Part 2: PP lounges at JFK and JFK-CCS in AA

29 Mar

Part two of the Spring Break Trip Report 2012:

Part 1: KC to Minnesota with Delta to NYC with AA (+ the W Minneapolis)

Part 2: PP lounges at JFK and JFK-CCS in AA J (plus, Venezuelans being Venezuelans)

Part 3: Venezuela to San Juan to JFK with AA to London with British Airways (+ Sheraton Heathrow)

Part 4: London to Brussels on BA  (+ Aloft Brussels)

Part 5: The journey to Hasselt and Sensation White Belgium! (+ Marriott Brussels)

Part 6: Brussels-London on BA business class and the NASCAR experience on air

Part 6: London. Greatest City on Earth? (+ Radisson Edwardian Heathrow)

Part 7: London-Houston-Dallas-KC (+ Park Inn DFW)

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

(Editor’s note: This is a juicy one)

JFK is a monster airport and the home to (arguably) the nicest terminal in the AA family (DFW is also cool, considering they own the whole thing). AA is housed in Terminal 8, one of the newest ones in the whole airport.

I arrived with plenty of time to spare and headed straight to the check-in area. Thanks to my J ticket I was directed here:

Fancy Pants Premium check-in area

A relatively more private check-in experience with some leather seats available and little to no wait…ever. On this Sunday afternoon there were 6 agents standing there waiting for people. I’m not even sure they have 6 agents working at the same time on the economy side. Perks of flying from an airline’s hub, I would say.

The AAgent that took care of me was very professional and likable. Even after I freaked out because there are no places to wrap your bag anywhere in  Terminal 8 at JFK Airport. I hate to say it but the sad reality is if you ever fly to Venezuela (or most South American countries) wrapping the bags you check in is an absolutely must.

I thought about it for a second, weighed the risks involved (getting some protein powder stolen) and ended up just settling for my Oneworld Priority tag + that plastic thingy that locks in place. In any case, you should learn by now to always carry your valuables with you.

I always wondered if the agents working in these premium counters are super nice because the passengers checking in here are much more seasoned and premium…or if perhaps they get assigned there because they are better agents across the board? I’m thinking both.

Once I was relieved of my luggage rolling duties I still had about 3 more hours until my flight. Even though I had access to the AA’s Admiral Club in T8, I decided to go try out the two Priority Pass lounges my handy PP Android app had located for me in T4.

Ten minutes of walking and some Airtrain (intra-terminal train service) action and I was in Terminal 4. If the 114 counters for random airlines from all over the world don’t give it away, this is the main international terminal for the smaller players. As you would expect, there were no less than 6 stations where you could get your bags wrapped. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it usually goes like this:

Prices vary around the world depending where you are but they tend to roam around 5$ and 15$ per bag. Anywhere you go in Latin America and in all US gateway cities to Lt Am, chances are there will be a dude working a machine with the plastic wrap.

My favorite plastic-wrapping entreprise to date? The fellows at El Dorado in Bogota, Colombia. They had fun with the pricing. They were charging 20000 pesos, 10USD, 10 CND OR 10 euros. Whatever you had. Screw conversion rates. Make it easy.

T4  also seems to have A LOT more security than other terminals but you know why…now. I walked aimlessly for forever (the app directions within the terminal were unclear, by the way) trying to find the two PP lounges.

Finally,  I saw the sign for the first one:

The Lounge. (Creative, I know.)

The Lounge at JFK

Drinks selection

All of the above, available for free. Unlimited.

Haven't been to Trinidad and Tobago but I've had their beer.

The Lounge gets even better with this All-Day menu:

The Menu at The Lounge at The Airport

I wasn’t ready to sit down and settle and instead opted for a shower (they have them) and went on my way to the other lounge in T4.

The Oasis

Located a long way from The Lounge or to be precise:

“Landside – the Lounge is located before Security in the East Wing of the terminal (4E), on the 4th Floor.”  Whatever that means.

This one is a little more spacious and among other features, counts with a rather thin but still pretty cool library (not pictured).

I was finally hungry after all that walking and to my surprise ran across this bad boy:

Food bar at The Oasis

Not the most spectacular display of food…but chill out, it’s a snack…and it’s free.

You know how things go. GTT: Gotta Try That

Had a few of those (under 10) and some fruit and called it a day visit. They also had some kind of chicken/curry/lamb/ concoction available for a hot meal but that just did not look good. So not GTT-worthy I didn’t even bother to take a picture.

Not to be forgotten, The Oasis also has a cool the view of the tarmac:

When opportunity meets my camera.

My flight was quickly approaching and it was time to head back to Terminal 8:

Walkway to the T8 gates. Sorry, I was moving. (Now taking donations for legit camera)

On my way to my gate, I did stop running for this guy:

Germany's second largest carrier. Now part of the Oneworld alliance.

Becoming part of the Oneworld alliance allows me to use American Airlines miles to fly airberlin. Plus, some other good news.

Once at my gate, we were about 45mins from boarding JFK-CCS. We Venezuelans must be traumatized (or something) with waits and lines because they hadn’t called for boarding yet and there was already 50 people trying to get close to the gate. We were in between gates with flights to the UK and Belgium and I was genuinely embarrassed.

Poor gate agents were not ready for a wave of Venezuelans ready to get on a plane for 5 hours of continuous seating!

But then it got better (of course), as I stand there unfazed (but deeply embarrassed) in the middle of a mosh pit, they start calling for Business Class to start boarding. FINALLY, I think to myself. (I think) I’m standing in line behind two gentlemen when some lady starts pushing her way in…OOOH NOOOOO SHE DIDN’T.

Now I’m pissed. Not so much because I’m getting cut in line. I’m pissed because we (this flight full of Venezuelans going to Venezuela) are putting up one of the most embarrassing shows in my aviation history. I turn to the lady and this was our exchange :

ME: Lady, what’s the rush?

Lady: Don’t you see I’m trying to board, they are calling for first class.

Me: I know. (And then I shoved my business class boarding pass on her face) You’re not the only one in first class. (As I calmly show her my BP).

Needless to say, she felt bad and headed to the back of the line.

Is that it? Never! Now I was first in line and this mosh pit of inpatient Venezuelans  is heading towards the gate again. That’s when the lady gate agent (now absolutely enraged) came roaring right at me: “WE ARE ONLY BOARDING BUSS…(I show her my boarding pass), go right ahead, have a nice flight.”

You can’t make this up.

Once settled in my seat, I find out there’s an older French couple sitting in front of me. They were flying Paris-JFK-CCS. If you (or anybody in your family) ever reads this, I deeply apologize for our behavior. We are too passionate.

While still on the ground and with the circus behind us, I am greeted by name by a friendly Purser. That’s my sign to get to work on this old but elegant Boeing 757. Even better, half the cabin was empty. That’s always usually good.

The true fun of not flying cattle coach:

Oh, I like where this is going x 4

I’m drinking my champagne, eating some warm mixed nuts getting ready to watch the in-flight movie (old plane, no personal screens. Get over it, I did.) and they announce “The Big Year.”  Whatever, I’m feeling good, I’ll watch it.

Then they start showing “My Week with Marilyn.”

Normally, I wouldn’t care but there are some annoying little monsters kids in this plane and I wouldn’t want some offended parent to cause an uproar in Spanglish. So I let one of the flight attendants know and she thanks me by handing me my appetizer:

Salad on the ground? Boring. Salad a 37,000ft ? GTT.

The famous AA pretzel roll. Deservedly so.
Could have 10.

While in the middle of the food service (hectic), they ignore the movie confusion. People all over are stuffing their faces so they don’t care about a blank monitor.

I get my main course, I got my drink. I’m seating on a huge seat. I’m still feeling good. Not caring either.

Now we're talking. Steak. Magically medium!
Even good for non-airplane standards!

Obviously devoured in 4 minutes. And followed by:

Best ice cream ever.

After desserts were handed out, they apologized for the movie mistake and once again, announced “The Big Year.”

Except this time we got:

Not. Even. Kidding. I confess, I watched about 40 minutes of that tragedy (Sofia!) but then I passed out. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen or the pressurization or the 4 cups of champagne or the 3 hours of sleep over the last 48 hours.

In part 3 coming soon. Venezuela to San Juan to London. It’s a long way.

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