Review: Korean Air First Class Lounge New York JFK

by Stephen

We arrived at JFK Terminal 1 around 9:00am, a little over three hours before our scheduled departure time. Check in for Korean Air was already bustling in the coach and business class lines, while first class check in was relatively quiet.

a blue and red sign in a airport

people standing in line at an airport

Korean Air JFK T1 Check-In

Right as we walked up to an empty first class line, the agent pulled over several people who were waiting in the business line, so we waited about five minutes while those passengers were checked in.
people at an airport check in counter

Checking In For Our Korean Flight And A Pleasant Surprise…

When our time came, we were greeted warmly by two agents at the counter. When we initially booked our award ticket, we were able to get all four of us on the same JFK-ICN flight, however we were on separate connecting flights to Tokyo because there was no award space for four on a single flight.

Not expecting anything, I casually asked our check in agent if it would be possible to switch our friends onto our flight. Without hesitation, I was told that they would try to make that happen. In all, it took about fifteen minutes, several phone calls, and three agents and a supervisor to make it happen, but to our surprise and delight, they were able to switch our friends’ flights relatively painlessly. I was very impressed both with the service of all of the agents involved and how there was no pushback towards my request, despite the fact that they certainly did not need to accommodate us.

Security At JFK Terminal 1 

There was no priority or premium security line at Terminal 1 this particular morning (based on my experiences, it seems to sometimes be present and other times not), and even with TSA PreCheck, security took about 20 minutes. It didn’t help that we chose the wrong line to go through, as it seemed to be the bag screener’s first day: he manually inspected every single bag even after they had gone through the X-ray scanner and on top of that ran about every third bag twice. While I’m not privy to the negotiations and conversations that go towards the decision of whether or not to have a premium security line at any given airport or terminal, I can’t be the only person thinks it’s ridiculous that a major terminal at an airport like JFK doesn’t always have a dedicated premium security line.

The Korean Air Lounge JFK 

Once past security, we headed to the lounge. The Korean Air lounge at JFK has been reviewed and universally panned in the past, perhaps most notably by Ben over at One Mile at a Time, and I was curious to see if things had changed. The lounge is near Gate 1 and tucked away behind a souvenir shop with very minimal signage.
a sign in a storea door to a buildingIn addition to being accessible to Korean Air and SkyTeam premium passengers, the lounge also serves as a Priority Pass lounge. The lounge itself is up one level from the terminal, and we were greeted by two friendly Korean Air agents once we arrived at the front desk on the second floor.

a group of signs on a floor

Korean Air JFK lounge access

a group of people standing in front of a desk
The lounge is split into a business class section to one side and a first class section to the other side. While the business class side was completely packed, the first class side had aside from us just two other people, both of whom we eventually realized were in first with us on our flight.

a room with chairs and a televisiona group of people sitting in a lounge areaa glass wall with a table and chairsFood and Drinks At The Korean Air Lounge JFK

Plenty of digital ink has been spilled over the meager offerings in this and other international Korean Air lounges so I won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say that this is undoubtedly one of the weaker showings when it comes to international first class lounges.
a counter with food and drinks on ita group of food on a countera buffet with food and drinksa tray of snacks on a countera refrigerator with food on topa group of bottles of alcohol on a trayI had some water out of those peculiar packaged cups that Korean Air seems to be fond of and out of curiosity one of our friends tried a few bites of one of the microwaveable noodle bowls, but really there was nothing even remotely appetizing.
a plastic cup of water on a table
Criticism of the lounge’s catering aside, I didn’t mind the decent plane spotting views that the lounge offered and I passed our time in the lounge looking outside.
a group of airplanes at an airportThis is not a lounge to show up early at the airport for, and after about 20 minutes we packed up our things to head to the gate, where the inevitable line of grandmas in wheelchairs that are omnipresent on every Asia-bound flight was already starting to snake around the boarding area.

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Simon May 6, 2019 - 11:34 am

And they say people don’t dress up in their best to fly anymore.

Michael May 6, 2019 - 11:58 am

Korean air never gets accolades for good lounges nor good service. I’ve flown them once and wasn’t impressed with anything.

Scott May 6, 2019 - 4:19 pm

Food selection looks better than the weak KAL lounge at LAX.


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