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JFK Airport Lounge Hopping: Making the Most of My 11-Hour Layover

Katie Seemann's image
Katie Seemann
Katie Seemann's image

Katie Seemann

Senior Content Contributor and News Editor

349 Published Articles 54 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 28U.S. States Visited: 29

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, F...
Edited by: Chris Dong
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Chris Dong

Editor & Content Contributor

88 Published Articles 69 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 54U.S. States Visited: 36

Chris is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on timely travel trends, points and miles, hot new hotels, and all things that go (he’s a proud aviation geek and transit nerd). Formerly full time ...

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Layovers are a common part of a travel day. While a nonstop flight is preferred, with a little planning, a layover can be almost…fun.

Yes, I said it. Layovers can sometimes be enjoyable. Of course, that depends on what airport you’re at and what airport lounges you can access. On a recent 11-hour layover at New York’s JFK Airport, I decided to check out as many lounges as I could. Here’s what happened.

Why An 11-Hour Layover at JFK?

Most layovers aren’t 11 hours long, even for international flights. How in the world did I end up with so much time to kill at JFK?

As most points and miles enthusiasts know, award tickets are often only available from large hub airports. That was the case for my recent trip to Europe. I booked Air France business class tickets from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) using Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles. Then, I booked a positioning flight from my home airport to JFK on American Airlines.

When I booked that flight, there were 2 options — a flight at 8:30 a.m. that was very inexpensive and a flight at 1 p.m. that was very expensive. While I wanted the 1 p.m. flight, I booked the cheaper morning flight.

As an American Airlines Platinum Pro member, I am eligible for free same-day confirmed changes. My plan was to check in for my flight 24 hours ahead of time and, hopefully, do a same-day confirmed change to the flight I wanted.

Of course, there was a chance that the later flight wouldn’t be available. I’m sure you can guess how that all worked out for me.

As any good travel writer would do, I took this set of circumstances as a great opportunity to write an article. I hope you don’t end up with a long layover like mine, but if you do, here’s how I made the most of it by hopping between lounges at JFK. (Spoiler alert: When all was said and done, I made it into 6 lounges, including 1 spa “lounge,” and was denied entry into 2 more.)

1. American Airlines Admirals Club

Visiting the Admirals Club at JFK
I started off at the Admirals Club at JFK.

Location: Terminal 8, Concourse C, near Gate 42

Hours: Daily from 4:15 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Amenities: Complimentary food and beverages, kids room, lots of seating, runway views

My first stop was the American Airlines Admirals Club, which was near my arrival gate at JFK in Terminal 8. I can access Admirals Clubs because I have the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

Even with an Admirals Club membership, you can only access the clubs when you’re flying American Airlines. I flew to JFK on American, and thankfully, Admirals Clubs allow entry on arrival, so I was good to go.

AA Admirals Club at JFK Terminal 8
The Admirals Club at JFK airport.

This lounge was spacious and uncrowded on the Friday morning that I visited. Admirals Clubs generally don’t have the gourmet food or high-end perks that are offered at other lounges (although American is making some upgrades). However, they are super convenient when you’re flying American.

I had hoped to grab some breakfast at this lounge, but everything was switching over to lunch at 10:30 a.m., so I ended up with a small plate from the salad bar.

Salad at Admirals Club at JFK
I was too late for breakfast, so I grabbed a small salad.

2. Chase Sapphire Lounge By The Club

Location: Terminal 4, after security, to the left of the escalators

Hours: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

I visited the Chase Sapphire Lounge at LGA the week after it opened and it was spectacular, so I was really excited to try out the Chase Sapphire Lounge at JFK. Unfortunately, I was denied entrance because you can only enter 3 hours before departure, even on connections, which was disappointing.

Chase states that these lounges can be accessed 3 hours before departure, but rules about layovers aren’t clearly outlined. Typically, lounges offer the ability to enter at any point during a connection. While the employee I spoke with at the lounge clearly told me there were no exceptions to the 3-hour rule (including connections), the policy may be more flexible when the lounge isn’t crowded.

Centurion Lounge and Chase Sapphire Lounge at JFK
The Chase Sapphire Lounge is right next to the Centurion Lounge.

Had I been able to visit this lounge, I would have accessed it through the Priority Pass membership from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

While anyone who has a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, J.P. Morgan Reserve Card, or Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Card (closed to new applicants) can access these lounges an unlimited number of times, travelers who have a Priority Pass through other means get 1 complimentary entry per year.

3. American Express Centurion Lounge

Location: Terminal 4, after security, to the left of the escalators

Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Amenities: Complimentary food and beverages, 1850 Speakeasy, phone room, Equinox Body Lab

Entrance of Centurion Lounge at JFK airport
The Centurion Lounge at JFK.

I hadn’t planned on visiting the Centurion Lounge at JFK on this trip because I have been there before, and I have been a little down on Centurion Lounges since they changed their guest policy. But after I was denied access to the Chase Sapphire Lounge, I pivoted and decided to visit the Centurion Lounge, which was next door.

The Centurion Lounge was happy to let me in 8.5 hours before my scheduled departure time since I could show them a boarding pass from my flight to JFK earlier that day (if you don’t have a connection, you can’t enter until 3 hours before departure).

Amex Centurion Lounge at JFK
Amex Centurion Lounge at JFK.

I accessed this lounge with The Platinum Card® from American Express, and my husband used The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

This 2-level lounge was bright and had nice runway views, but it has always felt small and segmented. Thankfully, on my visit on a Friday afternoon, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we found comfy seats near the back of the lounge with no problem.

One of the things I noticed on this visit that was different from my previous visits is that there was a rather large set of seats on the bottom floor reserved for those who have the Centurion® Card from American Express.

This seemed like a huge waste of space as the area was pretty large compared to the number of Centurion cardholders that probably use it.

Amex Centurion Lounge at JFK Centurion Area
There were seats roped off just for Centurion cardholders.
Hot Tip:

There’s something new coming to the Centurion Lounge at JFK — Blue Roast by American Express Coffee and a wellness bar.

4. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Location: Terminal 4, after security, above gates A4 and A5

Hours: 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for Priority Pass members)

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK has limited hours for Priority Pass members.

My next stop was the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which I was going to access through my Priority Pass membership. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of checking the hours through Virgin Atlantic instead of Priority Pass.

I found out that Priority Pass members can only access the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK from 5 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Hot Tip:

The Virgin Clubhouse at JFK only lets in Priority Pass members until 1:30 p.m.

5. Air India Maharaja Lounge

Location: Terminal 4, after security, above gates A4 and A5

Hours: 8:15 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amenities: A small buffet of snacks, a self-serve bar

Air India lounge at JFK
The Air India Lounge at JFK left a lot to be desired.

Since I was denied access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, I decided to try the Air India Maharaja Lounge, which was in the same area. I accessed this lounge using my Priority Pass about 6 hours before my flight.

Let’s not beat around the bush — this lounge isn’t anything special. It was tiny, with limited table seating, and there was a small buffet with snacks and self-serve drinks (wines, spirits, coffee, soda).

Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.

6. Be Relax Spa

Location: Terminal 1, near gate 5

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Chair massage at Be Relax Spa at JFK
We tried out a chair massage.

While not technically a lounge, I was able to access the Be Relax Spa through the Priority Pass I have from my Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

I got a 30-minute chair massage, and it was just okay. I visited a Be Relax Spa at LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) a couple of years ago, and it was great. However, there was an upcharge to use the higher-quality chair (like I had used at LGA). I went with the free option and wished I had sprung for the better massage chair.

Hot Tip:

Only those who have a Priority Pass through a Chase card can access Be Relax Spas for free.

7. Primeclass Lounge

Location: Terminal 1, after security, next to Gates 8 and 9

Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Amenities: Complimentary food and drinks, shower

Bar at Primeclass Lounge at JFK
The bar at the Primeclass Lounge at JFK.

There are 2 Primeclass Lounges at JFK — in Terminal 1 and Terminal 4.

I was able to enter the Primeclass Lounge in Terminal 4 with my Priority Pass membership (entry is for international travelers only) about 4.5 hours before my flight.

After checking in, I headed downstairs to the lounge, which was small and crowded. While the food selection wasn’t bad, eating food from a paper plate with a plastic fork didn’t do much for the ambiance of the space.

Food at Primeclass lounge at JFK
I didn’t love the paper plates at the Primeclass Lounge.

After taking a few photos, I left and headed for my last lounge of the day — the Air France Lounge.

Hot Tip:

To transfer between Terminals 1, 4, and 8 for these lounge visits, I had to use JFK’s AirTrain (it’s not possible to walk between them). I also had to clear security each time I entered a new terminal. So, if you’re short on time, it’s best to get to your departure terminal before you pick a lounge to visit.

8. Air France Lounge

Location: Terminal 1, next to Gate 1

Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Amenities: Hot and cold buffets, self-serve bar, shower

My last stop of the day was the Air France Lounge in Terminal 1 at JFK. I was able to enter since I was flying Air France business class to Paris, but this lounge can be accessed via a Priority Pass membership, too. I was able to enter about 4 hours before my flight, but there is an official 3-hour time limit for Priority Pass members.

JFK Air France Lounge Terminal 1
The Air France Lounge has high ceilings.

The 2-level lounge was bright and spacious thanks to vaulted ceilings and lots of windows. While most of the views were of the freeway, you could see New York City in the distance, which is a pretty unique lounge feature. The views at sunset were lovely.

The lounge had a buffet, including a drink station, on both floors. There was a nice variety of food, including some French-inspired dishes like Quiche Lorraine and Croque Monsieur, plus baguettes, of course.

Dinner at the Air France Lounge at JFK airport
Dinner at the Air France Lounge.

The Air France Lounge was a great spot to grab dinner before heading off on my flight to Paris.

Bottom Line:

The Air France Lounge at JFK airport made our list of the best Priority Pass lounges in the U.S.

Final Thoughts

While a layover is never really fun, I made the best of it by lounge hopping. I visited 6 lounges and was denied entry into 2 more at JFK during an 11-hour layover. There’s a big difference in the quality of lounges you’ll find at any airport; it’s even more apparent at a huge one like JFK, which has 20 different options.

The Amex Centurion Lounge and Air France Lounge were my favorites of the day (although I suspect the Chase Sapphire Lounge would be on that list if I were able to enter), while my least favorite was the Air India Maharaja Lounge.

The information regarding the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Centurion® Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Katie Seemann's image

About Katie Seemann

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.

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