When I started my travels, airport lounges were for business and first class passengers. Nowadays, anyone can access an airport lounge but are they worth the extra money?
What do you want from it?
Having stepped foot into my first lounge almost 6 years ago, I would say yes, almost every time. I would always choose a lounge for a long haul flight but never a short haul one. Personally, I don’t think there is enough time to enjoy it and so there is less value in a lounge to me on short haul.
I have friends who prefer to stay away from the lounge. They love their duty free shopping and the atmosphere of the main terminal waiting areas and bars. I am not a shopper at all. The most I buy is my favourite flip flops from Accessorize and maybe a Boots meal deal!
I hate the lighting, I am never going to step foot into the designer shops, I am not a fan of the overpacked seating areas or the sense of mayhem.
I would much rather get a comfy seat in a quiet lounge, have a glass of sparkling wine, a delicious meal and read a good magazine. Calm, peaceful, tranquil…….all the things I want to be feeling before a long flight.
Which lounge should you choose?
Each airport will have a slight variation on what it offers and so you will need to do a bit of research as they are not all the same. We were once given free access to a lounge at Heathrow and it was not a good experience. All because there is a charge, it does not mean to say it’s going to be wonderful. Sometimes, it may be worth spending a little bit more to get something much nicer otherwise it could well be a false economy. However, everyone’s view of what is nice/of value will be different! I do think that they’ve stepped up their game over the years but there are still clear differences between them.
It will depend on what you want and who you are travelling with. For instance, Clubrooms does not allow children under 12. It also depends on what ‘value’ means to you. The ‘on the door’ price at Clubrooms Gatwick is £50 which many people may deem pricey. However, if the airport atmosphere causes you anxiety this may be a small sum to pay for calm. I always book beforehand and never pay full price and I see the value in the lounge every time.
Lounges at Birmingham and Gatwick
Birmingham, my local airport, has 3 lounges: Aspire (the cheapest option), No.1 (which has become very popular) and Clubrooms (the newest edition). I visited all three on a brief airport show around this summer and you can see the video here. No.1 is very popular and I do like the different areas available to sit and it never seems busy unlike our No.1 experience at Gatwick. Aspire has less atmosphere and feels more basic. It suits a lot of business travellers and those who want a lounge but are not looking for the bells and whistles. Clubrooms is like a boutique hotel and if you’re not flying first class, you can at least experience a bit of luxury here for a relatively small fee before you get on the plane!
I visit Gatwick more often than most other airports as I visit the Caribbean fairly frequently thanks to my job. I have to say that I do like Gatwick! Okay, the journey is not the best from the Midlands but the hotels are on site, they are decent and the parking is always very reasonable. I have visited the Clubrooms at both North and South terminal this year and I did prefer South (this is where BA flies from). So even with the same brand, there will be differences. I found the staff at South a little friendlier, you could also see out to the runway from South whereas at North, the curtains were constantly closed and so there is no daylight. Both offer good food choices, were never too busy and have nice bathrooms within the lounge area (which isn’t always the case with some lounges).
Still undecided if a lounge is for you?
I would say the top things to consider are:
- How long will you be in the airport? If it’s under 2 hours, you may not get the benefit.
- Is it for a special occasion? Treat yourself and start your trip in style!
- Are you a nervous flyer or do you feel anxious in busy places? An airport lounge will be a lot calmer.
- Visited one before and disliked it? Remember, they are all very different and so maybe you didn’t find the right one.
- Think it’s too expensive? Book in advance (many will come with fast track security too), there may be deals to be had online (MSE, Taste Card, Gourmet Society, Groupon etc.), your travel agent may be able to get a discounted rate for you or, if it’s a special trip, they may even include them; I do for the special trips I book for my customers 🙂
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