1st look: American Airlines, British Airways unveil 3 gorgeous lounges in JFK’s Terminal 8

Chelsea, Soho and Greenwich.

Three iconic neighborhoods, found in both New York and London, are now the names of the new premium lounges in Terminal 8 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

They’ll open their doors on Thursday. That’s when British Airways officially moves into Terminal 8 — a co-location with American Airlines that’s been years in the making.

Historically, Terminal 8 has been home to American Airlines operations in JFK (including two Admirals Clubs, a Flagship Lounge and a Flagship First Dining facility). In 2019, however, American announced that its marquee Atlantic Joint Venture partner, British Airways, would co-locate in Terminal 8.

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To do that, the two airlines invested $400 million in expanding Terminal 8, adding more wide-body gates, redeveloping the baggage handling system and elevating the premium experience.

Thursday marks the big day for BA’s move from its existing JFK home in Terminal 7; the co-location will create a seamless experience for the scores of passengers with connecting flights operated by American and BA.

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In fact, Terminal 8 is quickly becoming the Oneworld alliance hub in New York, with Iberia (a Oneworld and Atlantic Joint Venture member) also moving in as of Thursday. Japan Airlines, another Oneworld member, is switching to Terminal 8 in May 2023.

To celebrate the big co-location and terminal expansion, American CEO Robert Isom, BA CEO Sean Doyle and representatives from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the agency that oversees JFK — hosted a press conference to unveil the all-new spaces.

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Here’s your first look inside.

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Revamped premium check-in facility

The premium experience begins the minute you enter Terminal 8 with two all-new, wood-lined premium check-in facilities.

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The more exclusive area is reserved for a few select flyers (details below), and it offers the most private check-in experience in the entire terminal.

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After verifying your eligibility, an agent will escort you through frosted glass doors to one of the roughly 10 check-in desks.

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There aren’t any traditional counters here — you can complete check-in formalities while you’re sitting or relaxing. Not to mention, your checked luggage will be carted off to the baggage system without you lifting a finger.

With stylish carpets, fancy sconces and marble accents, this space feels quite posh — and it represents a big design upgrade over the Flagship First check-in facility that used to occupy this space.

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From here, you’ll be escorted directly to the front of the security line, which is located just a few steps away from this area.

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Meanwhile, all other flyers with priority check-in access will use the larger, open-air check-in facility. This space isn’t nearly as exclusive as the one reserved for first class, but it’s still much nicer than the regular lanes.

There are lanes dedicated to counter and kiosk service, and there are even a few couches to help you regroup from the check-in experience.

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After completing check-in, you’ll exit the facility right in front of the priority and TSA PreCheck security lane.

Access to the more exclusive check-in facility will be limited to the following passengers:

  • American Flagship First flyers (including on transcontinental routes).
  • American Flagship Business Plus flyers (this is a new bundle available on select routes).
  • American invite-only Concierge Key members on all routes.
  • American Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members on long-haul Flagship routes, including from the U.S. to:
  • Asia.
  • Australia.
  • Europe.
  • Middle East.
  • New Zealand.
  • South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
  • Access is available regardless of cabin class.
  • Note that transcontinental routes are excluded.
  • British Airways first-class passengers.
  • British Airways Gold members.
  • Oneworld Emerald members from non-U.S. programs on any same-day Oneworld flights.

Meanwhile, the open-air check-in area will welcome the following flyers:

  • American Flagship Business flyers (including on transcontinental routes).
  • American Platinum members on long-haul Flagship routes, including from the U.S. to:
  • Asia.
  • Australia.
  • Europe.
  • Middle East.
  • New Zealand.
  • South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
  • Access is available regardless of cabin class.
  • Note that transcontinental routes are excluded.
  • British Airways Club World passengers.
  • British Airways Silver members.
  • Oneworld Sapphire members from non-U.S. programs on any same-day Oneworld flights.

Chelsea Lounge at JFK

After clearing security, you’ll make your way to one of three lounges.

The fanciest and most exclusive is dubbed the Chelsea Lounge, and is located on the upper level above gates 14 to 20.

After verifying eligibility (details below), you’ll be escorted to the lounge’s signature circular Champagne bar. The bar seats about 15, but the servers would be happy to bring a crystal flute to wherever you choose to sit.

There’s no doubt that the bar is one of the snazziest I’ve ever seen in an airport lounge. Hanging from the ceiling are 150 hand-molded pieces of frosted glass, which were created exclusively for American and BA in the Czech Republic.

Of note, Krug Champagne will be on offer, along with a long list of other labels, all of which you can find below in the menu.

Chelsea Lounge JFK Champagne menu. COURTESY AMERICAN AIRLINES

The Chelsea Lounge measures about 10,000 square feet and has seating for 128 flyers. There are a variety of seating options lining the perimeter of the space, ranging from individual recliners to couches to comfy chairs.

Each seat is within arm’s reach of a power outlet, as well as a USB-A and USB-C port. The walls are lined with a live digital “wallpaper” that changes settings throughout the day, which should help set the mood before your flight.

Unfortunately, this space doesn’t have any windows or natural light.

In addition to the Champagne bar, there’ll be a fireplace in the center of the lounge, but it wasn’t installed yet during TPG’s tour. There are a few workstations built into the wall toward the back of the lounge, and there’s also a dedicated relaxation area in the far back corner.

You won’t find any nap rooms or phone booths in this space, but you will find the most exclusive restaurant in the entire terminal.

There are a variety of two- and four-top tables in the dining room, and you’ll be treated to a multicourse, restaurant-style meal if you decide to dine here. The menu will feature a mix of American and British classics.

In addition to a signature afternoon tea service, you’ll enjoy some delicacies — such as bagels and lox, Reuben sandwiches and shepherd’s pie — which were displayed during the media tour. James Beard Award finalist chef Ayesha Nurdjaja (of New York’s Shuka and Shukette fame) is curating the menus in both the Chelsea and Soho lounges.

You’ll find the full menus in the gallery below. There’s also a small drink station near the dining room that’ll feature a variety of soft drinks and bottled water.

The Chelsea Lounge features gender-specific restrooms, which are lined in wood and marble; they feature three to four stalls and urinals each.

There are also three average-size shower suites in the lounge, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For all intents and purposes, the Chelsea Lounge merges the best of American’s Flagship First Dining facility and BA’s Concorde Room. It offers chef-inspired a la carte dining, as well as plenty of space to spread out and relax. The only downgrade is that it doesn’t offer any natural light, but the design is significantly more elevated than the existing Flagship First Dining facility.

Without a doubt, this is American’s fanciest lounge worldwide, and it’ll likely be a toss-up for frequent BA travelers if they prefer the Chelsea Lounge or the Concorde Room in London.

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In terms of access, the following travelers will enjoy some preflight relaxation in the Chelsea Lounge:

  • American Flagship First flyers (including on transcontinental routes).
  • American Flagship Business Plus flyers (this is a new bundle available on select routes).
  • American invite-only Concierge Key members on Flagship routes, including from the U.S. to:
  • Asia.
  • Australia.
  • Europe.
  • Middle East.
  • New Zealand.
  • South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
  • Access is available regardless of cabin class.
  • British Airways first-class passengers.
  • British Airways Gold Guest List members.

Soho Lounge at JFK

The second-most exclusive lounge in Terminal 8 is now the Soho Lounge.

It shares a welcome area with the Chelsea Lounge. A friendly receptionist will usher you to the appropriate space when you enter the upper-level lobby near Gate 14.

Within seconds of entering the Soho Lounge, you’ll quickly realize you’ve entered one of the most stylish and beautifully designed spaces in the airport. The lounge measures 12,000 square feet and has seating for 282 travelers.

As you walk inside, you’ll be in the cocktail and bar area, which is decked out with some high-top seating, as well as a variety of dining tables and bench seats.

From there, you’ll find yourself in the main lounge area, which offers a dining room, living area, private workstations and a so-called library.

If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat, you’ll likely want to pick a table in the center of the lounge. There’ll be a buffet serving a range of light bites, as well as a la carte service available to order via a QR code.

We couldn’t get a sense of the quality of the food and drinks in the Soho Lounge, but we’ll be sure to follow up with a detailed review after it opens.

That said, representatives for both airlines promised delicious fare and sophisticated drinks, including a cocktail menu designed by Richard Boccato — the man behind Queens’ famous bar Dutch Kills. Gotham Coffee Roasters will provide the coffee in the lounges.

There’ll even be a wine table built out of petrified wood, but that amenity wasn’t on display during the tour.

For now, you’ll find the food menus in the gallery below.

If you’d prefer to relax, you’ll have a choice of multiple areas. The lounge boasts impressive floor-to-ceiling windows with expansive views of the tarmac, so aviation enthusiasts will likely gravitate toward the individual recliners lining the perimeter of the space.

There are five private workstations toward the back of the lounge, and there are some communal co-working tables at either end of the space, too.

The carpet-lined “library” should offer a quieter and more relaxing experience, but you won’t find any books here. That said, it’ll definitely be the ideal place to cozy up with a book if you brought one yourself.

The Soho Lounge also features a relaxation area, but it wasn’t finished in time for TPG’s tour.

The space will be staffed by American and BA agents, in case you need some last-minute assistance with your travel plans.

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There are both gender-specific and gender-neutral restrooms, all of which are designed similarly to the ones found in the more exclusive Chelsea Lounge.

Four individual shower suites are also available here — half of which are accessible to travelers who use wheelchairs.

With a luxurious design, floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of space to move around, the Soho Lounge is a step up from American’s traditional Flagship Lounge, and even many of BA’s First lounges.

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In terms of access, the following travelers will enjoy some preflight relaxation in the Soho Lounge:

  • American Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro flyers on Flagship routes, including from the U.S. to:
  • Asia.
  • Australia.
  • Europe.
  • Middle East.
  • New Zealand.
  • South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
  • Access is available regardless of cabin class.
  • American invite-only Concierge Key members on non-Flagship routes.
  • Oneworld Emerald members from non-U.S. programs on any same-day Oneworld flights.

(For savvy travelers, this space is essentially reserved as a Oneworld Emerald lounge.)

Greenwich Lounge at JFK

The third and final “new” lounge in JFK’s Terminal 8 is the Greenwich Lounge.

This space isn’t actually new — it comprises the existing Flagship Lounge, Flagship First Dining facility and Concourse B Admirals Club. However, the current Flagship and Admirals Club marketing will be removed as of Thursday, and the entire space will then be rebranded as the Greenwich Lounge.

There’ll be no change to the design or layout of the space, and travelers will need to cross between the lobby area of the lounge to get between the old Admirals and Flagship sides of the lounge.

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The renovated open-air bridge space in the center of Concourse B will also open in the coming months, and it’ll be folded into the Greenwich Lounge when it’s complete.

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Altogether, the space will seat more than 590 flyers. Savvy travelers will likely camp out in the Flagship First dining facility once it’s decommissioned.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

I won’t get into too many details about this space since it won’t be changing from my recent review in September 2021. Expect upscale finishes, plenty of seating, floor-to-ceiling windows, showers and a generous buffet in the Greenwich Lounge.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

You’ll find the food menus for the Greenwich Lounge in the gallery below.

Access will be granted to the following passengers:

  • American Flagship Business flyers (including on transcontinental routes).
  • American Platinum flyers on Flagship routes, including from the U.S. to:
  • Asia.
  • Australia.
  • Europe.
  • Middle East.
  • New Zealand.
  • South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
  • Access is available regardless of cabin class.
  • British Airways Club World passengers.
  • Oneworld Sapphire members from non-U.S. programs on any same-day Oneworld flights.

While American has historically only offered three tiers of lounges (Admirals Club, Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining), the co-location with British Airways in New York means there will now be four types of lounges at the airport.

Most American flyers should be happy about these changes since the least premium of the new lounges still occupies the former space of the Flagship Lounge and welcomes all of the same travelers.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Those who benefit from the co-location are travelers with top-tier elite status or on first-class tickets, as they’ll be welcomed to newer and more exclusive spaces.

If there’s one group who got the short end of the stick, it’s travelers who use the Admirals Club. In the future, there’ll only be one Admirals Club at JFK, located at the other end of the underground tunnel in Concourse C in Terminal 8.

That means that no matter which gate your flight operates from, you’ll need to trek underground to the far concourse to use the lounge. A bit of a pain, but at least the Concourse C Admirals Club should be large enough to handle the crowds.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Additionally, British Airways used to offer its business-class passengers a preflight dining service in Terminal 7, which won’t be available in the Greenwich Lounge. Some Club World travelers might consider this a downgrade.

Bottom line

British Airways has a new home at JFK.

After more than 50 years in Terminal 7, the United Kingdom flag carrier will call Terminal 8 home as of Thursday. That’ll make for faster and more seamless connections for travelers hopping the pond. It also ushers in a revamped premium experience for flyers passing through New York, starting with an upgraded check-in facility.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The two brand-new lounges are stunning, and they’re definitely the two nicest ones in the entire American network. BA travelers will likely also appreciate the upgrades — especially the exclusive new Chelsea Lounge, which will replace the existing Concorde Room.

Even American’s existing Flagship Lounge is getting rebranded, and no amenities are getting cut.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

With BA and Iberia co-located as of Thursday, and JAL moving in next year, Terminal 8 is quickly becoming the Oneworld alliance hub in New York. That’s great for most flyers, but especially those who have access to one of the terminal’s snazzy new lounges.


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