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Update 5/26/17: AA has shared its a-la-carte menus for the Flagship Lounge as well, which offers a mix of buffet and menu items akin to United Polaris:

Here are the breakfast items (available until 11:00am):

  • Deviled Eggs — trio of deviled eggs topped with the chef’s daily choice of accompaniments
  • Cashew Crusted Brioche French Toast — served with smoked apple and maple compote
  • Eggs Benedict — thick-cut smoked bacon, grilled kale, herbed hollandaise, roasted fingerling sweet potato hash

And here are the all-day dining items (available after 11:00am):

  • Flagship Burger — hand-formed short-rib, brisket and sirloin burger, with bacon, red onion marmalade, arugula, beefsteak tomato
  • Wild Mushroom Flatbread — wild mushroom, goat cheese, fontina, mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh Herb-Parmesan Crusted Chicken Paillard — arugula pesto dressed bucatini pasta with balsamic stewed tomatoes

While American Airlines is in the process of making flying more restrictive and less comfortable for less-than-frequent flyers, it’s investing heavily in the pre-flight and in-flight experience for its top-spending passengers. It’s following in the footsteps of other carriers such as Lufthansa and British Airways in offering restaurant-style dining in private lounge areas.

One marquis project the airline has been working on is the renovation of its Admirals Club and the opening of its Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining experience at JFK’s Terminal 8. AA invited TPG to get a look at (and taste of) the experience before it officially opened to the public today, and I graciously volunteered to have a morning of luxury before heading into TPG HQ for the afternoon. Let’s dig into the experience and see if it’ll meet the standards of American’s most discerning flyers.

Let’s just say that you’re going to want to arrive at JFK with plenty of time if you have an upcoming trip in first class on board one of the carrier’s three-class international or transcontinental flights. The experience begins with Flagship First Check-in, which is located to the very far right of Terminal 8’s departures hall.

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I was met by a hostess who has a list of that day’s passengers who qualify to use the private check-in experience, which include ConciergeKey members, first-class passengers on three-class transcon flights and first-class passengers on qualifying international itineraries operated by American or other Oneworld carriers. Once inside the check-in area, you’ll see three individual check-in desks where agents can check you in and then take your bags to be checked in a hidden area so that the noise of the baggage belts doesn’t disturb passengers.

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The rest of the check-in area features chairs and padded benches where passengers can wait before heading directly to the security checkpoint at the end of the narrow space.

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The experience continues with the newly-renovated Flagship Lounge. The physical space has been in use for several months, but it’s been branded as the International First Class Lounge, which TPG Points and Miles Writer JT Genter gave us a tour of when it first opened. But as of today, it’ll be known as the Flagship Lounge, and will be available to passengers traveling in first or business class on international flights operated by American or a Oneworld airline as well as passengers flying first or business class on board AA’s premium transcontinental routes between JFK and LAX/SFO.

ConciergeKey members (regardless of itinerary); AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and Platinum members (on qualifying international itineraries); and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members (regardless of itinerary) will also be allowed entry.

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The new lounge has plenty of space for passengers to relax or get work done (hooray for plentiful power outlets!) before a flight. The space itself is thoroughly modern and looks like it will be able to provide a top-notch experience for travelers.

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The lounge features several stations for self-serve beverages, including a coffee/water/soft drink station…

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… a Bloody Mary bar with all the fixin’s (yes, there’s bacon)…

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… and a wine and Champagne bar featuring Bollinger Brut that apparently is very popular with passengers.

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There were a variety of delicious-looking food items available as well.

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But, knowing that I was mere minutes from being bombarded with delectable food, I decided to not try any of the cheeses or meats available for consumption.

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After about a half-hour of checking out the new lounge space, I was ushered into Flagship First Dining, which will only be available to passengers traveling in first class on board AA’s three-class international and transcontinental flights. The space itself feels exclusive but not too small, and provides fantastic views of the tarmac. What’s better than fine food and drink with unobstructed plane spotting?!

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Upon walking in, you’ll notice a bar space designed to mirror the look of the larger lounge outside.

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It’s fully stocked with premium spirits — many of them from local NYC distilleries, including the Brooklyn Gin that was featured in my refreshing Gin Basil Lemonade cocktail. Wines were chosen by master sommelier Desmond Echavarrie and cocktails were designed by New York mixologist Pamela Wiznitzer.

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There are plenty of seating options to choose from — the host/hostess will be able to seat individuals…

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… couples…

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… and families or larger groups.

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Once I was seated at my table overlooking the tarmac, it was time to eat. The waitress came over to me right away and took my drink order. I was struggling to decide, so she recommended that I try the Gin Basil Lemonade which was made with Brooklyn Gin, Barrow’s Intense Ginger, fresh citrus, soda water and basil.

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Then, it was time to eat. I was able to sample bites of several of the entrees offered and chose one full entree for my lunch. The first course was the Arancini — a fried risotto ball stuffed with mozzarella cheese on top of roasted tomato sauce.

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Next up was a braised beef short rib dish served with roasted vegetables and Romesco sauce. Short rib is one of my favorite phrases, and this dish definitely lived up to my expectations — it was delicious. I wish I could have had more.

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A vegetarian option followed — I was served a lentil cake with tikka masala sauce along with roasted baby corn, carrots and mushrooms. It may look unassuming, but it packed a big, spicy punch, which I enjoyed.

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Then I got to enjoy a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with wild mushroom sauce on top of cauliflower risotto. I wasn’t expecting to be a big fan of this dish, but I ended up loving it.

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By this point, I was already stuffed. But, it was time for the main course so there was no letting up. The wait staff was really talking up the burger, so I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed — the burger itself was cooked perfectly and topped with aged cheddar from Sprout Creek Farms, a red onion/bacon marmalade which provided the perfect amount of saltiness, arugula and tomato. It was accompanied by even more deliciousness in the form of French fries.

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After finishing (almost) the entire burger, I couldn’t even fathom the thought of having more food, but, it was time for dessert. I was served a dark chocolate brioche bread pudding with milk chocolate and smoked sea salt tart with white chocolate and strawberry syrup. Talk about decadent.

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All in all, American is offering nothing but the best for its most important passengers through the Flagship First Dining experience. It’s now the second US-based carrier to offer restaurant-style dining on the ground before a flight after United in its Polaris Lounge, so it’ll be interesting to see if Delta follows its two adversaries in offering a similar service. Like I said earlier, if you’re lucky enough to be flying on an eligible flight, build in a lot of extra time before your flight to relax and eat and drink the very best American Airlines has to offer.

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