Note: scores are based on the best possible experience found on any airline, for which the best airline would get a 100 in that category.
It’s time to turn right, not left…
As travellers, we’re conditioned to believe that it’s always better to turn left. After all, that’s usually the direction to first class on a long flight. When American Airlines opened their much improved Flagship lounge at JFK Airport Terminal 8, that’s exactly what people did. To the right, was the Admirals Club, a lower level of sophistication mostly reserved for domestic flights.
But sometime this year American moved the Admirals Club to an entirely separate location, which opened up the potential for perhaps American’s best lounge in the world. When you get to JFK, those in the know “turn right” after check in.
One Mile At A Time alluded to the best kept secret at JFK, hiding in plain sight. The JFK Flagship Lounge at T8 is up an elevator, and after check in hosts naturally direct you to the left. Entry is for travellers in Flagship Business, or frequent flyers with Oneworld Sapphire or above, with the exclusion of American Airlines elites. Basically, everyone has been conditioned to turn left, and those who go against the grain are supremely rewarded.
To be clear, if you turn left, the Flagship Lounge is a tremendous improvement on previous American standards. It’s on par on an international level and features a solid buffet, real champagne and a make your own cocktail bar. It’s a fully “indoor space with high(ish) but standard ceilings and nice seating variations. But…
If you turn right, and then right again, you’ll find an area with incredibly high ceilings, with the open ambiance of the terminal itself. In a way, it’s like the British Airways Concorde Room, in that you can hear the buzz of travellers below, but not enough to annoy you.
There’s greenery to be found everywhere, and it has almost a tropical feel, which is oddly charming in New York. The bar is beautiful as are all the seating areas, but the most precious element of the lounge is that despite articles like these, hardly anyone knows about it, or uses it.
If you exit the “outdoor” feeling tropical part, you can access the more traditional Flagship elements which are basically identical to those on the left side. There’s a buffet, a bar, nooks to finish up some work and some solid tarmac views. Why you would settle for that space, when you have the bridge just across the hall eludes me though.
I’ve never felt as if personal ‘service’ was a part of the Flagship experience those enjoy to the left. That’s far more buffet style. But on the Bridge at T8, a very friendly team offered proactive service which would be commendable even to a standard of say… Virgin Atlantic. I took a look at the a la carte menu from the kitchen and was fairly blown away by the quality of the Korean short rib tacos. To my delight, there was a cocktail menu as well.
Wines and cocktails in the JFK Flagship Bridge Terminal 8 are well above average and I noticed some real sommelier level thought process in the wines. There was a Finger Lakes riesling from New York, which is arguably one of the world’s better areas for riesling, and also a very quaffable Nebbiolo from Italy, widely regarded as the king of grapes. Cocktails were just above basic, but nicely inspired with twists here and there.
Without question this is my favourite American Airlines space in the United States, and I’m so glad I was tipped off. Time flew by without hardly seeing a soul, except for the friendly team offering service with a smile. At American, that’s not always guaranteed, and it really made an impression. If I had time to kill before a flight out of JFK Terminal 8, the Flagship Bridge would be my choice 100 times out of 100. Just don’t tell anyone. It might ruin it…