For passengers traveling in First with British Airways, there are multiple lounges to try at Heathrow Terminal 5. The Concorde Room is the smallest of all the BA lounges, but is exclusively for passengers with first class tickets and a very select number of high-spending BA Executive Club members. The Galleries First Lounge is the main first lounge at Heathrow T5, which also caters for passengers eligible for Concorde Room access, but also welcomes passengers with Oneworld Emerald status who are departing Heathrow in any class on a BA or Oneworld carrier. With direct access to this lounge from the check-in area, through dedicated security, we were expecting a world-class experience. Did we get it? We hit the lounge at a busy time, so got to see how well it performed under real stress. Read on for our honest British Airways Galleries First Lounge Heathrow T5 Review.
We checked-in at the “First Wing”, which is found at the southern end of Terminal 5 (after Zone H). There was direct access from the First Wing into the British Airways Galleries First Lounge – no front desk, no boarding pass checks. The dedicated security meant that we were checked in and in the lounge in less than 10 minutes. Despite there being no-one to welcome us or inform us about the features of the lounge, we were greeted by a large black horse standing next to an illuminated “welcome” sign and ice bucket of champers. There was no faulting the ease at which we entered.
If you aren’t using the First Wing to check-in, things are a little more complicated. After passing through security, take the escalator/lift down to the lower level, then walk to the southern end of the terminal. The lounge is on the same floor as security, so you must take an escalator/lift back up to reach the entrance to the lounge. You will be met by the usual British Airways reception desks.
NB: This British Airways lounge does not accept paid admission or Priority Pass.
While arm chairs and sofas dominate the seating across the vast lounge, there were a variety of seating options for diners and those wanting to work. We decided to plonk ourselves down on a sofa and enjoy a mimosa while we contemplated the breakfast menu.
Food service areas, such as The Refectory, had a combination of regular bistro dining tables and high cocktail bar tables with stools. It was a good place to have a meal, as seating was ample.
Around the rest of the lounge were (literally) hundreds of armchair and sofa seats, with accompanying coffee tables. These were good places to enjoy a drink and gaze out of the windows. Although busy, empty seats were still available and churn was constant.
We found the business areas in the two far corners of the lounge, which provided bar-tops and stools to work on.
Despite the vastness of the British Airways Galleries First Lounge, we didn’t find any designated quiet areas or sleeping cabanas. Saying that, the terrace area outside was quiet enough to relax, and had oversized armchairs you could recline into. The huge windows and commanding view of the airfield meant that it had lots of natural light, so an eye mask would be essential for a daytime snooze.
Although plentiful and comfortable, the seating was looking tired in places and downright grubby in others. Perhaps ready to be replaced? Light colours never wear well!
The British Airways Galleries First Lounge was midway through breakfast service when we arrived and, with the first flights of the day long departed, was bustling with activity. Judging by the occupation of the seating across the lounge and The Refectory, we’d estimate it being at 75% capacity.
We were able to get a table for some breakfast and found ourselves lounge seats with relative ease. There were a couple of pain points, most notably the toilets and showers, but we otherwise felt the lounge was coping well with the high footfall.
Breakfast was in full-swing when we arrived. Feeling pretty peckish, we headed straight to The Refectory, where we commandeered a table and then took a browse around the buffet options.
A full English was the theme on the hot buffet, while fruit, yoghurt, cereals and pastries made the bulk of the cold buffet. All the food we tried had been freshly prepared and tasted good.
As well as a comprehensive hot and cold buffet breakfast, the there was also a selection of á la carte items available to order from a menu. We ordered a two fried eggs to accompany the items we’d taken from the hot breakfast buffet. They took a fair while to be delivered to the table and arrived looking sorry for themselves. The eggs appeared to have been overcooked in very hot oil and were bubbly, frazzled, and crispier than they should’ve been.
For those in a hurry, there were grab & go bacon rolls and pastries conveniently located by the coffee machine.
As you’d expect from a lounge of this calibre, there was a large selection of hot, cold, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Union Coffee stations were found at various locations in the lounge, supplying the usual selection of Americanos, cappuccinos, and lattes through machines. Decaf was available, as were a selection of milk substitutes. There was also a selection of Twinings teas.
The fridges were well-stocked with freshly squeezed juices (breakfast only), other flavoured juices and waters, fizzy sodas and tonics (Fever-tree).
As time went on, and with breakfast digested, we found ourselves feeling more keen to peruse the alcohols.
Self-service bar areas were in plentiful supply across the lounge, meaning we were never more than a few steps from a selection of 3 white, 3 red, and 2 sparkling wines. We were particularly pleased to see the Vieux Maillet Pomerol, having once tried it on a Qatar Airways A380 flight. It retails around £40 a bottle, making it one of the priciest on offer in the lounge that day.
The whites were sat chilling in ice buckets along the wine self-service bars, which had a decadent “come and indulge yourself” suggestiveness about them. The wine displays made for great aesthetics in this part of the lounge.
Jeeper Rosé champagne and English sparkling wine were the bubbles on offer when we visited. We were slightly disappointed that the usual Brut champagne had been replaced with English fizz. If they were going to do that, BA could’ve at least opted for Langham Blancs de Blancs or Chapel Down Brut.
On the harder side, there were extremely well-stocked self-service liquor bars, offering premium-brand spirits for your to free pour over ice. We found all the ingredients present and correct for the Bloody Mary Challenge.
Score: 7/10 – a good show, but a poor switch of the champagne for English fizz.
Toilets and Showers
We found two sets of toilets in the lounge; both were busy and a line had formed. Each toilet is in a room on its own, which makes it them very private, and featured a shaver socket and fragranced Elemis botanicals hand soap. The appointment of these toilets is exactly the same in the business class lounge.
Frustratingly, there were no mens urinals, so we found ourselves in the line for the cubicles, even if we just needed a quick pee. We appreciated the privacy of the Galleries First Lounge, but felt there weren’t enough of them for the traffic the lounge receives, especially when there are no urinals. Other newer BA lounges do have them, so hopefully BA will update the Galleries First Lounge soon.
Showers were found outside of the lounge at the Elemis Spa. They were operating a waiting list system when we visited, with a lengthy queue at the desk. Putting our names down, we were told the wait time was 30 minutes and to check back at the desk at that time.
It would be better if they operated a paging system, like restaurants do when there’s a wait for a table. That way, you could relax back inside the lounge without needing to check back with the staff at the Elemis desk. It might also help reduce congestion around the desk.
The shower room itself was modern and clean, and featured Elemis botanicals shampoo and shower gel. There was also a wall-mounted hairdryer.
WiFi, Power & Productivity
Despite being able to connect easily, the Wi-Fi was decidedly lacklustre for a flagship lounge in our home city. We have a 1 Gbps connections in London, yet this lounge managed just ↓ 3 Mbps ↑ 0.9 Mbps.
For those needing to plug-in, there were at-seat charging points throughout the lounge. The only exception were armchairs and sofas set in the middle of some rooms in the lounge. There were also few power sockets in The Refectory. Where there were power sockets, the faceplates supported mains UK & European plugs, and also USB ports.
Remember – very few BA short-haul aircraft have at-seat charging, even in business class. Get your devices charged before you leave the gate.
There were two designated working areas in the lounge, complete with computers and printers. These areas were sufficiently separated from the rest of the lounge to allow calls and meetings to be held without fear of causing a nuisance to others.
Score: 7/10 – better Wi-Fi and charging at every seat is a must these days.
A room had been set aside as a dedicated Kids Zone. It was fitted with a TV, toys and games, and a door, meaning kids could be entertained loudly, without fear of disturbing other passengers.
Newspapers and high-end lifestyle magazines were offered on several stands throughout the lounge.
We thought the free printing facilities in the business areas was a nice touch, and came with clear instructions on how to connect and print.
A complimentary coat/bag check service is provided at the main entrance to the lounge, allowing you to offload heavy bags and coats. Just remember to collect your items before you leave, it’s a long way back from the gates if you remember too late!
Passengers traveling in first class receive a free treatment at the Elemis Spa, although booking in advance is essential. For everyone else, there’s a walk-in service that provides a variety of pre-flight massage and beauty treatments for a fee. Allow plenty of time if you want to use the Elemis Spa, as you may have to wait an hour or two for an available slot.
Finally, there were a lot of staff working in the lounge. Be it cleaning tables, replenishing the bars, serving in the dining area, or cleaning the toilets, there was always someone nearby who could help. This lounge is a large operation and staffed accordingly.
We really liked the British Airways Galleries First Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5. From the ease of arrival to selection and quality of the food and beverages, we felt the whims of most premium passengers had been considered and catered for. The lounge lost marks for its tired-looking armchairs, queues for the toilets, slow Wi-Fi, and quality issues with the á la carte item and the fizz. While minor, we hope these can be improved upon so that the lounge is able to maintain its flagship status over the coming years.
Total: 60/70 (86%)