There are many independent lounges in UK airports now. Here’s our guide to the ‘Big Three’
You don’t have to fly business class or be an airline gold card holder to enjoy being pampered at an airport lounge in the UK.
Travellers have long been able to book lounges run independently of the big carriers.
Simply turn up or, preferably, book in advance — peak-time spaces can fill up. Booking in advance also guarantees a comfortable place to see out delays caused by air traffic control woes. Such reservations usually allow you to stay beyond the normal two or three-hour lounge time slots in the event of trouble.
There are many independent lounges in UK airports now. Here’s our guide to the Big Three with expert verdicts from headforpoints.com, thepointsguy.com and cabinbagsonly.com.
UPMARKET OPTION: PLAZA PREMIUM
Enjoy the snazzy interiors of Plaza Premium’s lounges, which are priced from £44 for two hours. Above is Heathrow Terminal 2’s Plaza Premium lounge
Known for its snazzy interiors, excellent staffing levels, plus good children’s play areas.
How many lounges: Six — Heathrow Terminals 2, 4 and 5, Gatwick North and Edinburgh.
Price: From £44 for two hours.
The basics: Complementary food and drink and access to private workstations. Lounges at Heathrow T2, 4 and 5 have showers.
Pros: Heathrow T2 lounge has private rooms for pre-flight naps. Voted the world’s best independent airport lounge for seven years by the airport consultancy Skytrax.
Cons: Shorter stays than at other UK lounge brands.
What the experts say: headforpoints.com says of the Gatwick North lounge: ‘Extremely bright… a range of seating options depending on your mood, with luxury fittings such as the marble bar and colourful seating [but] things start to fall down when it comes to food and service. The food is average.
‘Despite that, this is still a quality lounge.’
And of Edinburgh: ‘Huge amount of natural light and fantastic runway views thanks to its dual aspect location… excellent family room where children and parents will feel comfortable. Buffet is impressive.’
Thepointsguy.com says: ‘A good option for a place to grab a snack, unwind in one of many seating options. Some locations go the extra mile, with food and decor that impress.’
Nick DiAngelo, founder of cabinbagsonly.com, says: ‘It’s the best of the lot, not so busy, good facilities, well staffed.’
REGIONAL PRESENCE: ASPIRE LOUNGES
Aspire Lounges can be found in 13 UK locations, including Belfast (four images above) and Birmingham
THE DOS AND DON’TS
- Arrive too early before your flight.
- Drink too much – lounges can eject those who do.
- Just turn up during a busy period and expect to get in.
Aspire Lounges is the UK’s largest independent lounge provider, operating 25 years with a strong presence outside Gatwick and Heathrow.
How many lounges: 13 covering Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Humberside, Inverness, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester and Newcastle.
Price: From £25 for three hours.
The basics: All offer free food and drink and dedicated quiet zones. Several have dedicated family booths with televisions.
Pros: Aspire offers 10 per cent discounts for seniors (over 65), Also, some lounges have pressreader.com access to 7,000-plus publications.
Cons: Not at Gatwick or Heathrow.
What the experts say: Of the Belfast City airport, headforpoints.com, says: ‘The new Aspire lounge is a much better space [than an old BA lounge that closed at the location], with windows along its entire length filling the space with light… food selection was meagre, with just some pastries, crisps and soup.’
Of the Manchester T1 lounge: ‘While it is not one of the best lounges in the UK, it is spacious… and the staff are very pleasant.’
Thepointsguy.com says of the lounge at Heathrow T3: ‘It’s very small… the food is basic. There’s a sleep area at the back with quite comfy-looking lounger beds.’ Mr DiAngelo says: ‘They can be very busy, not always relaxing.’
STYLISH VALUE: NO 1
No 1 Lounges are well designed, most with good runway views. The two images above show the No 1 Lounge at Gatwick Airport South Terminal
The No 1 Lounges at Gatwick and Heathrow have dedicated television rooms. Pictured is the No 1 Lounge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal
Those who access No 1 Lounges can enjoy free food and drink
No 1 Lounges are well designed, most with good runway views — sister brands include Club Aspire, My Lounge (best for families) and Club Rooms (a premium adults only offering).
How many lounges: There are 12 at Birmingham, Heathrow and Gatwick.
Price: From £25 for three hours.
The basics: Free food and drink and the lounges at Gatwick and Heathrow airport have dedicated television rooms.
Pros: The plush, armchair-filled cinema room at the Heathrow T3’s No1 lounge is fantastic. All lounges are smart and stylish.
Cons: Lowest prices are only available from Birmingham.
What the experts say: Of the lounge at Birmingham, headforpoints.com says: ‘I was very impressed, starting with the classy entrance. The lounge staff did a great job of topping up the buffet… alcohol is also available.’ Of the Gatwick South lounge: ‘Not a particularly big lounge but it makes a very good first impression thanks to the amount of natural light.’
Thepointsguy.com says of the Heathrow T3 lounge: ‘[There are] little perks [such as] beer on tap and free spirits and mixers.’ Mr DiAngelo says: ‘They’re decent with a darker, hotel-esque decor but can get busy, especially at Gatwick.’