JFK Terminal 1: Check-in and Lounges
Getting to the airport:
The day had finally come for my show stopping vacation of the year: Paris and Seychelles (details here on how I used points to fund almost all of this trip). Since I had more than enough time and I wanted to keep costs down so I could spend more on food and wine in Paris, I decided to take public transit. From the Financial District, I took the 2 train to Penn Station (free with my monthly MetroCard, but otherwise $2.25) and then the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Jamaica (18 minutes and $7.50) and then the AirTrain from Jamaica to JFK Terminal 1 (10 minutes and $2.50 when you buy 10 trips or $5 per trip). I used to be a car service snob, but considering that costs ~$65 and can take well over an hour depending on traffic, I have become accustomed to the LIRR/AirTrain combination. You can also take the E train from various stops in NYC to Jamaica, but in my experience, it takes longer, is more prone to delays and is more crowded.
Once at JFK Terminal 1- the reality of the trip started to kick in. With all of JFK's faults (primarily relating to crowded air space), you cannot beat the international flair of the airport. Terminal 1 hosts Air France, Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc, Alitalia, JAL, Korean, Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Turkish, Saudi Arabian, China Air and some others I forgot. That's a pretty nice cross section of the world! I was booked on the 9:45pm departure to Paris, but since I got to the airport at 5:30pm, I wanted to switch to the 7:30pm, which so happened to be on Air France's new Airbus A380 (huge double-decker plane). I asked at the information desk and the agent immediately exclaimed â€œYou are going to the Seychelles?! I am so jealous!â€. I tried to joke around and sweet talk her into changing my ticket, but she called out that I was using points and I was not eligible to make changes for free. Fair enough. She directed me to check-in to get my boarding pass so I could go to the lounge.
The line was fairly short, but took a solid 10 minutes until an agent got to me. I asked her about switching to the 730pm flight, since one of the main tenants of traveling is â€œIf you don't get a helpful agent, try againâ€. The agent remarked that there were open seats and she just had to check with a ticketing agent (probably the same one who I just talked to- busted!). She left the counter and came back 5 minutes later, apologizing, but stating that flight was actually oversold. Whatever, I'm sure I'll get to fly the A380 soon enough. My boarding pass was printed and she pointed me towards priority boarding and told me where the lounge was.
The â€œVIPâ€ security line at JFK T1 is an absolute joke. There are seven lines that lead to a few TSA agents, the VIP line is in the middle (the one in the picture with no barrier), so it is the slowest moving line. I saw multiple other people in the regular lanes enter after me and get through well before me. Luckily I had over 4 hours until my flight, so it wasn't a big deal, but it was annoying nonetheless.
I currently hold SkyTeam Elite Plus status, thanks to being a Platinum
Medallion Delta. This means I get access to any SkyTeam lounge when flying internationally. The two SkyTeam lounges at JFK T1 are Korean Air and Air France. The Korean lounge is closer to security, so I decided to go there first. Upon check-in, I was greeted and warmly welcomed as a SkyTeam Elite Plus and when I handed over my Air France Business Class boarding pass the agent remarked â€œI'd come to this lounge too if I had the choice!â€. I was a bit harried from the commute and hot security line, so I figured I'd take a shower to calm down and relax for my flight. I still had over 4 hours to kill, so why not? The agent immediately called
a colleague to unlock the shower. I walked through the sparsely inhabited lounge to an individual bathroom stall which had a shower. It wasn't very fancy, but it was spacious, so changing was not an issue. The only problem with the shower was the pathetic water pressure. Even still, it was nice to shower off NYC pollution and pu ton comfortable clothes for the flight (even though I brought a British Airways sleeper suit from a previous flight to sleep in).
The Korean lounge was nice and quiet, but the food offerings were minimal and they did not have sparkling water (the horror!). However, I had a bunch of things to catch up on before my trip, so before long it was completely empty and I was able to set up shop for several hours of silent lounge bliss, which is rare in these days of crowded lounges. Even though the food offerings were sparse (I mean did I really expect kimchi and noodles?), the attendants were wonderful and
the views of the runway were spectacular. I was able to catch up on some Points Guy business and see some nice takeoffs- my favorite being the Qantas 747. I was able to see the Air France A380 push back from the gate around 7:30pm, so I had my camera ready to video that takeoff. Unfortunately, they changed the takeoff runway, so I wasn't able to catch it.
Around 8pm, I wrapped up everything and decided to check out the Air France lounge. Upon entry, I was impressed with the size of the lounge, but it was quite crowded, which makes sense since a fully packed 777 was about to depart in an hour and there was still an 11:30pm 777 to take off. There was no food on display, but when I asked the attendant, she gave me a tip that there was a back room with trays of food. The food was bland looking sushi and some rolls and potato leek soup. While it was better than Korean, it was still not as impressive of some other foreign carriers like Lufthansa and British Airways. The liquor offerings were nice and as a vodka drinker, I was impresse
d with the Grey Goose. I quickly toured the lounge and before I knew it, they had announced boarding for my flight. I gathered my bags and walked to gate 7. To my surprise, it was already final boarding and almost everyone was already on the flight. Good thing I didn't decide to do any shopping on my way! In a minute, I was walking down the jet way with my 7A boarding pass in hand. At this point, the reality of the trip set in and I was extremely excited for it to begin!