How the middle class has ruined airport lounges

Sleep lounges and igloo pods

At Heathrow alone there are 45 options, including Terminal 2A’s Plaza Premium Lounge, where entry starts at £35 per person. This entitles you to food, alcohol, showers, Wi-Fi access – but reviews left on LoungeBuddy suggest that passengers have been refused entry to the lounge, despite paying for a pass, as it had reached its capacity.

For those taking a red-eye flight, options become even more creative. At Dubai International Airport, travellers can pay £14 to visit the Sleep ‘n Fly Sleep Lounge, with its ‘Igloo Pods’ (cubicles with a small bed). But staff allow visits of only two hours at night, meaning there is little time to slumber.

For Gilbert Ott, a travel blogger at God Save The Points, the lack of quality control is exasperating. “These pay-as-you-go lounges are a fundamentally flawed business model. I think it’s insane,” he says.

Litany of cost-cutting measures

Ott is primarily concerned with the exhausting litany of cost-cutting measures. While the airline-operated spaces are focused on maintaining a sense of luxury for the frequent flier, the open-to-all lounges are, according to Gilbert, more concerned with the number of paying customers than quality: “What used to be à la carte became a buffet. Then the buffet went from properly cooked pasta to three-day-old baguettes and pre-packaged yoghurts. They’re not even trying to create a premium experience anymore.” 

There are lounges that remain, on the whole, limited to premium ticket holders or top-tier airline members. Only a very small number of BA passengers have access to the Concorde Room found at Heathrow and JFK, for example. The dedicated dining room is only open to first-class fliers and the tiny number of people who hold a Concorde Room card (which is rumoured to require around 5,000 Tier Points each year). 

The BA Galleries First Lounge is open to a slightly larger number of passengers; Club Lounges is the next rung down on the luxury ladder. Arrivals Lounges are open to all long-haul fliers touched down at Heathrow in business or first class, or those who are part of BA Executive Club Gold.

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