Review: British Airways First Lounge New York JFK

Filed Under: Airport Lounge Reviews, British Airways

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My flight from New York to London City was departing at 6:45PM, and I arrived at Terminal 7 at around 1PM, plenty early (I was connecting off an American flight, and wanted to make sure I didn’t misconnect).

JFK Terminal 7 exterior

The primary tenant at Terminal 7 is British Airways, followed by Alaska, and then a bunch of other airlines with limited frequencies operate from the terminal. British Airways has been leading a big renovation in Terminal 7, so I was curious to check it out.

The main check-in area looked the same as always…

JFK Terminal 7 check-in hall

However, I noticed huge improvements in the British Airways premium check-in area, which is located inside the terminal and to the left.

British Airways premium check-in JFK

The business class check-in is nothing special, though the first class check-in area is pretty private and nice-looking, and reminds me of the First Wing at Heathrow.

British Airways business class check-in JFK

British Airways first class check-in JFK

At this point there was almost no one working yet, given that it was several hours until the first British Airways departure. While there’s a special security checkpoint near the premium British Airways check-in, it only opens later in the afternoon.

So I headed to the main security checkpoint, where it only took about 10 minutes to get through (which is probably the shortest wait I’ve ever had).

Once past security I took the escalator up a level, turned left, and then took the escalator up another level, as that’s where both the British Airways and Alaska lounges are located.

Escalator to British Airways Lounge JFK

British Airways Lounge JFK exterior

British Airways is in the middle of a renovation of their JFK lounge — as of now the first class section has been renovated, while the business class section will soon be renovated (here’s a review of the business class section in its current form).

The lounge’s entrance has already been redesigned, and looks great.

British Airways Lounge JFK exterior

There my boarding pass was scanned. While I was “only” flying business class, I had access to the first class lounge on account of my oneworld Emerald status. The first class lounge is to the left, while the business class lounge is to the right.

British Airways First Lounge JFK entrance

Before I review this lounge, I think it’s important to set the correct expectations. This isn’t actually British Airways’ first class lounge — that would be the Concorde Room, which is in a separate part of the terminal — but rather this is the lounge that’s for oneworld Emerald members.

British Airways is one of the oneworld airlines that doesn’t allow Emerald members in their “real” first class lounge, which is why they have these “fake” first class lounges.

I’ve reviewed British Airways’ old first class lounge at JFK, and it was really drab. It was dark, the furniture was ugly, and it just really wasn’t nice. I actually preferred the business class lounge to the first class lounge.

So by comparison British Airways’ new lounge is gorgeous. Inside the entrance to the lounge was a long hallway that led into the main room.

British Airways First Lounge JFK

Along the main hallway and to the left was the primary seating, as well as the self serve bar.

British Airways First Lounge JFK seating

I love the seats British Airways chose, as they reminded me very much of a Cathay Pacific lounge.

British Airways First Lounge JFK seating

British Airways First Lounge JFK seating

Across from that were some dining tables, with booths along the wall and then chairs across from them.

British Airways First Lounge JFK seating

Past that main room was the wine area, which acted as the centerpiece of the lounge.

British Airways First Lounge New York bar

British Airways First Lounge New York bar

There was a variety of seating along the walls — on one side were swiveling chairs, and on the other side a few benches.

British Airways First Lounge New York seating

British Airways First Lounge New York seating

Back towards the entrance was a business center, which consisted of a communal table with rolling chairs.

British Airways First Lounge JFK business center

One of my biggest lounge pet peeves is when they have TVs playing on high volume. I found it especially strange that they decided to place these TVs in the business center, which seems like the last place they should be.

British Airways First Lounge JFK business center

Then there was another room with a communal table that had high-top seating.

British Airways First Lounge New York seating

So, what was the food and drink selection like? Back at the wine bar was a large selection of self serve liquor.

British Airways First Lounge New York liquor selection

Then they had four red wines and several white wines, rose, and sparkling wine (not exactly an impressive prosecco for a “first class” lounge).

British Airways First Lounge New York wine

British Airways First Lounge New York wine

There were also some basic bar snacks, like snack mix, pretzels, and wasabi peas.

British Airways First Lounge New York snacks

There was also a coffee machine in this area.

British Airways First Lounge New York coffee machine

This was only one of the areas with drinks. There was a wine wall of sorts back in the room with a communal table that had high-top seating.

British Airways First Lounge JFK wine selection

British Airways First Lounge JFK wine selection

Then by the food selection was a coffee machine, soft drinks, water, and more wine.

British Airways First Lounge JFK soft drinks & coffee

When I first arrived in the lounge there wasn’t any “fresh” food out at all, but rather it was only put out a bit before 4PM, about three hours before the first British Airways departure.

Even when fully displayed, the food selection was extremely limited — there were four kinds of finger sandwiches, a few types of veggies, cheese, crackers, chips, and fresh fruit.

British Airways First Lounge New York food

British Airways First Lounge New York food

British Airways First Lounge New York food

British Airways First Lounge New York food

British Airways First Lounge New York food

In addition to that there was a champagne display, as well as an area with cookies.

British Airways First Lounge JFK champagne

British Airways First Lounge JFK snacks & drinks

Why is the food selection so limited for a “first class” lounge? Because next door British Airways has a pre-flight dining facility, where business class passengers can enjoy a full meal. British Airways’ JFK pre-flight dining opens at 4:30PM.

British Airways First Lounge New York entrance to dining area

So I suspect that’s why the selection is so limited in the lounge otherwise. That’s fine for those flying business class, but less great for oneworld Emerald members not flying business class, in which case they have access to less food than you’d find in an American Admirals Club (which is saying a lot).

As far as other amenities go, just inside the entrance to the first class lounge and to the left were the bathrooms, which featured a couple of urinals, one stall, and a couple of sinks.

British Airways First Lounge New York bathroom

British Airways First Lounge New York bathroom

If you want to shower you’ll have to go to the business class section. I’ve reviewed the business class section before, and this portion of the lounge hasn’t yet been renovated.

So for showers just head to the Elemis Spa area, and you’ll see the showers to the left.

British Airways Lounge JFK Elemis Spa

I decided to take a shower around 3PM, and a shower was ready within a few minutes. The shower did the trick, but wasn’t exactly luxurious.

British Airways Lounge JFK shower

British Airways Lounge JFK shower

British Airways Lounge JFK shower

Speaking of the Elemis Spa, I decided to book a treatment. Business class passengers are entitled to a complimentary treatment (space available). The Elemis Spa opens at 4PM, so I showed up then and made a reservation for 5:20PM.

Complimentary treatments last 15 minutes, and you can choose between a facial, scalp massage, back and shoulder massage, and foot massage.

I had a back and shoulder massage, and my therapist Joe was excellent. As we left the room I wanted to snap a picture of the treatment room (you know, as I snap pictures of everything in my travels), and as a courtesy I asked — “this is really nice, is it okay if I take a picture of the treatment room?”

“They don’t like people taking pictures, sorry.”

I’m not sure who “they” are, but alrighty then…

My flight to London City was departing from gate 1, and boarding was scheduled for 6:15PM. While Terminal 7 is by no means going to win awards anytime soon, I do have to say that the renovations have helped in making the terminal less sucky.

JFK Terminal 7

JFK Terminal 7

Gate 1 is at the far end of the terminal, right near the Concorde Room. It’s not often you see a gate area for a transatlantic flight this empty just minutes before boarding, but that’s the joy of flying a plane with at most 32 passengers.

Boarding began at 6:15PM, and I was the only passenger in the gate area. COOL!

Departure gate to London City

As far as lounge crowding goes, the lounge remained really empty until around 3PM. ANA first class passengers can use the first class section of the lounge, so those were the only other passengers in the lounge for the first couple of hours. Well, except for this Aerolineas Argentinas passenger who was supposed to use the business class lounge but refused — she insisted she was a “first class” person, and should be allowed in that part of the lounge.

Then after 4PM the lounge really filled up with British Airways passengers. Below is the departures board, just to give you a sense of all the flights departing from Terminal 7.

JFK Terminal 7 departures board

British Airways First Lounge JFK bottom line

The new British Airways First Lounge JFK is a massive upgrade over the old one. The old lounge was a dungeon that I avoided, while I think this one is beautifully designed, and almost feels like a Cathay Pacific lounge, which is a pretty big compliment.  It’s not quite up there with the best airport lounges in the world, but it’s a good place to pass some time.

All things considered the lounge has pretty solid amenities — I got a shower, I got a 15 minute massage, and I had a good pre-flight dinner (which I’ll cover in the next installment).

However, this lounge does get really full, to the point that there were virtually no empty seats.

One other thing is that the first class section has a really lackluster food selection. That’s totally fine if you’re flying business class, since you can access the dining area, but it’s more of an issue if you’re a oneworld Emerald flying in economy or premium economy.

So while this isn’t my favorite lounge in the world, it’s a massive improvement over the old one.

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  1. You rather imply that the “First” loung is inferior to the Business Class lounge.

    I’ve not been to JFK recently but at Heathrow that is definitely not the case. The First lounge is much superior to the Business lounge at T5 e.g. hot food, champagne and less crowded.

    And that surely must be the case because OW Sapphire can also use the Business lounge as well as Business Class pax, whilst you need to be OW Emerald to use the First lounge. In both cases the “real” First lounge is the separate Concorde room.

    Why do OW Sapphire pax get pre-flight dining but OW Emerald pax do not?

  2. Was there last month, OWE in PE, so no access to dining. They had a staff member with a Gin & Tonic cart making drinks. I had one with a slice of orange in it, can’t remember the brand of gin, but it was delicious. Food was limited but I don’t like to eat a big meal prior to an overnight flight. We ate earlier at the AA Flagship lounge in T8 which has a very nice buffet.

  3. @Tom: OW Sapphire do not get pre-flight dining unless FLYING in business class. Same as OW Emerald. OWE can use First class lounge, though.

  4. Hmm, the lack of food is an unacceptable omission. I wonder how this works for ANA First Class passengers? Does this mean that ANA’s business class passengers have access to more/better food in the BA business lounge?

  5. @Tom, @Justin

    JFK is a very different setup than Heathrow. Lucky is not implying the business class area is superior, but that more of the shared facilities are there. The first class lounge is nowhere near as large as the business class area, and prior to the renovation was definitely inferior to to its small size and dark, crappy furniture. The food selection is similar in both, with better wines and cheeses in first class.

    Only those flying in business class can use pre-flight dining, which isn’t offered at Heathrow in that class anyway since there are more substantial buffets.

    Those actually flying in First would use the Concord room anyway which includes superior pre-flight dining.

    Thanks for the review Lucky can’t wait to try this lounge – looks vastly better than the old one (and about time!).

  6. If you were to remove all branding and put someone in the British Airways and JetBlue terminals and asked someone to guess which was a low-cost carrier and which airline flew the Concorde I’m pretty sure everyone would get it wrong.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure if you were to put someone in the neighboring Alaska Lounge and then this ‘First Class’ lounge and guess which was the appropriate lounge for a premium cabin international ticket they’d get it wrong too (at least until they saw the booze/food selection, natch.)

  7. Disappointing that the First Lounge in JFK has JW Red, while they spring for JW Blue in LHR (both T3 and T5).

  8. Wait, so if we were flying in ANA First class, would we be allowed in the pre-flight dining area in Business lounge or can we go to the Concorde also? I thought Concorde was restricted to British Airways F only, not their partners.

  9. @Tom – I said terminal, not lounge. (at JFK BA owns T7, JetBlue owns T5. The comparison is that T5, which is home to a low-cost carrier is significantly nicer than T7, which is home to British Airways.)

  10. So ANA First Class passengers don’t have access to the Concord room OR the pre-flight dining…. At least their onboard meals are good…

  11. Isn’t T7 going to be demolished and annexed by JetBlue very soon? Didn’t BA know the decision before renovating the terminal? Or they were aware their investment would only last for less than 5 years…

  12. @Zich that was my understanding. I guess BA was fighting to for redevelopment rights but lost to JetBlue. Either way, they had to do something because the terminal was in bad shape, but the real question is why they let it get that bad in the first place.

  13. @Ryan

    T5 Galleries First doesn’t serve JW Blue, do they? As I recall it is limited to the Concorde Room. T3 Galleries First does have JW Blue sitting out as free pour, but that’s because BA no separate “true F lounge” in T3.

  14. You made the point about access to concorde lounge for first and not owe … Qatar do the same but I still think there is a difference. At least BA has a first lounge that allows owe in. QR refuses. Hate that bustling business lounge at doha.

  15. @Zich – I do not know what you or others are referring to. BA owns Terminal 7 period. Redevelopment had to do with the extra unused adjacent space between T5 & T7.

  16. The floors and seating remind me of a dated elementary school
    Another reason not to fly BA and pay their phony tax on award tickets.

  17. I’ve been to the old BA lounge at JFK and was not super impressed. Wasn’t bad but just average. The staff there was very good and left a lasting impression though.

  18. Oooh, crackers served with tongs. How luxurious. Pfffft.

    Terminal 7 still needs to be torn down. lounge an all. This has always been a terrible first-class lounge and still is. BA still haven’t fixed the ceiling leaks, which necessitates garbage cans in the middle of the lounge. It remains crowded and absurdly noisy, with staff clattering through with carts like they’re in a prison cafeteria. AA Flagship is no prize, but still better for CX. I have complained to ANA for years that this is a terrible experience for its first-class passengers but to no avail — probably because ANA itself doesn’t offer a great first lounge experience even at Narita.

    All we need now is a revocation of BA-AA antitrust immunity and a little Brexit mayhem to put BA in its place.

  19. The naming of lounges is confusing for some people obviously – but it’s a historical accident. When Concorde was flying the First class lounge was the First class lounge, as the Concorde Rooms were only for those flying on Concorde. It has always seemed a bit strange to me that they didn’t adjust the branding when T5 opened at LHR, as it is clearly very confusing for some passengers – they could have called them the Gold and Silver lounges, leaving the Concorde Room for BA first class only.

    Anyway, this looks like a huge improvement to the JFK First lounge – it was far too small before.

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