Trip Report & Review – British Airways First + Galleries Lounges @ JFK

We’ve previously reviewed the BA Galleries lounge when flying business out of JFK T7, but this is our “first” review of the BA Galleries First Class lounge. This report also marks the first guest post by Enoch, one of the Juicy Miles award bookers. Take it away Enoch…

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific has a special place in my heart. I remember boarding my first flight ever as a little kid, on Cathay Pacific, turning right but secretly peeking to the left, spotting those (regional) business class seats that seemed so luxurious at the time. And I told myself—really, I did—that some day, I will fly business class on Cathay.

After moving to the U.S. about seven years ago, I have been slowly engaging myself in the points and miles hobby to realize that goal. I started with a ton of flying on United (after all, their ancient 747s commanded the cheapest fares to Hong Kong), and slowly but surely, I began expanding on programs,  credit cards, and got to where my mileage balances are today.

So here it is, my trip report on my first flight in Cathay Pacific’s First Class.

It all started with checking in at JFK. I arrived at Terminal 7 a good 4 hours before my flight, and since check-in wasn’t available yet, I sat (not so) patiently at the nice seating area across from the counters.

JFK Terminal 7 Premium Check-In Seating

JFK Terminal 7 Premium Check-In Seating

At 5:40 (3.5 hours before departure), the panels above the check-in desk changed to Cathay Pacific, but the counter was still occupied with Qantas agents. It wasn’t until 3 hours before check-in when the glorious Cathay Pacific ground staff finally emerged from the back room.

JFK Terminal 7 Cathay Pacific Check-In

Since I changed my flight at the last minute, from a direct JFK-HKG flight to one via Vancouver, I didn’t bother to assign my seats online. At check-in, I requested seat 2A but was told it wasn’t available. No big deal. Perhaps it was because they had just opened check-in and there was only one agent behind the counter, I was not escorted to the security line. The line was right next to check-in though, so I just moseyed my way over.

Right before I handed my travel documents to the TSA agent, I saw the lady who checked me in running towards me, practically screaming that she had “called and un-blocked” seat 2A for me, and handed me my new boarding passes. Sweet!

British Airways offers the Concorde Room for First Class passengers traveling in British Airways, whereas Cathay Pacific and other oneworld carriers use their Galleries and First Lounge in Terminal 7.

The two lounges share the same entrance. I handed my lounge invitation to the agent outside the door. As far as I know, the agents inside are meant to help you with your reservation, etc., while the ones outside make sure the entry requirements are met. Interestingly, there was no one stopping passengers from going between the two lounges (Galleries and First).

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It seems like there were delays with Iberia, British Airways, and Qantas, so the lounge was very full. The First Class Lounge was packed, so I ventured into the Galleries Lounge.

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However, after walking around for a few minutes, I still couldn’t find a seat. Eventually, I gave up and headed to the shower. The shower is located next to the Elemis Spa, where British Airways passengers can get a pre-flight treatment. Having never been to the lounge, I inquired at the desk whether there was a line for the shower, and the lady responded, “how the hell would I know? This is the spa!” Alright then!

After standing awkwardly by the showers for about 5 minutes, the shower attendant emerged and showed me to a shower room. The shower room was well appointed, and had a Pharo shower that ejects water from the wall as well. The only complaint I had was that there was nowhere to hang your towel other than the bench by the sink.

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After the shower, the lounge was still super crowded, so I decided to take advantage of the pre-flight dining that is offered to British Airways Business Class passengers and all First Class passengers. I presented my boarding pass to the hostess and was let in immediately.

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The dining area filled up really quickly after I settled in.

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They had a good selection of food, including a made heated-to-order risotto station.

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They had good beverage options as well, though I did find choices in dessert a bit lacking. Service was great, and even the chef behind the risotto was making small talk, offering assistance (“can I help you?”) to anyone who stared at an entree option for more than 2 seconds. Interestingly, there was also a manager of sort at the pre-flight dining section, who was walking around to make sure people were happy with the food. I caught him just by the beverage station, where he thanked me for supporting local brewery after I picked up a Brooklyn beer.

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After dinner, many of the delayed flights had departed, so the lounge crowd died down a little. I walked around the Galleries lounge and snapped a few pictures. There was a pretty extensive bar area, and the dry snacks options were a step up from what U.S. domestic lounges offer. There was a large table in the center of the hallway with fruit-infused water and fresh fruit, which was a nice touch.

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Also in the lounge were a charging station, luggage racks, and a business center.

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Eventually, I decided to settle down in the First Class Lounge side, where the seats were slightly nicer and the ambiance was less overwhelming. Power outlets (for US, UK, and Europe plugs) were plentiful, which is always great.

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The First Class side also has expanded food and beverage selections, including “gourmet” sandwiches, and Laurent-Perrier champagne. Attendants were quick to pick up used dishes and glassware, but drinks were largely self-served.

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Oh and look! There’s the fruit-infused water station again.

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Boarding announcements were made for British Airways and Iberia flights, but since I left the lounge about an hour before departure, so I wasn’t sure if one was made for my Cathay Pacific flight.

For how busy the lounge was, I thought the British Airways First and Galleries lounge were pretty decent, and it was nice that they extend pre-flight dining to First Class passengers as well. However, there was really nothing special about the lounge—believe it or not, the most memorable part of the lounge was the Elemis lady. The lounge was a nice escape from the terminal, for sure, but definitely not one that would make me arrive the airport extra early to visit.

Coming up next…Cathay Pacific First Class JFK-YVR!

Need helping planning your next award trip? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs, Enoch and the rest of the team stand ready to assist!

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