Tucked away at London Heathrow's Terminal 2 and reserved exclusively for first class passengers and VIP-level travellers, the United Global First Lounge in London is a tranquil escape at what is one of the world's busiest airports.
Inside, there's a la carte dining paired with an extensive wine and cocktail list, a good variety of places to kick back and relax, and perhaps even more importantly, peace and quiet.
Although expected to become a United Polaris business class lounge in 2019, for now, here's what United offers its highest-tier travellers at London Heathrow – this is no ordinary domestic United Club!
Location & Impressions
At Heathrow, you'll find both the United Club and the United Global First Lounge in Terminal 2's Pier B, a good 10-15-minute walk from check-in and the main security checkpoint.
If you're familiar with T2, this is also where the Singapore Airlines and Air Canada lounges are located, although United's lounge is a little further on, so follow the airport signage. When you're in this lift, you're in the right place, as these lounges are one level above the departure concourse:
Wandering inside, you'll find a modern space with a luxurious vibe, and plenty of travel-themed artwork to peruse...
... which continues inside a separate room that can be used as a TV viewing suite, meeting space, or perhaps even reserved as a private room for VIPs should the need arise:
The Global First Lounge opens daily from 5am-7pm. Any eligible passengers stopping by after this time are instead directed to the United Club lounge next door (which closes at 10pm), or may be able to access Singapore Airlines' first class lounge in the same terminal, in line with Singapore Airlines' own access rules.
Unlike the neighbouring United Club which welcomes most business class passengers, frequent flyers and also paid lounge members, the access list for United's Global First Lounge is much more exclusive:
- United Polaris first class passengers departing London, or when arriving from a Polaris first class flight and connecting onto another Star Alliance flight from Heathrow T2 on the same day or within 24 hours.
- Other Star Alliance first class passengers departing on an international flight, such as Singapore Airlines' first class and Suites Class guests, although SQ also operates its own first class lounge in the same terminal.
- United Global Services members departing London in United Polaris business class (or first class).
- Lufthansa Miles & More HON Circle members with a same-day Lufthansa or United Airlines intercontinental business class or first class flight.
Global Services is United's invitation-only tier, and while HON Circle can be achieved by anyone, it's only awarded after earning a whopping 600,000 'HON Circle miles' in a two-year period – towards which, only first class and business class flights taken with Lufthansa and a short list of strategic partners are counted – so it's a very small club indeed.
Given United is also progressively removing its first class service from London as its aircraft are refitted with new Polaris business class seating, it'd be fair to name this as one of the toughest public airport lounges in the world to get into!
If you make the cut, however, you'll be directed down a discrete walkway near the United Club reception desks, and around another corner, where you'll find this almost-secret space waiting:
The best perk of this exclusive lounge has to be the dining room, centred in the middle of the space where you can watch the world fly by...
... although you can order meals and drinks from anywhere else in the lounge too, if you'd prefer a change of scenery:
Personally, I went for the main dining room, where a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne was a welcome cool-down on an otherwise-hot London summer's day:
I'd completed an early check-in for my flight to allow plenty of time to enjoy the full experience, so started with the cocktail menu. While there's a solid line-up of classics and a good selection of wine...
... the bartenders here are encouraged to craft their own signature drinks...
... and, given the location, it was only fitting to pick the "V" United:
This turned out to be two cocktails in one, in a nod to United's recently-retired Boeing 747s – Aperol and Champagne on the upper deck, and Blue Curacao mixed with lemonade on the lower deck – the idea being you drink through both straws at the same time.
With a la carte dining available here too, I began my dinner with the pan-fried vegetable gyoza...
... which came well-presented, tasted freshly-made and had just the right amount of crispiness:
The lunch and dinner menu also offered a good variety of meals...
... so I continued with the slow-braised beef feather blade steak, atop creamed potatoes and baby vegetables with a green peppercorn sauce, which was excellent:
As I'd skipped lunch with a busy day of meetings, I also took the chance to try United Burger: beef on a Viennese bun with vine tomato, smoked Applewood cheese, pickle, gem lettuce and burger sauce, with a side of fries, which didn't disappoint:
As a pre-dessert, a Sunrise in Cairo cocktail followed, mixing apple and cinnamon with vodka, pineapple and melon, the inverted cube in the centre resembles the Pyramids of Egypt – and the apple slice the sun rising behind. I do like how creative this is, the taste was nice and sweet without being overly so, thanks to the balance of the cinnamon.
For 'real' dessert, I couldn't go past the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, served with a raspberry sorbet and biscuit crumbs – the perfect finish to a meal:
With full table service and an extensive menu, I didn't see the need to graze through the buffet, but there is one if you're pressed for time or something catches your eye:
Here's a closer look at the hot selections...
... the chilled items – the small squares being ready to grab...
... and, if you fancy, there's a self-serve bar:
Tucked away in the corner are a variety of yummy treats that practically beg to be taken home with you, although after my sizeable dinner, I left these where they were!
Staff working in the dining area were friendly, kept my wine and water glasses topped up, and got everything right on the first request.
One of the things I also appreciated in the dining area was having convenient access to power, making it easy to recharge my devices during dinner...
... while most of the other seats also sport AC and USB sockets. Given most passengers visiting this lounge will be jetting between the UK and the USA, you'll find a mix of UK-style and USA-style AC outlets, so if you're flying trans-Atlantic and only packed one type of charger, you're all set:
Separately, there's a small office space for any serious work, again with easy access to power...
... with the lounge's WiFi network delivering download speeds of 35-55Mbps and uploads of 33-71Mbps, measured over the several hours I was here – more than fast enough for anything you might need to do before your flight.
When you're not making good use of the dining room, there are plenty of places here to kick back and unwind, whether on your own...
... or in a group, with a variety of social spaces here catering to high-flying colleagues and friends...
... some with tables too if you're sharing a quick snack:
As you'd expect, private shower suites are available, and there are day bed facilities as well – complete with privacy curtains in between – for those with more time on their hands:
Finally, although this lounge is operated by a North American airline, one part looks very 'London' – and that's because this isn't any ordinary clock:
It's actually a replica of the face of Big Ben, manufactured by the same company that made the original. How's that for locally-influenced design!
All in all, it's hard to fault United's Global First Lounge at London Heathrow, with excellent dining, creative cocktails, a good wine list, terrific service and a real 'tranquil' vibe, no doubt thanks in part to United's restrictive door list.
But, with rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offering complimentary day spa facilities in their respective business class departure lounges at London Heathrow, the absence of a spa here is noticeable, particularly in a lounge reserved exclusively for first class passengers and essentially VIP-level frequent flyers.
Expected to become a United Polaris business class lounge in 2019, it'll be interesting to see how the experience changes for high flyers departing London – but right now, the Global First experience is pretty hard to top.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to London as a guest of Star Alliance.