What's the London Heathrow Emirates Lounge like -- and should I stop by under the new Qantas-Emirates alliance deal?
Unless you've been under a rock for the last few weeks, you'll know that Qantas and Emirates are hooking up in one of the biggest changes ever to hit Australian business travel.
While you'll be able to avoid flying through London to Europe and Africa -- and still earn your points and status credits -- London and its main airport Heathrow are still a major destinations for Australians travelling on business.
Location & Impressions
Emirates' lounge in London Heathrow sits in Lounge Area E on the top floor of Terminal 3.
The main lounge desk is downstairs on the main terminal level, and then a lift or pair of stairs elevates you to the light-filled lounge.
The lounge itself is thin and long, with an incredible floor-to-ceiling view of Heathrow's southern runway along its longest side. (When I was in the lounge, planes were lifting off right outside the window -- an incredible sight that's such a great start to any journey.)
On the far right hand side is the extensive buffet and the main bar, while all the way on the left hand side is a secondary bar and the business centre.
The decor is Emirates' standard tan-beige-blue-green look for its "own-brand" lounges, with most chairs arranged in groups of three or four throughout the lounge.
Solo travellers should aim for the square chairs with ottomans all the way on the far right of the lounge as you walk in, while anyone who needs to recharge electronics could pick the chairs-and-plugs sets around to the left.
You're currently allowed in as an Emirates First or Business Class passenger, or as a Skywards Gold member.
Once the Qantas-Emirates partnership takes hold in April, though, you'll also be allowed in as a Qantas First class passenger or a Chairmans Lounge member.
Gold or Platinum Frequent Flyers and Qantas Business Class passengers don't have access to this lounge.
The food is Emirates' usual fantastic lounge offering, with a firmly international gourmet slant.
While you'll be fed well on the plane, there are any number of options for a quick hunger-busting bite or thirst-slaking drink.
Stews and curries are presented with your choice of side carbohydrate and vegetables, with a very interesting warm pumpkin and goat's cheese inside a parmesan crunch bowl.
My favourites tend to be the very moreish appetisers and desserts on the signature Emirates round buffet counters. When I was in the lounge a simple prawn and mango dish was absolutely brilliant, with the creme brulee a real treat.
Top marks for the delicious Innocent smoothies -- these are the tastiest on the UK market, so it's great to see that Emirates has brought them into the lounge.
On the drinks side of things, a full bar is available, with just about anything you'd want to mix with your liquor in fridges below.
Champagne is Veuve Clicquot, a very tasty drop, while the whites are Cloudy Bay NZ Sauvignon Blanc -- a personal fave -- and a Puligny-Montrachet from Burgundy.
Reds include a decent Pauillac and a very fruity Rioja.
On special offer when I visited was an interesting English Wickham Dry white wine. Yes, English wine. No, it wasn't very good compared with the others -- thin and acidic -- but it was fun to try, and Emirates are to be commended for providing business travellers with the chance to have a sip of something new that they probably wouldn't have picked on their own.
Business travellers looking to get some work done have several decent options.
The most businesslike is the business centre around to the left as you enter the lounge, with computers and a printer.
A second option is the set of "laptop-ready chairs with power points" just before you get to the business centre, which offer a handy UK-style power point for each chair.
And, of course, there's the rest of the lounge, since all Emirates business class seats from Heathrow have their own power points and you shouldn't absolutely need to make sure you're at 100 percent before leaving the lounge.
Wifi is available too, with a relatively OK speed of 4.43Mbps down, 0.38Mbps up and a ping of 39ms.
The lounge is well set up for relaxation, with comfortable chairs throughout, although it looks like things could be a squeeze with two A380s-worth of passengers departing at similar times.
We suggest hanging a right for the food and wine, and then potentially returning to the far left of the lounge, where there's a secondary bar and a lot more comfortable seating.
Our favourite spot for chilling out in the lounge is the far right-hand corner, with its square chairs and ottomans overlooking Heathrow's South Runway. A glass of Veuve Clicquot (or Cloudy Bay Sav), a bite to eat and a laptop on our knees -- that's where you'll find us.
Showers are available in well-appointed rooms, but there are only a few -- so get a wash in early if you want/need one.
As usual with these Emirates "own-build" joint business and first class lounges, they're wonderful compared with the business class competition but a trifle lacking when compared with other first class lounges.
The size of this lounge also presents a bit of a problem. It's relatively small, and word on the proverbial street is that it gets busy already with the five Emirates daily flights out of Heathrow.
We'll be interested to see whether the business and first class passengers from an additional pair of Qantas A380s fits in too.
Overall, compared with other Heathrow lounges, this is the second best business class lounge (after the world's best, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse) but not up there with British Airways' First lounges.
Our reporter was provided lounge access by the airline.