- Introduction: Four Times Across The Atlantic
- Review: ITA Airways Business Class A350 (MIA-FCO)
- Review: ITA Airways Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- Review: Prima Vista Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- Review: ITA Airways Business Class A320 (FCO-CAI)
- Changing Terminals At Cairo Airport: Still Complicated
- Review: EgyptAir Lounge Cairo Airport (CAI)
- My Rough Night At Cairo Airport, Made Better By EgyptAir’s Osama
- Review: EgyptAir Business Class 787 (CAI-CDG)
- Review: Sheraton Paris Airport (CDG)
- Review: YOTELAIR Paris Airport Priority Pass Lounge (CDG)
- Review: Air France Lounge Paris Airport (CDG)
- Review: New Air France Business Class 777-300ER (CDG-JFK)
- Review: Hyatt Regency JFK At Resorts World New York
- Review: AA & BA Greenwich Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: AA & BA Soho Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: AA & BA Chelsea Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: British Airways Lounge Newark Airport (EWR)
- Review: New British Airways First Class 777 (EWR-LHR)
- Review: Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel (LHR)
- Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: No1 Lounge London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: Virgin Atlantic A330neo Upper Class Business Class (LHR-MIA)
- Is Virgin Atlantic’s Retreat Suite Worth It?
For the next portion of my review trip, I checked out the three “new” American Airlines & British Airways lounges at JFK’s Terminal 8, prior to my British Airways first class flight to London. In this post I’ll review the Chelsea Lounge, and then in separate installments I’ll review the Greenwich Lounge and the Soho Lounge.
The Chelsea Lounge is the most premium of the three lounges, and is intended to replace both American Flagship First Dining and the British Airways Concorde Room. This is an incredibly elegant lounge with a beautiful champagne bar, a dining room with table service, a relaxation area, and more.
While there’s a lot that impressed me about this lounge, it’s not perfect. The lounge has no windows or natural light, which I’d view as a major downside, given that this is also the most premium lounge. Furthermore, I found the food and service to be a mixed bag, and the champagne selection isn’t as impressive as I was expecting.
In this post:
Basics of American & British Airways JFK lounges
To provide a bit of background, in late 2022, British Airways moved to Terminal 8 at JFK. American Airlines and British Airways have a lucrative transatlantic joint venture, and New York to London is one of the most important air markets in the world. As a result, this terminal move was a big development for the two airlines.
Given how big the combined presence of the two carriers is at JFK, we’ve seen major lounge investments at Terminal 8. There are now three premium lounges in the terminal — the Greenwich Lounge, the Soho Lounge, and the Chelsea Lounge.
While it’s cute that they’re named after neighborhoods that exist in both New York and London, the names don’t do a whole lot to tell you which is most premium, and which you have access to.
To briefly summarize the basics of the three lounges:
- The Chelsea Lounge is the most exclusive lounge, and is roughly 10,000 square feet with seating for 128 passengers, and it’s an all-new space; it’s open to select first class passengers on American and British Airways, and it replaces the former Flagship First Dining facility
- The Soho Lounge is the next lounge, and is roughly 12,000 square feet with seating for 282 guests, and it’s an all-new space; it’s open to oneworld Emerald members on select itineraries
- The Greenwich Lounge is the final lounge, and is roughly 27,000 square feet with seating for 590 guests, and it replaces the former Flagship Lounge; it’s open to select business class passengers on all oneworld airlines, plus oneworld Sapphire members on select itineraries
I’ll go into more detail on each of the lounge’s entry requirements with the individual reviews, but wanted to provide a basic overview. Note that in addition to this there’s the Admirals Club, which has standard Admirals Club access rules.
Chelsea Lounge New York location
The Chelsea Lounge New York is easy to find. Once you clear security at JFK Terminal 8, just walk down the main pathway toward the gates, past the Bobby Van’s Grill (which is on the right).
You’ll see signage above the walkway pointing in the direction of the various lounges, and as you can see, the Chelsea Lounge and Soho Lounge are to the right.
When you turn right toward gates 14-20, you’ll immediately see the elevators to the Chelsea Lounge and Soho Lounge to the right (meanwhile if you turn left, you’d immediately see the elevators to the Greenwich Lounge to the left).
There are signs on the terminal level explaining the access requirements for the two lounges, since this can obviously cause some confusion.
Once you’re up a level, you’ll see the entrance to the Chelsea Lounge to the right, and the entrance to the Soho Lounge straight ahead.
Chelsea Lounge New York hours
The Chelsea Lounge JFK is open daily from 4:30AM until 11PM, covering virtually all departures from the terminal. If you’re departing on a oneworld flight, then the Chelsea Lounge should be open.
Chelsea Lounge New York entry requirements
The Chelsea Lounge has the strictest entry requirements of any lounge in Terminal 8. This is intended to be the premium international first class lounge. The Chelsea Lounge can be accessed by:
- American Flagship First passengers; this includes those on premium transcon flights (to LAX, SFO, and SNA), as well as long haul first class flights
- American Flagship Business Plus passengers; this is a special fare bundle that American sells with some business class fares
- British Airways first class passengers
- American Concierge Key members traveling on a Flagship international itinerary, premium transcon route, on a qualifying flight to Hawaii, or on a British Airways long haul flight
- British Airways Gold Guest List members traveling on any American or British Airways flight
Transcon first class passengers are allowed no guests, long haul first class passengers are allowed one guest, and Concierge Key and Gold Guest List members are allowed two guests.
Before I get into the review, let me note that if you have access to the Chelsea Lounge, you can also access the Soho Lounge and Greenwich Lounge. I can definitely see value to splitting time between the Chelsea Lounge (for the superior food and drinks) and the Soho Lounge (for the natural light and airport views).
Chelsea Lounge New York layout & seating
The Chelsea Lounge JFK is 10,000 square feet, with seating for 128 guests. The lounge feels intimate and elegant. When you first enter the lounge, your eyes will be drawn to the beautiful circular champagne bar, which is where all drinks are served from.
There are rows of seats along the exterior of the lounge by the bar, as well as couches, with plenty of power outlets. As I mentioned above, the lounge frustratingly lacks natural light, though at least there are some backlit panels with scenery, which at least help a little bit in that regard.
Deeper into the space is the general area for lounging, featuring couches and chairs with tables. I like how the space is sectioned off, so that it feels like the lounge has a few distinct areas. There’s also a fireplace in this area.
Also in this area are a few workstations, which have booths with tables.
In the very back of the lounge is the dining area, with just over a dozen tables.
There’s also a relaxation room to the side of the lounge, which has daybeds separated by drapes. As is the case for the relaxation area in the Soho Lounge, it would be nice if there were some bedding here as well, so you could really get cozy.
All-in-all, this lounge has stunning decor, and looks even better in person than in pictures, in my opinion. Nonetheless if you have an extended layover, I’d absolutely also spend some time over in the Soho Lounge, to enjoy the views and natural light.
Much like the other lounges at Terminal 8, this lounge was deserted in the mornings and early afternoons. When I was here at 12PM, I was the only person in the lounge. Meanwhile it can get a bit busier in the evenings, before all the long haul flights to Europe and beyond.
Chelsea Lounge New York food & drinks
The Chelsea Lounge almost exclusively has a la carte dining, intended to differentiate this lounge from the others. The only self-serve food is from a small buffet that’s near the bar. This area just had some sweets, chips, and whole fruit.
Breakfast is served at the Chelsea Lounge from opening until 11AM, and you can find the menu below.
Then the all-day dining menu kicks in at 11AM until close, and you can also order afternoon tea between 3PM and 6PM.
I dined here on two separate occasions (once at around 5AM, and once at around 12PM). For breakfast, I had the acai, granola, and berry bowl, and then I had the sourdough avocado toast.
Then for lunch I decided to order three different appetizers, though that ended up being way too much food, as the portions were bigger than I was expecting. I ordered the prawn cocktail, wild mushroom toast, and honey roasted beets.
I thought the food was… good(ish). It felt to me like a downgrade compared to the Flagship First Dining facility that used to exist. I’ve certainly had more exciting avocado toast, the prawn cocktail had way too much mayonnaise for my liking (or whatever the base in that sauce is), and the toast for the mushroom toast was very hard, crunchy (but not in a good way), and dry.
So while I thought the presentation was nice, the quality left a bit to be desired, at least based on my taste buds.
Now let’s talk a bit about drinks. Below you can also find the drink menu for the Chelsea Lounge.
As you’d expect, champagne is a big focus in this lounge, to the point that there’s even a champagne bar. When this lounge first opened, there was heavy emphasis placed on how there would be well over a dozen different kinds of champagne, including Krug.
Well, as it turns out, that’s not the case. The selection does apparently rotate over time, though during any given visit, the choices are much more limited. During my visit there was no Ruinart available (despite being on the menu), so there were four different champagne choices, all from Moët & Chandon (there seems to be a partnership there, as you can tell).
I also ordered a cappuccino during my visit. Unfortunately there’s no barista-made coffee here, so the lounge just has mediocre, watery machine cappuccinos. I don’t understand why American invests so much in lounge alcohol, but so little in lounge coffee.
While I’m a fan of the a la carte dining concept, unfortunately the execution left a bit to be desired.
Chelsea Lounge New York bathrooms & showers
The Chelsea Lounge JFK has bathrooms and shower suites in the very back. The men’s room had three sinks, three stalls, and three urinals.
There are also a few pretty nice shower suites, each with a toilet, sink, and walk-in shower.
Just like in the Soho Lounge (and unlike in the Greenwich Lounge) toiletries are in unbranded reusable containers.
Chelsea Lounge New York service
As you’d expect, one of the key features of the Chelsea Lounge is supposed to be much more attentive service, given that you can’t even serve yourself. I had a mixed experience when it came to the staff in the lounge.
During my morning visit, I found the staff to be top notch. The gentleman who seemed to be managing the lounge was hands on, would constantly see if anyone wanted anything, etc. He seemed to set the tone for the service in the lounge, as the staff in the restaurant area were excellent as well.
Then there was a shift change, and when I had lunch in the afternoon, service was pretty awful. I was literally the only guest in the lounge, and the server never came to check on me after serving me the meal, to see how everything was, or if I wanted something else to drink. I even struggled to flag her down, as she was playing on her phone and not looking up.
Usually I like to tip in lounges in the United States when there’s a la carte dining, but I didn’t feel that was appropriate for her given the lack of service, and that I couldn’t even get her attention.
So yeah, there’s definitely some inconsistency when it comes to service in the lounge.
The Chelsea Lounge is in many ways spectacular. The United States doesn’t exactly have many great airport lounges, and this is among the best in the country. The design is stunning, and it’s nice to have a proper a la carte dining experience. To get an experience like this while flying American Airlines is awesome.
At the same time, this lounge isn’t perfect. The lack of natural light is a major drawback for those of us who are solar powered avgeeks. Obviously there’s nothing that can be done to fix that at this point. What can be fixed, however, is the service and food quality, which I found to be variable.
Despite the lounge’s shortcomings, this is still one of the best lounges in the United States, and is a treat to visit. Personally I think it’s better than the former British Airways Concorde Room, but not quite as good as American Flagship First Dining. Then again, Flagship First Dining was designed as more of a restaurant than as a separate lounge.
What do you make of the Chelsea Lounge JFK?