Review: American First Class Lounge Chicago O’Hare and Business Class, Chicago – Paris

Previous installments:

I’ve reviewed American’s Flagship first class lounges many times, such as Los Angeles, New York JFK, New York JFK, New York JFK, and Chicago O’Hare. So if you’re interested in more detail these previous reports will be of interest.

I arrived at O’Hare with a 3 hour 15 minute connection, plenty of time to visit the small Flagship Lounge at the very end of the K concourse near gate K19.

This lounge has seating, a bit of food, a self serve bar, restrooms, and fantastic staff. It’s pretty non-descript. But there’s sushi, as it doubles as the lounge for Japan Airlines. And there’s whipped cream, which I guess if you’ve been outside the airport in Chicago could go well with a hot cocoa.

The staff are much friendlier, and more helpful, than in any of the other Flagship lounges by far.

I checked out the food, but decided I didn’t want anything.

There’s also a ‘quiet room’ that was once a smoking room.

About 50 minutes to departure I left the lounge and walked over to Tortas Frontera. I hadn’t eaten (I didn’t bother with the lounge offerings) and was getting hungry. Plus I figured that a Rick Bayless sandwich would be better than what I’d get served on the flight.

The sandwich was prepared quickly, there wasn’t much of a wait, so instead of taking it onboard I ate it at the seats near the Frontera counter, and then headed over to the boarding gate.

Once onboard the flight I got an email from American about a 15 minute delay. When the delay stretched on a little further the pilot announced a minor maintenance issue that would be fixed quickly and we’d be on our way. We experienced rolling delays that added 10 or 15 minutes at a time in succession until we left over 2 hours late.

Knowing I might not spend another transatlantic flight in American’s old angled business class seats, as the fully flat seat refurbishment rolled out across the fleet, I decided I’d just be nostalgic about it with the extra time I had.

It turned out that the 767’s auxiliary power unit wasn’t functioning. They can fly without it, and the mechanics could fix it quickly, so they would up writing it up and ensuring that redundant systems were working properly. The APU can start the engines, of course, but it’s not the only way to do so. And once the engines are going, we weren’t planning to turn them off. The APU also powers the plane when it’s parked at the gate, but we have gate power for that as well. So we were deemed safe to fly.

I didn’t actually mind the delay, except that I don’t love the old business class seats enough that I’d want to spend two hours more than necessary sitting in them.

I used the flight delay to change into pajamas for the overnight flight. American doesn’t give them out in business class, of course, but I did bring my own American Airlines PJs from previous first class flights. I don’t mind being seen in ‘other airline’ pajamas. But it did feel appropriate to bring along AA ones. Plus they’ve always washed and stood up well to re-use.

There was a menu and amenity kit at each seat, along with a plastic-wrapped package with a pillow and a blanket.

Here’s the menu from the flight (click to enlarge):

Once our flight was finally airborne after the delay, flight attendants came around with mixed nuts and serving drinks, and taking meal orders. I had pre-ordered the beef.

Meals were, mercifully, served quickly. In many ways we were better off for the delay. I wasn’t going to get much sleep on a 5:15pm departure. But an 8 hour overnight flight leaving around 7:30pm, I could at least get some. And of course arriving into Paris two hours later there was a better chance I wouldn’t have to wait for a room at my hotel. I didn’t have any immediate appointments, so all in all the delay didn’t matter much.

Meals were served, and they were actually well-presented. I had eaten my Tortas Frontera sandwich, and I was happy for that, so I only had a few bites. Nonetheless, the steak was perfectly edible.

After entrees were cleared I ‘made my bed’. Which is to say that I reclined the seat all the way, so that it was in its flattest mode possible, and I covered the seat with the blanket as a mattress pad.

Then I got comfortable, watching season 3 of Homeland, and was served an ice cream sundae ‘in bed’ for dessert.

After an episode and a half or so I dozed off, sleeping on and off for perhaps three and a half hours. I woke up just before flight attendants began serving breakfast.

I had the omelette which was perfectly decent, and fine for a second meal on a relatively short flight.

Fast track immigration passes were handed out. I changed back into my street clothes and we were on the ground soon enough.

To compound the two hour delay, though, we arrived at an apron position… a bus gate… and had to wait awhile until someone brought stairs up to the plane and buses were in position before we could deplane.

We were taken to the main terminal, where I found no line at all at immigration. One nice thing about France is that immigration is probably the most perfunctory there as at any country’s border I’ve been to, at least with an American passport. The official didn’t even look at me, he opened my passport and stamped it and waited for me to move along. I was in France, and it was time to head into town.


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. Tilapia?

    Thanks for the ORD Flagship Lounge pixs. Still no shower, one toilet, but still a nice secret place.

    ED.

  2. Thanks for the trip report. I don’t mind the seats so much on the 767, its just the in-flight entertainment that I find so disappointing. I really wish they had some sort of moving map option in that aircraft. I actually prefer the old business class seats when travelling with my friends as its easier to chat. The biggest problem I find with the old seats is they don’t lay flat they way they are designed too. For some reason they always have a good bend at the leg half, that goes towards the floor. A tip, is reset the seat to the take-off position. Then stand up, and press the control to the flat position while standing. I find this sometimes help.

    Also I find as an Executive Platinum with AA, I find that I spend more time in the regular lounge over the Flagship lounge. I usually grab a bite to eat in the Flagship lounge, then make my way over to the regular lounge to have a shower, send emails and have a drink at the bar. Then board my flight.

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