After a year of renovations, Emirates Airline reopened its first and business class lounge at New York’s JFK Airport last month. The lounge, which caters to the airline’s most premium passengers, is one out of 23 Emirates lounges worldwide and is one of the largest outside of the airline’s hub at Dubai International Airport.
Emirates allowed AirlineGeeks to get a special look at the lounge after its morning flight to Dubai departed for its near 13-hour voyage back to base.
Welcome to the Lounge
Situated on the top floor of the A Concourse of JFK’s Terminal 4, where all of Emirates’ flights depart from due to the numerous A380-capable gates, the lounge is one of eight in the predominantly international carrier-based Terminal 4. The lounge is surrounded by other lounges including the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and Air India’s Maharaja lounge.
However, despite the numerous lounges in the terminal, Emirates is one of the most exclusive, only catering to departing Emirates passengers and not open to passengers of other airlines as Emirates doesn’t participate in any airline alliances. First and business class passengers are given complimentary access to the lounge, while economy passengers can purchase a day pass for $100, $50 for children 12 and under.
Additionally, Emirates top-tier elite passengers, those with Emirates Skyward Gold, Platinum and Invitation-Only status, can access the lounge regardless of what class of service they are flying in. Arriving elite passengers on Emirates or elite passengers transiting through JFK not departing on Emirates are not generally given access to the lounge, maintaining its exclusivity.
The renovation to the lounge was made in an effort to maintain consistency across its network, meaning that the overall design, color scheme and furniture will look similar to other lounges across the network. Despite the 261-person capacity, a nearly 50-person upgrade from the former space, the lounge rarely reaches that capacity as its A380 premium cabins range from 58-80 seats, depending on the configuration of the aircraft.
Walking into the lounge, the first thing you notice is the huge Emirates A380 model behind the reception desk. After checking in at reception, it’s a short walk down the main area of the lounge.
The Main Room of the Lounge
In between the reception area and the main lounge area is a short hallway lined with artwork and a newspaper/magazine rack. Emirates sources 12-15 different magazine varieties with 6-8 newspaper varieties, all of which are also found on Emirates’ aircraft.
The expansive seating area is the centerpiece of the lounge. Furnished with furniture sourced both locally and from Italy, the main room of the lounge features numerous types of chairs and chaise lounge-style seats. Marble floors delineate the carpeted seating areas from the dining area.
Lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, natural light is in unlimited supply in the lounge and the location of the lounge at the end of the A Concourse allows for 270-degree views of the rest of Terminal 4, JetBlue’s Terminal 5, the departure end of runway 31L, and unobstructed views of taxiways alpha and bravo, as well as runways 4L and 4R directly ahead of you.
The artwork throughout the lounge was commissioned from a Dubai-based artist. The style of artwork features traditional Arabic influences combined with New York influences, including famous New York sights and landmarks.
In addition to the art, one of the pride and joys of the lounge is the flower selection. Exotic and non-standard flowers specially picked for the lounge and can be found on nearly every table. To meet Emirates’ high standards for its lounges, no plastic flowers or flowers that contain preservatives are used. While a costly standard to maintain, Emirates replaces its flowers every 4-5 days. Larger flowers and greenery can also be found throughout the lounge.
Like most lounges, Emirates’ lounge features a largely open concept, with few walls where necessary spread throughout the lounge.
Otherwise, there is no division between areas and it is possible for one to see from one end of the lounge to the other with ease. For aviation enthusiasts, this allows you to be immersed in the experience, surrounded by aircraft on all three sides of you.
Similar to the onboard product, Emirates chose a beige-tan color scheme for the lounge. Most airlines do this to keep a consistency between the on-the-ground and in-the-air experience, which helps travelers adjust to their surroundings easier as they prepare for a long journey.
For connectivity, Emirates provides free WiFi throughout the lounge. In true Emirates fashion, the information to connect to the WiFi can be found on gold placards on nearly every table in the lounge. Additionally, both U.S. and U.K. style outlets and USB ports can be found at most chairs with a side table but not at the standalone seats at the edges of the lounge and in the dining area.
Never Having to Leave the Lounge
Emirates’ lounge features a convenient perk that is a rarity in the United States. Due to its location directly above its gate, the airline has the ability to board its aircraft directly from the lounge. The jet bridge connected to the lounge was installed at Emirates’ behest and expense, costing around $6 million.
The jetway connects directly to the upper level of the Airbus A380, where the first and business class cabins are located on its three-class aircraft. Since it leads directly to the upper deck, any economy passengers that bought day passes are not allowed to use the special jetway. As Emirates purchased the jetway, it’s the only airline allowed to use it since it’s their property.
A special feature for sure, the convenience of the jetway means that, if you’re a premium cabin passenger, once you enter the lounge you never have to leave or worry about missing your flight from staying in the lounge for too long. Additionally, the jetway can only be used by departing passengers, as arriving passengers must go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Emirates has the advantage over rival Etihad in this regard, as the Etihad lounge is located at the bottom of the U-shaped Terminal 4 just past security. The airline says that the $6 million investment was well worth it if not for the ability to say that it has it and other airlines at the airport don’t.
Taking Care of Business
Directly in the center of the lounge, there’s a complimentary business center featuring 4 touchscreen desktop computers complete with a printer and copying machine. All local calls made from the business center, additionally, are complimentary.
The business center is easily located as it resides under a set of 6 gold Rolex clocks, one for a different time zone around the world. All of the clocks in the lounge are Rolex, one of the finest clock and watch manufacturers in the world, famous for its sweeping hand motion.
Dining Options in the Lounge
The highlight of any premium lounge is the food and beverage offerings, which Emirates prides itself on in this lounge. Catered by Flik International, a subsidiary of the British multinational food service Compass Group, all of the food items are cooked in-house, as opposed to the previous lounge where food was pre-made elsewhere and finished off in the lounge.
Unlike other lounges, Emirates doesn’t offer separate options for its ultra-premium first class passengers, which typically receive extra amenities including cook-to-order meals and restaurant-style service. While Emirates’ flagship lounges in Dubai and other larger airports offer these services, the spatial restrictions of the JFK lounge prevent this.
However, the lack of a separate offering between first and business/economy passengers is actually beneficial to all in the lounge, as Emirates offers first class-level food options to all. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships. In the lounge, all passengers receive a first class offering.
The dining area takes up the northwestern portion of the lounge and overlooks the mid-Terminal 4 ramp and B Concourse, as well as Kennedy Airport’s control tower. All chairs here are leather, similar to in the main seating area, and each table features a flower of some kind.
For those lucky enough to snag a table near the window, you’ll get a great view of some of the world’s largest airliners.
Hot and Cold Fold Options
All the food in the lounge is served buffet-style, with a wide variety of food options. Just because the food is served in a buffet, doesn’t mean that the standards are any less. The menu for the buffet rotates regularly so repeat passengers can experience new food options every time.
We visited the lounge just after the morning flight to Dubai departed so we were able to see the breakfast offering. The breakfast buffet is arranged in 4 sections: breakfast cereals, breakfast breads, two hot food sections and cold food options.
A variety of food is served based on American, Arabic, European and Indian subcontinent appetites, all food is Halal for Muslim passengers and all food – even if it hasn’t been touched – is replaced with fresh food every 25-30 minutes.
The lounge has a full-service kitchen will all top-quality appliances to allow food to be cooked quickly and fresh. Previous complaints of the lounge were that some of the products weren’t as fresh as can be, but the in-house kitchen solves this problem.
Cold food – such as fruit, yogurt, meat and cheese – is also kept refrigerated and pre-plated for passengers to simply take without having to worry about making a small plate and potentially holding up other passengers.
The healthy section of the morning buffet consists of fruit-based products such as juices, smoothies and yogurt – plain and flavored – contained within the refrigerated glass cases.
We tried the food for ourselves and were not disappointed.
According to the airline, the evening menu will consist of dishes such as filet mignon, lamb, shrimp, fish and others. With the lounge opening at 4 p.m. for the evening hours before the 10:20 p.m. fifth-freedom flight to Milan and the 11:20 p.m. flight to Dubai, it’s not uncommon to see passengers getting there early to maximize their enjoyment of all the lounge has to offer.
As always, the lounge features an Emirates-branded box of dates, a Middle Eastern delicacy.
Under the buffet, you’ll find the soft drink selection where Emirates’ features 11 soft drink varieties and 2 water varieties – one sparkling and one still.
For hot beverages, the lounge features a multi-drink making machine. The machine can whip up 12 different drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, milk (hot and cold), lattes, espressos and more. Tea drinkers can also rejoice as the lounge carries 6 types of Dilmah tea bags with instructions on brewing, what time of day to best have, what to serve with and its distinctive features.
Next is the lounge’s premier alcohol selection. Emirates’ boasts a highly-curated alcohol selection for both its liquor, wine, champagne and beer selection. Each of the brands present are chosen because of their high-quality and reputation amongst consumers.
In terms of wine and champagne, the lounge features both top-rated local (from both Long Island and the U.S.) and foreign wine, including wine from the Wolffer Estate Vineyard on the South Shore of Long Island and the Yamhill Valley Vineyard in Oregon, with 2 reds and 2 whites. If you prefer champagne, you’ll be happy to find that Emirates’ champagne of choice is Veuve Clicquot Brut, which ranges from $50-$90 per bottle.
The standard bar features 16 bottles of liquor, brandies and liqueurs complete with bitters, tabasco sauce, Worcester sauce and other drink additives such as lemons, limes, olives, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Additionally, bar nuts are also available to snack on while enjoying your favorite drink. Beer is also available, with the airline featuring brews from Sam Adams and Brooklyn Brewery.
There are two full drink stations in the lounge, each featuring the exact same choices and amenities for hot and cold beverages. The first bar is in the dining area at the end of the buffet where you can enjoy the views of the airport’s control tower and Terminal 4’s B Concourse while making your drink and the second bar is located In the middle of the seating area where you can enjoy views of the A380 gate below, JetBlue’s Terminal 5 and the former TWA terminal turned TWA Hotel while making your drink.
Unlike the other lounges at JFK Airport, the location of the Emirates lounge limits the number of extra amenities that the airline can offer such as a day spa and quiet rooms. However, the lounge does feature 3 shower rooms, two restrooms and two prayer rooms (one for each gender) complete with an ablution area.
The shower rooms are available on-request, operating on a buzzer system to notify the next user when it is ready for use. Within the rooms, a walk-in glass shower complete with soaps and shampoos are available with plenty of towels.
Although the airline doesn’t typically let arriving travelers use the lounge, the showers are useful if you’re coming straight to the airport from a business meeting or a long day. If you’re traveling Emirates First Class, of course, you can always choose to shower on the plane.
In each of the restrooms, toiletries are available for use including shaving and dental kits.
Well Worth the Wait
Despite the 10 month wait, the newly-renovated Emirates lounge will undoubtedly be a hit with all passengers that walk through its doors. Its beautifully appointed features including furniture, flowers, color scheme and food options exude luxury and perfectly prepare one for a long haul flight in one of the top-rated premium cabins in the sky.
While the lounge was under construction, passengers were given meal vouchers to use within the terminal to make up for the lack of a lounge. First class passengers were given $55 while business class passengers were given $40.
Now that the lounge is reopened, passengers can access to the full range of Emirates luxury when flying between New York and Dubai or Milan both on the ground and in the air.