Boasting tarmac views and even a 'secret' Champagne, British Airways' Galleries Club South lounge at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 welcomes the airline's business class passengers and eligible Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald frequent flyers.
For Aussie travellers brandishing a Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold card, it's where you'll relax prior to BA's flights from London to both Singapore and Sydney, or indeed when jetting onward to destinations such as Aberdeen, Berlin, Edinburgh and Zagreb – not served by the joint Qantas/Emirates network – or to other cities including Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna.
Location & Impressions
On clearing Fast Track security at Heathrow's Terminal 5, you'll need to descend through the chaos of duty-free and then take a second set of escalators back upstairs in a move clearly designed by an airport bean counter intent on pushing every last bottle of perfume and whiskey.
A model British Airways Airbus A380 stands near the entrance, joined by a horse wearing a lampshade hat which we'll file under the 'must be a British thing' category... ... while the lounge itself provides tarmac views at one end and a perch overlooking the terminal at the other: Divided into several zones including a buffet area in the centre with a bar or cafe at each end, there are various spots throughout for working, dining and relaxing.
- British Airways and Iberia first class and business class (Club Europe, Club World) guests
- Passengers connecting to or from a 5+ hour business or first class flight on any Oneworld airline (including Qantas and BA), even if the shorter leg is in economy
- UK domestic economy passengers with a fully-flexible 'UK Business' fare
- Executive Club Gold and Silver members flying with BA or Iberia
- Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers plus other Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling onwards with the same
Top-tier frequent flyers including Executive Club Gold, Qantas Platinum/Platinum One and other Oneworld Emerald members can also make use of the nearby Galleries First lounge, while BA's own first class passengers can too visit The Concorde Room.
Slim pickings of cold yet tasty sandwiches greeted our afternoon arrival but were replaced with more comprehensive choices at 6pm... ... with selections including a wild mushroom penne pasta; a slow cooked potato and butternut squash curry; harissa chicken with chickpea stew and a beef chili con carne, plus other basics like baked beans, baked potatoes and rice: On the lighter side, frittatas and salads... ... soups, packets of chips (crisps, as you'd say in London) and crackers with cheeses and accompaniments. There are plenty of tables nearby tailored towards solo travellers with seating on only one side, although we struggled to find one that didn't already boast dirty, uncollected plates... ... flanked by wine cellars breaking up the expansive space which are very much 'look, but don't touch'... ... but you won't go thirsty with several wine bars throughout the lounge and a larger, dedicated bar area to the far left which stocks a wide range of spirits... ... and both still and sparkling water: Psst: Taittinger NV Champagne – the same as you'll get in the Qantas first class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne – is also available 'by request' here in the bar area, but there's actually no signage to advise as much.
You'll need to flag down one of the staff in the striped uniforms to get a glass, but who are often busy re-stocking the bar and cleaning up stemware left by previous travellers, which does make you feel like an inconvenience. Still... Coffee, however, is self-service from any number of machines throughout the lounge... ... although true barista-made beverages are unfortunately absent.
Free wireless Internet blankets the lounge with our tests revealing average download speeds of 3.88mbps, uploads of 1.97mbps and ping speeds of ~8ms: that's enough for basic web browsing and email tasks, or even a standard video call on Skype.
However, with access to Vodafone Australia's $5/day 4G roaming in the United Kingdom (which we pay for, just like any other traveller), tethering this to our laptop instead delivered download speeds roughly four times as fast, which does wonders if you're dealing with streaming video or a hi-res presentation.
You'll also find a dedicated business area to the right of reception with Windows-based computers at the ready... ... joined by a selection of power points both near the PCs and at further desks with working space for using your own laptop: While you won't find an Australian plug here, each row of power points offers two US/Japan-style plugs, two UK/Hong Kong slots and two European outlets – a perfect range given BA's extensive network of non-stop flights to these markets from London Heathrow.
Printing facilities are also available and boarding announcements aren't made which keeps the lounge relatively quiet and distraction-free.
Missing are dedicated USB power outlets to charge your smartphone or tablet, although if you're stuck without an AC adaptor you could always connect your gadget to one of the computers.
There's plenty of space here to unwind before your next flight, whether that's in a group in the cafe zone overlooking the terminal... ... in the TV/cinema area, when the TV is actually turned on (?)... ... with a magazine or newspaper from the racks with funky blue lighting... ... or with a glass of wine and your tablet in one of many comfy seats: Private shower suites with supplied amenities are of course available, as you'd expect of an airport like Heathrow.
British Airways' first class and Club World guests – that's BA's term for long-haul business class such as to Singapore and Sydney – plus Executive Club Gold members stuck in economy or premium economy on the same can also enjoy a complimentary 15-minute treatment at the nearby Elemis Travel Spa.
Unless booked in Club World business class or first class, Qantas Platinum members and other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers don't make the cut, in which case feel free to order another glass of Taittinger or explore BA's separate Galleries First lounge.
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