This is our review of the brand new Chelsea Lounge at New York JFK’s Terminal 8.
It is the premier lounge for British Airways and American Airlines passengers at New York JFK Terminal 8 and opens on 1st December.
This lounge serves 17 different champagnes, including Krug. I’m not sure I ever expected to be typing ‘Krug’ and ‘British Airways’ in the same article.
The Chelsea Lounge replaces BA’s Concorde Room at Terminal 7. As part of JFK’s regeneration plan, British Airways moved in with American Airlines at Terminal 8 so that the ageing Terminal 7 can be redeveloped. As of 1st December, all British Airways flights will operate to and from T8.
In order to accommodate the additional influx of premium passengers from British Airways (and indeed Iberia, which is also moving in), the two airlines quickly realised they needed to significantly increase their lounge space. The existing American Airlines Flagship lounge was simply too small to accommodate all First class, business class and status passengers from the combined airlines.
The answer was to open two new international lounges and rebrand the existing Flagship lounge.
Going forward, there are now three lounges for long haul passengers at JFK Terminal 8:
- The Chelsea Lounge, for BA and AA First Class passengers
- The Soho Lounge, for BA Gold passengers (oneworld Emerald – review here)
- The Greenwich Lounge, for business class passengers and BA Silver cardholders (oneworld Sapphire)
The existing Flagship lounge has become the Greenwich Lounge, whilst the Soho and Chelsea Lounges are brand new additions to the terminal. I was given a tour of both new lounges on Tuesday, just before they opened to the public.
All three lounges have been named after neighbourhoods in both New York and London.
How to access the Chelsea Lounge at New York JFK
The Chelsea Lounge is a collaboration between British Airways and American Airlines. It is the first time BA and AA have worked together, from scratch, to launch a lounge.
As the most premium lounge at Terminal 8, the Chelsea Lounge is reserved for BA and AA’s top flyers. You won’t get access as an elite member of any other oneworld frequent flyer scheme unless you are flying in First Class.
Here are the eligibility criteria:
- Anyone flying in First (BA), Flagship Business Plus (AA) or Flagship First (AA)
- Anyone with BA Gold Guest List status, flying with BA or AA in any class
- Any AA Concierge Key members flying on Flagship itineraries
This is what the British Airways website says:
“At 5,000 Tier Points (and 3,000 Tier Points each year thereafter) our Gold Executive Club Members and one guest have access to our Chelsea lounge at New York JFK Terminal 8 when flying any class of travel with British Airways or American Airlines.
Customers flying with other oneworld airlines are unable to access this lounge.”
This means, for example, that a BA Gold Guest List member will not get access if flying with Iberia or Japan Airlines.
However, slightly oddly, a BA Gold Guest List member would get access if taking a short Economy domestic flight on American Airlines.
Where is the Chelsea Lounge at JFK Terminal 8?
The Chelsea Lounge is in a new extension to the terminal. It is very easy to get to, especially as Terminal 8 is not as big as Terminal 5 at Heathrow.
It is directly opposite Gate 14. Just turn right as you exit security and you’ll see the signage. You need to take the lifts or the stairs up a floor.
The Chelsea Lounge is co-located with the Soho Lounge. For the Chelsea Lounge, turn right again and you’ll be greeted by an exclusive reception area where BA and AA staff will check you in:
Inside the Chelsea Lounge at JFK Terminal 8
The Chelsea Lounge is the smallest of the new lounge spaces at JFK Terminal 8. It can cater for 128 passengers and is just under 900 metres square.
Once the staff have confirmed your eligibility, you are greeted by the signature bar inside the lounge:
It’s an impressive statement that sets the scene for the rest of the lounge which, as you will see, is very impressive. Flying in British Airways First class has never seemed more appealing.
Around the lounge you have barstools. To the right you’ll find some casual seating, whilst the rest of the lounge is to the left. Again, there is various casual seating options around the bar:
By the time the lounge opens you should also find a fireplace suspended in the centre, adding to the atmosphere of the space.
Connectivity is great – there are power sockets at virtually every seat:
Beyond this you’ll find a dining area:
To the right are a number of booths, plus a dark nap nook with some chaise longues:
Behind the dining room are the bathrooms and showers. There are three showers in total, which doesn’t seem like a huge amount, although there are a further four next door in the Soho Lounge too. Toiletries are from DS& DURGA.
Like the rest of the lounge, the showers set a new standard for facilities at a British Airways lounge and are a huge improvement on the NHS-style showers at Heathrow.
As you will have seen by now, the style and design of the lounge is fantastic. As the most premium lounge BA and AA have also used premium materials, including Italian marble and the hand-crafted glass chandelier from the Czech Republic. It is all very classy, and looks more like a 5 star hotel.
One thing you will have noticed is that the Chelsea Lounge has no natural light. There are no windows in this lounge, whilst the Soho Lounge features floor to ceiling windows along its length. Unfortunately, because of the way the building is built, there was no ideal way to split the space so that both had natural light.
That said, the designers have done an excellent job to create a warm and welcoming space through the use of lighting features. It was only about halfway through the tour that I realised there were no windows.
Food and drink in the British Airways Chelsea Lounge
Like the Concorde Room, the Chelsea Lounge is fully a la carte, so you won’t find a buffet here. If you want a more formal meal you can sit in the dining area; alternatively, you can order food to any seat.
The choice isn’t huge, to be honest. The ‘all day dining’ menu has five hot main dishes:
- Steak Frites
- Roasted chicken breast
- Butternut squash curry
- Lamb tagine
- Sole Meuniere
…. plus three salads. There are three choices of appetiser and four desserts.
I had a taste of some of the dishes available and was impressed. We will have to see what they are like during a normal service, however.
Afternoon tea is also available between 3pm and 6pm. There is also a separate breakfast menu.
When it comes to champagne, you’ll be able to choose from Krug, Ruinart or Moet & Chandon, with a number of different options available.
(Yes, you read that correctly. Krug Grande Cuvee is available in a British Airways lounge.)
It’s actually slightly bonkers. They are offering five different varieties of Moet & Chandon and SEVENTEEN different champagnes in total. There’s also Nyetimber.
You can even order one of two different champagne flights, each containing small glasses of three different bottles.
I checked with Rob and neither of us can think of any other airport lounge in the world with such a selection.
Credit where credit is due, British Airways and American Airlines have unveiled a truly and suitably first class lounge experience with the Chelsea Lounge.
When it comes to design the lounge is sophisticated and cosy. It is very stylish and would not look out of place in a luxury hotel.
We will have to see how the lounge works in practice with a full complement of guests, but first impressions are fantastic. The Chelsea Lounge is, easily, the best lounge in the British Airways network.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (February 2024)
Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £24. You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.
There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free Priority Pass card, allowing you access to the Priority Pass network. Guests are charged at £24 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.
The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer. Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.