American Airlines operate just four first class lounges. Found at Los Angeles LAX terminal 4, Chicago O’Hare terminal 3, New York JFK terminal 8 and London Heathrow terminal 3, these first class lounges are branded as the ‘Flagship Lounge’. The branding is a classic case of overpromise, underdeliver.
What separates the Flagship Lounge from American’s regular lounges (the ‘Admirals Club’) is really the catering. There is food (the absence of which in the Admirals Club often coming to a shock to international travellers unfamiliar with the United States). There are also alcoholic beverages, served from what the Yanks call an ‘open bar’.
We used this lounge before flying to Tokyo Narita with Japan Airlines in first class. As our flight would be boarding from the gate right next to the lounge, this lounge was very conveniently located.
In addition to first class passengers, access is also granted to oneworld emerald members (with the exception of US Airways and American top tier members, who only receive access when on international itineraries) flying with an alliance carrier. Passengers in either category are also welcome to bring a guest.
Located right at the end of the ‘K’ concourse, we were promptly welcomed into the lounge by a particularly friendly lounge agent.
The lounge is small and was absolutely packed when we arrived. It cleared out when our flight to Tokyo, JL9 was called. None of the people from the lounge where in the first class cabin on JL9, so we can surmise that they were all oneworld emerald members and guests.
The lounge also gets packed in the evening in advance of all the flights to Europe departing.
The lounge has a number of comfortable chairs, which are all arranged in big groups. Odd, given that most business passengers are traveling alone.
In the corner is the quiet room, which is complete with signage noting that it is no longer a smoking room.
There is also a business centre, which was occupied by one gentleman talking loudly on his cellphone. This is not a criticism, travelers often need to make telephone calls and the quality of the line can mean talking loudly. GIven this reality, we are befuddled as to why more lounges don’t have quiet ‘phone booth’ style compartments.
In one corner a television screen was on, but thankfully was on mute. The lounge has restrooms, but no showers.
The breakfast selection notably had a selection of sushi (presumably to do with the departure of the Japan Airlines flight). It was very good.
Other miscellaneous breakfast items were out too. Throughout the day the menu rotates from ‘The Fresh Start’ to a light lunch called the ‘Flagship Café’, then its Afternoon Tea, the ‘Flagship Supper’ and finally the ‘Late Night Bite’.
While it was early, the ‘open bar’ was out in force. We elected to wait until our Japan Airlines flight, which would have the exclusive Champagne SALON, to have a drink.
There was also a selection of wines out – most open and with a cork shoved in the top.
By American airport standards – admittedly not a high bar – the Flagship Lounge is a space to pass the time before a flight. It is however, too small for the number of passengers with access at the peak times of the day. Indeed, we find the Admirals Club at Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 3 to be more spacious and less crowded. That just leaves the food and beverage offering,