The Set Up

This flight was part of an award ticket from Charlotte (CLT) to Phuket Thailand (HKT)  purchased with American Airlines (AA) miles.  I flew first class  JFK-NRT (Tokyo) on Japan Airlines, and HKG (Hong Kong)-SFO (San Francisco) on Cathay Pacific.  It was business class from NRT-HKG-HKT and from BKK (Bangkok) to HKG on Cathay and its subsidiary, DragonAir.  Part 1 covers the initial flight to JFK and the Flagship Lounge and Air France lounge at JFK.  Part 2 covers the first-class flight from JFK-NRT on Japan Airlines.


The flight from CLT to JFK is listed as only 542 miles and taking one hour and 28 minutes.  In fact the flight is usually only just over one hour as in this case.  It was an early morning flight on an A321, legacy USAir (US) equipment as most flight out of CLT are.  The bad news is that legacy US planes lack video and power outlets.  The good news is that legacy US crews provide pre-departure beverages a lot more often than AA crews.

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Foggy takeoff from CLT

AA JFK Flagship Lounge

AA provides only snacks on the short flight to JFK.  After landing in JFK, I visited the AA Flagship Lounge.  This lounge is located airside just past security.

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Take the elevator or stairs to the 4th level for the Admirals Club

As an AA Executive Platinum I could have used the Flagship Lounge, AA’s version of a first-class lounge, even if I was flying in coach on an international flight.  Upon entering the Admirals Club I showed my first-class ticket to the agent and was directed through a sliding door to the separate area that constitutes the Flagship Lounge.

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Part of the seating area in JFK Flagship Lounge

I have visited this lounge four or five times.  It has never had more than a handful of people inside.  There is a rep on duty inside the lounge to handle any issues with flights or other questions relating to AA travel.  The seating is comfortable if not new.  Electrical outlets are plentiful as are national and international newspapers.  The free wifi is more than adequate.  The Flagship lounge has its own bathrooms.  There is a door directly to the shower area that the lounge shares with the Admirals Club.

In the morning this lounge has fresh fruit, pastries, cold cuts, hot and cold breakfast entrees and cereals and an open bar.



I had scrambled eggs, bacon potatoes fruit and juice.  Under AA’s lounge master makeover plan, this lounge received substantial improvements in appearance and food service in 2017. 

JFK Airtrain

The AA operations at JFK are in Terminal 8.  Japan Airlines flies from Terminal 1.  The easiest way to get from Terminal I to Terminal 8 is on the JFK Airtrain.  The Airtrain displays the airlines that depart from each terminal in case anyone is unsure of where to get off.

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JFK Airtrain map
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Airtrain cars are clean if not always this empty

It is a short ride to Terminal 1,  Unfortunately, the Airtrain is outside the security area which means it is necessary to go through security again at Terminal 1.  The security lines can be time consuming here.  At least there is no immigration to go through as well.

Air France Lounge Terminal 1 

At JFK, JL uses the Air France lounge for its departures.  First-class, business-class and OneWorld alliance Emerald and Sapphire elites have access.  The lounge is near Gate 1, and the JL Tokyo flight leaves from Gate 3.  This Air France lounge is nice but not one of its best lounges.  I wanted to use Priority Pass to access the nearby Korean Air lounge.  However, that lounge opens for Priority Pass members after the Tokyo JL flight leaves.  As I learned on a subsequent trip through Terminal 1, the Korean Air lounge here leaves much to be desired.

Air France lounge Terminal 1 JFK

I used the shower to freshen up before the flight.20160109_110159


The lounge does not provide razors or body lotion.  At least there is a hair dryer and toothpaste and toothbrush.

After a quick shower, I tried the buffet.

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Soup, salads, and some hot entrees


The lounge had salads, cold cuts, soup and warm pasta dishes.  I’m glad I had something to eat in the Flagship lounge as the options in this lounge were not as appealing.  For those flying coach or business class, the Air France lounge is good enough.  This lounge lacks the amenities and dining options that would normally go along with international first-class travel.

Next is Part 2, the  flight to Tokyo in first class on Japan Airlines.