand I see reports from some of the highest-end UA domestics lounges and they make the FL look pretty sad. I also don’t understand why AA has to make its internationally-located offerings so much better than its domestic ones. They’re serving the same customer base.

    Will be trying out ORD in a couple months.

  9. That fromage platter looks like someone just blew up Mount Cheesemore.

    The rest of the trays seem to look like a camp lunch. No, do not say that there’s camp values there….

  10. @postnobills yes, your arriving boarding pass should get you access to the Flagship lounge. Note that they actually share showers with the Admirals Club.

  11. I transited the JFK FL lounge last Xmas. Gary’s statement is accurate, “Serviceable, but don’t show up early.”

    That’s the polite way of saying “needs improvement.”

  12. I frequent all of these lounges and don’t get the love/hate balance here. The ORD FL should not have the title. While the people are indeed very nice, it is cramped and tiny, there are no showers and the food offerings are the worst in the system – sad sushi, cream of X soups, and hot fatty appetizers. I often skip it for the much nicer Admiral’s Club when there. The food at JFK FL can be inconsistent, but I have had some excellent full meals (esp. when they are doing Asian dishes.) And the staff has been generall very helpful – I have given several AAplause certs there.

    I go to LHR FL for security questions and showers only, then quickly scurry over to BA GF for the much better food and ambience.

  13. @postnobills

    When the Obama government QE stimulus is cut dry come Halloween, you’ll be crying for entry into your Flagship Lounge.

  14. @ED this is a travel blog not a political blog, take your rant to OMIN on FT, I’m hoping Gary will delete your posting until you can stay on subject.

    Since the airlines are making money, hopefully they will start spending on the lounges since most haven’t been refurbish. Would be nice to see more food options

  15. This sure beats the Admirals Club in San Diego. Although new and is very trendy the food sucks. Check mix for breakfast and the asst cookie tray of generic cookies. Afternoon is the same. No cheese,veggies,bagels or decent crackers and chips. Very sad.

  16. @ Paul agreed Our Beloved San Diego Admirals Club offerings are like a homeless shelter
    At least they offer a newspaper 🙂

  17. I really agree with @Justin. The catering at these lounges should be turned over to an upscale fast-casual outfit (Chipotle/Panera/Sweetgreen) or maybe the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) could come aboard with one of their graduate chefs opening a upscale venue inside the AC or FL. Could be a nice revenue stream. Would be a nice project for the CIA or perhaphs Cornell School of Hospitality.

    It would also be nice to see (and I have suggested as feedback to AA) the installation of a nicely equipped fitness center in the lounges. Nothing better after or before a long haul flight! Terminal A Admiral Club has a modest fitness center and of course it has the best showers (rain showers) to go along with the fitness center. If this could be replicated or improved upon at LAX (fitness capital?) and others this would be great!

    Finally, while not an airline, my same remarks for fitness center and catering are extended to Amtrak ,which is improving nicely in onboard service (Free Wi-Fi) but just needs that extra touch in its lounges to sway business and other premium travellers.

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