Review: Air France La Premiere Lounge & Spa New York JFK

Filed Under: Air France/KLM, Airport Lounge Reviews

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We had a nearly five hour layover at JFK, as we arrived before 12PM from Toronto, and were connecting to Paris on Air France in first class at 4:25PM (in the next installment I’ll share the tickets that I booked). Remember that at this point my dad still had no clue where we were going.

So without telling him our next destination we headed onto the AirTrain to go from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1. During that ride he studied the airline directory posted on the AirTrain, in hopes of getting some clues.

Dad trying to figure out where we’re going

Air France is known for their spectacular first class ground service, so even though we had boarding passes, I still stopped by the La Premiere check-in desk. This is located at the very right of the Terminal 1 check-in area when facing the security checkpoint.

JFK Airport Terminal 1

Unfortunately the check-in area was still closed, and I was told it would open at 1PM. No big deal, it just meant that there would be no escort for us through security.

Air France La Premiere check-in JFK

Security was quick, at least by Terminal 1 standards, though it was still incredibly disorganized. At this point my dad looked at the departure board right above the security checkpoint. Funny enough it didn’t list our flight to Paris, so at this point his theory was that we were flying to Casablanca.

JFK Terminal 1 departures board

Once through security we headed to the far end of the terminal, by Gate 1, where the Air France lounge is located.

JFK Airport Terminal 1

I’ve reviewed the Air France Lounge before (it’s open to Priority Pass members over select hours), so there are a couple of things I’ll be focusing on:

Air France Lounge JFK

Air France La Premiere Lounge New York JFK Review

Upon arrival at the lounge we presented our boarding passes to the attendant, and she was clearly caught off guard by the fact that three La Premiere passengers had arrived so early. Upon verifying our passports, she explained several things to us:

  • We’d have access to the private La Premiere lounge
  • We’d be escorted to the plane, and asked if we wanted to board first or last
  • She asked if we wanted spa treatments, as the lounge has a new La Prairie spa; the spa opens at 2:45PM, so we booked the first two appointments

Air France Lounge JFK entrance

The agent took us in the elevator right across from the reception desk, and once we exited she unlocked a room that said “Private Lounge.”

Air France Private Lounge JFK

Air France tries to keep La Premiere pretty understated in some ways. So even though they have a separate lounge for first class passengers, it doesn’t have any branding, but rather is just labeled as a private lounge.

The lounge was a cool space, with the primary feature being how private and secluded it was.

Air France La Premiere Lounge JFK


Air France La Premiere Lounge JFK

On one side of the lounge you had a bunch of seating, including a couch and a handful of leather chairs.


Air France La Premiere Lounge New York

Air France La Premiere Lounge New York

The other side of the lounge had four dining tables, along with two chairs near the windows.


Air France La Premiere Lounge dining area


Air France La Premiere Lounge dining area


Air France La Premiere Lounge New York

The first class section of the lounge had awesome views of the apron, and this is also a pretty exciting part of the terminal, with lots of international airlines. I loved the plane spotting opportunities.


La Premiere Lounge JFK views


La Premiere Lounge JFK views

The lounge had an impressive drink selection, and a modest self serve food selection. Snacks included packaged chips and cookies, as well as La Fermiere yogurt.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK snacks & drinks


Air France First Class Lounge JFK snacks


Air France First Class Lounge JFK yogurt

In the fridge underneath the snacks was some bottled water, beer, soda, and juice.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK drinks

Then the other side of that same display had a variety of wine.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK drinks

There was also quite a liquor display on one end of the lounge.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK drinks


Air France First Class Lounge JFK drinks

Then there was a champagne display, including Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose. That’s a very respectable selection for a lounge.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK drinks

There were also some newspapers.


Air France First Class Lounge JFK newspapers & magazines

The first class lounge didn’t have a dedicated bathroom, but rather the bathroom was just outside the first class section of the lounge, and was shared with business class.

Air France Lounge bathrooms

We were the only three people in first class on our flight, so for almost the entire time we were there we had the lounge to ourselves. It’s an awesome private space. Towards the end of our time there another passenger showed up who was on the later Air France flight to Paris.

This lounge is an awesome space if you’re alone, though probably less awesome if it’s just nine strangers.

One thing I’d note is that I think the lounge could use some ambient music, especially when you’re not alone in there. The space is otherwise so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, so I think some relaxing and quiet music would make it feel less awkward when there are other passengers.

We ended up revealing to my dad that we were headed to Paris about halfway through our stay in the lounge. He was elated, because he hadn’t been in nearly 20 years.

Air France First Class Lounge New York JFK Food & Service

As you may have expected, there’s more to this first class lounge. 😉

For one, there are attendants constantly checking on you, but in a non-obtrusive way. I think they intentionally don’t have a dedicated attendant for this section of the lounge, since it would feel awkward if someone just stood there. However, we were constantly checked on, both by the servers and the lounge manager, who was an awesome French guy.

The lounge has an extensive a la carte dining menu, and the pre-flight dining becomes available around 2PM. The menu read as follows:

The wine list read as follows:

We hadn’t properly eaten, so we all sat down for a meal. They pushed two tables together for us so we could eat together.

Dad & me in Air France Lounge JFK

First they brought out some bread and butter.

Air France Lounge lunch

We wanted to eat something, but didn’t want to totally spoil our appetites for onboard. We split a bottle of the Grand Siecle champagne to get the festivities off to a good start.

I ordered the herb incrusted Chilean seabass served with saffron jasmine rice, baby grilled zucchini, poached baby carrots, finished with a red wine beurre blanc.


Air France Lounge lunch

Ford ordered the slow roasted French cut chicken breast served with a leek infused potato gratin, sautéed haricot vert, and finished with a morel mushroom sauce.


Air France Lounge lunch

My dad had the goose liver pate en croute and foie gras.


Air France Lounge lunch


Air France Lounge lunch

Across the board the food was excellent and restaurant quality. The service was to notch as well. We were mostly being served directly by the lounge manager, who had tons of hospitality experience (we talked to him and he had previously worked at hotels for decades, before managing this lounge).

We decided to order one cheese plate to share for dessert, and the lounge manager did the most French thing ever, and I totally live for it.

“Since you are flying Air France you aren’t allowed to have champagne with cheese. I just can’t allow it. Let me pair it for you with at least a little bit of red wine.” Usually in customer service I don’t like being told “no” or what to do, but the exception is French hospitality — please just tell me what to do!


Air France Lounge lunch


Air France Lounge lunch

Air France Business Class Lounge JFK

Air France recently completed a huge renovation on their business class lounge at JFK. Not only did they redesign the space, but they introduced a la carte dining for those traveling on their late night flights to Paris.

This obviously wasn’t a late night flight so they didn’t have the full setup, but I still checked out the space. They did a spectacular job with the upper level of the lounge, and I liked how it was furnished. There were dozens of tables, some just with chairs, and others with benches. There was also some high-top seating.

Air France Business Lounge JFK


Air France Business Lounge JFK


Air France Business Lounge JFK

Air France Business Lounge JFK


Air France Business Lounge JFK


Air France Business Lounge JFK

This space looks out over the rest of the lounge, which is open to passengers traveling on partner airlines, elite members, and Priority Pass members over select hours.


Air France Business Lounge JFK

There was a buffet set up for business class passengers, and it was alright, though nothing special. If you really want to enjoy the business class lounge as much as possible, you’ll want to visit before one of the late night flights.

They had set up a sandwich bar, salad bar, and bread buffet, as they described it.


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet

There were also two types of soup.


Air France Business Lounge New York buffet

There was a basic selection of self serve liquor, wine, Laurent-Perrier champagne, ice cream, and a Nespresso machine.


Air France Business Lounge New York drinks


Air France Business Lounge New York coffee machine


Air France Business Lounge New York ice cream

Air France Lounge JFK La Prairie Spa & Shower

Air France recently opened the La Prairie Spa at their JFK lounge, which is the first-ever La Prairie Spa at an airport. The spa is located right next to the reception desk on the first floor, and appointments are available day of departure on a first come first served basis.

30 minute treatments are available to first class passengers, while 20 minute treatments are available to business class passengers.

They did a beautiful job with this space, especially when you consider this is an airport lounge. I showed up shortly before my 2:45PM treatment, and was greeted by my therapist.

Air France Lounge La Prairie Spa 

She explained a little bit about the lounge, about La Prairie as a brand, and then explained what my treatment would consist of. I was getting the “Art of Indulgence” treatment.


Air France Lounge La Prairie Spa 

The treatment rooms here are gorgeous, among the nicest I’ve seen in any airport lounge. I was asked to take off my shoes, put on some comfortable slippers, and then got comfortable while face-up, as she put a blanket over me.


Air France Lounge La Prairie Spa 

The treatment lasted about 30 minutes, and wasn’t anything too intensive. She applied several creams and serums, and would spend several minutes rubbing each in with circular motions. It was relaxing, and I’m not someone who usually finds facials to be relaxing.

I should also mention that earlier during the layover I took a shower. The lounge has one shower as far as I know. It’s basic and the water temperature fluctuates significantly, though I at least appreciate that it has a sink and toilet as well (I don’t like when shower rooms don’t also have toilets or sinks).


Air France Lounge JFK shower room


Air France Lounge JFK shower room

Air France First Class Escort To Plane

One of the other things that Air France does incredibly well is that they escort La Premiere passengers to the plane at all destinations. They ask you whether you want to board first or last, and they take your preference damn seriously.

Our boarding pass indicated that the flight was scheduled to board at 3:40PM, though they don’t usually board as early as stated. We were picked up by an Air France representative at 3:50PM, and were escorted to the gate.

Sure enough as we arrived at the gate there must have been 200 people lined up in several different queues. But we whisked past everyone, and then they started boarding the second we got onboard.

Air France Lounge JFK Bottom Line

JFK’s Terminal 1 is pretty awful, though Air France offers an exceptional outstation ground experience. They do an amazing job making the experience seamless, have a cozy first class lounge, also have a great spa, and manage to make the experience oh-so-French by telling you what wines you can and can’t drink with something.

I would note, however, that we lucked out with having the lounge to ourselves for most of the time we were there. We were on a 777 with just four first class seats, while the A380 has nine first class seats, so if I were traveling alone and that lounge were full, I imagine it would be a different experience.

Lastly, Air France has really upped their business class ground experience with pre-flight dining at JFK for the late night flights, so for those flights the difference in terms of comfort and food may not be that significant (though the first class ground experience is more seamless, and comes with much better alcohol).

We couldn’t wait for what was to come onboard!

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Comments
  1. @Lucky: That is such a lovely picture of you and your Dad! I am sure that he will have an amazing and memorable trip with you.

  2. What a great pic of you and your dad! The lounge is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise horrendous terminal.

  3. @ Ben Thanks for a great review. I can’t help but notice the spa being a bit stark. How would you compare it to the spa in the Qantas FCL in Sydney?

  4. Champagne and cheese is so much better than red wine and cheese, especially if you are having soft cheeses or stinky cheese. Very few things champagne doesn’t pair with. Guess he was just trying to get you guys drunk haha

  5. Hard to believe that Air France have created an aspirational product which is both elegant and polished. Kudos to them. I remember when BA was seen as being so superior to AF, but AF first, especially on the 777 is in another league to the equivalent on a BA 777!
    Question is Lucky, can you now say it’s better than LH?

  6. Gotta say – aside from the ala carte dining – the business class part of that lounge looks far better/nicer than the first class “private” lounge.

  7. @don you beat me to it, although I was going to say Mr S Senior has a really good head of hair which has kept its colour well

  8. It was really annoying when I went in last month flying business class and the receptionist said the spa is only for la premiere passengers. Good to know that business class passengers are entitled to use it too!

  9. Is it just me, or do the seats in the downstairs part of the lounge look more comfortable than the ones upstairs?

    Also, is there a reason for later flights to get a la carte dining but not the earlier flights?

    Still, kudos to Air France for offering arguably the best ground services of any airline for first class passengers.

    Lucky, you also need to review the lounge at IAD now that it’s renovated…though I’m guessing the design will be identical to the lounge here.

  10. @ Aaron — As far as seat comfort goes, that’s probably because the upstairs area is intended for dining, while the downstairs area is intended more for lounging. There’s definitely some compromise there.

    For the pre-flight dining, I suspect the logic is that on late night flights people are more likely to want to go straight to sleep, while on a flight departing at 4:30PM most people are unlikely to be immediately tired. I agree it would be nice if they offered it on the earlier flights, though I suspect it’s a compromise of offering a great product while also controlling costs.

  11. @ HC — Hmmm, were you flying Air France? The press release said that both first and business class passengers had access, and it’s just that first class passengers received longer treatments.

  12. @ Niko_jas — Indeed, Air France has come a long way, and I’d say Air France does beat Lufthansa nowadays in first, at least on the Air France 777-300ER.

  13. @ John W K — Tough to say for sure. I would note that this lounge only offers facials, while the Qantas Lounge offers other treatments as well. So I’d say the Qantas Lounge probably has the edge, but for a US lounge this is excellent.

  14. The business class dining for late departures is actually not a la carte. You just have the option to eat your regular in flight meal in the lounge.

  15. @ CB — But isn’t the meal served onboard from a menu? Like, there are multiple main course options at least?

  16. Did they have any lemon tarts when you were at the lounge? I was there in late April at like 1AM and had lemon tarts from the buffet upstairs, with their excellent coffee. I’m pretty sure I also met that French lounge manager you mentioned while I was there.

  17. Educate yourselves.
    One cannot mix everything.
    In France cheese are eaten with wine, AFTER the main course and before dessert.

    Champagne on the other hand is an appetizer, and the best are not the most expensive as some here like to compare. In addition, the bubbles do not marry well with exquisite cheese, they tickle your tongue & can even change taste.
    Fine dining is not for the pigs.
    Eating cheese with champagne is considered bad manners, lack of savoir-vivre 😉

  18. I hope this trip includes EY apt. class. I think he’d appreciate that (even more than AF La Pemiere) — I know I would. 😉

  19. Wow! Whoever edited that wine list needs to be taken out to a woodshed.

    Cuvèe (sic) Rosè (sic)? Cabrenet (sic) Sauvignon?

    Ouch!

    And the food menu is no better. This is not a first class effort. They should find someone who has graduated from high school to proofread their menus.

  20. What a nice experience, your dad looks so happy!

    I want to get my hands on that menu SO BADLY to correct the horrible punctuation! It’s so sloppy! Even their French is full of mistakes, too.

    Have you experienced the La Première lounge at CDG yet? It gets better!

  21. Always nice to hear about your travels with your dad.

    “Since you are flying Air France you aren’t allowed to have champagne with cheese. I just can’t allow it. Let me pair it for you with at least a little bit of red wine.”

    While this is cute, I guess, any serious sommelier will recognize that white wines pair better with cheeses in most cases. Obviously, if you have an opinion, you should drink what you like (any sommelier who tells you differently is full of. . . himself) but I question the knowledge of anyone who insists you must drink red wine with cheese. And, yes — if you like champagne, or sparkling wine of any kind, and like to drink it with cheese there is nothing wrong with that.

  22. Food and beverages look great, though that space seems claustrophobia-inducing.

    The fixtures are so obviously substandard third-world JFK. I mean, it’s just incredible how year after year overpaid union guys can get away with installing such utterly pathetic hardware and fixtures ranging from door handles to toilets. And it’s not confined to any specific terminal — you’ll find some of these eye-poppingly totally shoddy stuff in every terminal. Anyone who has been in JFK repeatedly over the past 25 years can confirm this: it is a third-world country unto itself.

  23. @Lucky

    Yes I was flying Air France (on the same 4:25pm departure too). Was quite surprised when the receptionist told me it’s only for La Premiere but had some work to do anyway so I didn’t press.

  24. Lovely post! Could you please at some point do a lounge etiquette post for us? E.g. can I keep the magazines to read on board later? Can I take a bottle of water with me? Do I need to tip the spa attendant?

  25. Ben, I just wanna take a moment to tell you my appreciation with your timely, detailed posts, and thank you for sharing this nice family trip with us. I truly enjoy reading your reports and posts (especially this new format) and your efforts and hard work do not go unnoticed. 🙂

  26. The FC lounge looks more like Ikea than the BA FC lounge at JFK.
    And who selected the miniscule art on the walls?
    Usual great reporting by Lucky.

  27. Has anyone noticed that the only dish NOT translated into English on the menu is the Foie Gras plate? Is that some sort of clumsy attempt not to freak out any snug minded passenger out there? :p

  28. @One World: That was one cheesy (and somewhat offensive) post. (Pun intended).

    Not to worry though, the cheesy part “paired well” with the general impression many have about the French being rude.

  29. I love how this trip report is unfolding, just like your Dad being surprised and not knowing what’s coming next

  30. Great review Ben thanks as always. I can’t believe the business lounge is also PP at some times ( this has to be better than some of the PP lounges I’ve had to “ enjoy “ in the past )

  31. I wonder why AirFrance would use La Prairie beauty products which are owned by Beiersdorf a German company for their Spa ? After all Air France being a “vitrine de la France” they could have worked with LVMH or L’Oréal for their Spa with typical Luxurious French beauty treatments.

    @LarryinNYC who said”While this is cute, I guess, any serious sommelier will recognize that white wines pair better with cheeses in most cases. ”
    Sorry but there is not one single country in the world that would serve White wine with Cheese let alone French Cheese.
    Cheese is always served with red wine but Foie Gras is served with White wine.

    Of course as a customer you can demand to have your cheese served with Coca Cola if you wish,but this is another question.

  32. *I like how they serve French butter, French yogurt and French brandy and vodka…. But NOT (French) Perrier!
    Who put that Italian sparkling in that refrigerator?

    *The Business class food buffet looked a lot better than “alright, nothing special.” I’d prefer the beautifully presented, high quality food show here than what’s offered at most of the business class lounges I’ve been in. I think that’s very jaded commentary.

    *Finally, I cannot imagine for the life of me liking chicken SO MUCH that I would ORDER it to the exclusion of all the other delicious items offered on that menu. Sorry lobster, I’m eating chicken. Sorry Filet Mignon, it’s chicken for me. You lose duck, goose liver pate, smoked salmon…. It chicken again! 🙁

  33. Some wonderful memories with you and your Dad here Lucky! Also, as much as we readers love the up-to-the-minute updates and reviews, please also make sure to enjoy the time with him and the products you are using (which I’m sure you are) 🙂

  34. Gosh now that the lounge is upgraded I hope they stopped serving that nasty smelly curry. At least in the ANA and JAL lounges in Tokyo that are famous for their curries the lounges are huge and you can sit away from the smell…

  35. @caroline

    “Cheese is always served with red wine but Foie Gras is served with White wine.”

    Wrong and wrong!

    This sort of narrow minded statement can only be met with one retort: de gustibus non est disputandum!

  36. Have to say that, to me, the bathroom looks more like a public convenience than that of an upmarket airline lounge!

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