6 ways American Airlines’ newly reopened Flagship Lounge has changed

Sep 14, 2021

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After a nearly 18-month closure, American Airlines’ Flagship Lounge network is once again open for business.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Fort Worth-based carrier began welcoming eligible travelers into its first reopened premium lounge, located in Terminal 8 of New York’s JFK airport. In the coming weeks, American will continue bringing the network back online, with the Miami outpost opening on Sept. 28, followed by locations in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles.

In advance of the grand reopening, American invited TPG to get a preview of what AA’s top travelers can expect. From overhauled food offerings to a new welcome beverage, there’s lots to love about these top-notch lounges.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

“We’re thrilled to get them open again because we have premium cabins available for purchase. And so we want to make sure that we have the ground product to support that,” said Raphael Girardoni, AA’s managing director of premium guest services, in a pre-opening interview with TPG.

To Clarissa Sebastian, managing director of premium customer experience and onboard products, reopening the Flagship Lounge is about “better connect(ing) our ground with our in-flight experience and see(ing) all these pieces come together … We think it’ll be as exciting to the customers as it is to our team at American.”

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New chefs …

One of the key differentiators between the “regular” Admirals Club and the Flagship Lounge is the food (and drinks) on offer. The buffets are stocked with heartier, higher-quality food intended to be a notch above typical lounge fare.

Plus, if you’re flying in first class on one of AA’s Airbus A321Ts or Boeing 777-300ERs, you’ll be invited to dine at the Flagship First dining facility, which offers restaurant-style service in a dedicated space within the lounge.

To coincide with the reopening, American partnered with the James Beard Foundation to bring an award-winning local chef into each of the five lounges to curate a revamped menu.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In New York, you’ll enjoy fare by Ayesha Nurdjaja, the chef behind Manhattan’s popular Shuka and Shukette restaurants. Expect Eastern Mediterranean recipes for a modern take on some old-time classics.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American has already announced the chefs in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, with details on the Los Angeles location expected soon. You can read more about the chefs here, and see the JFK menu below.

… with delicious food

During the preview event, I only tasted a few dishes (and helped prepare one of them), but everything I tried was delectable and of restaurant quality.

As my appetizer, I enjoyed a roasted squash with a side of zaalouk, a tomato-based eggplant salad. Both of these items will be available on the buffet in the Flagship Lounge.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For my main course, I helped Chef Nurdjaja prepare her signature roasted cauliflower, which is the vegetarian option on the Flagship First dining menu. Set on a bed of tahini and topped with a pistachio chermoula, the finished product was good enough that I was tempted to ask for more.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If American can maintain this level of quality going forward, then you’re in for a treat.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Krug is out

Before the pandemic, Krug was the Champagne on offer in the Flagship First dining facility. Well, there’s some unfortunate news on that end: Krug has now been replaced with Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle.

Everyone has their own taste preferences, but from a cost perspective, AA is saving about $40 per bottle with the downgrade, according to list prices at press time.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Asked about whether Krug may eventually return, Girardoni said that he’s not necessarily ruling it out in the future.

Bathroom amenities are in

In May, AA unveiled revamped amenity kits for its premium cabins, which include products from the airline’s newest partner, D.S. & Durga.

That partnership now extends into its Flagship Lounges — you’ll find D.S. and Durga Radio Bombay hand soap and lotions in the restrooms, as well as shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower suites.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

You’ll also find another new accessory in the shower suites: Dyson Supersonic hair dryers. Retailing for nearly $400, these are the best of the best when it comes to hair grooming. Just be sure to leave the hair dryer behind — they’re tied to the wall to minimize theft.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There’s Champagne for everyone

“Welcome to the Flagship Lounge. Can I offer you a glass of Champagne?” is the new greeting you’ll receive upon entering the Flagship Lounge.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Going forward, there’ll be a waiter stationed at the entrance of the lounge offering adults a glass of Louis Roederer 242 Brut, or a mimosa in the mornings.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This isn’t just a temporary move — Girardoni told TPG that this new service element is being implemented networkwide. After a long ride to the airport, this is a really nice touch that sets the mood for a relaxing visit and flight.

More travelers can visit

The Flagship Lounge is reopening with an expanded list of entry criteria.

For one, anyone flying in either business or first class to or from Hawaii on one of AA’s long-haul flights can now use the Flagship Lounge before departure.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Additionally, as of Sept. 14, American now sells $150 single-visit passes to any traveler flying on an American or a Oneworld airline partner flight.

Asked about the relaxed entry policies, Sebastian told TPG that “it comes down to having new customers come in who perhaps haven’t had the experience before, and our hope is that they come in, they try it and they love it. And then they’ll continue to fly with us and potentially then try our premium cabins as well.”

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As for the Flagship First dining facility, more travelers may soon be eligible to visit. “We do think there is room to have more people join us in the dining facility. More on that soon,” Sebastian said. For now, only those ticketed in Flagship First Class in three- and four-cabin aircraft are eligible to enjoy Flagship Dining.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though American is opening the Flagship Lounge to more passengers, they should remain a more private oasis compared to the often overcrowded Admirals Clubs. “It will still be very exclusive. The idea is to never overfill this space,” Sebastian concluded.

What isn’t changing: The ‘hard’ product

While there are several improvements coming to AA’s premium ground experience, the lounges themselves will look the same as they did before the pandemic.

And that’s a good thing. Expect plenty of seating options, including private cubicles, relaxing chairs, phone rooms and quiet areas, along with access to fast and free Wi-Fi and convenient power outlets.

All told, American’s Flagship Lounges offer one of the best all-around pre-departure experiences you can find — made even better by the latest enhancements.

AA operates five Flagship Lounges, four of which also feature a Flagship First Dining facility. You’ll find the full directory and reopening details below:

  • Chicago (ORD) — reopening later this fall, and this location doesn’t offer Flagship First Dining.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) — reopening later this fall.
  • Los Angeles (LAX) — reopening later this fall.
  • Miami (MIA) — lounge reopening on Sept. 28, Flagship First Dining reopening on Sept. 30.
  • New York-JFK — lounge reopened on Sept. 14, Flagship First Dining reopening on Sept. 16.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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