Some construction work is currently underway at New York JFK Airport. One part was recently completed: Terminal 8 now includes five additional gates. British Airways was finally able to move into a joint terminal with its close partner American Airlines (and other Oneworld airlines).
There is also good news for all Oneworld frequent flyers. British Airways and American have opened two new lounges together with the extension to the terminal. The Oneworld Lounge ensemble now consists of:
- The Greenwich Lounge for business passengers and frequent flyers with Sapphire status
- The SoHo lounge for frequent flyers with Emerald status
- The Chelsea Lounge for British Airways and American first class guests
The Greenwich Lounge is identical to the former AA Flagship Lounge, just with a new name. First class passengers will note that the British Airways Concorde Room has had to close permanently, which is a step backwards for BA passengers. But this report is only about the brand-new SoHo Lounge.
The two new lounges (SoHo and Greenwich) share a common entrance. It is located directly to the right after the security checkpoint. The signage at the airport has already been adjusted, so following the signs to SoHo it’s hard to miss the lounge. At some point, you will see the following signs:
The elevator then takes you to the access control counters:
In the picture, you can see the boarding pass scanners and the entrance to the SoHo Lounge. Directly to the right of the privacy screen is the Chelsea Lounge for selected first class passengers.
As of January 2023, the SoHo Lounge is open daily from 4:30 to 0:30 (i.e. until after midnight). Although it is a first class lounge according to the official Oneworld classification, it is primarily designed for frequent flyers with Emerald status. British Airways (unfortunately) often makes such a separation.
The SoHo Lounge is therefore open to the following passengers:
- Frequent flyers with Oneworld Emerald status combined with any Oneworld flight (+ 1 guest)
- Exception #1: applies to AA and Alaska Airlines status holders only in connection with an international flight
- Exception #2: Frequent flyers with AA ConciergeKey or BA Gold Guest List status are allowed to bring 2 guests or the whole family when flying on their home airline
- First class passengers on any Oneworld airline (+ 1 guest)
- Note: Those flying BA or AA are better off visiting the Chelsea Lounge next door
Terminal 8 is also home to many domestic American Airlines flights. Terminals in the US do not differentiate between passengers travelling nationally or internationally. Accordingly, the lounge can also be used before a domestic flight with AA. If you start in another terminal, you can also visit the SoHo Lounge, but then you have to go through security twice.
Despite Emerald status, only the Greenwich lounge was printed on my Finnair boarding pass, and the lady at check-in also referred me there. Luckily I had heard about the opening beforehand on the US blogs, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have come across it.
The SoHo Lounge seats a total of 282 people. When I got there on my visit (around 20:00 on a weekday) there were roughly 50 people present. After several flights to London and one to Madrid took off, it then increasingly emptied. At 22:00 there were only four or five other guests to be found.
Overall, the lounge is designed to disperse the crowds fairly well. There is a staffed bar with bar stools directly behind the entrance. There are also some tables with seats and sofas:
Numerous leather armchairs were placed behind a small room divider and along the entire window front. There is no table there, so they are more for relaxing than eating.
I really liked the huge wooden tables, of which there are four (if I counted correctly). If you want to work on your laptop, many lounges only have high bar tables with uncomfortable stools to sit on. Here, on the other hand, there is plenty of space – and numerous sockets. Below is my favourite place where I spent most of my time
As can already be guessed from the gallery above, the large restaurant area follows. It was by far the busiest there, and about every second seat was occupied. If you want to be left alone, you can only eat briefly here and then retire to the quieter corners of the lounge:
At the far end of the lounge, there are a few screened-off couches that hardly anyone noticed. There is little space for the laptop here, but otherwise a very nice corner:
But the insider tip among the insider tips is the relaxation room. It is to the right of the buffet but is hidden behind a wooden door. I, too, only came across it because it was mentioned in the View from the Wing review. Inside there were several recliners and chaise longues. And since no one seems to find the room, chances are you’ll be the only guest there:
Aside from hiding the relaxation room, the interior design of the lounge made a very thoughtful impression on me. There is the right seating for everything. And on top of that, I really like the design with numerous wooden touches, dimmed lights and a few splashes of colour here and there. I would even go so far as to say that the SoHo Lounge is one of the most beautiful lounges around.
Food & Drinks
After entering the lounge, I made myself comfortable in the restaurant area. It was 20:00, and I hadn’t eaten anything but breakfast and a menu at Taco Bell. So I was all the more excited to see what the lounge had to offer.
À la carte
First of all, however, it should be mentioned that no real restaurant service is to be expected here (in contrast to e.g. the Finnair Platinum Wing in Helsinki). Yes, the food is brought to the seat. But to do this, it must first be ordered via smartphone. A corresponding QR code can be found at the table – but only in the central restaurant area. My favourite, huge wooden table (see above) did not offer such an order option.
There were a total of seven main courses to choose from including fish n chips, burgers and a pastrami sandwich.
I’ve never been able to resist a burger, especially when it’s free. After 20 long minutes of waiting, it arrived at my table. And it was almost perfect: thick beef patty, fluffy brioche bun, a generous amount of pickles – and crunchy fries. Only my wish to get the burger medium fried somehow got lost. The meat was still juicy though.
It’s probably time for a burger ranking in Oneworld lounges. But even with two candidates (SoHo Lounge JFK and Platinum Wing HEL) I’m having a hard time deciding on a favourite. Both are very good in their own way. At Finnair the burger is a bit more exquisite, at BA the fries are better. A draw.
Next up was the difficult choice between Fish n Chips and Shepherd’s Pie. I opted for the shepherd’s pie. It could have used a little more meat and a crispier crust. Conclusion: Good, nothing more.
What should not be missing after two calorie bombs? Exactly, a
raw vegetable salad ice cream. Again, the menu won me over when the website offered to make my own ice cream sandwich. There, you could freely choose between four different cookies and four ice cream flavours.
I went for the boring classic – two chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream in between:
The ice cream was of average quality, but the cookies were excellent (crunchy and chocolatey). Almost too crunchy, because when eating, all the ice cream spilt out between the biscuits and in the end, I was left with just two biscuits. But that’s kind of the hallmark of sandwiches like this.
Drinks could also be ordered via the app. There is a variety of beers, wines and cocktails to choose from. I have no idea about any of these things, so here is an excerpt from the cocktail menu:
If you don’t have time for the à la carte dining (or can’t get enough there), you can visit the buffet next to it. The following hot dishes were available there:
- Tortellini with tomato sauce
- Fried vegetables
- Chicken pot pie soup (in other words: chicken with vegetables)
- Shrimp swimming in lots of sauce
There were also various salads, olives, a cheese platter with berries, bread, rolls, ham and a few other little things. A small dessert table provided lemon wedges, chocolate fudge cake, and cookies (same as the ice cream sandwich).
Already relatively well satisfied, I only tried a few things. The hot dishes were all mediocre. The shrimp had potential, but an unusual, rubbery consistency for me.
The highlights from my point of view are:
- The berries (the raspberries tasted as if you had picked them yourself, not like cheap berries from the supermarket)
- The lemon pie (a good mix of sour and sweet)
- The ham (also tastes great without bread)
Compared to the flagship aka Greenwich Lounge next door, the buffet left me with mixed feelings. I liked the tapas and desserts better in the SoHo Lounge. On the other hand, the warm main courses weren’t really my cup of tea – and I couldn’t find any sushi.
There is a small plus point for the selection of drinks. There is no coke freestyle machine like in the Flagship Lounge, but there is water in high-quality (disposable) aluminium bottles. Of course, I would never think of just taking them on the plane.
A few wines are also available for self-service. Rather unusual for the USA:
Not much to say at this point (again) as I haven’t had much contact with the service staff. The dishes took between 15 and 20 minutes to be brought to the table. I think that’s okay for freshly prepared food because a burger like this from the grill just takes a little time.
At least the staff didn’t appear to expect a tip. In the Polaris Lounge, a waiter once pointed out to me that service was not included – a false statement. However, you cannot order there using a QR code.
The empty plates were quickly cleared away. Sometimes so quickly that I had to get new cutlery even though I wanted to use the old one again. But that speaks more for than against the service.
Let’s come to the end of the review – and thus to all the points that didn’t fit anywhere else. There are three service counters in the lounge, but there was no employee there during my visit. I wonder if the staff will then have access to the American Airlines booking system – or British Airways – or both. Because the two airlines act as equal operators of the lounge.
There are several showers in the lounge. The use of these must first be registered at the reception. After that, one of the large cabins can be used. These are fully equipped with a toilet, suitcase stand, various amenities – and of course a shower. I was assigned the handicap-accessible shower, so it was probably a bit larger than the rest:
And speaking of the sanitary facilities: Of course, there are also toilets. These are separated by gender and large enough to accommodate any crowd. Greetings to everyone who makes a living inventing new tap designs. Before the SoHo Lounge, I thought I had seen everything by now:
There are two wooden telephone booths in the lounge for anyone who
likes to bother their circle of friends with voice messages has to make important calls. It looks something like this:
This time I also remembered to do the speed test for the lounge Wi-Fi. The results were rather disappointing, with synchronous 10 MBit/s. Especially when you consider that I already had a network that was 15 times faster in the middle of the Baltic Sea. But the same applies here: the speed is completely sufficient for working. Only those who want to download apps have to wait a little longer.
- Comfort & Furnishing
- Food & Drinks (á la Carte)
- Food & Drinks (Buffet)
I’ve been to the American Flagship Lounge next door quite a few times now, and I’ve been quite fond of it. The SoHo lounge for Emerald frequent flyers is a step forward in almost every way. It is stylish and comfortable, and the (British-inspired) food is right up my alley. Only at the buffet is there still some room for improvement.
While the SoHo lounge isn’t a real first class lounge (just by the existence of the better Chelsea lounge), it’s definitely an asset for Oneworld frequent flyers. And for me, a reason not to want to give up the emerald status so quickly.