American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX is now the best airline lounge in the United States. The problem is that not very many people will get to experience it.
In recent past I’ve considered the Qantas first class lounge at LAX to be the best U.S. airline lounge. It has great food but doesn’t have much for views and gets reasonably crowded at peak times because it’s open not just to first class passengers but also oneworld top tier elites regardless of class of service.
The other great lounges in my mind are the Star Alliance business class lounge at LAX (great outdoor terrace with fire pits), the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at New York JFK, and Lufthansa’s culinary offering for first class passengers at its New York JFK lounge.
American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX has better views and is far less crowded than the Qantas first class lounge. It may also have better food, though not better wine.
I also found Flagship First Dining at LAX to have better food than in Miami, and better service than at New York JFK. So net net of the three Flagship First Dining facilities open so far LAX is my favorite, placing it arguably in the position of best lounge in the United States.
However while the Qantas first class lounge and the Star Alliance business class lounge are accessible to many it’s only a handful of customers each day who can access American’s Flagship First Dining. So while it may take the title best it won’t take the title of ‘favorite’.
Key Facts About American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX
American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX is inside the Flagship Lounge. While the broader lounge is, generally speaking, a business class product this is limited to American’s own 3-cabin first class customers.
To enter you need to be flying:
- Same day American Airlines first class. Internationally that’s on a Boeing 777-300ER to or from Asia, Australia, Europe, or South America, and domestically that’s on an A321T between New York JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco.
- Out of Los Angeles that means either flying to London Heathrow, Hong Kong, or New York — or connecting to another city where you’ll take an eligible flight, or connecting off of an eligible flight. (While this is not an arrivals lounge, if you flew New York JFK – Los Angeles in 3-cabin first class and are connecting to, say, Fresno you would have access.)
International first class passengers can bring a guest into the lounge while domestic 3-class premium passengers are not entitled to a guest. Unlike the Air Canada Signature Suite in Toronto American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX is open to upgrade and award passengers as well as revenue passengers.
At LAX the lounge is 1500 square feet and it has 59 seats. When I visited there were never more than two other passengers inside at once. LAX has a dozen New York JFK flights (each with 10 seats) and two international 777-300ER flights currently.
The lounge is open from 4:45 am – 12:15 am daily. Unlike Flagship First Dining Miami which opens at 2 p.m. (though they may be looking to open earlier since Miami has a Boeing 777-300ER that leaves before lounge open), they have a separate breakfast and lunch/dinner service in this lounge.
Touring American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX
Once you’ve entered the lounge complex and you’ve headed upstairs, there are desks with agents. The American Airlines Admirals Club is to your right, and the Flagship Lounge to your left. You’ll show your invitation card to enter the Flagship Lounge.
In the Flagship lounge you turn right to the bathrooms and showers, to Flagship Dining, and the lounge’s quiet area that’s just past Flagship Dining. It’s all down a long corridor.
That corridor is called the LAX Flagship First Corridor featuring photographs on the wall of celebrities in front of American Airlines planes, mostly at Burbank airport before LAX opened. There’s Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Stewart, Chita Rivera, Paul Newman, Sophia Lorean, Ertha Kitt (Catwoman in Batman), Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
At the end of the corridor is the entrance to American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX. There’s a desk inside, and they’re expecting you. They have a list of every eligible traveler flying that day, although of course you may have just booked your ticket or upgraded so you hand them the invitation that was given as you entered the lounge complex.
Here’s my biggest criticism of the lounge. Just like in other locations they have placed the check-in desk inside the Dining facility. All during my time there passengers came in to see what it was, asking whether they could come in, and getting turned away. That’s a bad customer experience for those dining in the lounge, and for those being turned away. They really need to station this outside the lounge.
To the left after you enter is a bar with several stools each offering power. Also to the left is a long communal dining table which is also where I worked for a couple of hours after my meal. Each spot there has power as well.
To the right are booths and tables, and to the far right a window overlooking aircraft. It’s not as dramatic as the window that extends the length of the lounge at JFK, but it’s still nice that there’s light and a view (something the Qantas first class lounge at the airport lacks).
There are power ports in the booths, and they’re positioned where they’re much easier to use than they are at JFK Flagship First Dining as well.
Tasting the Food and Drink
Since the lounge is open before 5 a.m. they have a separate breakfast menu. I didn’t have a chance to sample breakfast.
Here’s the ‘all day’ menu that I was able to try.
And here’s the beverage menu, though of course they also have the full bar.
Then there’s dessert and after dinner drinks.
They’re proud here that they’re buying locally — from Molinari Salami, Cypress Grove Cheeses, Santa Barbara Smokehouse, La Brea Bakery, Pete Balistreri Meats, and Santa Monica Seafood. Apparently an airport vendor that they work with collects the food and transports them into the airport.
I started off with the spicy yellowtail. It was a fantastic piece of fish, and would really have stood well on its own, so I was disappointed that it was covered in ponzu. The pickles it’s served with were over-marinated. But that fish was just delicious, very fatty and flavorful.
Next up I tried the pork belly. It was good, but the sides were the real winner here. I enjoyed the sweet potato puree but oh my goodness the cauliflower tempura was amazing. It was crunchy and warn and the cauliflower inside was perfect.
The miso black cod was also excellent, a very delicate fish perfectly done. I was trying to sample many things and admit I didn’t give the things the cod was served with a try or else I wouldn’t be able to sampel anything else.
Next up was the Flagship Burger. This is something that started out at New York JFK and was a huge hit there and mentioned in many mainstream writeups of the lounge. It was excellent there. I didn’t find it to be as good in Miami. I have to say that the meat was very good in American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX, but that the bun overwhelmed the burger. It’s a different bun than they use in New York, and I’m told they’re working on sourcing something that is more similar.
There was no way I was going to be able to eat dessert, let alone take a bite from multiple desserts, but the staff prepared a sampler plate which was lovely.
Where I was disappointed by the quality of ice cream used in the sundae in Miami I thought the vanilla ice cream here was much better.
As elsewhere in Flagship Dining locations at the end of the meal you’re given delicious airplane-shaped chocolates.
The liquor selection in Flagship Dining is impressive. It’s not as top shelf as you’ll find in some international lounges but there’s nice variety. For instance I ended my mean with a glass of Suntory neat — though not one of their more expensive bottles by any stretch.
How American Airlines Flagship First Dining LAX Does Overall
This lounge should be seen in conjunction with the rest of the Flagship lounge at LAX. Personally I’d spend the vast majority of my time in Flagship Dining if eligible, I wouldn’t just take a meal here. I can plug in and work in peace. But I’d still need to leave the Dining facility to use the restroom or take a shower.
I like that the broader lounge didn’t fill up as badly as New York JFK does, and that it has great views. The Dining facility at JFK has even better views, but I am partial to the food here overall and to the service. I like both JFK and LAX better than the Miami Flagship Dining where the food just seemed to miss for me.
Regardless, the food is as good or better than what you’ll find at any other lounge in the United States. I’d probably wish for a bit more of a wine budget. However the seclusion in a busy airport cannot be matched by the other top lounges so to me that makes this one the best.
I realize it’s inconsistent to prize seclusion and wish for broader access at the same time, but it’s good enough that I wish more readers would be able to take advantage of it more often. That this is an American Airlines product is incredible. I wish they put this much care into everything else they do.