Review: British Airways First Class lounge, London Gatwick Airport

Introduction

The British Airways First Class Lounge at London Gatwick's South terminal probably receives the least passenger footfall anywhere in the whole terminal. This because there are only a maximum of 42 first class BA passengers per day, all flying to the sunny Caribbean countries of Barbados, Bermuda and St Lucia, while the remaining eligible passengers must be Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers on the remaining 23 long haul and 51 short haul destinations which don't have First Class cabins. (Though I would imagine a high proportion of lounge visitors probably are Flyertalkers who do 80 Tier Point routes or the Jersey-Amsterdam run.)

Due to some unforeseen circumstances leading up to my arrival I had precisely 8 minutes to explore the lounge, which gave me just enough time to snap a few photos and sample the “Speedbird 100” craft beer I've been trying to get for some time. And of course some champagne.

The Entry

The entrance to the lounge space is on the same level as the central security scanning. Rather than going downstairs to the duty-free shops, there is a separate exit which leads you into the upper floor area which have restaurants and the entrance to the different lounges in the terminal.

Entering this slightly sterile-looking entrance and up the elevators to the top floor you arrive at BA's lounge.

Ample mood-lighting at the reception area. Business class to the right, first class to the left.

Lounge space

The lounge itself is not large given the relatively small number of users throughout the day. I didn't count, but it could not have been more than 40 or 50 seats. There were fewer than 10 people there when I visited – a weekday at 3pm.

The lounge shaped roughly like an ‘L', with the entrance and this seating area below forming the shorter leg of the ‘L'.

The view outwards was fantastic, straight onto the runway. I could sit here all day!

Just around the corner from the entrance is this tiny secluded area if you wish to speak on the phone or have a bit more privacy. There is no separating door though, so ambient noise can still pass between the areas.

Food and drink

Onto the longer leg of the ‘L', beyond the general seating area you move into food and beverage service area. There are a few bar stools overlooking the airport apron.

A closer look at the drinks bar shows a moderate range of wines, spirits, mixers and beers.

The wine bar in the central isle were serving the following:

With a selection of orange, apple, cranberry and tomato juice for those who prefer the healthier way to hydration.

Moving further down, the food area. It was surprisingly difficult to take a broader overview picture adequately, so apologies there, but closer up, a selection of breads to suit vegans or vegetarians:

The cold servings included a salad mix and quiche, and a selection of sandwiches which included vegetarian-friendly filling.

Then moving onto hot food:

Regrettably I did not have time to sample their à la carte menu, but there were a few options I would have wanted to try, not least their “BA Burger” and their Sri Lankan chicken and curry. Next time!

Work Area

Moving further away from the entrance and beyond the food service area are two rows of working desks, complete with printing facilities. There are power sockets for UK, EU, USB and American/Asian parallel pin sockets. (Presumably all 220V like the rest of the UK, so if you have 110V appliances you would need to check very carefully before you plug it in!)

 

My thoughts

The First Class lounge at Gatwick (south terminal) is almost certainly the smallest BA lounge within London. What struck me when I entered was just how quiet the entire lounge was. Partly perhaps due to the low number of passengers inside, but also because there was no noise from televisions which feature in other lounges. Being bit of an aviation fan, this allowed me to hear the planes taking off from the runway in front, albeit muted through triple-glazing.

Perhaps a reflection of the small ratio of work vs. leisure passengers, the amount of workstation tables was pretty small compared to the typical business class lounge. It certainly wasn't an issue for me in this particular visit, though I do wonder what it's like at peak travel hour, probably 8-10am when all the BA Gold business travellers are heading out, with the Barbados and St. Lucia First Class passengers arriving for check in.

From what I could tell the refrigerated beverages and the spirits were the same as the business class lounge, but the champagne and Rosé wines were different. Not being a trained oenophile you will have to excuse my lack of description but the champagne definitely tasted sweeter, less sour and fuller bodied.

Sadly given the circumstances of such a rushed visit I didn't get to eat anything so cannot comment on the quality of the food. I would have loved to time how long it takes to serve food and also take pictures of the à la carte dishes, but it was not to be.

 

About Tim

Tim Lai is a Chartered Engineer and a typical nerd who analyses every travel deal, travel hack and is one of the world's leading travel experts. He has travelled to around 90 countries and also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. He has been featured on the likes of CNN, BBC and also broader websites websites like Nomad Capitalist for his deep knowledge of EU travel laws. An accredited journalist, he is happy to speak to other journalists who need expertise on travel topics.

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