When London Heathrow Terminal 5 opened a little over ten years ago, one of the promised benefits for premium passengers was an improved arrivals lounge experience.
Readers may recall long queues for showers at the old Terminal 4 arrivals lounge and a long route to the departures area for the equivalent lounge in Terminal 1.
And on the opening day of Terminal 5, one of the few things to go right was the opening of a vastly improved arrivals lounge.
Designed by David Davies & Stuart Barron the bright, spacious lounge featured scores of shower rooms, an Elemis travel spa, and a wide selection of seating.
Of course, much has changed at Heathrow in ten years, so how does the lounge fare ten years on?
Let’s take a look. But first, a quick primer on the lounge:
Lounge Location and Access Eligibility
The lounge is located on the first floor of the arrivals area of Terminal 5.
When you have collected your luggage and cleared customs, look for the signs to the lounge and take a lift to the first floor and then follow the signs.
The lounge is open from 05:00 to 14:00 daily.
Passengers arriving from a BA long-haul flight in Club World or First Class are eligible to access the lounge, as well as Gold Executive Club cardholders if arriving from a long-haul flight. (I understand American Airlines Advantage Executive Platinum cardholders should also be able to access the lounge if travelling on a flight covered by the American Airlines & BA transatlantic joint-venture.)
The lounge does not fall within Oneworld alliance lounge access rules and no guests can be brought into the lounge.
Note if you are arriving on a BA long-haul flight at Terminal 3 you can use the American Airlines arrivals lounge.
If you’re not eligible to access either lounges, Plaza Premium also offer paid-for arrivals lounges at Terminals 2, 3, and 4 (though I’d skip the lounge at Terminal 3).
Lounge facilities include:
– Staffed luggage storage area
– Breakfast buffet offering a Full English and continental breakfast
– A wide range of seating at tables and benches, and armchairs.
– Private shower rooms with Elemis toiletries
– Elemis Travel Spa
– Business centre with PCs, printer and photocopier
– Concorde Breakfast Room with table service for First Class passengers
One a practical level, not only do you need a boarding pass to enter the lounge you also need to present your boarding pass at the luggage storage area and at the reception desk for the shower rooms.
There are scores of showers in the lounge for the transatlantic rush hour. They are smaller than you would find in other arrivals lounges. However, the showers are good with multiple jets. The shower rooms do also have a radio but few, if any, now work.
One practical tip: Always ensure your belongings are put on the bench and not on the floor as they may get soaked.
The lounge features is an extensive self-service breakfast buffet area offering standard Full English breakfast fare: bacon; sausage; beans; scrambled egg; mushrooms; tomatoes etc. This is typically available until around 12:30.
There are also continental options, porridge, cereals, and breakfast pastries which are available until the lounge closes at 14:00.
Whilst there is wide range of soft drinks available, if you are looking for a Bloody Mary to take the edge off your jet lag, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.
Passengers travelling in First Class can use the separate Concorde Breakfast Room which offers table service and an a la carte menu. There are no a la carte options in the main lounge.
The lounge features a wide range of seating at tables and benches as well as armchairs and you should have little difficulty finding somewhere to sit with plenty of personal space.
The lounge does also have an Elemis travel spa and a business centre.
One of the great ironies is that there are frequent complaints about the lack of availability of appointments at the Elemis spa in the departure lounges, yet this one seems rarely used.
Thoughts On The Lounge
There’s a lot to like about this lounge.
It’s spacious and it’s very peaceful, at least after 9am. However, bar odd changes to the furniture, it is largely the same in design and service as it was ten years ago.
This shows in many ways.
Compared to newer lounges, the shower rooms are a little spartan in feel. There are very limited power points in the lounge, and none with USB charging. There are banks of shelves for magazines which are rarely touched. There are old LCD monitors in need of replacement. The business centre has DELL PCs running Internet Explorer.
The breakfast menu is also largely unchanged. The “Full English” is not quite the staple of an elongated breakfast that it once was. Tastes have changed. At the risk of appearing like a Shoreditch hipster, it is noteworthy that the new American Airlines arrivals lounge offers more contemporary options such as smashed avocado on toast.
At the time our visit, there were guests being shown around the lounge with floor plans in arm. Whilst this is not an unusual sight in the lounges, BA is expected to start work on new Heathrow lounges in the coming years and there’s certainly scope to update this lounge whilst preserving its many positive features.
Disclosure: This review was carried out as part of a self-funded trip.