Review of the New JFK T8 BA/AA Lounges
This is my review of the new lounges created as a result of British Airways (BA) joining forces with American Airlines (AA), creating a combined hub at New York’s JFK at Terminal 8 (T8).
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.
It made a lot of sense for BA to join forces with AA since Terminal 7 (T7) was not a great experience for passengers and in time it will be demolished to create space for a new terminal. In my experience, AA’s T8 was always a joy to travel through. So it must be a match made in heaven, mustn’t it?
Note that the main benefits of this new joint facility will be enjoyed by those travelling in premium cabins (Business and First Class) and those with premium status. Economy passengers’ with no status won’t be able to enjoy the new lounges!
Landside – New Check-in Facilities
Let’s briefly start landside: there are separate BA/AA economy check-in areas in T8, but there is also a combined BA/AA premium check-in area. Note that this premium check-in area isn’t explicitly called out on the map below, but it’s SE of the TSA Pre label. I might try adding on a label at a later point.
The premium check-in area contained lots of check-in desks and self-serve kiosks. When I was there last week, there were staff members around that were happy to help point you in the right direction. That’s what you need when checking in! Apparently, there’s also a First Class check in area.
BA passengers now get the benefit of fully-fledged TSA Pre-Check facilities. Gone are the days when passengers needed to fight to get through T7 Security, with a half-hearted attempt at providing TSA Pre-Check security services. I always imagined the headline would have been: You can keep your shoes on now, don’t you know?
Airside – New Lounges
This is where it is supposed to get exciting isn’t it? That’s true to some extent with anything new. But there have been some problems with the new lounges since they opened on 1st Dec.
There are now three lounges that passengers can use depending on their BA/AA/Oneworld status, who they are flying with, what class they are flying in and where they are flying to. Already sounds complicated doesn’t it?
Just after T8 Security, looking straight ahead, there are two lifts to the newly rebranded AA Flagship Lounge, just on the left-hand side of the concourse. This is now called the Greenwich Lounge and in simple terms, it’s for BA passengers who can normally access a BA Business Lounge (typically that means BA Silver Card Holders and passengers flying in Business Class). Certain AA passengers can also gain access. More detail about exactly which passengers can get access is provided below.
In the equivalent location on the right-hand side of the main concourse, there are also two lifts, but you can’t see them from Security due to Bobby Van’s Grill being in the way. But if you wander down and look behind Bobby Van’s Grill, 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.
Broadly speaking, the Chelsea Lounge is for First Class passengers and for the top-tier status members of the frequent flier programmes of BA and AA. For BA that means Gold Guest List (GGL) and Premier members. The Soho Lounge is for the top tier members that don’t quite meet the entry criteria for the Chelsea Lounge. For BA that means Gold card holders.
This is where it gets complicated and there have been a lot of disappointed passengers with premium status being turned away from accessing the lounge they thought they should have access to.
When I was there last week, I took a photo of the official guidelines available to the attendants.
The question that seemed to be of primary concern was whether BA GGL members would have access to the Chelsea Lounge if they were NOT flying in First Class. Based on the response I received from the Chelsea Lounge staff last week, the answer is yes, but even the official access guidelines are a little vague.
So let’s have a quick look around the lounges:
- Review of the new BA/AA Chelsea Lounge at JFK T8.
- Review of the new BA/AA Soho Lounge at JFK T8.
- Review of the BA/AA Greenwich Lounge at JFK T8.
So what’s my overall view of the three lounges that are now available at JFK T8?
- The move of BA from T7 to T8 is definitely an improvement. T7 was tired and had a really poor Security facility.
- However, those BAEC members who were used to quality dining in the CCR in T7 will be disappointed at what’s on offer in the Chelsea Lounge. That’s probably also true of those AA members that enjoyed the benefit of Flagship First Dining.
- It beggars belief that out of the 3 lounges now available in T8 that the only one which doesn’t have any windows is the one aimed at the very top tier members. That’s just a bizarre decision.
- The decision to big-up the premium food and drinks during the hyped-up opening to ensure celeb bloggers write good things about the lounges says a lot. AA and BA clearly think very little about the passengers who actually experience these lounges in real life.
Follow the whole story here: JFK T8 Lounge Reviews