American’s “Secret” Flagship Lounge Keeps Getting Better

Over the past 15 months or so, American has greatly improved their premium lounge experience. American has opened Flagship Lounges in ChicagoLos AngelesMiami, and New York, which are open to those traveling in international business class, premium transcon business class, as well as oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members.

On top of that, they’ve opened up Flagship First Dining in Los AngelesMiami, and New York, which is available to those traveling in three cabin first class.

Overall I’m really impressed by these lounges. The Flagship Lounges represent a significant improvement for elite members and business class passengers, while Flagship First Dining is the best lounge experience offered by any US airline.

American’s Flagship Lounge at JFK has one unique feature that no other Flagship Lounges have. Specifically, the Flagship Lounge JFK has what’s referred to as the Flagship Bridge (not to be confused with Flagship First Dining), which is a separate part of the Flagship Lounge. The key is that this has the same access requirements as the Flagship Lounge, but you have to know to ask for it.

In January I wrote about this space, and how it’s the best kept secret of the lounge. I’ll take it a step further and say that this might just be the best kept secret altogether when it comes to American’s premium ground experience.

I had the chance to visit the Flagship Lounge last night prior to a flight to LAX (where I easily cleared an upgrade from economy to business — it’s upgrades on these transcon flights that largely keep me loyal to American), and my gosh, this space has gotten even better than it was before.

I figured the lounge would be more crowded as more people find out about it, but nope. The lounge had no more than a handful of people in it the entire time, despite it being a Friday night (this is because American really does keep it a secret — you have to specifically ask to use this space, and selfishly I hope they keep it this way).

I sat there for almost three hours, and had the back portion of the lounge to myself the entire time.

The reason I’m writing about this again is because the Flagship Bridge menu has improved since the last time I visited. The last time I visited, the Flagship Bridge had three a la carte options, and I thought they were “meh” — the options included a burger, flatbread, and caesar salad, all of which don’t sound that great to me. Still, given that it’s the only a la carte dining American offers for business class passengers anywhere, I thought it was pretty good.

The menu is now even better — American has four options instead of three, and they’re so much better. Here’s the menu:

And here’s the drink list:

The Flagship Bridge has servers, and I’ve found them to be consistently excellent. I was being taken care of by Eric, and he checked on me constantly, and couldn’t have been more professional (in stark contrast to my experience at Bobby Van’s). I ordered a sparkling water and sauvignon blanc to drink.

I thought the menu options sounded excellent, but I was very skeptical of American’s ability to execute these dishes. Much to my surprise — shock, actually — the food was exceptional. I don’t just mean restaurant quality, but rather high-end restaurant quality.

I started with the Korean short rib tacos with slow cooked beef short ribs, house made pickled onions, and cilantro creme. OMFG this dish was good. Like, it was so good that I almost wanted to order another one of those, even though I wanted to work my way through at least a bit more of the menu — the temperature was perfect, the tacos were crisp, the short ribs beautifully prepared, and the pickled onions and cilantro creme added a nice kick to it.

Full disclosure — yes, I ate at Bobby Van’s and then went to the Flagship Bridge to eat. In my defense:

  • I hadn’t eaten for 12 hours (not intentionally, but because it was a crazy day)
  • I didn’t even get close to finishing everything at Bobby Van’s, because it wasn’t great, and I didn’t quite finish everything at the Flagship Bridge either
  • This is my job, and I figured I’d take one for the team 😉

I figured I needed to try one more dish to see if the quality was a fluke, or what. Surely American can’t serve a la carte food this good in a business class lounge?

So next up I wanted to order the wasabi pea crusted ahi tuna. Eric advised me that it would take about an hour until that was ready, as they were still preparing it for the evening. I said that was fine, though it ended up taking a bit longer and I wasn’t sure I’d get it before my flight, so I switched to the greek salad instead, which was equally good.

After I finished my salad, Eric surprised me by bringing over the ahi tuna as well. While I was full at this point, I’m happy he did, because this was the best of the three dishes.

I was in disbelief at the quality of the food, and in particular the tacos and ahi tuna. To be clear, I wouldn’t be surprised by this kind of quality in Flagship First Dining, but to get this as a business class passenger is awesome. I guess the reason the food quality is actually quite good is because it’s prepared in the same kitchen as the Flagship First Dining food.

But that doesn’t make it any less impressive, since this is American’s only a la carte dining on the ground for business class passenger.

Bottom line

American’s Flagship First Bridge JFK really impresses me. It continues to be empty, has some friendly people working there (thanks to Eric for taking such great care of me!), and now has better food than ever before.

Again, this is a total secret, so you have to know to ask for it. If you have access to the Flagship Lounge then you’ll be pointed towards that, but the Flagship Bridge has the same entry requirements, yet it’s inside the Admirals Club, with a separate entrance there. You can of course go back and forth between the two, but frankly I don’t bother visiting the Flagship Lounge anymore, but rather just spend my time at the quieter Flagship Bridge, with better food and service.

Visiting the Flagship Bridge is such a treat, and I always get especially giddy about it when I’m flying transcon business class with an upgrade, when no other airline gives you access to a decent lounge.

Lastly, this further reinforces how bad Bobby Van’s was. The Flagship Bridge isn’t a restaurant, but had significantly better food, service, and ambiance.

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Comments

  1. The worst burger in the last two years that I ate was in the JFK Bridge part of the Flagship Lounge. The other food was poor too – lukewarm flatbread that wasn’t fully cooked, etc. Yet others rave about it, I guess I’ll have to try it again.

    I don’t get that way next time, but I was going to try Bobby Vans. Has anyone try the burger?

  2. So as OW Emerald (non AA) I should have access to the Flagship Bridge even when only flying domestic eco, right?

  3. I visit there junte, but I see others have the choose, and the most go to the regular flaghship lounge not the bridge, see other that enter the bridge and go to eat on the other.
    I eat the margherita flatbread( have the picture if you want).

  4. Saying it’s not busy “despite it being a Friday night” isn’t saying much given how Friday evenings compare to much heavier travel times throughout the week… especially for frequent flyers and business travelers

  5. Sometimes, I’m proactively offered access to the lounge when I check in at the desk here at JFK. They sometimes show me to the right and pull the rope aside, without me mentioning a thing.

  6. @ Jetset — For travel to/from Europe (which is primarily who would be using this lounge, since it’s primarily for international premium travelers), Fridays and Sundays are peak travel dates. Midweek dates aren’t.

  7. @Charles What are you talking about? Last time I checked, Brooklyn is pretty close to JFK. Brooklyn Brewing is smaller than Deschutes, Bells, Founders, and Stone, and slightly larger than Dogfish Head. What’s not craft about that?

  8. @Lucky, When flying on a connecting flight from MIA to LHR via JFK, can I access the flagship Lounges in Miami and JFK

  9. What’s the rationale behind making this secret? It seems it defeats the point of providing excellent service if most of your passengers don’t even know it’s there!

  10. I’ve been an Admirals Club for a couple years now but have never had the pleasure of visiting a Flagship Lounge. Next week, I’m flying a LAX-JFK TRANSCON in First Class and am looking forward to checking it out.

  11. It’s really puzzling why they would keep it a secret. If they’re already incurring the cost of running the place, they might as well increase the number of people who can enjoy this special experience. At least they might give explicit invitations at the entrance of the lounge in general. Puzzling.

  12. I liked the United Polaris Dining even better than Flagship First… United Polaris lounges have been flat out impressing me. At this point, Delta is a low-cost carrier for international service. United and American have turned Delta into what is by-far the worst airline in the US for premium services.

  13. @beachfan I am Ckey and ALWAYS to the burger in the loungue. Unfortunetly its out from the menu during summer. But I managed last time to get into the first class dining to have the burger.
    I am a huge restaurant and burger fan and prefer the burger than the first and business class food.
    I hope they bring it back as they promissed last time a checked.
    Where do you like burger? I may try your places

  14. Thanks to your post earlier, I always turn to the right upon check-in. The menu seems identical for a while (a year+) with four options on the food menu. When I saw the title I thought they decided to turn the ‘Bridge’ into OWE lounge..

  15. The Bridge wouldn’t be so secret if the agents at check in told people about it, which they should. I’ve peaked in there a couple of times and its been empty. The staff at the entrance doesn’t explain it well. It sounded funky. They should be getting a little more business now.

  16. Yesterday, I went to this room, but I had to tell the angry woman in the office to let me tell him that I was right and he let me go when I told him it was wrong, but unfortunately my experience was not so positive you described, so I will not fly with them.

  17. I use this lounge with some regularity. I’ve noticed lately that it isn’t uncommon for the agent at the front desk to proactively point out to me (as a OW Emerald) that I can use the main lounge or the separate section. Nevertheless it’s rarely busy in there.

    Eric is awesome! He knows my wife and I know and when he sees us come through he gets our usual drinks orders together. We had a spate where we were using the lounge almost every week at the beginning of the year and now he asks us where we’ve been if we’ve not been through in a month or so. Super guy!

  18. We used the bridge about 2 weeks ago before flying to EZE. For my kids (8 and 10) the tacos and the tuna were the perfect dinner before the flight and they definitely enjoyed that more than the AA plane food :). Server was excellent. Friendly, fast and on point. Kudos to AA for putting this together.

  19. Tried the flagship 1st dining at JFK in April. There was only 1 other couple in th editing room. I had the burger, which was good, but I found the service to be very slow. I had to approach the bartender to request a refill on my wine, and it took nearly 40 minutes to get the burger!

  20. That Tuna would have been cooked for all of 5 minutes, why did it take them an hour to bring it out? Did they have to catch it first?

    Or, at what times do / don’t they serve meals up there?

  21. Agreed: Absolutely loved the tacos – so much better than anything on the menu in FFD! Sort of disappointed, though, that they pulled the Bollinger from the floor, and replaced it with a budget sparkler, only to then shift Bollinger to FFD replacing the much nicer vintage Heidsieck. Unless your a champagne snob, I guess it’s all good news, nevertheless!

  22. Just in the Bridge – extremely quiet and pleasant. In terms of the food, I wasn’t really a fan of the tuna, but the tacos were one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.

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