Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sakura-ficing Miles - Lounge report - American International First Class Lounge, Chicago-O'Hare

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I associate international flights with luxurious modern terminals and high-end boutiques offering designer handbags and luggage. Terminal 3 at Chicago-O'Hare couldn't be further from that image.

Terminal 3, Chicago-O'Hare

Terminal 3 is not remotely luxurious. Most flights that operate out of Terminal 3 are American Airlines mainline domestic flights, so the usual trappings of an international terminal aren't there. 

Three of American's oneworld partners (airberlin, Iberia, and Japan Airlines) also operate out of Terminal 3. The luckier oneworld airlines (British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qatar Airways, and Royal Jordanian) operate out of Terminal 5, a newer international-only terminal.

Two hours before departure, I was surprised to find no line at the JAL desk for any class of service. An AA agent greeted me in Japanese and handed me my boarding pass, then directed me to a security line next to the check-in counter.

Security took about 40 minutes to clear. It's very surprising to me that there was no priority lane available for premium-cabin passengers. I had heard that JAL usually escorts its first-class passengers to the front of the security line, but no such offer was made to me or to another first-class passenger who checked in shortly after I did.

JAL does not have its own lounge at O'Hare (understandable, since it operates just one daily flight). Business class and oneworld Sapphire (mid-tier) members can use the AA Admirals Club. First class and oneworld Emerald (top-tier) members have access to the AA International First Class Lounge.

American Airlines International First Class Lounge

The International First Class Lounge is conveniently located next to JAL's boarding gate, while the Admirals Club is a decent hike away.

Those hoping for a lounge experience like the Lufthansa First Class Terminal or Singapore Airlines Private Room will probably be disappointed. The lounge is small and doesn't offer any noteworthy amenities.

American Airlines International First Class Lounge seating

There is no dining-on-demand option. Instead, the lounge offers a few snacks, slightly better than what you would find at an Admirals Club.

Buffet area (the soup tureen was empty)

Caprese salad, sushi, and cold cuts

Perhaps as a nod to the JAL flight, the "buffet" offers sushi rolls, although they're closer to grocery-store quality than restaurant-quality.

California rolls

The self-service bar is probably the high point of the lounge's offerings.

Alcohol selection

Taittinger Champagne

Coffee machine

There was plenty of seating available. The "Quiet Room" used to be a smoking room.

There is a small business center area with a printer.

There are no showers in the lounge, and the bathrooms are similar to what you would find in the main terminal.

Men's restroom

The lounge was not a particularly glamorous place to wait, but the wi-fi was fast and the room was remarkably silent. I wouldn't arrive at O'Hare early to visit the lounge, but if you've got a few hours to kill anyway, it's probably better than waiting at the gate.

A couple minutes before boarding, I headed to Gate K19 to get some photos of the plane.  There were separate roped-off areas for each class of service.

Boarding area

At most gates, you can see the nose of the plane out the window, but not much else. Gate K19 is uniquely positioned so you get a sense of how long a 777-300 is.

Japan Airlines 777-300ER

Boarding for those with mobility issues or small children began a few minutes before boarding for first class and JAL's top-tier elite level, with announcements in English and Japanese.

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