Is British Airways going “green” in its 100th year?

The old British Airways Galleries First lounge at New York JFK was a triumph, said no one ever. The old space was a relic from the days of styrofoam ceiling tiles, low ceilings and tight corners, with added quirks like needing to actually leave the lounge to eat. Ideal, it was not. British Airways is investing heavily in new lounges and passenger amenities, and Galleries First was amongst the first spaces to undergo a drastic makeover. On the way to London yesterday we popped into the space and found something remarkably improved. And before you even reach the lounge, the new “First” check in is a big step up…

Entrance

The new signage is sleek and sophisticated, with design continuity along the lines of the newer Concorde spaces in Singapore and Dubai. The Galleries First Lounge at JFK essentially works as a lounge for British Airways Gold Executive Club members. You can only get in if you hold OneWorld Emerald status, or are flying first class on a partner airline. There’s a separate lounge for those flying business class or who hold British Airways Silver, or OneWorld Sapphire status – and of course there’s the private Concorde Room for British Airways First Class passengers at JFK.

Segments

The first positive with the new lounge is segmentation. Whereas the old First lounge was one continuous waiting room, the new space is a thoughtful series of nooks, crannies and creative spaces. Guests turn left into the Galleries First lounge, but an immediate right brings travelers to the business center, which somewhat illogically doubles as the big screen TV area. It was wildly popular with a big Philadelphia Eagles game on, and there was seemingly more pleasure than business in the business center -and lots of beer.

Dining

Continuing course, guests would find the next huge improvement. The Galleries First lounge at JFK now offers its own separate pre flight dining area known as “Boutique Dining”. The space is remarkably clean, sharp and chic. There’s an open kitchen, Aston Martin green upholstering and design forward lighting, with nice wood touches. One might say a page was taken from the Cathay Pacific playbook, and no one would complain about that.

This “boutique dining” area will still be exclusive to Galleries First guests actually traveling in Club World business class, but the big perk is that you’ll no longer need to walk around to the business lounge to access pre flight dining, and then back again. The headline: access remains the same, but Galleries First guests will have an upgraded and more private dining experience. Renovations in the Galleries business class lounge mean pre flight dining guests must presently walk through the first lounge to access the main pre flight dining area, but this is only temporary.

Areas

Work and play seems to be everywhere in the new Galleries First JFK. If the business area with the big screens is too buzzy, there’s a semi quiet area with nice table space to handle any last minute business needs just further into the lounge. It’s rustic, well lit and offers good people watching, with one small distraction. Here sits the new crown jewel of the lounge: a wine tasting machine, in addition to the the standard bar area.

Wine Tasting

British Airways has added a state of the art pour machine, with 8 bottles to sample. The wines are poured at the perfect temperature and delivered in a tasting portion, though you can coax more out of it if you like. It’s awesome. Currently guests can sample Chardonnay from eight different countries side by side, and rumor has it the airline will work to bring top vineyards into the fold on a rotating basis as they bring new and varied flights to life, off the runway.

Carrying on, traditional lounge seating areas are everywhere, but with the important addition of power ports and or storage space at each seat. Roaming a lounge for power needs is never fun, and now those days are gone. Seating in the main relaxation area looks quite nice and chairs are comfy, albeit a bit tight, if you don’t happen to know the person next to you. You may literally be able to say you rubbed elbows with someone.

The last area of the lounge is important to many a traveler. The bar is the final frontier in the British Airways Galleries First JFK Lounge, and it seems to work extremely well that way. There are restaurant style seating areas with dining tables, with sofa seating elements woven into the room matching the Aston Martin green pre flight dining schemes. The space is semi protected to the rest of the lounge, which keeps noise to a minimum and also adds privacy for anyone looking to keep a low profile. There’s no question that this lounge is a huge improvement and will only get better as the neighboring Galleries lounge finishes refurbishment. Compared with the previous space – it’s a triumph.

Gossip…

BOAC, now known as British Airways once flew a green and white livery. Could this lounge be a sign of a 100th anniversary rebrand, or is just design work?