We visited the British Airways Lounge in Dubai recently, but did it meet our expectations? Well, apart from the decoration looking identical to the flagship BA lounges in London, the food, beverage and facilities did not meet the standard we have come to expect from BA.
Flights to Dubai from international hubs in premium cabins are usually very competitive. It’s served by award-winning middle eastern carriers that provide a memorable experience for passengers, so competition is tough. For British Airways, the London-Dubai route was the first where the new Club Suite cabin was introduced. Being able to operate its own lounge in Dubai airport is important to give the airline a chance to compete. This gives them the ability to create positive experiences, which cannot be guaranteed in shared multi-airline lounges managed by other companies.
Recently, Etihad Airways announced they were taking back control of the House lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 4, from No1 Lounges. This was after a strategic review as it had increased the number of flights from London to Abu Dhabi.
British Airways operate out of Terminal 1 in Dubai international airport. It can be found on Concourse D, next to all the other airline lounges (SkyTeam, Ahlan Business Class Lounge and Mariana Lounge).
We arrived about 2 hours before departure, and there were no queues. A receptionist scanned our boarding pass and ushered us through – she was busy on her phone when we arrived and barely said hello. It wasn’t the usual “hello” or “Welcome back“ we were used to. They also didn’t ask if we’ve been to the lounge before and didn’t offer to talk through the features of the lounge. A poor first impression, and not a great start with creating a positive experience for its premium passengers.
Access to the lounge is given to passengers travelling in business class or hold Executive Club Silver or Gold status (oneworld Emerald or Ruby). The lounge is not open to Priority Pass or paid-for access.
Here’s some advice, if you intend to arrive more than 3 hours before your departure time, be aware that the check-in desks aren’t open until about 2.5 hours before your flight. We arrived at the airport too early and had to sit in the terminal before check-in open.
It’s undeniable, the design of the lounge was distinctly British Airways. They transported the same furniture from their flagship lounges, with identical chairs, tiles, fridge, etc… from the UK and placed it in the Lounge in Dubai. There were some very comfortable sofas in the lounge but it wasn’t a big lounge, so you have to get early to find an area to sit in.
The main lounge area was already quite busy when we got there, so we opted to use the room at the back – which is aptly named the Dubai bar. It used to be the Concorde Bar for First class and Gold For Life executive club members.
The main seating in the lounge were low sofas, with a few high tables for people wanting to work. What was once the Concorde Bar has now been renamed the Dubai Bar. BA still operate a First class cabin on their 777 or 747 for the London-Dubai route, and have the new A350s, which has the new Club Suites. So, not all flights will have a First class cabin.
For those flying on the A350, BA no longer differentiate the space as there is no First class cabin. The airline has open the Dubai Bar to all passengers with access to the lounge. The airline has claimed that it will enhance the comfort for passengers, which is needed to manage the people traffic in the lounge. Also, the fact is they no longer serve a First class cabin on the new A350s.
The Dubai Bar was dimly lit in a blue hue and it was dark in there. There was a high table with chairs in the middle and egg-shaped sofas dotted around the corners, with views of the terminal. You can’t really see much as the glass was frosted.
We spent most of our time in the Dubai Bar as the main lounge was already quite busy when we got there. As we got closer to the departure time, the lounge got even busier. When we were walking around in search for red wine, most of the seats were occupied. The Dubai Bar, which was empty when we arrived, started to fill up. We struggled to see how all premium passengers would fit in the lounge without opening the Dubai bar. It’s not surprising that the lounge filled up as the business class cabin, with 56 seats in quite a big cabin. Adding all the passengers with Silver or Gold Executive Club status meant that there was hardly anywhere to sit.
There was a selection of hot and cold food on offer. On the hot buffet were pasta and rice dishes, and there were salads and cheeses in the cold buffet,… tasting as unappetising as it looked! Although there was a decent selection of food on offer in the lounge, the quality was quite poor. As we arrived after dinner, we were not expecting to eat at the lounge, but if we were, we would have been very disappointed. We thought the airline could’ve brought a bit of Arabic or local flavours to the cuisine.
Disappointing. We’ve always scored BA lounges highly on beverage options. They tend to serve a good selection of wines, spirits and champagne. On this occasion, we left feeling a bit short-changed, as the wines on offer were not up to the usual standard. Worst of all, they served a french Sparkling wine disguised as champagne, costing on average ~£4 per bottle. Suffice to say, it tasted quite nasty! We thought the airline might stretch a bit further on drinks, so we were disappointed that they didn’t. Even with the heavy duties imposed by UAE, it was disappointing that the airline couldn’t stretch to a decent bubbly.
There were three reds and white wines on offer, which were ok, but nothing to write about. There was a good selection of spirits, enough to make a Bloody Mary, and other cocktails.
Toilets and Showers
Although the toilets were small, they were impeccably clean. It was kitted out with Elemis botanicals soap and moisturiser, the staple brand for the airline. A toilet attendant was there to ensure the the toilets were immaculate. He took pride in keeping the toilets fresh and he was folding the nice little triangles on the toilet paper after each passenger had visited. It was a shame that there were no showers in the lounge.
A shower before an evening flight would’ve been nice for passengers that have checked-out of their hotels earlier in the day and needed it after a day of sightseeing.
Score: 8/10 – it would have scored higher if there was a shower.
WiFi, Power & Productivity
There were loads of charge points at different parts of the lounge. The best place to sit and work, we found, was in the Dubai lounge, as they had high tables with decent charge points. The WiFi in the lounge had a decent speed and was available free of charge (↓ 21 Mbps ↑ 26 Mbps).
Unlike the flagship lounges in London or New York, there were little by means of extras to write about at the British Airways lounge in Dubai. However, we thought opening the Dubai Bar was a good move from the airline.
We expected more from the lounge. We thought that if BA were to operate their own lounge, they should’ve added more touches to make the lounge special for their passengers. It was let down by the beverages, which BA really excels at.
The choice of sparkling wine was disappointing. Serving a French sparkling wine that tasted pretty awful and costing £4 was frankly unsatisfactory. It’s OK as a pit stop, but not somewhere you’d go to fill you up or sip champagne… because there isn’t any available.
As Priority Pass holders, we actually did a bit of a lounge hop in Dubai and found that the Ahlan Business Class Lounge provided more facilities compared to the BA lounge. There is also a full service bar, which made amazing cocktails.
Total: 44/70 (62%)