American Airlines JFK Flagship Lounge and New York – Washington National: Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau and Hong Kong Trip Report


After dropping my checked bags bag off after walking through customers, I walked outside to the Airtrain. At terminal 7 you have to cross the road to get to the Airtrain station.

The train that takes you between terminals also has a stop for hotel shuttles. Hotel shuttles don’t pick you up at each terminal, you have to go to a single collection spot. That’s never fun with checked bags, to take them upstairs to a train in order to catch a van. But that’s JFK.

The wait for the train headed in my direction wasn’t long, and shortly we were leaving the terminal 7 station and enroute for the quick trip over to terminal 8 where American Airlines is housed.

The American Airlines Terminal 8 is connected indoors to the Airtrain, a nice plus in early February with snow on the ground.

Once inside the terminal I walked up to a kiosk to reprint my boarding pass. Cathay Pacific had printed a boarding pass for me, but it wasn’t marked for PreCheck. Getting an American Airlines-issued pass would get me through the PreCheck queue rather than the longer premium security line (and I wouldn’t be asked to go through the nude-o-scope).

Connecting back to the U.S. always is so much more of an ordeal than in most of the rest of the world — immigration, customs, and security instead of just transit security (Singapore is the best, doing security only at each individual gate – you get off the plane and you’re free to roam the terminal). And JFK compounds the issue with its badly-connected terminals.

I normally use the American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK based on my British Airways Gold status (which I’ll be losing shortly). This time I was entitled to use the lounge as an Executive Platinum coming off of an international flight.

The JFK Flagship Lounge really isn’t much, and at peak times it can get quite crowded, but there’s an open bar and there’s a modest buffet so it’s a bit better than the standard Admiral’s Club. I figured it would be a better place to shower after a long flight as well.

The shower room was fine, but not like what I often see in first class lounges.

Here’s a hook dangling off the wall. I used it anyway, and hoped it wouldn’t break.

The shower stall could have been cleaned a little better.

And — true first world problem to be sure – the towels were thin and rough.

The lounge itself is one large room broken up into a variety of ‘areas’.

There are dining tables off of the buffet area.

Here’s what they were serving, click to enlarge:

I’m usually happy with the lounge just because there are bottles of water to take from the fridge.

I sat down by a window and caught up on email. I didn’t have that much, the nice thing about flying over a Saturday evening into Sunday morning.

The whole lounge overlooks the tarmac, which is nice.

I worked for 45 minutes or so and it was then time to head across to the very other end of the terminal — including an underground walk — to the American Eagle pier at the far end. (There’s actually a club lounge closer to those gates.)

We settled into our first class regional jet seats for the short 40 minute flight home.

On arrival in DC one of the nice features at baggage claim is that American is very good about getting priority bags out first — and even has an employee pulling priority tagged bags immediately as they come onto the carousel. I was home shortly, and needed to stay up only a few hours until my normal bedtime.

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, 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. Gary, I agree with you that connecting from an international to a domestic flight in the United States is a pain, given the need to clear immigration and customs, claim and re-check luggage, and re-clear security at your port of entry. But can you think of any alternatives, though?

    I don’t think that the Schengen model (clear immigration at first point of entry, clear customs at destination) would work in this country, since it would require segregating baggage claim and posting CBP officers at every single commercial airport in the country, even though the large majority of arriving passengers at most of those airports are undoubtedly domestic.

    I certainly understand your frustration, and I try to avoid tag-on domestic legs following international flights whenever possible (especially at a place like JFK), but I just don’t see any other practical options.

  2. To add on top for anyone wondering, you also have access to the FL as an arriving first class passenger on an intl OW flight, independent of status.

    Confused as to why you thought the showers would be better than in the AC though…it is the same bank of showers. In fact many times you have to walk through the regular AC to get back to the FL after showering.

    The bottled water is nice but hopefully you were not like the guy I saw last time I was there who put TWELVE bottles of Perrier into his backpack before leaving. Yes, maybe he had a very long flight ahead. And no shame. He certainly was not trying to be discrete as he was screaming into his cell phone the whole time too.

  3. I guess there are only a limited number of places frequent travelers…well…frequent. But this is the first time I logged on to your website to see you were reviewing the room I was sitting in. Just a couple notes. The places is much busier at 8pm than it is when you visited, the dinner food is much better than what you have pictured and the selection of booze (great selection I might add) is much more appreciated intake evening. Cheers Gary

  4. Great report. I agree with the first world problems at American’s flagship lounges. I find the shower towels extremely thin and rough. I also wonder who did the construction on the shower units themselves. Like you point out the hooks are about to fall off the wall, grout and tile was poorly installed. Shower doors also sometimes don’t open and close properly.

    However, its still nice to be able to shower and clean up after a long haul flight, and grab some bottles of cold water.

  5. The showers for Flagship lounge users are the same as the showers for the general Admirals Club users at JFK. Using the showers to sneak into the FL hasn’t really happened that much because of some of the things AA decided to do even before the new terminal structure was fully opened.

  6. My biggest issue with lounge showers (everywhere) is never the walmart towels but the lack of ventilation. They inevitably heat up and there is no fan, so I feel like I need another shower after I put on my new clothes.

  7. I too have been to the JFK lounge at JFK. It was OK, but there is an airport lounge at JFK that serves hot prepared food and peace and quiet while there.
    Problem is that I forgot the name of the lounge–but it
    is NOT associated with any one airline.

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