- 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.
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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 â€” including business travellers â€” 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.
The walled-off check-in area offers privacy to the high-profile clientele that frequently utilises the airline’s ultra-premium cabin.
Plexiglass partitions help keep American employees separated from passengers when checking in and everybody is required to wear a mask.
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.
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.
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.
American has consolidated all of its Terminal 8 lounge operations to this space, reserving the larger rooms for overflow.
This lounge just recently reopened as New York City only permitted indoor dining on September 30.
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.
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.
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.
The maximum number of people that can be accommodated in the space is around 100 with a 50% capacity cap.
But staff say that they don’t often have to turn people away since the lounge is often quiet.
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.
The airline has scaled back on its offering but still offers a complimentary spread of food.
Most of the items come pre-packaged, including bagels…
Hot and cold cereals…
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.
More fruit can also be found at the bar…
Along with snacks like Skittles and snack mix.
The new flagship offering of the lounge, however, is the complimentary avocado toast station.
Crafted and served by lounge staff, the hearty snack comes with optional toppings including feta cheese, tomatoes, eggs, onions, meat, and hot sauce.
Two of American’s fan-favourite soups also on tap: french onion soup and broccoli cheddar soup.
The soup pots are kept behind the bar for staff to serve, which American’s lounge staff says helps keep the food stations clean.
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.
Case in point, employees are expected to sanitize seating areas as soon as a passenger has finished using it.
Even this normally self-serve water station is controlled by lounge staff.
The fewer shared touchpoints in the lounge, the better.
Extra precautions are also taken with the areas that can’t be controlled by staff, such as these beverage machines.
The coffee machine touchscreen has been coated with an antimicrobial that kills bacteria.
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.
That commitment to cleanliness shows with staff always around to sanitize and clean seating areas for the next guest to use.
Elsewhere in the lounge, most seating areas are still open to the public.
Large tables aren’t blocked off and all passengers can still use them as desired.
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.
The only off-limits room in the lounge is the kids room.
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.
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.
These high-wall seats that form a barrier between the user and the rest of the lounge.
And despite the natural barrier, every other seat is blocked off for an extra layer of protection.
Lounge chairs along the window are somewhat spaced but every other seat is still blocked off as a precaution.
And with great views of the tarmac, they’re likely to fill up fast.
For business travellers, the printer and complimentary WiFi are still fully functional.
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.
Restrooms also are cleaned more regularly and the use of the lounge’s showers has been temporarily suspended, another lounge trend.
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.
Hand washing guidelines are also posted next to the sink as a reminder about proper hygiene during the pandemic.
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.
And though the offering may have been slightly reduced, the food and drinks still flow here.
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