· The British Class System
British Airways actually has eight lounges at Heathrow, six of which are in its sparkling new Terminal 5 building. The one we accessed was the Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 5A South. This is the main airline lounge in the terminal, and is part of a complex that also includes the Concorde Room and a Galleries First Lounge. What’s the difference, you ask? Why, just step right this way, my lords, ladies and gentlemen…
The small Concorde Room is reserved solely for First Class passengers traveling that day on long-haul flights. Guests here can dine in the lounge with full waiter service and private booths. They also get a free selection of fine wines, champagne, coffee and afternoon tea service. There is a business suite with seven computers linked to the internet and a printer, and a 40-inch LCD display screen for presentations. The suite also converts into a boardroom for meetings of up to eight people. Perhaps the most luxurious feature? Private hotel-style cabana rooms with day beds and en suite bathrooms.
· Getting In
The Galleries First section of the lounge is available to customers traveling in First Class that day, as well as Gold Executive Club members. It has a champagne bar and “wine gallery,” a café and deli, and dedicated work and entertainment zones.
We were invited to the Galleries Club Lounge on the terminal’s top floor, with panoramic views of the surrounding runways. To get in here, passengers must be either First, Club World or Club Europe passengers (meaning Business Class), or Gold or Silver Executive Club members. It's the lowest tier on the BA lounge ranking.
The lounge complex’s Elemis Spa is available to First and Club World customers, and Gold Executive Club members who are flying long-haul that day. All the specially conceived 15-minute treatments are free (and fully clothed), as are the 20 shower suites available for use.
· The Grand Tour
After checking in at the main lounge entrance on the second floor, we kept taking the escalators up, past the life-size horse statue guarding the doors, and into the Galleries Club Lounge, where we checked in again. This space was positively enormous, covering what looked to be a full third of the top floor of Terminal 5.
Just inside the entrance, you’ll find the main food bar, as well as a little café area and the first of several work areas (more on these later). This is also the entrance to the main restrooms, where there are bathroom facilities, as well as private shower suites for passengers stopping between long-haul flights. We took a right, and headed past the coffee machines and the workstations to the quiet sitting area.
· Chill Out
The quiet area had furniture that was more conducive to sprawling out, like modular chairs, sofas and love seats that were made with softer fabrics in more colorful hues. We were wide awake, so we scurried through so as not to disturb the other napping passengers.
Ironically, or perhaps just as a result of poor planning, the quiet area surrounds a video-theater room with seating for 20, where the lounge screens sporting events and other “tailored entertainment,” by which we presume they can project movies or business presentations for guests.
At the end of the lounge on this side, overlooking the main terminal, was a small bar section where people were quietly drinking and snacking. There was also a small children’s play area with books, games, and even a small foosball table. No wonder those Brit tots are so well behaved—they’re well distracted here!
· Work Out
Back towards the entrance was the first of two separate work areas with internet-connected computers. This one just had a few raised desks where people were perched on stools, typing away. We found the other when we crossed back through the entrance area again, past the food bar and the hospitality desk, and into the other section of the lounge. This work area even had a copier machine for work on the go. Free password-protected WiFi from BT Open Zone is available throughout the lounge and universal adapters for your gadget plugs are built into the the tables around the lounge.
· Please Sir, I Want Some More
No Oliver Twist moments here. The Galleries lounge has several food stations in the “Chef’s Theatre,” as it’s called, with a salad bar, soup bar, sandwich bar, hot buffet with curries and noodles, and various snack stations scattered throughout with packets of cookies, nuts and Kettle Crisp chips. Three of them accompany the three different café areas with coffee-espresso machines, while the others are meant to complement the two liquor bars and three wine stations situated near the food bar, and then at either end of the lounge.
While we were there, we sampled a few of the fun-size (in Britain we suspect they’d be called tea-size) sandwiches including a mini tuna melt, and another with gruyere and sun-dried tomato, as well as some simple mixed-greens salad, and a mild chicken curry.
It was still a bit early for a cocktail from the full bar, so we tried a few of the wines instead, including a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a Rueda from Spain, and a Chardonnay from California that were all chilling in various ice buckets. The reds were equally international, and included a Chilean Cabernet Franc, and a New Zealand Pinot Noir.
· Cheerio, Come Again!
Though the lounge was busy, it was obviously a nice break from the hectic hustle of the terminal below—which was pretty fantastic in its own right thanks to some truly upscale shops and restaurants including a caviar and champagne bar. The only thing we would have preferred would have been announcements about flights boarding, which are supposed to happen, but seemed to be lacking during our visit. However, for some time to relax before our flight with a glass of wine, a few nibblets, and free WiFi, the Galleries Club Lounge turned out to be the perfect respite.
Disclosure: Eric Rosen was a guest of British Airways, but all photos and opinions presented here are his own.
[Photos: Eric Rosen for Jaunted]