Disturbing the Peace in American’s Flagship First Dining

American’s Flagship First Dining is the best lounge offering in the United States. I used to argue that distinction went to the Qantas first class lounge at LAX, but all three American spaces open so far are more peaceful and JFK especially but also the others have better views.

Flagship First Dining New York JFK

There are really just two shortcomings, in my opinion. First very few people have access. That’s nice for those who do of course but it’s 3-cabin American Airlines first class passengers only (although at JFK Cathay Pacific’s first class passengers have access) and very few American Airlines flights have three class First.

In Miami there are only 3 flights a day with international first class departing after the lounge opens. That’s a theoretical maximum of 24 people a day if all 3 flights are full of revenue passengers (not employees) and everyone shows up early to the airport.

The other shortcoming in my view is that the reception stands for Dining are inside the Dining area, rather than outside. And that means myriad guest after guest inside the larger Flagship lounge enters First Dining to ask what it is and whether they have access?

Flagship First Dining Entrance JFK

Check-in Desk Inside the Lounge at LAX

Check-in Desk Inside the Lounge in Miami

I’m not alone in my opinion that putting the reception desk inside of flagship dining it awkward. One ineligible customer after another walks in and gets turned away. I guess someone must think that makes the place feel exclusive to someone inside. I find it disrupts the peace of the space.

My uncle emailed me from Flagship First Dining on Saturday. He was flying paid first class Sydney – Los Angeles (Qantas) and onward Los Angeles – New York JFK (American) for a work meeting. He was scheduled to fly AA2 but that was cancelled. He was downgraded on AA4 to business class based on lack of availability but was still given access to First Dining due to his paid first class ticket.

That gave him a layover of more than five hours. He was happy to have a shower, impressed that American was serving Bollinger in the Flagship lounge, and dropped me a note with him impression of First Dining.

Bollinger Inside New York JFK Flagship Lounge

And what was the one thing he mentioned? People coming in and getting sent away over and over.

The Flagship Lounges are nice but busy, everyone who used to access an Admirals Club by any means other than a membership or day pass now has access to American’s business class lounge. But First Dining — which isn’t available in all Flagship Lounges, so far Chicago is without one and Philadelphia won’t offer it either — is a peaceful respite. Interrupted by staff kicking out business class customers and ConciergeKey members constantly throughout the day.

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. Interesting, though from personal experience in Flagship First Dining (maybe half a dozen times at JFK, and once at MIA and once at LAX), I can’t recall a single person mistakenly entering at all.

  2. In MIA, the FFD receptionist is so bored, he stands outside the door and watches passengers go by while adjusting his “too-tight” suit. Priceless.

  3. I respectfully disagree that the Flagship First lounge is better than the Qantas First LAX lounge. That lounge is the best in North America, hands down.

  4. @Rich – Flagship lounges are not better than Qantas first. But I find qantas first busy, and a bit cave like. First *Dining* is more serene because there are so few people, and gets natural light. Why do you prefer Qantas at LAX over First Dining?

  5. Gary, UAL is now walking back their new “incentive” program. Kirby made the announcement just now.

  6. I too find Qantas first dining MUCH better – the dining area is rarely (IME) full, the menu and preparation is MUCH better (for my taste) and the waiters act like they really want to help you. I don’t mind the atmosphere – what matters to me is excellent food, good service, friendliness and oh yes – drinkable champagne!

  7. @DB — kind of sort of. They say they are going to look at it with employee feedback, there’s no suggestion that they will consider reinstating bonuses vs lottery. We’ll see!

  8. @Gary does CX business award ticket get access? Thought I read on the Flagship lounge page that first/business get access if traveling between U.S. and Asia.

  9. @Jamie – CX business award tickets would have access to American Flagship *Lounges* but not access to American Flagship First *Dining*

    @eg – I find the food at Flagship First Dining comparable to the food in the Qantas First Lounge (at least at LAX), but with a much better view and more natural light. I’ve grown to dislike how dark the Qantas First Lounge at LAX feels.

  10. My experience is quite different: visited Flagship Dining at JFK around 5 times or so (last week the latest), Miami once, and didn’t really notice people getting in and sent out … It is always rather empty and an oasis. I love that few people have access. Want access? Fly First …

    Also, visited the Chicago Flagship last week too and I thought the food offerings were of extremely high quality: from the ahi tuna tataki apetizer, to the salad with green fried tmatoes, chicken pot pie, etc. All I had was very good. And … they have sake! So I didn’t really mind a 3-hour delay to SF that day.

  11. I love the Qantas First lounge at LAX, but the lack of a view is a negative. I found the JFK Flagship First Dining excellent and much more secluded (AA needs to stop calling that tiny crowded buffet room in DFW “Flagship First.”

    I agree with the comment about ORD Flagship Lounge. Excellent food, tons of room, and not crowded.

  12. Haven’t ever experienced a problem with this. Also, it needs to be said that AA does post a sign outside the doors (not shown in your photos) stating that access is by invitation only. Agree that AA signage could (and should) clarify that access is limited to ticketed int’l first and transcon first passengers.

  13. Interesting that you raise this – just last week we were in the Flagship dining at LAX and two couples came in at different times and were turned away, being told that it was the “exclusive area” that could only be entered by certain customers – a bit much, I thought – especially since we were the only ones in there.
    I do have to agree that the Flagship Lounges’ are much too busy – everyone and their brother seem to be in there now, but yet last month when we flew MIA-LAX in 1st, we weren’t allowed into the Flagship Lounge (altho as EXP, if we were traveling in coach we would have had access), which was disappointing considering the cost of our ticket and the fact that the AAdmirals Club in that area was closed due to renovation.
    Now we will go into the Flagship Dining and sit in the bar area at both LAX & JFK, even if we don’t have time to actually dine since it’s much more quiet and peaceful than the larger, crowded Flagship Lounge.

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