Consistently Delicious: A Review of AA’s Flagship First Dining at LAX
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Over the past 14 months, American Airlines has been opening its refreshed Flagship Lounges at a relatively quick pace. Three of the four Flagship Lounges that have opened during this time — New York (JFK), Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX) — include American’s exclusive Flagship First Dining, a sit-down, restaurant-style dining experience available only to those passengers traveling in first class on a three-cabin American Airlines flight. That means Flagship First Dining is limited to passengers traveling in Flagship First on its Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A321Ts, the latter of which serve premium transcon routes from JFK to LAX and San Francisco (SFO).
American’s newest Flagship First Dining opened at LAX back in December. After having tried Flagship First Dining at JFK and MIA several times, I was excited to see how the experience at LAX stacked up before a recent transcon from LAX to JFK.
As explained above, access to Flagship First Dining is based solely on your class of service: You must be traveling in Flagship First on a three-cabin international or premium transcon flight. Even top-tier elite status (ConciergeKey included) isn’t enough.
Flagship First Dining is located within the Flagship Lounge in Terminal 4, across from Gate 40. After entering the sliding doors on the ground floor, an agent will take your boarding pass to confirm access to the Flagship Lounge. If you’re eligible for Flagship First Dining, the agent will often ask, “Will you be joining us for Flagship First Dining today?” Unless you’re pressed for time, there’s probably only one right answer to that question (hint: It’s yes). Speaking of which: To fully enjoy the Flagship First Dining experience, American recommends budgeting an hour. That seems about right to me, but if you want to sample more than one cocktail or a couple of different appetizers, I’d perhaps budget an additional fifteen minutes.
If you accept the dining invitation, the agent will take a white paper card and write your name, the number of people in your party and your flight number on it. You’ll need this card to access the dining room once you get into the lounge. The agent will also give you an “invitation” to the Flagship Lounge, printed on a glossy black piece of paper.
After checking in on the ground floor, you’ll go up one level, where there is another set of desks and agents. To the right is the nicely refreshed Admirals Club, and the Flagship Lounge is to the left.
An agent will check to see that you’ve got the glossy black piece of paper in order to let you in the Flagship Lounge. If you have a dining invitation, you’ll be escorted down a very long hallway to the Flagship First Dining room.
Layout and Design
If you’ve visited the Flagship First Dining room at JFK or MIA, the one at LAX will feel familiar. American has been remarkably consistent with design touches across Flagship Lounges and Flagship First Dining rooms, and LAX is no exception. Personally, I’m a fan of the design — though there are a few things I’d change (like the fabric used for the placemats and the banquettes).
After entering the room, the bar and a long communal table are on the left.
Check out all those outlets on the table!
To the right is the main part of the dining room, facing the east side of Terminal 4. By my quick count, there’s seating for around 17 in the bar area, and for about 30 in the main part of the dining room.
There are a handful of dividers between tables for added privacy, though my family and I were the only ones here while we ate before our flight.
After a quick look around the dining room, it seemed to me that outlets were plentiful for those who need to work and eat.
For the #AvGeeks out there, the lounge provides solid views of the apron and gate area.
Menu and Food
Each Flagship First Dining location draws on local culinary tastes or specialties, though every location serves the highly regarded Signature Flagship Burger. At MIA, for example, the menu in December included ceviche, crispy pork belly empanadas, carne asada, black bean cake, chimichurri free range chicken and braised pulled pork shank with cumin rice and pebre sauce.
Here’s the menu for Flagship First Dining LAX:
Cocktails also vary by location, and all are created by the incredible mixologist Pamela Wiznitzer. Here’s the LAX wine and cocktail menu:
I ordered a Oaxacan Old Fashioned to kick things off, which was nicely balanced — and far more refreshing than a regular old fashioned.
To start, we were offered bread. There was a choice between rosemary and olive rolls, though it was tough to tell which was which from the outside.
For our main course, we shared the Cantonese-style raw spicy yellowtail, the blistered shishito peppers, the charred romaine and baby kale salad and the miso black cod. The yellowtail was served in three thick-cut pieces, topped with corn and served with crispy vermicelli and cucumber slices. It tasted very fresh, though I did not really taste the smoked chili. Also, it wasn’t quite as spicy as the name would suggest, but I’d still order it again.
The shishito peppers were also served as a trio on top of chopped roasted peppers and feta cheese, with long rectangular lavash crackers on the bottom. These were especially flavorful.
The charred romaine and baby kale salad was also tasty.
The highlight of the meal, by far, was the miso black cod. It was served on top of black rice and bok choy. The skin was perfectly crispy, and the fish itself was juicy.
I didn’t ask if they had dessert, (we didn’t have time to eat it) but after clearing our plates our server brought us these chocolates, to the delight of my kids:
Flagship First Dining at LAX was delicious, and it helps that the airline has created a calm and stylish ambience to go along with the great food. The quality of the dining has been consistent across the JFK, MIA and LAX locations, and I really think American’s knocked it out of the park. It’s a terrific option for those who want to maximize in-flight time for working or sleeping, and the quality is understandably leaps and bounds better than what you get at 30,000 feet — even in Flagship First.
One thing I can’t help but notice is that Flagship First Dining has been close to empty every time I’ve used it. People might debate whether this is more of a good thing for passengers or a bad thing for American. I do enjoy how calm Flagship First Dining has been — especially given how crowded the Flagship Lounges can get. But since there are usually so many empty tables (and assuming American isn’t looking to expand access to Flagship First Dining), it’d be nice to see some variation in seating in the dining room — maybe in addition to two-tops, four-tops and bar seating, the airline could throw in some couches and coffee tables for those who might prefer to lounge a bit. Overall, though, American deserves credit for a job well done.