I must say that I felt a bit like a tourist while I was taking photos of the British Airways Galleries First Lounge on my recent trip through London Heathrow Terminal 5. But as they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ so it had to be done. Flying in and out of Heathrow airport most months I have become quite an old hand at how this particular lounge works.
Built in 2008, Terminal 5 seems to be constantly expanding with new, bigger, and brighter facilities opening all the time. Terminal 5 is dedicated to British Airways. Upon entering the terminal, you are greeted by a variety of ways to get your BA ticket, and check your bags; automated machines, a variety of dedicated counters depending on the ticket you are travelling on, or my favorite the First Class area where you are greeted as you walk up to the counter and shown to an available representative.
Tip: The First Class check in area is located at the far end of the Terminal. Ensure your driver drops you at the last entry point or you are in for a long walk. Executive Club Gold Card holders are also permitted to use the First Class check in area.
The recently completed, and newly redesigned, fast pass facility to whisk you through the security line is so much better than the old version. Lines do not back up anywhere near as much as they did in this area before the upgrade, with more space and additional staff on hand now. For me, the only sad part about this new area is that as you leave you walk straight by the entry to the Concorde Room – the hallowed ground for the business traveller, and a place I have yet to visit (sad face).
If ever you needed a reminder of why a business lounge is a fantastic facility, then the walk, or rather the battle through the crowds in this huge terminal will convince you. No longer just seasonally full, every visit seems to be busier than the last. The shops at this terminal are pretty amazing, with the staple high street brands such as Boots and WHSmith alongside the high-end designers of Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry. Similarly the food options for travellers now is immense. After stopping to pick up a couple of bags of chocolates (the usual request from my daughters, or gifts for friends) I put my head down, go to the lower level, and head to the escalators at the far end, to my little nirvana.
There are actually 6 BA lounges at this terminal. The class of ticket you are travelling on and/or Executive Club membership determines entry to the various BA lounges. Unlike other airport lounges, BA does not offer a daily pass option. Once you step off the escalator you will see a sign detailing the 3 lounges within this complex; the Galleries Lounge, Galleries First, and another entry to the Concorde Room.
Travelling on a first class ticket and/or Gold Executive Club members gain entry to the Galleries First Lounge. After showing your boarding pass at the desk where information is recorded into a computer (not sure what or why) you enter a large room that is flanked by two life-sized horse statues (again not sure of their significance?). Now you are faced with the option of where to base yourself in this huge lounge.
As most of the routes I fly come in or out of Heathrow first thing in the morning, I associate this lounge with the delicious full English breakfast that I always thoroughly enjoy. Upon entry turn left, walk past the wall of television screens on your left with bins of newspapers underneath, then turn left again and walk down to the end, or just follow your noise. If the selection of self-serve options is not to your liking then you can order from a set menu and have the food delivered to wherever you choose to sit. I find the staff in the lounge extremely helpful, although a little overworked, as it does get quite busy.
There are two champagne counters in this lounge (now you understand why I love this place) with a variety of bubbles on offer including rose. If this type of alcohol is not your tipple, then there are numerous wines to select from, plus a fully stocked bar with a huge variety of liquor, beer, and various mixers. Well-stocked fridges with bottles of water and cans of soda are also scattered around the lounge.
There are at least three locations with counters full of tea and coffee machines plus a variety of biscuits/cookies.
Various newspapers and magazines are on offer. Sadly the Sunday newspapers are always missing their magazine inserts.
There is a kids zone located by the main food area
A large work zone set up with computers, TV screens, and printers is tucked away at the back of the lounge if you need extra facilities to catch up on some work.
Tip: There are monitors in various locations detailing flight information. Be aware that there are no flight announcements made which is probably just as well or it could get very noisy and irritating.
An Elemis Spa where you can get complementary 15-minute treatments such as a neck and shoulder massage or a first class power shave is also located within this complex of lounges. I have never actually visited this area, even though I keep meaning to, I guess the pull of my breakfast is just too great.
There is a customer service desk where you can get information about your flight, rebook a flight or just ask a question.
Numerous restrooms and a few showers can be found in the First lounge..
Free Wi-Fi is on offer, ask any staff member for the current password.
Different seating options are set up for you to select the best for the size of your group and where you would like to be based in the lounge. The sofas and chairs overlooking the planes parked at the gates are great spots as the natural light makes this location perfect for reading. Most seating arrangements have access to power points so you can recharge your phones and laptops. We now favor an area towards the back of the lounge by the work zone (and one of the champagne bars) as it tends to be less crowded as I’m guessing some people do not know this area exists (we didn’t until recently).
Although the lounge can get quite busy, there have always been seats available. With so many facilities all readily available, I think this area is the perfect way to while away time before I need to head to my gate and catch my British Airways flight. With a yummy breakfast and a few glasses of bubbly, Im usually in a very good mood to fly 🙂