Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau and Hong Kong Trip Report: British Airways First Class Lounge JFK


I left the Hilton JFK on their 7am shuttle for my 9:05am Cathay Pacific departure, and after making several stops to drop off other passengers arrived at terminal 7 around 7:15am.

While the revamped Delta operation at JFK is a favorite, especially the terminal 4 Skyclub with the outside deck, terminal 7 is actually my favorite because it’s just small and manageable. There’s no better place to arrive at off an international flight, because (unless there’s a huge backup at immigration, which can be mitigated with Global Entry), you’re just out quickly.

Cathay Pacific does premium check-in at the far left side of the terminal, alongside British Airways premium check-in. There’s a lounge seating area just in front of the check-in desks and there’s a premium security line right there.

Qantas leaves from here and so does United, Air Canada, and ANA. It’s an odd combination of airlines, and there’s British Airways lounges and also a United Club.

Check-in was completely reasonably fast, with bags checked through to Ho Chi Minh City. The agent checked for Vietnam visa, and issued lounge invitations for JFK and for Hong Kong — a practice that I understand for third party contract lounges (using the invitations for accounting purposes when billing airlines by the passenger) but not so much for oneworld partners or when using an airline’s own lounge. Cathay’s lounges in Hong Kong will admit you based on your boarding pass. The invitation is extraneous.

It was time to head into the terminal, and the premium security line is just 180 degrees behind you after you’ve checked in. I especially like that line. It’s almost as good as PreCheck, there’s no nude-o-scope because there’s simply no room. It’s on an uphill slope, just one line, but I’ve never seen it busy. You’re through quickly.

British Airways actually has three separate lounges at JFK — a Concorde Room for their own first class passengers, a first class lounge which won’t then have any of their first class passengers and as a result has partner first class passengers and oneworld top tier elites, and a business class lounge.

As a Cathay Pacific first class passenger (and a oneworld emerald on two airlines) I had access to the first class lounge, which I’ve visited several times in the past. It’s called a first class lounge, but it really isn’t one, it’s an elite lounge and is adorned accordingly.

The lounge is reasonably well-provisioned. At breakfast time there’s fruit and cereal and yogurt and breads plus smoked salmon. There’s not a more substantial hot buffet, however. There are reasonably premium self-service liquors and there’s plenty of seating, but it’s not a bright, airy lounge and there’s no service to speak of. In other words, it’s great by US domestic lounge standards but it’s entirely unimpressive as an international first class offering.

I made myself a coffee, and not having had breakfast toasted a miniature bagel and had it with some lox while I logged on and scheduled a couple of blog posts to go live during my pending 15 hour flight without internet. All in all I spent about an hour in the lounge writing and responding to emails before heading over to the gate, by way of Starbucks which is on the way (my third coffee of the morning).

All things considered, had I not woken up before my alarm at the Hilton I’d have been happy taking a slightly later shuttle departure as there’s no reason to arrive at JFK early for this lounge. But I was happy for the productive time there for sure.

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. @Denise – the couches though at the beginning of the report, those are by the check-in counter. Kinda dig ’em, but you’re definitely on display there right by the checkpoint! 🙂

  2. curious as to what you had in the on-the-ground itinerary for vietnam & cambodia

  3. Always a pleasure to do JFK T7. Do you know if you can do the BA security checkpoint if you’re flying UA?

    Too bad too that the “regular” biz lounge for BA is so much bigger, brighter, and airier.

  4. @UA-NYC I haven’t tried it (as I haven’t flown UA originating out of JFK in several years) but I imagine there’s a good chance that a premium passenger ticket would work regardless of airline, though the signage is specific to carriers and statuses. Give it a try, report back, would be curious to know how the checkpoint folks respond.

  5. When a third of the post is about coffee, maybe it’s time to try and kick the habit 😉

  6. Gary,

    When you arrived at the lounge, did they direct you to the business lounge, even though you were first class? Or did they actually welcome you to go to the 1st Class lounge. Every time at JFK the personnel at the desk direct me as an Emerald to the business class lounge whether I’m in 1st or any class of service.

    I know that first class lounge is nothing (and so do the personnel). Just curious if the woman waved her hand toward the business class lounge in your case.

    Oh yeah, and what about the Elemis Spa?



  7. >[I]ssued lounge invitations for JFK and for Hong Kong — a practice that I understand for third party contract lounges…but not so much for oneworld partners or when using an airline’s own lounge.

    It’s great if you’re not familiar with an airport (I’m assuming it had a map like most invites). You didn’t need it because you’ve visited that lounge multiple times. I’ve certainly taken advantage of the map on visits to airports that I’ve never before visited.

  8. The lounge invitation is extraneous only if you know the rules. I thought the invitation is a nice, high-touch way of informing infrequent traveler their ability to use the lounge.

    @UA-NYC while I haven’t tried the BA fast-track with a UA boarding pass, I would stick with the UA premium line since there’s quasi-precheck at T7 now. If the ID checker is good, they will let their co-worker know that you are pre-checked. If not, just show the BP with the precheck logo, and either way they’ll let you through the metal detector.

  9. @ED – I was directed to the first lounge though frankly if not overcrowded the business lounge is probably more pleasant.

  10. Loved the pics but really stories of you buttering a mini bagel aren’t exactly thrilling. Get opening the champagne!

  11. @Gary – Thanks for the quick reply 🙂 How are you able to juggle your day job plus all your other endeavors and still have time to eat or sleep?

  12. The BA lounge at JFK is an oasis from the chaos at JFK.
    Snacks (food really), drink, wi-fi, conference rooms, etc..
    A joy!

  13. Gary,
    Do you know if shower facilities are available for CX passengers?

    I’m on the 1:30am flight and will be taking a connection to JFK in the early evening after a long day at work. So it’ll be nice to have a shower before a 16hr flight and also grab a bite since I won’t have time to eat much while getting to jfk.


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