Review: British Airways New York JFK First Class Lounge & Pre-Flight Dining

Filed Under: British Airways, Cathay Pacific

Since New York was the international gateway city on my AAdvantage award, I planned a six day stopover there (yes, international stopovers were eliminated with the latest changes to the AAdvantage program). During that time I spent the first two nights in New York, and then I spent the last four nights in Tampa visiting my parents.

To position for my New York to Vancouver flight I booked Tampa to Miami to New York. What was supposed to be a smooth journey with a nearly six hour layover turned out to be quite exciting. The Tampa to Miami flight was normal, though the Miami to New York flight was delayed by an hour, then we had a two hour ground hold due to weather, then we had a medical emergency, and finally we had a go around. So it was one of the more exciting short-haul flights I’ve had in a while.

In the end I made it to New York shortly after 7PM for what was scheduled to be a 9:55PM departure to Vancouver.

American uses Terminal 8 at JFK Airport while British Airways uses Terminal 7, so I took the AirTrain between terminals, which was a quick ride.

Once inside Terminal 7, British Airways and Cathay Pacific first class check-in is located at the far left of the terminal, just past the ticketing desks (like, not check-in desks, but actual desks where you purchase tickets).

Terminal 7 JFK Airport

Terminal 7 check-in signage JFK Airport

British Airways & Cathay Pacific check-in JFK Airport

There was no queue for first class check-in. The agent was polite and informed me that the flight would be delayed about 30 minutes, which worked just fine for me given that I didn’t mind extra time in the lounge to get some work done.

British Airways & Cathay Pacific check-in JFK Airport

While I could see that the general security queues were really long upon entering the building, there’s a premium security queue located to the side of first class check-in, which had only a few people in it. I find the queue usually gets long, but I guess that’s the main benefit of flying on a Saturday night (along with the fact that a Krug hangover is better on a Sunday morning than a Monday morning). šŸ˜‰

Once through security I walked to the other end of the terminal, where I took the escalator up to the British Airways Lounge.

Terminal 7 JFK Airport

The agent at the reception desk was friendly, and directed me to the First Lounge. The lounge is split up into two sections — there’s the first class lounge to the left and business class lounge to the right. The irony is that the first class isn’t actually for British Airways first class passengers. British Airways has a Concorde Room at JFK which is for their own first class passengers. Instead the first class lounge is for passengers traveling in first class on partner airlines, as well as for oneworld Emerald members. Of course, if you wouldn’t otherwise have access, there are a couple options available at JFK for those with a credit card with lounge access.

British Airways Lounge entrance

I’ve visited the First Lounge before, and it’s not especially nice, in my opinion. My main complaint is that it’s dark and has no windows. I love a lounge with a good view, and this lounge doesn’t have one, sadly.

British Airways First Lounge entrance

It is a fairly decent size and tends to not get too crowded, given that really it’s only oneworld Emerald and partner first class passengers.

British Airways First Lounge seating

The lounge features some comfortable lounge chairs, some tables with chairs, and even a small business center.

British Airways First Lounge seating

British Airways First Lounge seating

British Airways First Lounge business center

There’s also a buffet and self serve bar. To the far right of the bar is the liquor selection, packaged snacks, coffee machine, and fridge with soft drinks and beer.

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge snacks

British Airways First Lounge liquor

British Airways First Lounge liquor

British Airways First Lounge coffee machine

Then there’s a separate wine display with a handful of options.

British Airways First Lounge wine & champagne

The champagne on offer was Laurent Perrier 1812, which is pretty respectable for a lounge that’s not even “really” for first class. Further to British Airways’ credit, one of the awesome things about the Concorde Room is that they Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, which is the same champagne they serve in first class (see this post for more about which airlines serve the best champagne).

British Airways First Lounge champagne

The food spread was okay — it featured soup, finger sandwiches, cheese, veggies, salad, etc.

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

British Airways First Lounge buffet

But the food spread in the First Lounge is kind of moot for many guests, since British Airways also has a pre-flight supper facility in the Terraces Lounge. The catch is that only British Airways Club World and first class passengers can use it, along with first class passengers on Cathay Pacific.

In the past when I’ve visited the pre-flight supper room it was packed, so I was surprised by just how empty it was this time around.

British Airways pre-flight supper (notice the leak on the bottom right)

British Airways pre-flight supper

British Airways pre-flight supper

I don’t really like buffets, and unfortunately the pre-flight supper facility consists exclusively of a buffet and is self-serve (in the sense that there’s no server to bring you drinks or anything). The food is fine — it’s edible, but most definitely not gourmet. It’s the quality you’d expect at a $15 all-you-can-eat buffet.

British Airways pre-flight supper menu

British Airways pre-flight supper menu

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper buffet

British Airways pre-flight supper beverage selection

British Airways pre-flight supper dessert

Since I hadn’t eaten since early in the morning I decided to have dinner.

British Airways pre-flight supper

By the time I was done with dinner it was 9:45PM, and we were supposed to depart at 10:25PM. So I went up to the Cathay Pacific agent in the reception area to confirm boarding would start soon, and she said “oh no, the plane hasn’t even landed from Hong Kong yet.” Ouch, that meant it would be at least another 90 minutes till we departed.

So I decided to grab a shower room in the Elemis Spa area, located in the Terraces Lounge. Below is the picture of the shower room as soon as I walked in. While incredibly minor, I’m curious if anyone can spot the “flaw.” šŸ˜‰

British Airways Terraces Lounge shower

After dinner and a shower I decided to hang out in the Terraces Lounge. It feels a bit less like a dungeon than the First Lounge, though not by much. I sat down in a corner right by four “bins” which were catching water from a leak. There was also a leak in the dining area — just embarrassing.

British Airways Terraces Lounge

I’ll pick up on the pre-flight boarding excitement in the next installment…

British Airways New York JFK First Lounge bottom line

Let me frame this within the context of the lounge’s major competition, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is fun, fresh, modern, in immaculate condition (read: no leaks), has amazing service, and the food is all a la carte. Best of all, if you have lounge access you get access to the restaurant area, unlike British Airways, where you have to be flying in first or business class on British Airways or first class on Cathay Pacific (meaning if you use the lounge on account of traveling on a partner in business class or through status, you don’t get fed).

Meanwhile the British Airways lounge system is unnecessarily complicated. You have the Concorde Room for first class passenger. Then you have the first class lounge oneworld Emerald and partner first class passengers. And then you have the business class lounge for business class passengers and oneworld Sapphire members. And then you have a pre-flight supper facility (which isn’t even really good) which many of the passengers in the first class lounge won’t have access to (since oneworld Emeralds don’t get access unless they’re in business class). And for those in the first class lounge with access to pre-flight supper, should they be eating at the first class buffet (which also has food), or at the pre-flight supper facility?

And beyond that the decor is dated and the lack of natural light is depressing.

Since I’m sure someone will call me whiny and say I’m complaining, let me just clarify this. Any lounge is better than no lounge. But when you’re comparing the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic lounge experience at JFK, it’s just such a stark contrast that I wonder why anyone flying between New York and London in business class would choose British Airways over Virgin Atlantic.

  1. I agree that the dim light and lack of a view is a big drawback to this lounge. They had really good, fresh-baked macadamia nut cookies on my last visit though. I could have easily eaten the entire jar full.

  2. My guess on the “flaw” is the toilet paper dangling uneven. Correct? Do I win something, miles? lol

  3. I wonder why anyone flying between New York and London in business class would choose British Airways over Virgin Atlantic <—- because earn BA Avios is more useful than Flying Club miles and earn OneWorld tier much powerful, who don't want use the points to fly Cathay Pacific first class from JFK to Hong Kong but flying club miles can put you on Delta…haha

  4. I’m gonna go with the toilet paper further away from the toilet than normal and the seat covers look to be unusually high on the wall.

  5. I noticed the TP too, but I’d be more bothered by the shower mat already spread out (and the possibility that it may not have been changed from the last person).

  6. Nice review. It does seem complicated. They should merge the two first class lounges together. It’s not like one is SO much better than the other for own customers. They could have one big lounge with better facilities.
    I’ll go with the TP in the photo but I was wondering about the floor mat as well.

  7. I think it is the design of the shower stall so that the water drips outside the area even while showering
    That is a MAJOR flaw in my book
    The EY lounge in Terminal 1 is terrible in that respect
    The water leaks outside and it makes your luggage wet

  8. Also for someone who claims to not like ‘buffets’ you sure eat at a lot of them in your trip reports.

  9. Couple of notes:
    1. No one traveling on a BA First Class ticket visits the BA First Class Lounge. You go to the Concorde Room (which is amazing in comparison).
    2. Anyone traveling on a BA First ticket does not queue for security. BA staff escort you through security and you cut any line that is formed even if it’s for premium customers like Club. Then they take you directly to the Concorde Room which has a true dining room with a great menu. Amazing place to wait for a flight.

  10. Just to let you know that whenever you go through the premium security line, you don’t have to go through the scanner nor get patted down which is seamless. Unfortunately, its only open at night so if you have a morning or afternoon flight, you either have to go through the scanner or get patted down.

  11. It’s a good thing that the ‘stick figure pictures’ for ticketing, check-in, and self check-in are all identical. That should help differentiate the three places for those who don’t read English at a busy international airport.

  12. @ Ben — Yes, when there’s no other option. But at a hotel where I can have a buffet or a la carte breakfast, I’ll always go with the latter.

  13. @ Ben — It is to me. I’d consider a longhaul to be 10+ hours, medium hall to be 5-10 hours, and anything shorter to be shorthaul. Don’t believe there are any “official” definitions, and probably varies based on what each individual is used to.

  14. “Since Iā€™m sure someone will call me whiny and say Iā€™m complaining, let me just clarify this.”

    It’s not being whiny or complaining when you’re directly comparing it to another lounge within the airport as a point of comparison. To be honest, I think you should do more direct comparison’s between loungers/airlines/airports (looking forward to seeing your thoughts on Asian once you fly it again vs. Korean Air) in your TRs, to be honest.

  15. Hi Lucky,
    I have a OW First class ticket(on JJ), I know that I get the AA First class lounge in T8, would you stay there (4-5 hours) or get over to this lounge for a visit?
    Would I get Spa treatment here?

  16. Even the spelling by British Airways is atrocious. Have they forgotten their Peas & Q’s?

    “penang beef curry” should be “Panang” as in “Panang Curry”.

    Penang is the Penang Island, where they serve a mean Penang Assam Laksa.

  17. @ Eric — Unless you have a boarding pass for a flight departing T7 you won’t be allowed to access the terminal, unfortunately. And spa treatments are exclusively for British Airways passengers.

  18. @ Louis — I’d almost take the Flagship Lounge over the BA First Lounge, since the Flagship Lounge has great views and is bright.

  19. Wow you rarely post selfies. Didn’t realize you’re like…40. Nene Leakes? Oh bless your heart. I hope the champagne was good!

  20. On picking BA vs. Virgin for JFK-LHR? The answer is most likely due to pricing/corporate policy. Most of the passengers flying are flying for work. It would be difficult to argue that one of Virgin’s flights fit in your schedule but BA/AA does not.

    BA’s lounge is much superior to UA or DL on the ground. AA has a better hard product in the air 777-300, while BA’s pre flight dining is quite attractive to flyers on the route.

    The London City service is a winner for those that can book it. But for JFK-LHR, Virgin is nice, but i’m not surprised that AA/BA get the bulk of the paid J pax.

  21. So if you’re in ANA business class, can you use the “premium security queue located to the side of first class check-in”?

  22. @ snic — I believe so, assuming it’s open. Though I’m not positive it’s open during the day.

  23. Yeah, I imagine many BA flyers don’t get a choice due to corporate arrangements. Corporate accounts being tired to certain airline(s) is what makes legacies think they can get away with anything šŸ™

  24. Do you know if BA arrival at JFK terminal 7 has Global Entry? I am a travel agent with a global entry first class traveller asking this.

  25. The Security Guards are really nasty at Jfk airport are unprofessional and Nasty.
    My son works at 2 airlines at jfk overnight and went to the British Airways terminal lounge to get a few hours shuteye before starting another 14 hour shift and the guard, who looked of inidian descent, told him and British Airways passengers who were rating also I the nice couches In the lounge, to Move to the Hard seats.
    What wrong with security at JFK and also Britush airways?
    Is that British airways policy to harass customers overnigght?
    My son was there at 4am and had just got off a 14 hour shift
    My suggestion to jfk and British:

    Get sleep capsules like others airports have in Helsinki

  26. The ‘First Class Lounge’ is actually a misnomer. It is actually a Gold Members Lounge. You have the benefit of a bit of peace and quiet away from screaming kids, upgraded wines, real Champagne and some of the spirits, better sandwiches and by the looks of it, the same meal as served to Business Class preflight dining with the ‘Action Station’, light meal by Jet Tila.

    All BA Food menus are printed in lower case by design, not that they don’t know capitalisation. It keeps the text uniform. I sometimes used to change it because I am British :>)

    The shower ‘flaw’, I am also going to say the toilet roll holder is a far reach from the pan when sitting!

    Finally, ceiling leaks are the problem of the airport itself and I am sure the managers have reported it many times. Stuff like that is embarrassing for the staff never mind the guests.

    Good review anyway and right on the money.

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