After a busy day driving on the wrong side of the road, followed by a comfortable if fitful sleep at the DoubleTree Heathrow Airport, it was time to begin the second leg of our journey, flying to Istanbul to overnight before joining the ship for our Mediterranean cruise. Thanks to our Club Europe tickets, we had access to the British Airways Galleries Lounges at Heathrow before boarding.
There are actually three British Airways business class lounges at LHR Terminal 5 – Galleries South and Galleries North, both in Terminal 5A, and Galleries Terminal 5B. All three have the same basic setup, but which one you choose depends on which gate your flight departs from. Our flight departed basically equidistant from both, so we chose the Galleries South lounge since it was the first one we passed by.
Date of Visit: June 26, 2015
First impressions – the South lounge is large, but all three other times I have been here (May 2009, July 2012, January 2014), it has been quite crowded. I’ve always managed to find a seat, but it usually takes a few minutes of searching, especially for one close to a power outlet. This visit was no exception. You enter the lounge in the center; head right, and you reach the buffet area and a large sitting area behind the buffet. Head left, and you enter the main part of the lounge, as well as the bar. We first looked for seats behind the buffet, but finding the pickings slim, we went back to the main part of the lounge and eventually found a couple near the back. As you can see, the place was hopping around 8:30 A.M. on a Friday.
The decor is traditionally British, which is to say understated, but the sofas are comfy. Perhaps a little TOO comfy, in fact. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll slouch, and fall down as you try to get up (I speak from experience). The real issue, though, is lack of power ports. Near the center of the main sitting area, lounge chairs are set up so that you can plug in to a socket on a lamp table, as shown below.
Unfortunately, in the back of the lounge, power outlets are few and far between the comfy couches. One benefit to being in the back of the lounge is that we were right in front of the “coffee house”, basically a fancy name for a self-service espresso machine. The coffee is strong, and especially delicious when you add a dollop of Bailey’s from the bar.
After Prita returned with her breakfast, I headed over to the buffet to check out the selection. Breakfast is served until 11 A.M., and includes a selection of yogurt, cereals, fresh fruit, breads, bacon rolls, baked beans & toast, hard boiled eggs, and fruit juices.
Bacon rolls and baked beans & toast
Selection of fresh juices
Yogurt and fresh fruit
Selection of breads and pastries
I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but I took a bacon roll and some strawberry yogurt. There’s not much to say about the yogurt (it was fine), though the bacon roll was pretty good, especially with a little brown sauce on the side. I sampled the lunch buffet on my May, 2009 visit; it was too long ago to remember many details, but I do recall a pasta with cream sauce that was decent. A selection of wines is also placed in the buffet area at lunch and dinner. If you want to sit close to the food, a few benches are available in this area, but they fill up quickly. Also thinking back to my 2009 visit, the wine selection was solid, with good quality whites and reds for sampling (too long ago to remember names or varietals, though).
And of course, if you are feeling especially lazy, or are just engrossed in reading the latest UPGRD.com article, you can ask a lounge attendant to bring you something.
There is one large bar in Galleries South, basically in the middle of the lounge. Wines and sparkling water are set up in a trough doubling as a long table, with a bench on one side. Refrigerators with soft drinks and beer, and a decent self-serve selection of spirits, can be found at the end. Beware – other reviews suggest that the bar stools are dreadfully uncomfortable, so you may be well advised to grab a drink and take it back to a seat elsewhere.
Wide angle shot of bar area. Photo by Tom Mascardo, from Flickr Creative Commons, License CC BY-ND 4.0 International
Close-up of liquor selection
If you need to work but don’t have your laptop, or just need to use a printer or copier, a decent sized business center can be found on the left side of the lounge near the cinema (yes, there is a 20-seat cinema, and even a kids’ play room, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a photo of either). The center contains 38 computers, along with two TVs in the rear usually showing the news. Also note the neon-lighted magazine rack.
Business center, photo by Gary Bembridge, from Flickr Creative Commons, License CC BY 4.0 International
And last but not least, what’s a visit to an airport lounge without some good old-fashioned planespotting? The Galleries Lounge provides good opportunities in that regard. The lounge has a clear view of the south runway, and the UPGRD hat enjoyed watching a couple of British Airways aircraft in the early morning light. Viewing windows run down the entire length of the left side of the lounge, and a few chairs are available along the window if you’re lucky enough to snag one.
Meanwhile, tucked away in a corner is a view of both the south runway, and the main concourse below. This photo was taken on my January, 2014 visit, with the iconic Queen of the Skies parked at a nearby gate.
With the clock approaching 10:00 and boarding set to commence shortly, we headed outside to walk to our gate. The main complaint I have about this lounge is the poor signage concerning exits. There are actually two, one with escalator access only, and the other with only elevator access. When you’re inside the lounge, however, there is no signage indicating which is which, so it’s easy to go out the wrong door. My wife doesn’t like escalators, and lo and behold, we accidentally went out those doors. We had to sheepishly explain to a less-than-friendly lounge agent that we just went out the wrong way and were looking for the elevator. At this exit, though, is a very cool pair of finds – a horse wearing a lampshade, along with a model of an Airbus A380.
Once we reached our gate, we both felt a thorough appreciation of being able to spend an hour and a half in a lounge instead of at the gate area…
Yeah…not fun. I’ll have more about the chaos of the boarding process in my flight review of our Club Europe experience.
Overall thoughts: the food and beverage selection is decent, the planespotting is great, and there are several perks to pass the time such as the theater and large business center. And of course, WiFi is free and fast. The main negatives include lack of power outlets, and lack of seating space despite the large size of the lounge. I’d rate this as an above average business class lounge; you’ll certainly enjoy your time here while transiting the hectic Heathrow Airport.
Note: this post is part of my multi-part trip report series about my wife and I’s trip to Europe in June/July, 2015. Read the trip report introduction for an index and background about our trip.