American Airlines is investing in its lounge network in a big way. In addition to new Admirals Clubs opening, American is also taking a look at their premium lounges (which they call Flagship Lounges). I attended the opening of the JFK Flagship Lounge and found it to be worthy of the Flagship title (the review is here).
American’s next Flagship Lounge to open was in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport so I went to take a look.
Where is the Flagship Lounge at ORD?
Those familiar with ORD
have probably aged significantly from how much of a beating it can be know that American occupies Terminal 3 and has flights departing from the H, K, and L concourses. The renovated Admirals Club sits in a crosswalk between the H and K concourses. The new Flagship Lounge is in the same location, just a different floor (there’s no longer a Five-Star Lounge at the end of the H concourse).
Who can get into the Flagship Lounge?
This is different than it used to be. You used to have access to a Flagship Lounge if you were traveling in First on a 3-class Oneworld flight or have Oneworld Emerald status and flying on an international flight that day. The access policy has changed in favor of Business and Oneworld Sapphire customers.
Access to the Flagship Lounges is now open to passengers in either Business or First Class on an international or transcontinental flight. Access has also been opened to Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire customers.
The guest policy (how many you can bring with you into the lounge) can be complicated, so I’ll link to American’s Flagship Lounge page so you can be sure how many people you’ll be able to bring with you on your visit.
Enough of that stuff, can you show us pictures of the lounge now?
Why yes, yes I can. As a reminder, I took all of these images, there’s not a single stock image in the bunch. If you’re curious, I took the images (affiliate links follow, which may pay me a small commission should you visit and make a purchase, thanks for your support!) with a Sony a7rII camera with a variety of lenses, including the new Sony 12-24 f4, the 24-70 f2.8 G Master, and a Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens (yes, using $10,000 of camera equipment to take pictures that will be shrunk to 2048 pixels on the long edge is a bit ridiculous, but my readers deserve the best!). Please contact me before using them on your own blog (you’d be amazed how often this happens).
First off, I love walking through the concourse at O’Hare, I never get tired of seeing all the flags displayed.
Make your way to the crosswalk between the H and K concourses (it’s between gates H6 and K6, respectively) and you’ll see a big sign for the Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club (which I didn’t get a great picture of, there were too many people around and I always try to respect the privacy of guests where possible).
The Flagship Lounge
When you walk into the check-in lobby, the friendly lounge attendants will check you in and give you an invitation to the Flagship Lounge, which is located on the second level of the airport (the Admirals Club is on the third level).
Upon arrival on the second level, another lounge attendant will be there to collect your invitation and welcome you into the lounge. As you walk in, you will look to your left and your right and realize this lounge is HUGE.
To your left is the dining area, to your right is the TV lounge, and in between is an incredible amount of seating. The lounge itself is a bit narrow but it’s very long and provides great tarmac views.
First off, I had to grab a glass of champagne from the champagne bar and then waited for the morning crowd to leave for their flights. Despite the incredible amount of seating the lounge can get crowded during international departure windows (10am-12:30pm is one of these windows for flights to Asia, for example).
After the lounge emptied out a bit, I was impressed with how quickly the lounge staff bussed tables and made sure the lounge was “reset” and ready for more passengers. The manager on duty was right there alongside her staff wiping down tables, which is always refreshing to see (I have immense respect for those who lead from the front).
Like I said before, the lounge features an incredible amount of seating, a lot of which is consistent with the new Admirals Club decor as well as the JFK Flagship Lounge decor.
From the left to the right as you enter the lounge, here are some examples of the seating you’ll see.
In the dining area are a variety of options, including tables, bars, seating along the champagne bar, and booth-type seating with little lap tables to separate seating and give you a place to set your food.
I’ll cover the food in a little bit, but first: MORE SEATING AREAS!
Once you move out of the dining area you’ll find a few different seating areas with different types of seating. From the modern-looking red chairs above to the more comfy-looking chairs below, there’s a wide variety to suit your taste.
There are other types of seats as well. I first saw them in the JFK flagship lounge, they’re high-back chairs that are in little groups of four, which provide a good amount of privacy and comfort in my opinion.
The seating along the windows varies a bit, from the long desk style you see above to some other seating near the Quiet Area that has a pull-out ottoman (this is also my favorite picture from the lounge).
Wait, Quiet Area? You bet. Look at the picture above. To the left you’ll see a sort of cladding separating that portion of the lounge from the rest, this is one side of the quiet area. On the other side are some recliners, but I could never get a picture of those because they were constantly occupied (I guess that’s an endorsement of how comfortable they were).
The Quiet Area has a lot of the same seating as the chottoman above (haha see what I did there?).
Another thing I’ll take a second to mention: there are innumerable power outlets and USB outlets almost everywhere you look in the lounge. They’re not universal outlets, only a US plug, but the amount was still impressive. I was going to go through and see if I could count how many outlets there were, but I didn’t want to be in a conversation with a good-looking girl, have her ask what I did over the weekend, and be forced to say, “counted power outlets in an airline lounge in Chicago HEY DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT”. Anyway back to the lounge.
After the Quiet Area you’ll find another seating area followed by a semi-dining area seating arrangement next to a coffee and snack station.
If coffee isn’t your jam, there’s a build-your-own Bloody Mary station next to the coffee 🙂
Finally on the far right side of the lounge is the TV area. The seating was nice but unfortunately the TVs were set to annoying 24-hour news stations (I’ve just had enough of the all-caps media, both sides are so annoying).
Ok, so I made it to the end of the lounge, hopefully you get an appreciation for just how big it is. There’s a hallway that runs from the TV lounge all the way back to the main dining area, nicely adorned with pictures of Chicago and the surrounding area.
Before we get to the Dining Area let’s take a quick look at the shower suites. There are a number of suites available and they were well-decorated and nicely appointed with C.O. Bigelow lotions and shower supplies.
Ok, now for the food.
Flagship Lounges have a variety of buffet and beverage above and beyond the offerings of an Admirals Club. While the offerings at Admirals Clubs have gotten nicer over the years, they’re very much finger foods, while Flagship Lounges are meant to be more of a meal (the astute readers among you will remember the sit-down Flagship Dining option at JFK, that service is not offered at ORD since there are no flights with international First Class which depart directly out of ORD).
First, there’s a long table with wine and champagne. It’s very similar to what I saw in JFK, but the sight of a bunch of champagne bottles and glasses waiting for me is always a welcome one in my opinion, even if it’s familiar 🙂
There’s a beverage area against the far-left wall of the lounge, featuring Coke machines, booze, and coffee/espresso.
And that brings us (finally) to the buffet area. There are two main stations.
There were a variety of starters and main dishes available, alongside more snacky items if you weren’t looking for a full meal.
They had a vegetarian main option as well, but my picture of it was all blurry, apologies.
The more snacky items including a variety of cheeses, salad options, as well as some sushi.
Were there desserts? Pfff duh there were desserts.
There was another drink station by the dessert area as well.
So how did I actually LIKE the lounge?
I think American’s Flagship Lounge offerings are among the best lounges in the USA. I’d very easily put them on par with the American Express Centurion Lounges. The only critique I would have is that the access policy will definitely lead to overcrowding at busier times (this has indeed been reported about the JFK lounge already). That said, I think it’s important to acknowledge the more lax entry policy is indeed an improvement in status benefits for Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers.
The food was excellent, particularly the salmon, the drink offering was vast, and the champagne nicely chilled. This is the perfect spot to relax before a long flight. The JFK lounge was excellent, the Chicago lounge is lovely, and I anticipate similar experiences from the other Flagship Lounges opening soon (LAX, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, and others).
I want to say another thing, however. The Admirals Club renovation project also includes many of these same decor and seating choices. The Admirals Clubs are getting better and better as well. Overall, American is responding to customer feedback about improving the value proposition of their entire lounge network. Credit where it’s due, the improvements are definitely showing.
Hope you enjoyed this review! Which picture was your favorite? Have you been to any of the new Flagship Lounges? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below!