As some of you know I traveled last year from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX). It was my first experience traveling with an American carrier and domestically within the USA. Prior to that I had avoided this intra-USA travel because I had heard of some horror stories from friends.
Today I am leaving New York for Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. I was initially dreading the lounge experience. Cathay used to depart from the British Airways terminal (T7). Other than the Concorde Room, which is reserved only for British Airways (BA) First Class flyers, travelers on other airlines use BA’s sub-standard First Lounge. The previous American Airlines Flagship Lounge in Terminal 8 was also below the standard of most other First Lounges around the world, so you just couldn’t get a decent experience traveling on a oneworld carrier out of JFK.
Well that’s changed today! American Airlines has opened its new Flagship Lounge in JFK Terminal 8. I must say I am super impressed by the fit out and the amenities. I arrive at the lounge post check in and am provided with an invitation for the Flagship Dining Room and am even escorted to the room by the lounge attendant.
Flagship First Dining
The dining room attendant found me the perfect table next to the window overlooking the tarmac. The standard is full table-side service; pure white linen napkins (which the host places on your lap), table mats, beautiful cutlery, comfortable seating and the staff here are trained by Sodexo and deliver impeccable levels of service.
For the entree, I opt for the Smoked Duck Breast and I pair it with the Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano (2015)
The rich duck breast is chilled (though I probably would have liked it a little warmer) and displays the duck’s natural flavour expressively. The edamame, hominy and corn on the side add a little crunch to the dish. There is a light cherry sauce which has sufficient fruit to battle the strong flavour of the duck – a very typical game pairing.
The background tune I have used is Young & Beautiful from Lana Del Rey – I don’t own the rights to the song.
The wine I use to pair with the dish has good aromas of red fruit and spice to allure the senses. On the plate there is a very intense flow of cherry and spice with some decent acid to balance. The wine is smooth and has a long finish with the right fruit intensity for the duck – it’s a classic gamey wine match.
For the main course I opt for the Flagship Burger: Hand formed single sirloin burger, red onion bacon marmalade, arugula, and beef steak tomatoes paired with hand cut fries. I paired this with a Truchard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (2013).
Where do I start with this burger…. the soft plush bun, the rich juicy succulent sirloin patty, the sharp flavoursome cheddar cheese, the juicy tomatoes, the fresh arugula or the saline sweet jammy red-onion bacon marmalade. There are textural and flavour contrasts throughout this dish. The red-onion and bacon marmalade adds a little crunch, sweetness and salinity and is “the differentiating factor”of this burger. Its a transcendent dining experience… every mouthful is to be savoured – it is truly a flagship burger.
The background tune I have used is I Lived from OneRepublic – I don’t own the rights to the song.
The wine is from Napa Valley. I am told the Sommelier lives in the Napa and knows his Napa wines and has selected some lovely drops for the lounge.
The wine has the aromas of cherry and deep cassis with a touch of sweet spice and vanilla. On the palate its very much Cabernet; the flow of raspberry, red fruits and cherry jam are strong. The key when being paired with a burger with such richness is the tannins and the wine does deliver ripe tannins for a lovely mouth-feel. The finish has a bit of spice and tobacco overlay which makes it an interesting Napa Cabernet.
A cute little finish is in store with a chocolate airplane and a Thank You card. Nice touch indeed. AA have lifted the standard for sure.
Within the Flagship dining are is a bar. It is beautiful with orb lighting ornament fixtures above, beautiful plush bar chairs and tables overlooking the tarmac. The bar is stocked with an extensive selection of alcohol to suit almost any taste.
I have a post lunch Gin Basil Lemonade as I gaze at the tarmac.
The background tune I have used is Underflow from Emma Louise – I don’t own the rights to the song.
Post lunch I explore the rest of the lounge. There is plenty of comfortable seating overlooking the tarmac.
Main Self Serve Food Section
A good selection of soups, salads, noodles, hot dishes and small plates are available for you to choose from.
There is self serve wine bar next to the self service food area, I am not sure I didn’t take a picture, but there is also a good selection of wines and champagne there.
If you are feeling like the need for a little privacy and escape, there is a quiet room with some lovely comfortable sofas and chairs for you to relax and avoid the noise of the lounge. Given I am always talkative and loud, I avoid the room.
I really cannot describe how this lounge exceeded my expectations! Having visited the previous Flagship Lounge in September, the two lounges are just worlds apart. The standard of the Flagship First Dining is on par with the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney, Cathay’s Pier in Hong Kong and British Airways’ Concorde Room and probably surpasses Emirates First Lounge in Dubai.
The Flagship First Dining was the definition of “table service”; with the napkins being folded and placed on your chair when you leave your seat intermittently, water being refilled regularly (something which is non existent in some lounges), the knowledge of the staff on the wine and produce was astounding… as a matter of fact the professionalism of the staff was more impressive than some Michelin star restaurants I have (regrettably) been to.
In terms of the rest of the lounge (outside Flagship First Dining area), I think it is a certainly a top business class lounge and could be classed as a decent First Lounge. There isn’t a spa or massages as you would find in some other First Lounges, but the self service options are good, there’s a decent quiet room, and good views of the tarmac. I didn’t use the showers at the lounge, but I understand, from feedback from my blogging network, they are of a high standard.