** See update on the bottom.
I have previously reviewed an American Airlines Admirals Club (http://patstravelreviews.com/american-airlines-admirals-club-review-st-louis-airport/), which is very typical of most of American’s Admirals Clubs. However, the Honolulu location is very different, as it is shared with Japan Airlines. The lounge actually has two names; American’s Admirals Club and JAL’s Sakura Lounge.
It is located in the center of the Overseas Terminal at HNL across from security checkpoint #3 on the 3rd floor. One floor above the restaurant; The Local@HNL. There are a few signs near the entrance of the restaurant and you can take either the elevator or stairs.
As I said, this lounge is very different from other Admirals Club Lounge as JAL probably has more flights out of HNL than American does. There are two sets of agents at the front desk. I have been to this lounge a few times and sometimes there are agents for both JAL and American and other times just American (JAL agents leave after their last flight). The American agents are always very friendly and very engaging (I am sure the JAL agents are the same). In fact, the first time I flew out of HNL on American where I was an Admirals Club member, I received a welcome e-mail from the Honolulu staff explaining the location and amenities. I thought this was a very nice touch and a very pleasant surprise. The lounge definitely has a Hawaiian feel, but more because of the Hawaiian music that is played overhead and the pleasant views outside the windows of the Japanese Garden between terminal’s. The décor looks a little older and has a lot of neutral colors (nicer than saying bland and is in need of a re-model ;)). There is plenty of seating throughout the lounge with some tables and chairs in a small dining area. In addition. there is seating all along the windows that substitutes for a business center. There are several power sockets (US only) here, but not one for each station. Rather, every other one. A sign that this lounge may be ready for some updating as these are the only power sockets. None at any of the other seats. American is in the process of updating all their Admiral’s Club’s, but I am not sure if this location is scheduled to have such an upgrade.
My first visit to this lounge was a few years ago and at that time American hadn’t improved their food offerings in their clubs. What impressed me then about this lounge was it actually had some food to eat. Well, a few years later, and it’s more on par or maybe even less than with what you would find in any other Admirals Club and definitely less than other JAL Lounge locations. Plus, unlike other Admirals Club locations there isn’t a premium food for purchase option. On every visit to this lounge they have had chicken noodle soup (which is fine by me), a Japanese dish (grilled onigiri rice ball in umami soup aka Yaki-Onigiri Chazuke), and packaged chicken flavored ramen noodles. In addition, there is some packaged cheese and crackers in the refrigerator plus a canister of cookies and another one of a salty snack mix. On my prior visits there was rolls, small sandwiches, and sushi. This time (and I have been here for several hours because my Alaska flight is very delayed) the breakfast items (Croissants and pound cake) stayed out until after the last JAL flight left and before the first of American’s evening flights departed. Then Spam Musubi was brought out. The biggest difference with this lounge and other Admiral Club’s is there is no bar area. Instead, there is beer in a refrigerator (both Japanese and American), a hand-full of spirits to mix your own drink, a few juices in another refrigerator (OJ, green tea, & tomato juice) and two soft drink dispensers. Surprisingly there are no Hawaiian drinks like guava or passion fruit. On the upside of this, all beverages are complimentary, including alcohol!
Outside of the desks along the windows, the only business area is a small computer room that has two computers (and only 1 worked today) and a copy machine. Free WiFi (decent speed) is available throughout the Lounge and as I said there are plenty of places to sit with a laptop along the window. There are a few television’s but only one was on. Both Japanese and English magazines and newspaper’s are available. There is actually a pay phone both in the Lounge and an area to store your luggage (not secured). No flight monitor’s are located in the Lounge nor are there meeting rooms or showers. For that matter, there are not even toilets. They are in the hallway leading up to the Lounge. In maybe the most Japanese influenced aspect of this partnership is the toilets are what you would see in Japan or Korea. Heated, etc.. They are very nice 😉 There were announcements for the JAL flights and I think for AA’s as well (no American flight departed during my 6 hour visit)
The Lounge hours are 5:30 am to 10:30 pm (except Sun & Mon when it opens at 7:30). You must be an Admirals Club member to enter. Unless flying Internationally, being an AAdvantage Sapphire or Emerald will not gain entrance, as this is a domestic lounge. For Japan Airlines, flying Business Class and in some cases Premium Economy gain entrance. However, there are a few flights (http://www.jal.co.jp/en/info/inter/160425.html) where Premium Economy passengers do not receive lounge access. Instead, they are given a dining voucher (I think $30). I am not sure why this is. According to the JAL site it is because of overcrowding. But the lounge is quite large and certainly has never been crowded on any of my visits. Other Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire members flying JAL (and I think AA) would also gain access.
This certainly isn’t the nicest lounge I have visited, nor by any stretch the nicest in American’s or JAl’s network, but there is something I like about this lounge (and I don’t drink, so it is not the alcohol 😉 ). Maybe because it is different than the other Admiral Club’s, the friendliness of the agents and it has an international feel.
*** Last week (Sept. 2018) I once again had the pleasure to visit this joint JAL/American Lounge. Everything I wrote about still applies except they have added an additional food area offering hot dishes. The AA agent who checked me in was quick to inform me of this upgrade. I was surprised before that with so many flights out of HNL that JAL would not have similar catering as their other lounges. Now they do (see photo above). On the day I was there I tried the Japanese Beef Curry with Rice and some chicken (and rice). Both were an upgrade what you would see at any other Admiral’s Club in the USA and a welcome addition to this lounge.