Review of the New BA/AA Chelsea Lounge at JFK T8
This is my review of the new BA/AA Chelsea Lounge at JFK T8 which offers some promising new facilities at New York JFK airport.
I am a BA Executive Club (BAEC) Gold Guest List (GGL) member and I enjoy spending time in great lounges at big airports. JFK is one of those big airports that I have spent a fair amount of time at over the past 10 years or so, flying with BA (and to a lesser extent AA). Bear in mind that my reviews are likely to have a BA bias to them. That’s why I refer to these new lounges as “BA/AA lounges”, rather than the more generally accepted reference of “AA/BA lounges”.
Apologies for all of the acronyms. I have done my best at explaining what they mean when they are first mentioned.
Quick reminder, the Chelsea Lounge is located just after T8 Security.
From Security looking straight ahead, on the right hand side, there are two lifts behind Bobby Van’s Grill. If you wander down there and look behind the restaurant, you will see signage for the two new premium lounges: the Chelsea Lounge and the Soho Lounge. The lifts and stairs are directly opposite Gate 14.
This is where it gets complicated and there have been a lot of disappointed passengers with premium status being turned away from accessing the Chelsea Lounge when they thought they should have access to it.
When I was there last week, I took a photo of the official guidelines available to the attendants.
At a high level this is who should be able to get access to the Chelsea Lounge:
- Anyone flying in First Class with BA or AA.
- Anyone with BA Gold Guest List (GGL) status, flying with BA or AA in any class.
- Any AA Concierge Key members flying with BA or on AA Flagship itineraries.
The key thing to point out is that no other Oneworld airline members are allowed access to the Chelsea Lounge (e.g. Iberia, Finnair etc). That is assuming they are not also flying with BA or AA in First Class. I told you it gets complicated!
After heading up in the lift (you can take the stairs just to the left of the lifts if you prefer), you enter the main registration area for the Soho Lounge ahead, with access to the Chelsea Lounge to the immediate right (this side of the Christmas tree in the photo below).
After registering at the Chelsea Lounge desk, turning to the right you walk through a customer service area, where you can get help with your travel arrangements.
I met a number of the old BA CCR colleagues whilst I was there last week. They do very well in remembering faces of passengers that pass through on a regular basis and it’s what makes my experience a truly personal one when I visit the best BA lounges.
When you enter the Chelsea Lounge proper, the first thing that hits you is the Champagne bar – it’s quite an impressive sight.
The second thing that hits you after looking around, is that the lounge doesn’t have any windows. That’s a big disappointment for a top class lounge. Considering the Soho Lounge does have windows and has fabulous views across the apron, it seems an odd design choice. Why were the lounges not swapped around?
For the first few days after opening, the feature fireplace was missing. Well it appears to be here now! Picture below. Not entirely sure what this really adds. Will it ever be lit?
The Champagne Bar
This Champagne bar forms the main image of the Chelsea Lounge in all of the reviews. The bar offers a good selection of high quality champagnes, wines and spirits, although the Krug and Laurent Perrier seem to have dried up since the opening when all of the celeb bloggers were interested.
The lounge has got a nice airy feel to it (considering there are no windows!) and it has different sections dependent on what you are wanting to do. A selection of photos is below:
Food and Drink
I sat close to the bar (although not at the bar) and looked through the food menu. I asked the bar attendants as to whether everything on the menu was available and I got back a not-entirely confident nod in response. There have been lots of passengers complaining about food items not being available, so I was initially pleasantly surprised. However, when I put my order in for fish and chips, one of the attendants came over about 5 mins later and advised it wasn’t available. Doh!
On my first visit, I ordered the lamb tagine and a Caesar salad. Both were quite tasty, but to be honest, not a patch on the CCR dining I had become used to in T7. Note: I’ve never had a Caesar salad before with an underdone poached egg sliding around my plate!
On my second visit, I ordered the wild mushroom toast and the beef burger. Again, both were very tasty, but not really the quality I have gotten used to in the CCR at T7. Sadly, I was a little disappointed after both of my recent visits to the Chelsea Lounge.
I asked for a glass of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle (LPGS) as I normally do in the CCR at T7 and none was available. I had to go for something else which was ok but not quite as good. This highlights another issue that has been noted by fellow passengers after the hype of the opening days: that the higher quality wines that were available on opening have suddenly disappeared. That’s disappointing.
Other Lounge Facilities
All of the normal facilities are available including good quality restrooms and showers. I didn’t get chance to try the showers out, but I can attest to the quality of the restrooms!
Overall, my thoughts on the Chelsea Lounge:
- It was fairly busy last week (when I was there for the first time); a lot busier than the CCR in T7 ever was.
- The general facilities are of a high quality and highlights how poor BA facilities are at Heathrow!
- The food was ok; some of it was unavailable and it wasn’t as good as the CCR in T7.
- The drinks offered seemed to be half-decent, although availability of some of the higher quality alcohols has seen a big drop-off, since the hype of the opening few days.
- I’ve never had a problem getting hold of a glass of LPGS in the CCR in T7, so not being able to do so in the Chelsea Lounge was not a great sign.
Bottom line: nice, but nothing much to write home about.
You can see the related reviews of JFK T8 lounges below:
- Review of the new JFK T8 BA/AA Lounges
- Review of the new BA/AA Soho Lounge at JFK T8.
- Review of the BA/AA Greenwich Lounge at JFK T8.
Follow the whole story here: JFK T8 Lounge Reviews