American Has Downgraded Their Flagship Lounge Champagne, And That’s Fine

I’ve been impressed by American’s new Flagship Lounges. These are the lounges available to select international first and business class passengers, as well as oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members traveling on eligible itineraries.

Not only are these Flagship Lounges a nice improvement over the old ones, but the biggest thing is that American has been opening them quickly. So far American has four new Flagship Lounges that opened in the following timeframe:


American’s Flagship Lounge LAX

In seven months they opened four Flagship Lounges, and that doesn’t even account for the three Flagship First Dining facilities in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.


American’s Flagship First Dining JFK

As a point of comparison:

  • While Delta’s SkyClubs are superior to the membership lounges offered by other US airlines, they don’t offer any sort of premium international lounges
  • While United’s Polaris Lounge is arguably a bit better than American’s Flagship Lounges, they have opened a single Polaris Lounge in 16 months; the whole Polaris concept has turned into a bad joke, and also, they don’t allow as many people in the lounge (elite members don’t get access, but rather only international first and business class passengers)


United’s Polaris Lounge Chicago

American has the upper hand when it comes to their international lounge setup by a long shot.

With that out of the way, this brings me to a (minor) cut that American has made to Flagship Lounges, which I called since day one. One of the rather over-the-top aspects of American’s Flagship Lounges is that they’ve served Bollinger champagne in the lounge. That’s insanely generous, and one of the best champagnes served in a business class lounge.

From day one I couldn’t believe that Doug Parker & Co. would offer something like that. My guess is that they scored some sort of a deal on this, as is often the case, given the exposure that Bollinger is getting. That only lasts so long, though, and I’ve been calling since day one that this will eventually be cut…

…and I was right. I’ve received several reader reports indicating that American seems to be offering different champagnes in Flagship Lounges now.

I reached out to American, and they tell me that they’re in the process of changing out their champagne and wine in lounges. Each lounge will have their own wines picked by Bobby and Des, and you can expect unique selections at each lounge.

My suspicion started on Monday when I was at the Flagship Lounge LAX and the only sparkling wine they had was splits of prosecco. To be honest, that was sort of in line with the changes I was expecting. However, when I reached out to American they told me that was only temporary — I guess they ran out of the usual stuff.

So, what are American’s new Flagship Lounge champagnes? Today alone I’ve received reports that:

  • The Flagship Lounge New York JFK is serving Taittinger
  • The Flagship Lounge Chicago O’Hare is serving Delamotte

The thing is, those are both still pretty expensive champagnes, and frankly more than I’d expect an airline with America West’s management team to spend. Just to compare the costs of the three champagnes, according to wine.com:

What I’m not sure of is how much the quality of the other wines changed, as I can’t say I ever looked too closely at them.

Bottom line

American is making some changes to their Flagship Lounge wine program, and among that is a downgrade to their Bollinger champagne, which I was expecting them to do from day one. The only surprise is that it took them so long. The thing is, though, that the champagnes they’ve switched to are still excellent, just a little bit cheaper. Free-flowing $40+ per bottle champagne is still better than what I’d expect American to offer.

I have a lot of criticisms of American (their onboard service, the AAdvantage program, etc.), though Flagship Lounges are an area where I have nothing but good things to say about them. Delta doesn’t offer comparable lounges, and United can’t seem to open them, while American has been opening them at an impressive pace.

If you visit a Flagship Lounge over the coming days, please report back with your wine and champagne experience!

Comments

  1. They really need to cut down on the food selection and focus on more quality dishes. I’ve never seen such a wasteful buffet of mediocre food that uses expensive ingredients.

  2. Yep, had the Taittinger at JFK three weeks ago today. Also oddly enough I liked the St George Green Chile Vodka at the bloody mary station enough to buy a bottle at BevMo after landing in California.

    I am consistently impressed by the cleanliness of this lounge as well as the showers. JFK can be one of the most awful places… and yet this lounge is still an oasis.

  3. Finally on this blog something that is important and we all care about;) In all seriousness this is actually useful information and it’s so merging that will impact on my choice of airline!

  4. I must have learned it here, that my QR Platinum gives me access to Flagship lounges flying within USA. I have enjoyed both MIA and ORD lounges, way above the quality of AAdmirals Club. When I realized I can get in with QR Platinum I stopped my subscription to AAdmirals Club.

  5. LAX Regular Flagship had Bollinger on Tuesday. Manager over in Flagship First Dining (where they STILL don’t have a vintage option despite the listing on the menu) said they would be ADDING another option, but Bollinger would be staying. But with all the misinformation from Sodexo, not so sure it’s that reliable.

  6. Lax had bollinger 2 weeks ago. 5 days before that ORD had Taittinger.

    Do you mind talking about how you got access on Monday with your OW Emerald? Did they let you in after an arriving flight, or did you have a departing boarding pass? I’ve been contemplating trying ORD (my home airport) after arriving.

  7. LaMarca prosecco is unacceptable in a flagship lounge however, I would take Tattinger over Bollinger any day. Retail price of wines/champagnes is not always the best judge of taste/quality.

  8. Funny Luis, I think it’s a matter of what one’s used to. Bollinger has been my go to champagne for 30 years, so it’s a draw for me. Tat is acceptable, but I’d prefer a red to Tat on most occasions.

  9. I hope Zach Honig doesn’t read your disparaging remarks about the United Polaris fiasco.

    That wimp has dirty knees and a brown nose from every time he visits United’s headquarters.

  10. US Lounge programs from any airline need to be re-done i think. There is hardly any “style” except the 2 i’ve been to so far, JFK and LAX AA Flagship Lounges. Even tge so much loved (by others!) Seattle DL Lounge, oh my …. Air France or Lufthansa Business Lounges are much better then that Hub Lounge from DELTA. Thinking of EWR UNITED …. whatca nightmare! Crackers, cheese and grapes at 1pm, really??? This is why i think Mayor int. Airlines do offer way more incl. Lounge Service then any US Airline, plus if you’re an Alliance Status Flyer, you get access to US Lounges, but if uou lotal to a US program you don’t. Just 1 of the mayor reasons to avoibd US Airlines wherever possible! Some Priority Lounges are much better then Airline Lounges inntge US! Think about it.

  11. @Lucky,

    no idea where you get your Champagne prices from but my usual Mahattan large liquor store which advertises discounts but not rock bottom far from it, sells Bollinger for under 50 and Taittinger for under 40 (35 I believe).

    The danger of having such comforts picked by the local Bobby and Des of this world, presumably of the same Doug P sophistication (Birds of a feather etc…), is that you will end up with Korbel in no time. Watch for it, trial ground for such (inflight) downgrades usually is on routes between US and South America 1 where, admittedly, nobody notices. Unfortunately, it expands from there.

    There was a time last year (It did not last) when all bubbly was downgraded to proseco. Nothing wrong with this, a good proseco is better than a bad Champagne, but what we got during 3 months was the same as the one you made fun of when reviewing a Chinese airline some time ago. So it’s a dangerous slope.

  12. Can you get access to these lounges if you are departing on a one world partner business class flight?

  13. @DavidB

    Aren’t you symplifying a tad ?

    Of course, if you work for Korbel, your post makes plenty of sense. Otherwise…. I do not know of ANY airline which serves a tasting of 3. UTA used to do it in F but they were bought by AF in the 90’s.

    BTW, that Qatar, just flown yesterday, now serves both rose and traditional Lanson is a downgrade too, they both are mediocre. And the wonderful Sauternes is gone, replaced by an unknown “dessert” (?) plonk.

  14. They have been serving Tattinger champagne at The One World Lounge at MIA for at least the last 3 years at a minimum. The food there is crummy. That’s how long I have been an Admirals club member at least. They allow access to any club member regardless of destination or status. Keep in mind they share their lounge with other one world carriers at MIA. It’s a decent Champagne.

  15. “The degree of champagne snobbery found here and on FlyerTalk continues to amaze me”

    The air of insulting criticism of commenters on this blog towards people they have never met, and have no knowledge of, continues to amaze me.

    I probably can’t distinguish between a Mumm and a Delamotte served blind. But I can definitely tell the difference between a decent quality French Champagne and a Prosecco. I’m willing to drink a decent Prosecco in a Priority Lounge, if that’s the best they have. But if I’ve just boarded after drinking Bollinger in a Flagship lounge, going back to a Prosecco is going to be a real disappointment in comparison.

    “A proper champagne/sparkling selection….would comprise at least a brut and rose from France, and a local version of sparkler like Schramsberg blanc de blanc (in the US) or cava/prosecco/etc.”

    Why in the world, or up in the air, would one want to have a Schramsberg (much less a cava) available, when quality French champagnes are also available, is beyond me. When flying AA International flights, departing from a US airport, I always skip the plonk they serve pre-departure. Due to US taxes it’s some local “sparkler” that’s not worth bothering with, particularly if you’ve been drinking quality Champagne in the lounge. I just tell the FA “when you open the genuine champagne after take off, I’d love to have a glass of that”.

    And no, I don’t have to see the label to tell the difference.

    BTW, after flying SQ Suites a number of times, we’ve established that my wife far prefers the Dom, and I absolutely prefer the Krug. Comments about how one can’t really taste the difference at altitude not withstanding. 😉

  16. @Pierre
    BA (that airline with the not-so-wonderful seats in J) serves three different sparkling wines in J, and a different three in F.
    Each set of three is typically a brut champagne, a rose champagne, and an English methode champenoise (as a Brit I am still somewhat in shock that there are now some rather good English bubblies).

    Interesting point from Qatar: I happen to very much like both brut and rose Lanson, but I don’t expect everyone to do so.
    I agree that it would make sense to offer two different styles to cater to different people’s tastes, i.e. one full-flavoured (like Lanson) and one more delicate (like Tattinger)

  17. This turned out to be an interesting thread. I forgot which Champagne there was in MIA flagship lounge because I made a Negroni … liked the various spirits at the bar and it’s obviously more stylish decor than JFK given the high revenue departures to South America out of MIA. The food was great, the arepas station nice, lots of quality carved meats at the buffet.

    “as long as the label is encrusted in Gold and Black”

    Sounds like Freixenet 🙂

  18. For all this and all there are I continue to cherish the BA 747 upper deck as the sublime travel experience. Yes, I love the Emirates shower and Qatar bar, but there remains something about being a part of the small cabin atop the 747.

  19. LAX Flagship first yesterday – Delamotte. Was Bollinger on Friday last week. The miso salmon and the herb chicken are quite good – good showing by AA thus far. Would have liked Bollinger to stay buthexk this we expected

  20. Tattinger > Bollinger to this EXP, so no harm there.

    BA cut Tattinger out of their F lounges for the insufferable Henriot a couple years ago. Kudos to AA for upping their bubbly game.

  21. American recently introduced a new wine ambassador. Bobby Stuckey now leads AA’s lounge wine program, in addition to onboard. More juice changes coming…

  22. (Master Sommelier formerly of the French Laundry & The Little Nell, Aspen – confident he will continue AA’s award-winning wine program)

  23. Mar 23, 2018 at MIA Flagship, interestingly both Delamotte and Taittinger Brut are there…the staff seems to have no clue about any difference

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *