Gatwick airport is the second most important in London for the business traveller connecting from Australia or travelling within Europe. Heathrow, an hour or so by bus to the northwest, is over-congested, so much of British Airways' European and Caribbean operation uses Gatwick.
It's also home to many African, American and low-cost airlines (often the best way to reach some European destinations) owing to lower landing charges.
If you can't avoid connecting from Heathrow on the BA coach -- although we'd recommend changing elsewhere to avoid the Heathrow-Gatwick trek -- or if you're flying out of Gatwick after some time in London, the Arrivals Lounge at the Sofitel is a good place to recharge, reconnect and relax.
Location & Impressions
The Sofitel (also branded as the Arora) is connected by a 150m walkway to Gatwick's North Terminal, right next to the peoplemover train that connects to the South Terminal.
The Arrivals Lounge is straight through the well-appointed hotel lobby to a dedicated lift, which takes you down to a basement/ground floor level.
First impressions when I arrived were a little spoilt by the construction site immediately outside, but the lounge itself feels as luxurious as you might expect from the Sofitel name.
A friendly and professional lounge attendant at the desk checked my Priority Pass in swiftly and explained where everything was.
When I arrived around 9am, the lounge was empty, although a few people started to arrive around half past nine.
Sofitel's Arrivals lounge is contracted to British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta and Qatar Airways for their arriving business and first class passengers. It's also a member of the Priority Pass global lounge network.
British Airways Executive Club Gold frequent flyers -- but not their Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum equivalents -- have access if arriving on a BA long-haul flight.
The lounge is open from 5am to 1pm.
The lounge provides a decent continental breakfast, with pastries, cereal and fruit. A small fridge contains little individually wrapped cheeses (Babybel and so on), so the most substantial option is putting together a cheese sandwich.
There's a coffee machine and a hot water tap for tea, but the café au lait was pretty dire, and I resorted to Diet Coke instead. Regular coke and juices are also available, but there's no alcoholic drinks service. (Which is fair enough, given that it's an arrivals lounge.)
The main seating area has double-height floor to ceiling windows (good for resetting your body clock) with comfortable leather chairs and a couple of power points for recharging your electronic devices. When I visited, the TV was annoyingly loud, though, and penetrated through my headphones.
Behind the attractive slate-covered wall, there's a business centre with laptop desks and several old Windows XP machines if you've not brought your own computer.
Wifi is free (it's the InterTouch network): get the username and password from the reception desk and log in under the "hotel guest" option. It's a good speed too -- when I tested, download speeds hit 9.5 Mbps and uploads were a relatively swift 2 Mbps.
In addition to the main seating area, there's a sunken living area near the breakfast buffet, with sofas and a little fireplace that's very attractive.
An excellent range of magazines is laid out on the tables, from the usual news periodicals through GQ and Esquire to Country Life and House & Garden.
All the seating in the lounge was very comfortable, and if you can nab two of the beige chairs, you can balance a laptop easily on the arms (though you'll need to type sideways).
19 cabana-style shower rooms are found behind the reception desk, with decent water pressure and upmarket toiletries. The lounge offers a pressing service while you're showering -- just hang your business wear in the cupboard inside the door and the staff will return it freshly pressed five minutes later.
Apart from a hot breakfast option -- which shouldn't be difficult given that the lounge is inside a hotel -- it's hard to see how the lounge could improve. Definitely worth your time if you're arriving into Gatwick.