Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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American Airlines has a deep network of flights at New York’s largest airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Although American Airlines doesn’t dominate the airport’s market share of flights like it does with Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), it’s difficult to dispute the fact that American Airlines has invested billions of dollars into one of the world’s most prolific hubs.
With around 12% of the JFK market share, American Airlines is in third place, behind Delta Air Lines (28%) and JetBlue (23%).
Although American Airlines has begun reducing its international operations at JFK in favor of its Philadelphia (PHL) hub, it has still been bolstering its offerings, resulting in an awesome ground experience.
American Airlines unveiled its new Flagship Lounge in Terminal 8 Concourse B, which replaced the previous Admirals Club after a $200 million renovation.
The Flagship Lounge, along with the Flagship First Dining, is considered to be one of the top lounge experiences in the entire world, much less the U.S.
So let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.
The Flagship Lounge is located in Terminal 8. Specifically, it’s shortly after the security checkpoint in Concourse B. There are various overhead signs that point to the Flagship Lounge, but I had some difficult finding it.
The signs all point to an elevator, and you’ll need to ascend to the mezzanine floor to access the lounge.
The Flagship Lounge at JFK is open from 4 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily. There are 4 groups of travelers with access to American Airlines Flagship Lounges. These are:
- Travelers in first or business class on a qualifying international or transcontinental flight marketed and operated by American Airlines or a Oneworld airline.
- Qualifying international flights include flights between the U.S. and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico City (MEX), Europe, Central America, and Asia
- Qualifying transcontinental flights include 3-class non-stop flights on the A321T between LAX and JFK, SFO and JFK, and LAX and BOS
- 1 guest allowed if in international first class (children over 2 count as guests)
- Travelers with AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum status departing/connecting on a qualifying international flight marketed/operated by American or a Oneworld airline, regardless of cabin class
- Qualifying international flights include flights between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Central America, Europe, Mexico City (MEX), New Zealand, and South America
- 1 guest allowed (children over 2 count as a guest)
- Travelers with AAdvantage ConciergeKey status departing on a same-day flight marketed/operated by American Airlines or a Oneworld airline, regardless of cabin class
- Immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, and/or children under 18) or up to 2 guests allowed
- Travelers with Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status departing/connecting on any flight marketed/operated by American Airlines or a Oneworld airline, regardless of cabin class
- 1 guest allowed (children over 2 count as guests)
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members traveling solely on North American (excluding Mexico City) itineraries don’t qualify for Flagship Lounge access
Because I was arriving from a transcontinental Flagship First Class flight between Los Angeles (LAX) and New York City (JFK), I was eligible via criteria #1 above.
Back to the lounge — once you step out of the elevator, you’ll see a series of check-in desks with a white American Airlines backdrop.
Hot Tip: Want to figure out where the other Flagship Lounges are? Check out our full list of American Airlines Flagship Lounges, complete with opening hours, locations, and more!
I showed the customer representatives my same-day arriving boarding pass, and I was granted access immediately and directed to walk left. There was a corridor with LED photography, and it brought a lot of brightness to the lounge.
Design, Arrangement, and Seating
Once you enter the Flagship Lounge, you’ll immediately be greeted by encircling armchairs in the foyer. There is various wall artwork along with electronic flight displays and intriguing halogen lights overhead.
Next to the entrance of the lounge was also a set of work desks used by the American Airlines concierge.
The seating areas continued with more swivel tub chairs organized in a large, open space.
There was also a large counter with bar chairs.
Moving deeper into the lounge, there was a continuation of seating and various furnishings.
In addition to bar chairs, there were leather armchairs and loungers, which were facing the runway.
The vast sea of seats featured nearly every type of chair available.
There were also privacy L-lounge chairs arranged in groups of 4. These are great for solo travelers looking to get more privacy.
The lounge was filled with numerous electronic flight display monitors, enabling travelers to stay updated on flights.
The literature shelf contained many newspaper and magazine choices, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.
There was also a great collection of wall art depicting New York City through the years.
Food and Drink
The food and drink program is known to be the highlight of the Flagship Lounge. There were 3 core offerings from the Flagship Lounge at JFK excluding Flagship First Dining. These are the:
- Self-serve food area/buffet
- Self-serve cocktail bar
- Premium wine table
Self-Serve Food Area
The self-serve food area/buffet was organized close to the entrance of the lounge. After walking through the entrance corridor, you would see the food counters on the right-hand side.
Since the food is self-serve, you simply pick up a plate and grab the items you like. My visit began in the early morning hours and extended through to lunchtime, so I had a chance to see what both breakfast and lunch looked like.
When I started at the beginning of the counter, I saw a tray of summer vegetable frittatas.
Next, the breakfast must-have of scrambled eggs were offered in heavy quantities.
After that, there were paprika breakfast potatoes, which were actually seasoned very well.
Next up in the line was pork sausage patties, followed by bacon.
If you’re looking for more of a continental breakfast option, there were individual containers of cereals and Chobani yogurt packages.
Shortly after, the breakfast foods continued with smoked salmon and various local charcuterie.
To pair with the cold cuts, there were plenty of cheeses.
After that, you would find fresh fruits and a quinoa and raisin salad.
To close out the breakfast offerings, there were copious amounts of various pastries, ranging from cinnamon rolls to croissants to danishes.
You could also add on a variety of toppings to your pastries such as butter, Nutella, and jam.
That rounds out the breakfast offering at the Flagship Lounge. Let’s move onto the lunch choices. At around 11 a.m., the breakfast food was swapped out with the lunch food.
First up were assorted salads, all of which were tasty, particularly the watermelon salad.
The first dish that I saw was pistachio roasted carrots.
The selection continued with a green bean and shiitake mushroom casserole, followed by rosemary potatoes.
The protein section consisted of 2 choices. First was the soy honey pork spareribs, followed by salmon with ramps pesto.
For dessert, there were plates of brownies and various cookies.
On a standalone counter were the toaster, bread basket, bagel basket, and soup pots.
The double glass refrigerator housed water, soft drinks, and beer.
You’d also be able to find orange juice, iced water, and hot water in standalone dispensers.
There were more alcoholic and soft drink choices in the refrigerators situated underneath the counters. There was also a Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensing pretty much any Coca-Cola beverage product, including Glacéau Vitamin Water.
On a separate island, there were caffeinated drinks, including espresso and tea. The main attraction would be the Franke espresso machine, which offers La Colombe coffee.
The Franke espresso machine makes drinks such as cappuccinos, tea, blended coffee, and lattes.
There were also decaf drinks offered, for a total of 18 options.
Next to the espresso machine were biscotti, cinnamon sticks, and rock sugar sticks.
If coffee is too strong for you, you can choose from a variety of TEALEAVES tea, a renowned artisanal tea brand.
Self-Serve Cocktail Bar
The self-serve cocktail bar is located in a corner of the self-serve food area, atop a white counter. There are many types of spirits on offer.
Premium Wine Table
The premium wine table is located in the middle of the lounge, but it wasn’t stocked during my visit. As a result, I couldn’t get any pictures.
Although Flagship Lounges exist in other airports besides JFK, there are lounge-specific amenities that are unique to JFK.
The 5 core amenities offered are:
- Quiet room
- Shower suites
- Business center
- Phone rooms
The quiet room is a large room located to the left of the lounge entryway. There are glass doors separating the quiet room from the rest of the lounge. Seating consists of privacy lounge chairs, low-back lounge chairs, and ottomans.
The quiet room is insulated to reduce noise pollution from the rest of the lounge. If you wanted to catch a nap, you could pull up an ottoman to the end of a low lounge chair to make a continuous resting surface to lay flat.
As far as shower suites go, I found these facilities to be clean and well-maintained. There are 6 shower suites in the lounge, and each of them is completely private.
The shower suite consists of an oversized open space with a toilet, wall-mounted sink, bench, and a pair of walk-in shower heads.
Next to the sink, you’ll find a wall-mounted hairdryer.
American Airlines stocks its amenities with C.O. Bigelow products.
Additionally, a fresh set of towels was pre-packaged and placed on the shower bench.
Additional amenities are available upon request, which include shave kits, dental kits, and deodorant gel.
The shower itself featured a lovely mosaic backsplash with interlocking and random patterns in a white and Tiffany blue theme.
Next to the shower handle was a white counter space to put toiletries, which is convenient.
Within the shower, there were bulk-sized C.O. Bigelow toiletries. Lime & Coriander is the product of choice for American Airlines.
Not only was there a rain shower head, but there was also a hand-held shower head on the other side of the shower.
The business center looks noticeably different compared to other similar lounge facilities. In simplest terms, the business center is arranged along a wall at the back of the lounge.
There are 6 booths that each serve as business centers. In practice, it’s a booth with a wall-mounted table, a light, and a few power outlets.
There weren’t any desktop computers available for use, which could defeat the purpose of having a business center. There was also a single printer located atop a counter, which you can utilize.
As far as phone rooms go, each of the phone rooms consisted of a simple square room with standing space, a tabletop, and power outlets. The phone rooms were separated by glass doors and they were somewhat insulated from sound.
Near the entrance of the lounge (next to the quiet room), there was a small walk-in space that contained storage areas for carry-on luggage, as well as hooks to hang clothing.
It also contained a high chair for toddlers.
Flagship First Class
Flagship First Class is the name for the sit-down dining experience housed within the Flagship Lounge. Access to Flagship First Dining is much more restricted than the Flagship Lounge.
Let’s look into the other elements of the Flagship First Class experience, besides access to the Flagship Lounge at JFK.
Flagship First Check-In
In addition to Flagship First Dining, there’s also a Flagship First Check-In experience, which assists you in your pre-departure formalities. Flagship First Check-In offers a dedicated and exclusive check-in area. Once you’ve arrived at the check-in facility, you’ll get personalized assistance, along with expedited security access.
In all, Flagship First Check-In is useful for those who don’t want to be in the same ticketing and security lines as everyone else. In order to access Flagship First Check-In, you must fulfill one of these requirements:
- You’re flying on American Airlines in Flagship First on a qualifying transcontinental or international flight
- Qualifying international flights include flights between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America
- Qualifying transcontinental flights include 3-class non-stop flights on the A321T aircraft between LAX and JFK, SFO and JFK, and LAX and BOS
- You have AAdvantage Executive Platinum status and are flying on a qualifying international flight operated by American Airlines, regardless of cabin class
- Qualifying international flights include flights between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Central America, Europe, Mexico City (MEX), New Zealand, and South America
- Executive Platinum members traveling solely on North American itineraries don’t qualify (flights involving MEX are allowed access)
- You have AAdvantage ConciergeKey status and you’re flying on any flight operated by American Airlines, regardless of cabin class
- You have Oneworld Emerald status and are flying on any American Airlines flight
- You purchase Five Star Service
At JFK airport, the Flagship First Check-In area is located on the departure level, closest to AirTrain access (to the right of American Airlines check-in desks).
Flagship First Dining
In my estimation, Flagship First Dining is the culmination and magnum opus of the entire Flagship First Class experience. The Flagship First Dining concept is offered to the most exclusive group of customers.
Customers will enjoy phenomenal à la carte dining in a restaurant-like, sit-down environment. In addition to unlimited à la carte dining, you can savor the finest beverages, ranging from juices to Krug Champagne.
The experience itself is incredibly private, due to how few passengers can actually access it. Flagship First Dining is the gold standard for how good airport food can be. You’ll forget that you’re in an airline lounge when you’ve been luxuriating in fine dining.
To give you an idea of just how exclusive Flagship First Dining is, even American Airlines ConciergeKey members — invitation-only elite status holders that spend upwards of $50,000 per year on American Airlines flights alone — can’t get into the Flagship First Dining without meeting the same eligibility rules as everyone else.
What are the eligibility criteria? You have to be flying on American Airlines in Flagship First Class on qualifying international or transcontinental flights. These are:
- 777-300ER Flagship First Class on international flights between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America (1 guest is allowed, and children over 2 count as guests)
- A321T Flagship First Class on transcontinental flights between LAX and JFK, SFO and JFK, and LAX and BOS (no guests are allowed)
If you happen to have access to Flagship First Dining, you’ll find yourself in a restaurant setting with beautiful views of the tarmac.
In addition to regular seating at tables and booths, there’s also bar seating at the full bar.
To start off the experience, I ordered an Americano, which was made from La Colombe, single-origin coffee beans.
Then, the dedicated server (I was the only one in the lounge) offered me the breakfast menu, which was expansive and diverse.
To start off, I ordered a glass of pomegranate juice and water.
I ordered the steak, eggs, and frites. The dish consisted of short rib steak cooked to perfection atop a toasted brioche bun and nestled underneath a poached egg. The poached egg was drizzled with a merlot hollandaise. Lastly, breakfast potatoes, peppers, and onions accompanied the dish.
The dish was excellent, with a rich and savory complexion and crisp texture of the toasted brioche bun.
I also ordered the cinnamon apple waffles. The fresh Belgian waffles were sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied a cinnamon-apple compote and a cinnamon-apple paste.
I enjoyed the crispiness of the Belgian waffle as well as the sweet richness of the cinnamon apple condiments.
The Flagship Lounge at JFK is a great way to relax and unwind prior to your flight. Whether you’re catching a nap in the sound-insulated quiet room, enjoying runway views while eating some solid buffet food, or sampling foodstuffs of the highest echelon in Flagship First Dining, there’s plenty to like about this lounge.
The American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK is absolutely a worthwhile space to visit, provided that you meet the eligibility criteria (if you don’t, check out the other lounge options at JFK). There are numerous things in the lounge to keep you busy, whether it’s exploring the vast seating options, having runway views, eating tasty food, or staying hydrated with the beverage offerings.
Fundamentally speaking, the Flagship First Class ground experience, particularly the food, trumps most other airlines’ first class products. Even the Flagship First Check-In is a much-appreciated benefit.
American Airlines has invested a significant amount of money in the ground experience at JFK, and it shows. Although the Flagship Lounge (and especially Flagship First Dining) is an exclusive experience, you should definitely have this on your bucket list.
Featured Image Credit: Stephen Au. All other images are credited to Stephen Au, unless otherwise specified.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does AA Flagship mean?
American Airlines Flagship is the name of the best experience that American Airlines has to offer. Simply put, it’s the airline putting their best foot forward in delivering an exclusive check-in, top-notch lounge access, enhanced in-flight amenities, comfortable lie-flat seats, and much more.
What is the AA Flagship Lounge?
The American Airlines Flagship Lounge is the airline’s top-tier lounge experience. It is vastly superior to their Admirals Clubs, which are inferior lounges that offer mediocre food.
On the other hand, the Flagship Lounge contains fantastic chef-inspired meals, regional ingredients, specialty wines, unique spirits, beautiful shower suites, lots of seating, and much more.
The Flagship Lounge at JFK was reviewed in this piece, but it’s also available in American Airlines hubs like Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Who can use AA Flagship Lounge?
Does American Airlines have international first class?
Yes, but this is only offered on the 4-class Boeing 777-300ER, their biggest and best aircraft.
The routes include cities like London (LHR), São Paulo (GRU), Buenos Aires (EZE), and Hong Kong (HKG).
What is Flagship First on American Airlines?
Flagship First is the umbrella term for all of the experiences you’re entitled to as a first class passenger on select flights.
This includes Flagship First Check-In, the Flagship Lounge, Flagship First Dining, and the Flagship First Class seat.
Altogether, these make up “Flagship First” on American Airlines.
Do you get lounge access with American Airlines first class?
Depending on your exact ticket, you may get lounge access with American Airlines. If you’re flying on a simple domestic first class ticket (excluding transcontinental A321T first class) you do not get lounge access.
However, you might get lounge access from elite status or other qualifying flights.
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