The one thing that British Airways does well on the ground is their check-in experience for first class and oneworld emerald elites which includes British Airways Golds and higher and American AAdvantage Executive Platinums. It’s a quick, dedicated, visually appealing security check.
Since I was connecting through Heathrow I wasn’t using the First Wing. Instead I walked through the quick transit passport check, and queued for transit security. The security situation even for ‘Fast Track’ can be long and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such sour and slow moving employees as at Heathrow security screening.
Once through security most passengers, who aren’t using First Wing, have to walk through the airport in a manner designed to push them by a whole bunch of shops. All of Heathrow is designed to maximize the likelihood that you’ll spend money shopping — even how late gates are posted for flights, you don’t congregate at the gate, most passengers are stuck with nothing to do but spend money in stores.
British Airways has business class lounges, first class, and the Concorde Room. The first class lounges are really for elites because British Airways first class passengers use the Concorde Room.
You can enter the Concorde Room via the first class lounge if you have access, or if you’re connecting just turn tight after you clear security and walk past all of the security screening to the end of the corridor where you find a non-descript door with an agent in front who welcomes you in. Inside an agent at a desk will check your boarding pass credentials for access.
The Concorde Room features:
- sit down dining, as well as the ability to order food or drinks from anywhere inside the lounge
- access to the Elemis travel spa
- uncrowded spaces compared to other BA lounges
- three cabanas, private rooms with showers and comfortable seating
The Concorde Room is a nice enough lounge. I don’t find the food to be very good, and the service is often confused at best. My criticism of the lounge is that it isn’t as nice as it should be for a lounge that is so exclusive.
I do not mind spending time in this lounge. It just isn’t a world’s top 10 lounge, or even top 15. And it should be.
British Airways has replaced the furniture in the lounge, the new furnishings are an improvement. The ‘outdoor’ deck inside the terminal is nice though of course it’s similar to the deck in the Galleries First lounge. There aren’t enough power outlets.
The only thing about the lounge that ought to be special but isn’t quite there are the cabanas. These are three private rooms with couch, two small tables, a chair and private bathroom with shower.
It’s nice to get real privacy away from everyone, to shower and change and relax for a period of time especially during a layover after a long flight.
Since you can order food and drinks anywhere in the lounge, that includes to your cabana. There are menus in the cabanas. There used to be a phone on the desk. You’d call, and no one would answer. Now there’s a button to push that’s on the table, you push the button and no one comes.
I pushed the button wanting a second bottle of still water (there was a bottle of still and sparkling in the room when I got there). No response. Pushed it again 10 minutes later, no response. Went out to the Quintessentially concierge desk where you check in for the cabana and told them I’d like a bottle of water, they instructed me to… push the button.
After explaining that I did that several times to no avail they did promise to send someone right away, and several minutes later someone did show up.
Service in the lounge is hit or miss at best, and often just downright confused. When I checked in for my cabana they couldn’t find my booking. It was on the piece of paper in front of them, but the whole thing is done handwritten into a book rather than electronically. And it’s a mess.
When you ask to make a reservation – the best way is to make a request via the YouFirst web page – they will look in the book to see if there’s time available, and if there is they will hand write it in. What happens if you change your plans or cancel? There’s a handwritten reservation that doesn’t get updated. The idea that they haven’t made this process electronic is absurd.
I made a reservation for after my outbound long haul flight. I changed my return flight and wanted to book a cabana but it was only about a month out and there were no reservations available. A month in advance. Three cabanas, clearly, aren’t enough.
The spaces aren’t nearly as nice as the cabanas in the Cathay Pacific Wing first class lounge, but they’re better than not having a cabana. I think about them like:
- A Minute Suites room
- With a private bath and shower
- Where you can have food and drink delivered
And that’s pretty good for an airport. In fact, the food itself while not great even for an airport lounge strikes me as better than it used to be.
British Airways really should invest in re-doing their first class lounge. Recognize that British Airways is never going to provide exceptional service, but they offer decent booze. It seems to me the lounge would be better with more cabanas, and a better process to manage them, at a bare minimum.