As frequent flyers, on a short hop to Europe or exploring the far East and West of the Globe, we’re always in search of a bargain to travel in style! The joy of travelling should start from getting to the airport, and we got hooked on the trappings of business class travel and everything that comes with it; lounges, lie-flat beds, food & wine, and free-flowing champagne! We’ve come to realise that traveling in style doesn’t have to break the bank.

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We’ve tried Aspire lounges in a couple of locations around the world when our airline hasn’t one of their own. We weren’t bowled over by those visits. When Priority Pass announced they’d added Club Aspire Lounge Gatwick South, we thought it was a great opportunity to give the Aspire brand another go and write an honest review. Perhaps it could be third time lucky?

Club Aspire Lounge Gatwick South is run by Executive Lounges, the lounge brand of Swissport. They operate a number of the Aspire lounges around the world, including one in Gatwick North Terminal that is used by Qatar Airways.

Reception

Entering along the side of the WH Smith shop, on the opposite side of the terminal to the other lounges (read our other Gatwick lounge reviews), the Club Aspire Lounge doorway is found at the end of a long fire escape passage.

The check-in area was small and easily congested, with a queue forming out of the door if more than a couple of people waiting. The reception staff were quick and courteous, processing new arrivals as efficiently as they can. Although, you’ll see in the photo the helpful host was struggling behind all the clutter on the counter! We used Priority Pass, so just had to scan our card and boarding pass, then sign on a screen.

Paid entry was being accepted at a cost of £27.50pp for 3 hours, making it one of the cheaper paid lounges in South Terminal. American Express cards were not accepted for payment.

Score: 6/10

Comfort

The lounge is quite compact, although they’ve tried to make good use of the space. There are 4 main zones: the co-working desk space, dining area, lounge area, and a quiet cabana space.

The dining area occupies the most space. The majority of people were eating, drinking, or working the lounge, so the dining arrangement seemed to work for most.

There’s a quiet area in the back corner of the lounge. The seating didn’t look that comfortable – a range of bench and no-so-reclining lounge chairs. It is, however, the only paid lounge at Gatwick South that offers anywhere to escape and rest in relative quiet. Club Rooms and No.1 don’t have private quiet areas.

While the lounge has external windows, these offer very little in the way of a view. A couple of aircraft tails can be seen over rooftops, but the lounge is on the wrong side of the terminal for a runway view.

Score: 6/10 – It felt too compact and the seating wasn’t especially comfortable for “lounging.” It is, however, the only paid lounge with a quiet area.

People traffic

The lounge was getting a lot of footfall, although occupancy seemed to be churning quite quickly. It seemed to empty while we were there, although a fresh wave was queuing at the doors as we departed. The tight layout of the lounge may easily make it feel crowded on a busy day – there would be lots of barging past.

Score: 5/10

Food Options

Food in Club Aspire Lounge Gatwick South was a hot and cold buffet. A full English breakfast buffet was underway when we visited. The hot items were of mid-range quality, probably on a par with what can be found in BA business and arrival lounges. Pastries and cereals sat next door to the warm buffet, while the island chiller offered fruit, yoghurts and granola/compote.

Food was being regularly replenished, whereas tables weren’t being cleared particularly quickly.

All the fresh food was labelled, although the options for veggies and vegans seemed limited on the hot buffet.

After midday, the buffet switches to an all day buffet that varies between the seasons. Options typically include:

Chicken, Bacon & White Bean Casserole
Pulled Pork& Cider Stew
Vegetable & Bean Tagine
Braised Beef & Cheddar
Mashed Sweet Potato
Cauliflower Dhal
Rice

The all day menu seems to offer more variety for veggies, vegans, and allergens.

Score: 5/10

Beverage Options

There was one coffee/tea station serving the whole lounge. The Nescafé coffee was undrinkable – we’re talking freeze-dried instant coffee with frothy milk.

The bar was fairly well-stocked and well-staffed, even so early in the morning. The bar tender said they open the bar when the lounge opens at 5am. Beers, wines and spirits are complimentary, with the exception of Prosecco and Champagne, which were available to buy. Because the coffee was so bad, we got the friendly bar tender to make us a Bloody Mary. In allowing us to season it ourselves, it tasted exactly how we like it.

A soft drink dispenser was available at the end of the bar, serving the usual sugar sodas. The was a sparking water tap next to it.

Fizzy soft drinks and mineral water dispensers are on the side of the bar

Score: 6/10 – the coffee really was foul.

Toilets and Showers

This is one of the few Gatwick lounges to provide a guest shower, although there was only one and it was out of order the day we visited. It didn’t look as though towels were provided. Next-door to it was a disabled toilet, which also had an out of order sign on it.

The toilets themselves were small and basic, with one just cubicle in the gents. They were reasonably clean and had a fragranced air freshener. One of the two sinks was out of order – the person putting those signs up certainly had a very busy day!

Score: 2/10 – The number of “out of order” signs was ridiculous. The closure of disabled toilet facilities was unacceptable. The shower being out of order was just the cherry on the top.

Wi-Fi, Power & Productivity

Lounge Wi-Fi wasn’t working, but they suggested guests join another lounge’s network. After searching on our devices we did manage to get onto another network, but we won’t include the results on this review.

Powering-up was a strength for this lounge. Almost every seat had access to a 230v mains socket, which also had a USB port embedded.

For the business travellers, there was a co-working space just behind the reception, with seating for about 8 people to plug-in and work. Elsewhere there were a few dining-height tables, all with with mains power and USB beneath.

The lounge was humming with conversation, but at a low enough level to work. Those wanting to have a quick meeting or phone call will be able to without the feeling they’re disturbing the lounge vibe.

Score: 6/10 – Wi-Fi is a must, but the productivity and power elements were very good.

Little Extras

This is the section where lounges can pick-up bonus points for doing something a little different that improves the airport experience for passengers.

Other than the quiet area, there’s little that causes Club Aspire Lounge Gatwick South to stand out from the other London Gatwick lounges.

Score 0/10

BG1 Verdict

So how did Club Aspire Lounge Gatwick South fair overall? Sadly, it was a less than “aspirational” performance for our visit. They’ve done a lot with a little space, but the outcome is a rather cramped lounge with congestion points along the main walkways. We’re unsure whether those with restricted mobility would be able to navigate some of the tight corridors between the seating areas. The bar and food are respectable for the lounge’s price-point and represent good value for money. If it’s not crowded, it would be good place to sit and write a few emails before a flight. You may not, however, be able to send them! Saying all that, the out of order shower and disabled toilet, a broken sink, and non-functioning Wi-Fi really evidence issues with the lounge’s upkeep. We’d avoid this one until they can put the basics right.

Total: 36/70 (51%)

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