I visited a just-reopened American Airlines lounge and found it impeccably clean but stripped of most of its luxuries – see inside

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderInside the American Airlines Admirals Club at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • American Airlines just reopened its Admirals Club at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as local restrictions ease and more premium flyers return to the skies.
  • Lounging during the pandemic has largely moved away from extravagances and more towards providing a quiet, clean place to wait before a flight.
  • Most of the food options are small bites but some luxuries do remain, however, including complimentary avocado toast and the lounge’s fan-favourite soups.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

American Airlines is reopening more of its Admirals Club lounges at airports across the country as localities ease indoor dining restrictions and more flyers return to the skies following a disappointing summer for the industry.

Locations at 16 US airports have opened their doors and more are ready to welcome passengers again as demand dictates. But flyers returning the premium lounges can expect a different experience than when they last visited.

New safety features have been implemented across the lounge from the check-in desk to the restroom door. These lounges are most often frequent by the airline’s top customers — including business travellers — and American is desperate to get them back in the sky safely and with confidence.

The focus isn’t so much on extravagances but giving visitors a quiet, serene place to relax before their flights, especially as tensions still run high among the travelling public. There’s still a variety of complimentary snacks and beverages but not enough to draw people to the airport hours before their flight just to enjoy all that the lounge has to offer.

In New York, American is also doing the most it can while abiding with local restrictions that only just permitted indoor dining within city limits and allowed for the reopening of its Terminal 8 lounge.

Take a look inside the newly-reopened Admirals Club at JFK Airport.


American’s top flyers – including certain elite status holders or those flying first class from New York to California or international destinations — can use the private Flagship First check-in area at Terminal 8.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

The walled-off check-in area offers privacy to the high-profile clientele that frequently utilises the airline’s ultra-premium cabin.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ first class check-in at JFK Airport.

Plexiglass partitions help keep American employees separated from passengers when checking in and everybody is required to wear a mask.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ first class check-in at JFK Airport.

After the security checkpoint, it’s a short walk and elevator ride up to American’s premium lounge, known as the Admirals Club, where plexiglass partitions have similarly been installed and agents are spaced across the row of five podiums.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Hand sanitizer stations are also more common than beverage stations as they have been scattered throughout the space, particularly at the entrance and near touchpoints like the food buffet.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Upon arrival, visitors will notice that the lounge staff plays a more proactive role, escorting passengers into the lounge and advising a specific seating area to maintain distancing.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

American has consolidated all of its Terminal 8 lounge operations to this space, reserving the larger rooms for overflow.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

This lounge just recently reopened as New York City only permitted indoor dining on September 30.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

A typically weekday morning would see this lounge filled with premium flyers heading to any one of American’s top destinations including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami, but the reduced flying has meant fewer lounge patrons across all airlines.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

There’s only a handful of departures from the terminal for the day and few international departures as the world remains largely closed off to Americans.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

A large banner outside the lounge details the changes that visitors can expect, including the face mask requirement, revised food, and beverage offering, and capacity limits.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The maximum number of people that can be accommodated in the space is around 100 with a 50% capacity cap.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

But staff say that they don’t often have to turn people away since the lounge is often quiet.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Social distancing reminders lead the way into the lounge, with cleaning staff almost always around to immediately clean any used areas, furthering the sense of safety.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The airline has scaled back on its offering but still offers a complimentary spread of food.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Most of the items come pre-packaged, including bagels…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Hot and cold cereals…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Yogurt…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Muffins, hard-boiled eggs, and fruits. It’s undoubtedly a reduced offering but might be the only choice for some flyers as the terminal’s restaurants remain largely closed.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

More fruit can also be found at the bar…

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Along with snacks like Skittles and snack mix.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The new flagship offering of the lounge, however, is the complimentary avocado toast station.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Crafted and served by lounge staff, the hearty snack comes with optional toppings including feta cheese, tomatoes, eggs, onions, meat, and hot sauce.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Two of American’s fan-favourite soups also on tap: french onion soup and broccoli cheddar soup.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The soup pots are kept behind the bar for staff to serve, which American’s lounge staff says helps keep the food stations clean.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

That’s a common trend in the lounge as even the most minor spills can leave a poor impression while trying to portray a heightened sense of cleanliness.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Case in point, employees are expected to sanitize seating areas as soon as a passenger has finished using it.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Even this normally self-serve water station is controlled by lounge staff.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The fewer shared touchpoints in the lounge, the better.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Extra precautions are also taken with the areas that can’t be controlled by staff, such as these beverage machines.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The coffee machine touchscreen has been coated with an antimicrobial that kills bacteria.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

And this soft beverage machine isn’t really out of service but American doesn’t want passengers to use it until a new mobile device connectivity function can be installed so users don’t have to touch the screen.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

That commitment to cleanliness shows with staff always around to sanitize and clean seating areas for the next guest to use.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Elsewhere in the lounge, most seating areas are still open to the public.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Large tables aren’t blocked off and all passengers can still use them as desired.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

On each table is also a QR code that passengers can scan to bring up the lounge’s food and drink menu, an alternative to paper menus.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The only off-limits room in the lounge is the kids room.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The high touchpoint room was viewed as a potential safety hazard and is now reserved for individual families travelling together at the discretion of the lounge staff, as was the case when a celebrity family recently visited the terminal.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Some seats in the lounge naturally lend themselves to social distancing and did so even before the pandemic, as people expect privacy in an exclusive lounge.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

These high-wall seats that form a barrier between the user and the rest of the lounge.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

And despite the natural barrier, every other seat is blocked off for an extra layer of protection.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Lounge chairs along the window are somewhat spaced but every other seat is still blocked off as a precaution.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

And with great views of the tarmac, they’re likely to fill up fast.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

For business travellers, the printer and complimentary WiFi are still fully functional.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

And these private workspaces are ideal for getting work done before a flight or making a phone call, as well, of course, for social distancing.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Restrooms also are cleaned more regularly and the use of the lounge’s showers has been temporarily suspended, another lounge trend.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

The bathroom also features the perfect example of necessity being the mother of invention with this foot handle that allows users to open the door hands-free.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Hand washing guidelines are also posted next to the sink as a reminder about proper hygiene during the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

So while the Admirals Club experience has undoubtedly changed, the key tenant of the lounge remains a quiet, clean space to wait before a flight.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

And though the offering may have been slightly reduced, the food and drinks still flow here.

Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAmerican Airlines’ Admirals Club at JFK Airport.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.