Review: American Flagship First Dining LAX

Filed Under: American, Lounge Reviews

A few days ago I published my review of American’s new Flagship Lounge at Los Angeles Airport. The four Flagship Lounges that have opened this year have all impressed me, and this represents a great improvement for American’s premium passengers. Not only do more people have access to Flagship Lounges than before, but American should also be commended for the pace at which they’re opening these lounges.

That’s not the only new lounge space that American opened at LAX this past week. American has also opened a Flagship First Dining facility at LAX, which is essentially a lounge within a lounge within a lounge.

Who has access to American Flagship First Dining?

This is American’s uber-exclusive new dining facility available to select international and transcon first class customers. Specifically, access to Flagship First Dining is open to the following passengers:

  • Those traveling in American three cabin 777-300ER first class to/from Asia, Australia, Europe, or South America
  • Those traveling in American three cabin first class between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco

In terms of nonstop destinations out of LAX, American has about a dozen daily flights from Los Angeles to New York, and all first class passengers on those flights would have access. Furthermore, American flies 777-300ERs to Hong Kong and London, so those passengers have access as well.

While you can’t use Flagship First Dining purely as an arrivals lounge, you can us it if you’re connecting off of an eligible flight. That’s to say that if you’re flying from New York to Los Angeles to San Diego, for example, you could access Flagship First Dining in both New York and Los Angeles.

You’re eligible for access regardless of whether you’re on a paid ticket, upgrade, or an award, and those accessing the lounge based on international travel can bring in a guest, while those accessing based on an A321T first class ticket can’t bring a guest.

What airports have American Flagship First Dining?

American’s first Flagship First Dining facility opened earlier this year at JFK, and I reviewed that in September. Then American opened a Flagship First Dining facility in Miami in November, which I’ve also reviewed. So the Los Angeles one is the third such lounge.

American plans to open Flagship First Dining in Dallas and London in 2018.

What are the hours for American’s Flagship First Dining LAX?

Flagship First Dining LAX is open daily from 4:45AM until 12:15AM, so it should cover just about all departures. Flagship First Dining is inside the Flagship Lounge, and that’s open from 4:45AM until 12:45AM, so that’s open for just 30 minutes longer.

Where is American’s Flagship First Dining LAX located?

It’s located inside the Flagship Lounge in Terminal 4, across from gate 40. If you’re eligible for access you’ll be given an invitation when you enter the lounge, which is a little card that has your flight number and info written on the back of it.


American Flagship First Dining LAX invitation

Once you’re in the Flagship Lounge (which is on the second floor) just hang a sharp right and then walk down the long hallway.


American Flagship Lounge LAX exterior


Hall leading to American Flagship First Dining LAX

The entrance to Flagship First Dining will be at the end of the hall.


American Flagship First Dining LAX entrance

American Flagship First Dining LAX review

I visited the Flagship Lounge the same time as my friend Matthew from Live and Let’s Fly. We visited Flagship First Dining at 11AM, and we were their first ever guests. Note that while Flagship First Dining opens at 4:45AM every day, on day one it opened at 11AM, though that’s not the case anymore. That means you can grab breakfast prior to a 6AM flight, if you’d like.

Since we were the first guests, there were also quite a few “suits” in here, as you’d expect for a lounge that’s just opening. Clearly everyone working there was enthusiastic and excited, which is always a nice impression to get from people.

Upon entering there was a host stand, and upon presenting our invitations the host helped us pick a table.


American Flagship First Dining LAX host stand 


American Flagship First Dining LAX


American Flagship First Dining Los Angeles

This is the largest Flagship First Dining facility yet, as the space has seating for about 60 people. I doubt it will ever get that crowded, but really the beauty of these lounges is that they’re a calm oasis from the rest of the lounge.

The lounge’s dining area is past the entrance and to the right. There are a total of 21 dining tables — 20 of them seat two people, while one table by the window seats four people. However, a majority of the tables could be pushed together to form a four person table, if needed.


American Flagship First Dining LAX seating

There were eight sets of tables along each wall.


American Flagship First Dining LAX seating


American Flagship First Dining LAX tables


American Flagship First Dining LAX tables

Then there’s a partition in the center of the dining area, and there are two more tables on each side of that.


American Flagship First Dining LAX

And then there’s a table with seating for four people right by the window.


American Flagship First Dining LAX table

The lounge has views of the interior apron of Terminal 4, looking towards Terminal 5. The views are good, though I think nothing can match the views from Flagship First Dining JFK. While the views are nice, in this case it’s the narrower side of the facility that has apron views, meaning that there aren’t windows in a majority of the lounge.


American Flagship First Dining Los Angeles view

Then back towards the entrance and to the left was the bar and communal area. There was a communal table with a dozen seats that had interior views of the terminal. I love the lighting fixtures they use here.


American Flagship First Dining Los Angeles communal seating

Then there was the beautiful and well stocked bar, which had five high top seats and then two lower seats as well.


American Flagship First Dining Los Angeles bar


American Flagship First Dining Los Angeles bar

We settled on a table by the window, and were welcomed and presented with the menu and wine list by our server, Raquel. She was friendly and enthusiastic, as you’d hope, especially on day one. The menu and drink list were presented on beautiful wood clipboards with the American Airlines logo on them.


American Flagship First Dining menus

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

A couple of minutes after settling in, we were offered some bread. I appreciate the way they present it.


American Flagship First Dining bread

While minor, I’d note that Flagship First Dining Miami had a selection of bread, while here there was only one type of bread. Not only was there a lack of selection, but the bread was lukewarm and not especially crispy. I’ll chalk that up to it being day one (though I feel like bread should be the easiest thing to get right).


American Flagship First Dining bread

We were also offered our choice of still or sparkling water. We asked for sparkling, and interestingly it was served out of a pitcher rather than bottle. As a point of comparison, Flagship First Dining JFK serves bottled San Pellegrino. I’m not sure if this is an attempt at being LA hipster, if it’s a cost saving measure, or if they just didn’t yet have the bottles since it was day one (though they have San Pellegrino in the main Flagship Lounge).

I’ve always enjoyed the cocktails in Flagship First Dining, so I ordered a Far Eastside and Matthew ordered a Seasonal Collins. We both enjoyed our cocktails, though they were a bit on the weak side (which is sort of perfect, since it meant I could have another one).


American Flagship First Dining cocktails

We had placed our appetizer order the same time as our cocktail order, and the appetizers showed up within 10 minutes. We had ordered three appetizers.


American Flagship First Dining appetizers

I ordered the Cantonese style raw spicy yellowtail, with smoked chili, mango crispy vermicelli, and soy reduction. It was a nice, flavorful dish, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it spicy.


American Flagship First Dining appetizer — Cantonese style raw spicy yellowtail

Then we shared the blistered shishito peppers with roasted pepper and feta on lavash, which we enjoyed as well.


American Flagship First Dining appetizer — blistered shishito peppers

Meanwhile Matthew ordered the charred romaine and baby kale, with sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and scallions, with bleu cheese crumbles and buttermilk ranch


American Flagship First Dining appetizer — charred romaine and baby kale

Once our appetizers were done, we ordered another round of cocktails. I had the Agave Cooler, while Matthew had the Oaxacan Old Fashioned. We both preferred our picks the first round.


American Flagship First Dining cocktails

For the main course, I ordered the miso black cod with forbidden black rice, and spicy garlic baby bok choy. The dish was excellent, and every bit as good as I’d expect it to be in a top restaurant.


American Flagship First Dining main courses — miso black cod


American Flagship First Dining main courses — miso black cod

Matthew ordered the New York strip with wild mushrooms, green garlic-roasted snap peas, and fingerling potatoes. He didn’t like this dish nearly as much as I liked mine.


American Flagship First Dining main courses — New York strip


American Flagship First Dining main courses — New York strip

After that we were presented with the dessert menu, which read as follows:

We were also asked if we wanted coffee. I ordered an americano and Matthew ordered a cappuccino, though we were informed a couple of minutes later that the machine wasn’t working. However, we were told that they had French press, which was a pleasant surprise, and which I would have preferred anyway.


American Flagship First Dining French press

As I’ve emphasized in both of my previous Flagship First Dining reviews, I think it’s ridiculous that their coffee drinks are otherwise all out of machines, rather than made fresh like you’d expect in a good restaurant. Even United’s Polaris Lounge has fresh Illy cappuccinos, so this is an area where American should really improve, in my opinion.

Now let’s talk about dessert. I ordered the chocolate five spice tart with salted caramel brittle, and Nutella sweet cream. INCREDIBLE. This dish was too good for words. It was sweet and salty and just all around amazing. I’ve only had two Flagship First Dining desserts, and both of them hit it out of the park, and then some.


American Flagship First Dining dessert — chocolate five spice tart

Matthew ordered the signature flagship sundae, with vanilla bean ice cream, warm salted brownie, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and pecans, topped with a brandied cherry.


American Flagship First Dining dessert — signature flagship sundae

Usually at the end of the meal you’re presented with a clipboard thanking you for dining with them. That wasn’t done this time around, at least not within 10 minutes of when our dessert was cleared, so I just waited until I saw Raquel and tipped her directly.

In total we spent over 90 minutes in the lounge, and I’d estimate that over that period there were maybe a dozen other guests. So I don’t think this lounge will ever get overcrowded, but it certainly seems like it’ll have more traffic than the Miami location, for example.

American Flagship Dining LAX bottom line

While there are minor things I would have changed about my experience at all three Flagship First Dining locations, I still can’t believe that a US airline is offering a lounge like this. I think it’s something that really sets American apart, in particular on transcon flights. They’re already the only airline to offer three cabins of service, though they don’t really differentiate the soft product much otherwise.

Not only is the food and service in these lounges very good, but the other thing I love about these lounges is that they’re so calm and peaceful. You really feel like you’re at a quality restaurant, rather than inside a crowded lounge.

Lastly, I think it’s once again worth giving American a lot of credit for the fact that they’ve opened seven Flagship Lounges and Flagship First Dining facilities in the past seven months. Given how notoriously slow airport construction is, that’s nothing short of impressive.

The Flagship Lounge LAX was excellent, especially given that we visited day one, hour one.

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Comments

  1. “That wasn’t done this time around, at least not within 10 minutes of when our dessert was cleared, so I just waited until I saw Raquel and tipped her directly.”

    Wow…never in a million years would I have thought to tip an Airline Lounge server.

    Interesting….

  2. What if your in J on a 787 International out of LAX? Is there a new lounge for J too? Or do you just go to the OW lounge in TBIT?

    What is the best lounge to go to for J? Is there one similar to the new flagship ORD lounge for J passengers at LAX now?

  3. @Mike — In the US, lounge servers/bartenders appreciate tips. Being an American and being accustomed to that, earlier this year I attempted to tip the bartender at a LH Senator Lounge at MUC. She laughed and waved my tip away, and said this is her job. It really made me think about how much more premium the lounge experience everywhere is when servers are paid appropriately and do not accept tips.

  4. @Lucky, would you say it’s a better experience than the OW lounge? Which one do you recommend if you’re traveling through LAX on AA intl. J?

  5. @ Abe — Personally I think the Flagship Lounge is roughly on par with the oneworld business class lounge, and it comes down to personal preference. Personally I’d check them both out in your shoes and decide based on what you like most. I plan to do a comparison post of the Qantas First Lounge and Flagship First Dining, though it has been a while since I’ve done the oneworld business lounge.

  6. My understanding is that Oneworld F does not necessarily give access to First Dining. However CX has an agreement for JFK passengers to have access. Is this correct? And are there any other similar agreements in place?

  7. @ Andrew B — Correct, no Emerald status gets you access to Flagship First Dining. Cathay Pacific first class passengers can use Flagship First Dining at JFK, but that’s just because there are no other lounge options in the terminal other than American. That won’t apply at LAX, since there’s the Qantas First Lounge.

  8. Unfortunately, this all comes at the expense of the AAdmirals Club which is now half the size it used to be and is totally packed.

    Makes me feel like a chump for having a membership.

  9. @Abe — But don’t forget, if you have OW Emerald (through AA or a partner) you can access the Qantas First Lounge in TBIT regardless of cabin. I haven’t been yet, but I imagine (while we wait for @Lucky’s comparison post!) that it’ll come out on par with or slightly ahead of the AA Flagship Lounge / Flagship First dining experience, and certainly ahead of the OW J lounge or AA Flagship without First Dining.

  10. Lucky,

    At the end of the day, is this worth 15,000 AAdvantage miles?

    I ask because my main way to access this lounge would be through mileage upgrades from business to first on the transcons. I’m flying out of LAX in mid January on one of the late afternoon departures. This could be a good lunch before boarding, but I still can’t decide if it’s worth the cost.

  11. Beachfan

    Well, that problem started when AA allowed people to just buy lounge access. Between that, the Priority Pass mob, and the travelling toaster oven sales people on employer-paid tickets, most lounges are now packed and totally devalued.

    The Flagship First lounges are about where regular airline lounges were 50 years ago. All the exclusivity and kudos went long ago.

  12. Lucky – here is one I cannot figure out. I am flying LAX-JFK(F)-MIA(F)-MDE(J) in a few weeks – would I be eligible to use Flagship Dining in both JFK as well as MIA? Sounds like yes to JFK – now curious about MIA

  13. @Lucky something not accurate in your article…

    “While you can’t use Flagship First Dining purely as an arrivals lounge, you can us it if you’re connecting off of an eligible flight. That’s to say that if you’re flying from New York to Los Angeles to San Diego, for example, you could access Flagship First Dining in both New York and Los Angeles.”

    This is wrong. You CAN access FFD on either or both ends of an eligible transcon in First. (aka if you fly in 3 class first from LAX to JFK, you can stop by Flagship dining in New York before heading into the city.) Many many reports of this on FT to back it up.

  14. “While you can’t use Flagship First Dining purely as an arrivals lounge…”

    So if I’m flying SFO->JFK in F, I can’t access Flagship First Dining upon arrival in JFK? If so, that’s a big disappointment considering SFO has no premium ground experience for transcon passengers.

  15. @Jon_ISP What @Lucky states in the article about access on arrival is incorrect, both from many reports and from confirmations I’ve had from Admirals Club staff in JFK, as well as Admirals Club customer relations via email…both confirm that you will have access to Flagship First Dining upon arrival, even if LAX/JFK is your final destination.

  16. @ Martin
    “and the travelling toaster oven sales people on employer-paid tickets, most lounges are now packed and totally devalued.”

    If you pay for everything out of your own pocket, I feel sorry for you. I like having my company pay for my travels/status/cars 🙂

  17. Jan,

    As long as you want no choice where and when you travel, that’s fine. But I don’t need a free trip to Akron on a Wednesday in February.

    I’ve done my share of paid business travel, and to more glamorous places like Zurich, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, London etc. But even that gets old eventually. And I no longer need subsidies from others.

    Anyway my point was more about how lounges have become diluted, and part of that problem is that employers are lazy about accruing the miles/points for themselves rather than letting employees keep them. When I ran a business I never let employees keep those miles – they didn’t pay for them.

  18. Lucky, you should consider upgrading the comments section. This comments section is something I would have expected to see on a site ten years ago, frankly. For example, it would be nice if I could respond to another person’s comment directly in a thread and get e-mail updates only for responses to my comment. That someone has to write @Name to clarify who they’re responding to is ridiculous.

  19. Hate to burst AA’s design bubble, but the new dining area is hideous….the partitions in particular. Looks like they used a hospital designer. JFK dining facility is nicer.

    In either case, just really wish the dining at AA terminals was better. I’d rather be at a ‘proper’ restaurant than a lounge….and, sorry, but that’s all that flagship dining is and will ever be.

  20. Been here many times now, and the entire experience (from the music to the decor to the meat and potatoes style-plating) reminded me of one of those strip mall American upscale-casual American dining restaurants I haven’t been to since my childhood. At its best, it was the type of food you’d find in the lobby restaurant of a Marriott in Dallas, TX. (On my last visit, they were serving some type of corn soup that tasted straight out of a can…)

    The menu at Qantas is significantly more current (New American cuisine vs Traditional American). While some of the dishes are overrated — their steak is nicely cooked, but the cut too thin — others like the calamari wouldn’t be out of place in a James Beard nominated restaurant you’d find in SF.

    Going back to AA Flagship F, I really don’t know who’s idea of shishito peppers on crackers constitutes fine dining…

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