British Airways First and Business Class Lounge at JFK (Serving Cathay Pacific Passengers)

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


For the first leg of our trip to get to Seattle for our Alaskan cruise, Ken and I had a short hop flight on American Airlines from Washington, DC National Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Since our Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver was leaving out of JFK, we had to take a taxi from LGA to JFK. It was a flat rate, around $40 I think, and relatively quick despite being the beginning of rush hour.

We had booked a fairly early flight from DCA-LGA to allow for flight delays and traffic delays to get to JFK, but as it turns out, everything went perfect. No flight delays, barely any traffic. So, once we arrived at JFK, we had to wait a while before the Cathay Pacific ticket counter opened before we could check in and proceed past security to get to the lounge. (We had been unable to check-in online!)

Check-in counter for Cathay Pacific and other international departures Check-in counter for Cathay Pacific and other international departures

Can I just point out that the location of the TSA screening line was SO ridiculous at JFK. It was actually on some sort of ramp, so everybody’s suitcases would tip over backwards while waiting in line. And, as the bags came off the conveyer belt and onto the rollers, the bags would drift backwards. Not very well designed!

After we made it through security, we made our way to the British Airways international departures lounge, which first and business class Cathay Pacific passengers are allowed to use.

The lounge is split into two sides: The First Class passenger side and the Business Class passenger side.

As I alluded to in our introduction post, I had originally booked two business class tickets on Cathay Pacific, knowing that they usually open up first class availability at the last minute. The idea was that I would switch our seats from business class to first class. About two months before our departure, ONE first class seat opened, and I jumped on it, booking it in Ken’s name. And I kept checking and checking for one more seat to come available. There were four open seats in first class according to ExpertFlyer (meaning that only two seats were booked, one of which was Ken’s).

Long story short, a second first class seat NEVER opened. I checked all the way until the morning of our departure. The flight did, in fact, go out with FOUR empty first class seats. Ken and I had talked about it, whether we both just wanted to sit in business class together, but I told him I really wanted him to experience Cathay Pacific First Class. So, I sat in business and he sat in first.

Anyway, all this to say that we had access to BOTH sides of the British Airways lounge. The first class side (Ken as a passenger plus me as his guest), and the business class side (which both first and business class passengers can access.)

So, first we went to the first class side, assuming it would be nicer. It was quiet and clean, with a decent spread of food. I’d say about 70% of the seats were full, so there wasn’t a huge issue with seating. But the biggest problem was the absolute SWELTERING heat in the lounge. It was early June, but it really wasn’t THAT hot outside. maybe like the upper 70s. In fact, it was downright pleasant outside for summer weather. So the heat in the lounge was downright perplexing.

British Airways First Class lounge | Cathay Pacific First Class lounge at JFK British Airways First Class lounge | Cathay Pacific First Class lounge at JFK

Food spread at British Airways first class lounge at JFK
Food spread at British Airways first class lounge at JFK

So, Ken ventured off to check out the business class lounge side while I saved our seats in the first class lounge.

Within a few minutes, I get a text from Ken. The below photo was attached along with the caption, “See if you can come find me on the business class side.”

Outdoor seating area at British Airways JFK business class lounge | Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge

I was all like, “Huh?” I gathered up my bags and headed to the business class side. It took me a few minutes to figure out where on earth he could be in an outdoor seating area, but I finally found it!

We sat down on the lovely outdoor couches and enjoyed the gorgeous June air while we waited for our late night Cathay Pacific flight. It was truly a perfect spot to lounge.

Ken at outdoor seating area at lounge Melissa at outdoor seating area at lounge

Now that we weren’t completely sweating like we were on the first class side, we were able to sit back and enjoy the lounge.

There were multiple buffet and alcohol stations throughout the lounge.

British Airways Business Class Lounge at JFK | Serving Cathay Pacific passengers Alcohol at British Airways Business Class Lounge at JFK Alcohol at British Airways Business Class Lounge at JFK

The food and snacks servings were decent.

Food at British Airways lounge at JFK Food at British Airways lounge at JFK Food at British Airways lounge at JFK Food at British Airways lounge at JFK

The business side was more crowded and definitely more bustling than the first class side, but there was almost a festive atmosphere in the lounge. There was a LOT of seating in the lounge, but most of it was full, as it seemed this was prime departure time for a lot of the flights that can use the British Airways lounge.

Seating at British Airways Lounge at JFK Seating at British Airways Lounge at JFK Seating at British Airways Lounge at JFK

Even the outdoor area, which was completely empty when Ken and I first found it, started to fill up quite a bit!

Outdoor seating area at British Airways business class lounge at JFK

I visited the “pub” area of the lounge many, many times during our several hours at the lounge. It had self-serve beer on tap!

Pub at British Airways Lounge at JFK Pub at British Airways Lounge at JFK

There as also an abundance of shoe art on the walls:

Art at British Airways Lounge at JFK

And a decent-looking area for kids:

Kids play area at British Airways business class lounge at JFK

Ken and I tend to be fairly introverted, but the outdoor space at the lounge lent itself so well to socializing. We chatted with a dude from Sweden for quite a while, and many others who sat for a while outside on the couches. It really made our layover fly by!

For what it’s worth, the lounge offers a pre-departure supper for first class passengers.  But, Ken had filled up on snacks, so he wasn’t hungry for the supper.

Pretty soon, it was time to board for our 9:55PM departure to Vancouver. We took care of some adminstrative things in the lounge, like calling AT&T to add the “Canada” plan to our cell phones, and then we headed to the gate for boarding.

The gate area was a complete zoo, so I’m glad we had had some nice quiet time in the louge before our departure. Before long, we boarded, and pushed back for an on-time departure.

The next post in the series will cover our experiences in Cathay Pacific Business Class and Cathay Pacific First Class.

Results of my January 2016 Credit Card App-o-Rama

I decided to go ahead and apply for some new credit cards a few weeks ago. I was starting to get a little panicky over Chase’s new 5/24 rule, so I especially wanted to get my husband in for a Chase Ink Card since he has fewer applications on his credit report than I do.  I applied for cards for both of us, which is a first for me. Usually I’ll just get cards for the one of us. But, I’ll explain in a minute why that was!

Capital One Venture

Ah yes, Capital One.  You don’t hear much about “lucrative” Capital One cards. Their travel cards usually can’t be used to redeem fancy pants first class flights or $700/night hotel rooms unless you can shell out multitudes of points.  But, as I mentioned a while back, we’re planning a family trip to Disney World, and I wanted a way to offset some of the costs of the Disney trip. I had read over at My Dollar Plan that Madison used Capital One Venture points for some of her Disney expenses. And I thought that was a fantastic idea.

So I applied for two cards. One for me and one for Ken.

Bonus: 40,000 points after spending $3000 in the first three months

Approval Details: Ken was approved immediately for a $30,000 credit limit.  I received a “pending decision” message, and a few days later, I was denied.  Why?  Get this:

“Based on your credit report from Equifax, too few or no revolving accounts have a balance.”

So wait, Capital One doesn’t want to give me a card because I don’t have enough credit card debt?  I didn’t bother to call for reconsideration because there are a lot of threads that say Capital One doesn’t even do “reconsiderations.”  Womp womp.

Barclays World Arrival

I’ve had this card for several years now and have redeemed points at some great places, like the Anglers Hotel in Miami, and a few other hotels that have reviews forthcoming. In the same vein as the Capital One Venture card, I thought we could use some extra Barclays World Arrival points in the coffers to cover even more Disney expenses if necessary (and if not for Disney, they always come in handy for other expenses, like non-chain hotels).

Bonus: 40,000 points after spending $3000 in the first three months.

Approval Details: Had Ken apply and he was approved immediately with a $12,500 limit.

Chase Ink Bold

Chase recently changed their application rules and cards can be denied if you’ve had 5 credit applications (from ANY bank) in the past 24 months. At first this was just for Ultimate Rewards earning cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it will soon be applicable to all Chase cards.  Yikes! Since Ken doesn’t apply for cards as often as I do, I definitely wanted to get one of the Ultimate Rewards cards before 5 credit card applications hit his credit report.  I’ve had this card for several years now, so it was just Ken that applied for this card.

Bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5000 in the first three months.

Approval Details: Received “pending decision” message, but within a day, the application was approved with a $5000 limit without any action on our part.

 

Citi HHonors Signature Visa

It’s almost comical how many times I’ve applied for and been approved for this card. Seriously, I have never been denied and have probably had this card a half dozen times now.  Well, this time was no different.  It was just me who applied for this card, mostly because I didn’t want our minimum spending requirements to get too crazy for the next three months.  I was running pretty low on HHonors points, so I thought it was a good time to apply.

Bonus: 50,000 HHonors points after spending $2000 in the first three months (However, shortly after I applied, there was an improved offer of 75,000 points, so I may call to see if I can get my bonus bumped up).

Approval Details: Approved immediately with a $15,500 limit.

 

Have you applied for any points and miles cards recently?

Results of my recent (mini) credit card app-o-rama

 

There’s general guidance on the points-and-miles blogosphere that applying for credit cards once per quarter is a pretty good strategy.  Enough time has passed between inquiries on your credit report, and it’s good to always continue to have those credit card points and miles rolling in on a regular basis.

I don’t follow that rule hard and fast.  I’ll apply for cards several times a year, but it’s not like I apply for a bunch of cards every three months precisely.  I had just applied for a bunch of cards in early June, and didn’t really have any intention of applying for more until maybe right before the holidays.  

But then, after nearly a year of mulling options, we decided to pull the trigger on a fairly major basement renovation (more on that in future posts!).  Which meant some bigger expenses.  Which meant that we could meet minimum spending requirements for some new credit cards pretty darn quickly.  

So, lo and behold, I pretty much did apply for new cards almost exactly three months after my last app-o-rama.  I’m calling this a “mini” app-o-rama because it only consisted of two cards, instead of my usual 3 or 4.  

 

SPG American Express (Personal)

During the recent bonus increase for the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex Card, I decided to finally apply for this card.  It seems to be a staple of many miles-and-points bloggers wallets, and I even had Ken apply for it a few years ago (when we wanted the points to stay at a W Hotel in St. Petersburg (a Starwood property), but I’ve never had this card!  

Bonus: 30,000 SPG points after spending $3000 in the first three months.  

Approval Details: Received “pending decision” message.  My first ever for an Amex Card!  I had to close out an old, unused Hilton HHonors Amex to be approved for the card.  Easy Peasy.  Approved with a $17,500 limit.  

 

Discover It

This card has some VERY lucrative cashback offers for the next year.  The bonus includes double cashback on all purchases for 12 billing cycles.  So, that would be 2% cashback on normal, everyday purchases, and 10% cashback on their rotating quarterly bonus categories.  Additionally, they’re offering 10% cashback when you use your Discover Card on Apple Pay!  That was too good of a promotion to turn down, even though it doesn’t necessarily translate to “points and miles” easily, I still love the idea of some easy cash back!  

Bonus:  $100 bonus after first purchase within three months.  

Approval Details: Approved immediately with a $3000 limit.  Seriously Discover, a $3000 limit for somebody with a 790 credit score?  I called to see if they could increase the limit, but they said that they wouldn’t do that until I had the card open for at least 90 days.  Womp womp.  I can still use the card obviously, but I don’t like having cards with lower limits because it puts me more at risk of easily reaching the “50% of my credit limit” guidance that can start to hurt your credit score.  Oh well.  I’ll work with it.  

 

Have you applied for any new credit cards recently?  What have been your top picks?

P.S. Message me if you’d like for me to email you an application link for either card!  

Results of my June 2015 Credit Card App-o-Rama

I saw some increased sign-up bonuses for a few credit cards that looked lucrative, so I applied for those as well as some additional cards (since it makes sense to apply for multiple cards on the same day), making this my June 2015 Credit Card App-o-Rama

 

Gold Delta American Express

I tend to ignore Delta points since they aren’t very lucrative.  They tend to have high redemption rates, don’t offer first class partner awards, and frankly, I don’t know the last time I flew a Delta flight or Delta partner flight.  (Actually, I take that back.  I do know.  It was 12 years ago, in 2003, when I flew on Air France.)  Delta doesn’t seem to have a big hub in the DC area.

However, I always kind of have a trip to Australia or New Zealand in the back of my mind.  And these are where Delta Skymiles points can come in handy and can be redeemed on Virgin Australia’s business class.

So, I figured there was no harm in having some Skymiles in the coffers.

Bonus: 50,000 Delta Skymiles after spending $2000 in the first three months.

Approval Details: Instantly approved with $10,000 limit.  However, in a strange twist, they took $10,000 of credit I had on a different American Express card without notifying me first.  I mean, I barely use the card that they took the $10,000 from, and both cards still have five digit limits, but it was the first time this happened to me.  (Although apparently similar things have happened to other folks as well!

 

Citi ThankYou Premier Mastercard

Now that you can transfer Citi Thank You points to various airlines (like you can do with Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards), I wanted to have a bank of ThankYou points.  I don’t have any specific plans for the ThankYou points right now (although that can always change), but I like having options available!

Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou Reward Points after spending $3000 in the first three months

Approval Details: “Pending Decision.”  I feel like this happens with about half of my Citi card applications.  About half the time I’m approved right away, and the other half I get a “pending decision” notice.  I initiated a chat with Citi Customer Service, and after verifying a few elements of my credit card application (essentially re-asking several questions I had already completed on the original application), my card was approved with a $9700 limit.  One of these days, I swear ONE OF THESE DAYS, Citi will actually make me close one of the 8 or so accounts I currently have open with them before approving me for a new card.  But so far, that day has not come.  Although I should point out that this is one of my lowest credit limits on a Citi card.

 

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card

This card was also offering a temporarily increased signup bonus.  I’ve had this card before, but it’s been three years since I first applied, and two years since I cancelled it.  So I wasn’t sure if I’d be approved for it again.  (Current Chase “churning” anecdotal evidence states that you can get a signup bonus for the same card about every 24 months. Although this might be changing for some of their Ultimate Rewards points earning cards.)  I depleted a lot of my MileagePlus points last year on our business class tickets to Istanbul, so I thought this was a good time to replenish my account.

Bonus: 50,000 MileagePlus points after spending $3000 in the first three months.

Approval Details:  Received “pending decision” message.  This wasn’t surprising, as I currently have four open Chase cards and figured I’d have to close one.  I called a few days later, and, after the LONGEST RECONSIDERATION CALL OF MY LIFE (It was 25+ minutes, most of which was spent on hold), and reallocating credit from a Chase Hyatt card (but not requiring closure), I was approved for the card with a whopping $22,500 credit limit.

 

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card (3 cards)

After reading closely some tutorials about applying for, and getting approved, for multiple Bank of America cards in one day, I decided to try my hand at it.  And, surprisingly, it worked.  I applied for three Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards.

Bonus: 25,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan points upon account opening (2x since I was approved for two cards).

Approval Details:  The first one was approved instantly with a $17,500 credit limit, and the second and third received “pending decision” messages.  I decided to wait this one out for a little bit.  I kept checking the Bank of America credit card status site.  Within another day, the second of my three applications moved from “pending” to “approved.” (But with “only” a $4300 credit limit).   But the third application stayed on pending.  And to be honest, I kinda forgot about it because we left for our Alaska cruise the next day.  When I got back, I had received a letter from Bank of America indicating that they believed my third application to be a duplicate request.  I haven’t called to see if I could be approved for the third one, and I probably won’t.  I’m happy with the two for now.  Why be greedy?

Barclays Arrival Plus Mastercard

I already have this card, but I really like Arrival Plus points because they can be used on travel expenses that aren’t normal “chain” or mainstream travel outlets.  So, since I had already applied for cards from most of the other banks already for my app-o-rama, I decided to try my luck at a second Barclays Arrival Plus card.  (This was before Barclays decided to revamp this card).  I know that Barclays tends to be stricter about having multiple credit cards open, but I had successfully opened multiple US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercards through Barclays in the past.

Approval Details: Denied.  My first denial of a credit card in more than a year.  Sad panda.

Have you taken advantage of any of the recent increased credit card sign-up bonuses? What cards did you get in your last app-o-rama?

 

Results of my January 2015 Credit Card App-o-Rama

We hadn’t applied for any credit cards since the end of October, when Ken’s app-o-rama resulted in more than 150,000 frequent flier miles and hotel points! So, it was time for me to take a look at what cards I could apply for.

Barclays US Airways Dividend Miles World Mastercard.

With US Airways’ and American Airlines’ merger of their frequent flyer programs probably only months away, I thought this would be a good time to bump up my balances while there are still separate products (meaning separate Dividend Miles and AAdvantage credit cards).  I currently have a US Airways Mastercard open with Barclays, and had only just recently closed a second one, so I wasn’t sure if I could get approved for another one, since Barclays is one of the stricter lenders.  But, I was approved right away!

Bonus: 50,000 Dividend Miles after first purchase

Approval Details: Instantly approved with $15,000 limit

 

Amex EveryDay

To be honest, this card was not tops on my list. With only 10,000 Membership Rewards points offered, I wasn’t even sure if it was worth the credit inquiry.  So, why did I apply for it?  It was time to cancel my American Express Platinum card and I didn’t want to forfeit my Membership Rewards points balance.

If you’re not familiar, allow me to explain. American Express Platinum cards are Membership Rewards earning cards. But, if you cancel a Membership Rewards earning card and don’t have a separate Membership Rewards earning card, you forfeit your entire Membership Rewards points balance. (Could I possibly say the phrase “Membership Rewards” any more?  Membership Rewards.)  With a balance of more than 200,000 Membership Rewards points in my account, I definitely didn’t want to do that! Of course, I could’ve transferred those points to travel partners first, but I like the flexibility of being able to transfer the points when I need them and to what travel partner I need.

I had signed up for the Amex Platinum two years ago during a fluke 100,000 points offer. The card came with a $450 annual fee, but I thought it was worth it because you got free airline lounge access. Which means free booze. Which to me, a nervous flyer, is very helpful, and probably saves me money in the long run instead of hitting the airport restaurant bars. But, back in March or so, the American Airlines and US Airways ended their lounge partnerships. Since I fly those airlines the most, the annual fee was no longer worth it.

Anyway, long story short, I just needed another Membership Rewards earning card so I wouldn’t lose my points! The Amex EveryDay seemed like a good choice, especially since it doesn’t come with an annual fee.

Bonus: 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1000 in the first three months

Approval Details: Instantly approved with a $5000 limit. This is by far one of the lowest limits I’ve been approved for in the past several years. Since this would be my 5th open American Express card, perhaps Amex didn’t want to extend me that much more credit!

 

Chase Marriott Signature Visa

Ken and I are in the early stages of planning a trip to Japan in Spring 2016. There is a Ritz Carlton in Kyoto that I have been eyeing up! A five night stay would be 240,000 points.  Marriott points can be redeemed at Ritz Carlton properties, so I am looking to boost my Marriott point balances in the coming months to book a room for next spring.  The Ritz Carlton has its own credit card, and sometimes its signup bonus is as high as 140,000 points.  However, that card comes with a hefty $395 annual fee. Now, that’s not completely outrageous considering a single night at the Ritz Carlton Kyoto goes for about $880 (using dates for this spring as a baseline). However, since we have some time, I figure I can get some Marriott points for a lot cheaper between now and spring 2016!

Anyway, be on the lookout for me and Ken to be applying for more Marriott cards in the near future!

Bonus: 70,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $3000 in the first three months.

Approval Details: Received “Pending Decision” message. This wasn’t terribly surprising, I figured I’d have to close out one of my four open Chase cards, like maybe my Chase Hyatt card.  I gave it a few days, but the application status message still said they were reviewing my application. I finally called, and they said that my application had been approved with a $10,000 limit, but that it was taking some time to “assign a credit card number” to the account. Never heard that one before! Anyway, I was very surprised that I didn’t have to close out any other Chase cards to get my application approved.