A Week in the Admirals Club — New York LaGuardia Airport
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It’s day two of TPG Intern Kevin Song‘s week-long Admirals Club tour, with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, and he’s visiting his hometown airport, New York LaGuardia.
On day two, I had a dilemma — there was one club I really liked, and one that I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. While I enjoyed the lounge, I was shockingly disappointed in the food… more on that later.
First, a quick update on yesterday’s Chicago O’Hare visit. After I posted yesterday afternoon, the lounge filled up to the point where it was like a zoo. At that point, the lounge was incredibly loud, with almost nowhere to sit. The internet speeds dropped to the point where it was unusable — when Gogo is better, you know you’ve got a problem.
Not sure if I’d clear my upgrade into first and have dinner on the plane, I ordered a Turkey Florentine Panini — again very disappointing. It was straight out of shrink-wrap, and the panini press wasn’t even able to get the middle warm. The cheese hadn’t melted, and the center was stone-cold.
On the bright side, I did later clear the upgrade after being first on the upgrade list, the only elite to do so. I never thought I’d be writing this about domestic airplane food, but dinner on board was actually quite refreshingly good, with a caesar salad, beef teriyaki that wasn’t overdone and the standard delicious warm chocolate chip cookie.
And now, on to day two.
New York’s LaGuardia Airport is the smallest of three airports in the New York metropolitan area. It handles primarily domestic flights, and only a few select international flights to Canada from US pre-clearance airports, as it does not have a US Customs and Border Protection presence. It’s popular for business travelers due to its proximity to Manhattan, and because of the infamous difficulties in getting to JFK or Newark Liberty.
This makes it a prime candidate for an Admirals Club visit, and that’s exactly what I did today. There are two Admirals Clubs at LaGuardia: One in the Central Terminal B by the American gates, and one by the US Airways gates in terminal C.
United States Vice President Joe Biden famously called LaGuardia like “some third world country.” Do the Admirals Clubs at LaGuardia live up to that reputation? Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t think they do.
New York LaGuardia Admirals Club — Terminal B, Concourse D
The terminal B Admirals Club stands out as being the only lounge after security in terminal B — the American Express Centurion Lounge, United Club and Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge are all outside security. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s only easily accessible if you’re flying out of concourse D. American does offer an airside shuttle to concourse C (not to be confused with terminal C) serving American Eagle flights, and to terminal C, serving US Airways flights.
When I visited, I was able to convince the TSA to let me through after some prodding when I explained I wanted to use the lounge there, despite my US Airways flight departing from terminal C. Unfortunately, the Admirals Clubs are one and the same in name only — after checking in, the agents at the American Admirals Club were unable to access or do anything with my US Airways reservation, which was what I expected, at least until the reservation system integration was complete.
The terminal B lounge is actually newly renovated, and it’s one of the most elegant Admirals Clubs that I’ve seen. No, the food can’t compare to the nearby Centurion Lounge, but it’s still a fantastic place to spend some time without having to enter security after the visit. The lounge is located just past security, and taking the elevator up to the second floor gets you to the lounge.
The lounge offers little in the form of amenities — there’s no shower, no family room and no real quiet room. But, it has a very good variety of seating, along with friendly staff, and it’s also exceptionally clean. I visited on a Tuesday, which is traditionally a light day for business travel, so it wasn’t packed at all and I had my pick of seats and power outlets.
In the corner, there are a few recliner seats in what’s supposed to be a quiet area, but there was no indication that it was, other than a tiny sign on the wall that suggested no cell phone usage. It wasn’t separated at all from the main lounge, though, so it was noisy nonetheless.
There are two dining areas — one by the bar that had a few people and one on the other side that was completely devoid of visitors — that made for a far better quiet area than the actual “quiet area.”
The food spread consisted of the same standard breakfast items as at all other Admirals Clubs — yogurt, bagels and muffins. But take note, Chicago O’Hare Concourse H/K: Glass cups were on offer here! There were a few Starbucks-style desserts that actually looked quite tasty, but I didn’t have anything to eat during my visit to this lounge.
I have only two quarrels with this lounge. First, the windows aren’t soundproof enough — while the windows provide a good view of one of the two runways, landing planes can be heard with thrust reversers on full blast. And second, and this may seem strange, but I’m 5′ 5″, and neither of the two types of urinals were an appropriate height — one was far too tall, and one far too short.
The internet connectivity was very good. I clocked speeds of over 40 Mbps both up and down, and it was very reliable. I suspect this might change as more people visit the lounge, but it seems like they have plenty of bandwidth to go around for now.
After a little while, I headed over to the airside shuttle bus to make my way over to the US Airways terminal C, and got some great plane-spotting opportunities on the tarmac on the way.
Overall, I would not hesitate to spend some time there if I didn’t want the hassle of going through security after visiting the Centurion Lounge. I strongly believe that it’s one of the best Admirals Clubs in the country, because of the excellent variety of seating options, excellent staff and because the terminal outside is incredibly dreary and like “a third world country.”
New York LaGuardia Admirals Club — Terminal C
Now, here’s where my day turned a bit sour. The Admirals Club in terminal C is a former US Airways club and serves US Airways flights. Unsurprisingly, the computer system here is hooked up to the US Airways reservations system, and they are unable to handle any American flight requests. They were able to put me on standby for an earlier flight under US Airways’ MoveUp program, though.
This lounge is pretty small, and was also recently renovated. The decor is fresh and pleasant, and much improved over the old lounge — commonly named the worst US Airways Club in the country. There’s a decent variety of seating, and all seats were near a both a standard AC power outlet and a USB port for charging mobile devices.
The food spread in the middle is much like at any other lounge, but there were some quirks — there were no ceramic plates, only paper ones. Not classy. On the bright side, they do offer packaged chips and salsa, which I haven’t seen at any of the other clubs yet.
There are almost no amenities here — no shower, no family room, no quiet room at all and — get this — just two single-person bathrooms, one for men and one for women. Now, it’s not a huge lounge, but I fail to see how this is even remotely close to a good idea.
The internet in the lounge was only fair, not great. While it was usable, the lounge was also nearly empty. At capacity, the internet might be significantly less usable.
When I got to ordering lunch, however, was when things turned sour. The dining area here is at the bar, so I went up to the bar to order food off of the menu — which was smaller than the standard Admirals Club menus that I’d been seeing. Unfortunately, the bartender was far more interested in a Wimbledon match than to even notice I was there.
I ordered a $12 tomato caprese sandwich — how badly could that go, I thought? There’s no meat, just tomato and mozzarella. Boy, was I wrong. Not only was the sandwich unceremoniously slapped onto the plate with plastic faux-metal cutlery, it wasn’t even removed from its shrink wrap.
Plus, the menu says that it comes with potato salad or coleslaw and a chocolate chip cookie. I wasn’t given any of those, and when I went back later after I realized that it comes with additional items, I was given a little plastic container of potato salad and was not offered a cookie even after asking about it.
Now, here’s when it went from bad to inedible. I unwrapped the freezing-cold sandwich (it had just come out of the refrigerator), and found that it was moist — almost soaked. Gross. Undeterred, I took my first bite and happened to turn it upside down — there, I found the sandwich to have mold on it. No, I’m not looking at that white flour on the ciabatta, but the greenish, blueish mold on the right half of the sandwich. I tore it apart to make sure it was mold and not just a discoloration in the bread — unfortunately, definitely mold.
Afterwards, I wasn’t up for trying any of the other food at this lounge, so I just had pre-packaged chips and salsa. Thankfully, I had a big breakfast that morning and a dinner planned with friends at my destination.
Seriously, if you’re visiting LaGuardia terminal C, skip the lounge food, and go outside into the terminal. Terminal C isn’t even half bad, and you’ll have far better and cheaper options elsewhere. In the quest for editorial completeness, however, I will power through and continue to try as many items from the Admirals Club that I can.
Not long after, I headed to the gate to try to get on an earlier flight to my next destination — my first-ever flight on US Airways.
Overall, I believe that the terminal B Admirals Club is among the best in the system. It wasn’t crowded, and it had plenty of power, great internet and a variety of comfortable seating options. I didn’t try any food there, but I expect it would’ve been the same lackluster food found at other Admirals Clubs.
On the other hand, I really wanted to like the former US Airways Club in terminal C — but I couldn’t. It was small, but comfortable, yet it had some truly puzzling aspects. One single-person bathroom is simply not enough, and the food wasn’t just bad, it was downright inedible. Oh well, better luck next time.
Be sure to follow along as I continue my week-long Admirals Club visit. If you’re looking for free access, the current Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offer is hard to beat. While I won’t divulge my itinerary ahead of time, you can expect daily afternoon posts, and if you see me in an Admirals Club this week, feel free to come up and say hi!
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