Emirates closes JFK lounge for renovations; pax left outside


Emirates Check-in at JFK Airport
Emirates Check-in at JFK Airport

Which is a better pre-flight experience, airline lounge or terminal restaurants? For Emirates’ premium travelers at JFK there won’t be a choice for the next few months. Emirates is closing its lounge for refurbishment and will not have an alternate facility available for passengers. Instead, they’ll receive a voucher to use at a restaurant in the terminal.

The message sent to Emirates customers today announcing the closure of the JFK lounge for renovations
The message sent to Emirates customers today announcing the closure of the JFK lounge for renovations

The closure is set to last into “early 2018” which means at least three months and probably longer. The move brings about two notable impacts to the passenger experience, even for passengers not traveling in the premium cabins.



The asterisk next to the word vouchers in the notice is one of the problems. It spells out that the coupon is valid only for a single restaurant. A passenger must use the full value in one place or forfeit the balance.

Want a light snack prior to flying? You're probably not going to find this in the airport shops
Want a light snack prior to flying? You’re probably not going to find this in the airport shops

Want a burger from Shake Shack and a glass of wine from Le Grand Comptior? You’re going to pay out of pocket for one of the two (the burger is probably cheaper, FWIW).

These are the JFK Airport T4 dining options Emirates' passengers will have to choose from while the lounge is closed
These are the JFK Airport T4 dining options Emirates’ passengers will have to choose from while the lounge is closed

When I’m looking to splurge and sleep on board The Palm is my go-to but details on the voucher value are scarce and I have no idea how that will work out against NYC+airport steak house prices. On the flip side, I could imagine the fun of running up an order at McDonalds to consume a full voucher. And the much less fun a few hours later somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

The bar is closed. Lounge guests will now get a voucher to use in the terminal while the rennovations are underway
The bar is closed. Lounge guests will now get a voucher to use in the terminal while the rennovations are underway

The meal shift probably matters more for the Milan flights than the Dubai service. It is a shorter flight, so the on-board dinner service cuts in to sleep time more significantly on the Italy flight.

Update: Heard back from the carrier on the voucher value. Business class/Gold passengers get $30 and first class/platinum gets $40. That’s definitely not enough for a meal at The Palm. Should cover Shake Shack, though, so long as you settle for only one beer.



The second factor affects everyone on board, not just the premium passengers now shut out of a lounge. The current lounge offers boarding directly to the aircraft from the lounge to the upper deck. Premium cabin passengers avoid the crowds of the main cabin boarding and also do not further contribute to them. It also means no need to walk the stairs on board to get to your seats.

Boarding the A380 from the lounge means skipping the crowds on the main deck. That benefit goes away with the lounge now closed for rennovation.
Boarding the A380 from the lounge means skipping the crowds on the main deck. That benefit goes away with the lounge now closed for rennovation.

For first class passengers especially this comes across as a downgrade as most business class passengers are likely to walk up the forward “grand” staircase and through first to get to business class. This is a first world problem, to be sure, but it is a downgrade of the product.

Also worth noting that, while it isn’t awful as JFK terminals go, T4 does not have a ton of comfortable seating in the terminal, especially over by the A380 gates. That’s going to be an additional challenge for passengers awaiting departure.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

25 Comments

  1. I’ve honestly always been amazed that Emirates justifies the cost of its own proprietary lounges at so many airports to begin with.

  2. Better damn well be ready by the time in fly in March or they better be prepared to open up award space that doesn’t exist for some flights later in the year.

  3. Last time I checked you can purchase a day pass to the Etihad Lounge, but it’s only open during certain times around their departures.

  4. I can’t believe they aren’t at least offering Biz and First pax access to another one of the lounges in the terminal, especially at JFK. Sounds like an opportunity to leave a sour taste in a lot of mouths for years to come.

    1. The only “public” lounge in T4 is the Wingtips lounge. It probably isn’t big enough to handle the crowds, though from a cost perspective I’d bet EK could negotiate something that is comparable to the vouchers being distributed.

      Beyond that the options are Air India, Delta, Swiss, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad & EL AL. Delta and Virgin Atlantic would never let EK in. Nor with Etihad. Swiss is part of the LH Group that’s pretty unhappy with the ME3, too. And EL AL doesn’t exist as far as they’re concerned. So, Air India, that is being crushed by the ME3’s pull of passengers off the sub-continent? Methinks not.

    2. Solid points. I didn’t really think about it, but you are right, they have pissed off enough of their competitors that they aren’t likely to help even for the right price. And if I remember the Wingtips lounge correctly, you are right, there would be people camping out on the floor if all of the premium pax from an A380 were to show up at once. I just know that if I had paid for a premium experience and didn’t have a comfortable quiet place to wait for my flight at JFK, I would be pretty upset.

      On another note, I would love to see an update if we find out any more about the value of the vouchers, or anyone’s experience with using them in the airport.

    3. I never understand why there is so much food in the lounges , that people act like they have never ate in their lives and then people still eat on the plane too.

      1. Depends on the person, I suppose. Plenty take advantage of a trip to be gluttonous. Others take advantage of lounge dining to sleep more on the plane.

    4. Absolutely. I’d expect that they accommodate me in another lounge. I’m flying first with my wife tomrorow and I’m not looking forward to it to be honest.

  5. ive flown emirates a couple of times roundtrip jfk-mxp.

    the food was slightly nicer than some other lounges, but only slightly.

    but, mostly, i want a lounge as a refuge from wandering round a chaotic terminal endlessly looking for a seat, and as an easy place to charge my gear and have reliable internet…
    … restaurant vouchers don’t address any of those requirements

    1. Can’t help with the seat or charging, but the wifi has become mostly better of late.

      Of course, the terminal could go full-on OTG for food which would put plenty of power outlets all over the terminal, but also make a mess of the space with iPads everywhere and off-brand options that are less than stellar for the price point.

  6. other airlines club lounges offer day passes

    At least emirates suggest that alternative it’s a good alternative to waiting in the terminal zoo mess or offer ticket refunds.

  7. If there’s a big blizzard in NYC that causes delays on EK flights, this would be a huge downgrade indeed. I was EK gold back in dec 2010 and recall there being a huge blizzard on Dec 26. My JFK-DXB flight was delayed by 4 hours and that EK lounge was a nice refuge from the craziness downstairs from all the other delayed flights of other airlines.

  8. I’m flying BOS-DEL in late December, and was considering Emirates for their A380 out of JFK; I’ve done it before. Yes, it’s a HUGE a hassle to arrive at Terminal 5 ( transfer & go thru TSA again ) to get to Terminal 5, but the Emirates Lounge, and being able to board via that lounge, made it somewhat worthwhile. With a $40 voucher, and nowhere to just chill; I’m flying Qatar ( A350 ) BOS-DEL. Thanks Emirates for making this decision easy! Wondering how ANY airline could/ would close a premium lounge during busiest season of the year. Perhaps the rumors of Emirates cutting back on US A380 service are indeed true!

    1. I think the issue is that there just aren’t any other options for EK to go with given the alternate lounges in the terminal and number of passengers affected.

      As for your itinerary, I’m not at all sure why you’d add the extra connection just for an EK lounge experience.

      1. Was going to add the JFK connection to fly EK’s A380 vs 777 out of BOS. The Lounge, and it’s separate boarding gates made the BOS-JFK transfer worth the hassle. Friend flew EK ( BOS-DXB ), and got a last minute warning/ too-late to change ticket about “no lounge”. She said it was absolute chaos, w/ no coordination, as EK attempted to board all 500+ passengers from one separate gate vs 2 previously. Too, she said that both a gate agent, and a FA told her that EK doesn’t intend on re-opening the Lounge, and will actually be reducing A380 flights out of JFK. I love EK, and I realize that they’ve been hemorrhaging $$ on their A380 service; it’s sad to see them go down this path as they have to slash services.

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