Staff Journalist GEMMA WEIR takes a peek at lounge life with British Airways…
Shuffling through the airport at the beginning of one of my jaunts across the globe has to be, hands down, one of the most stressful experiences in life. What is quite possibly MORE stressful, is shuffling through the airport at the END of an exhausting escapade, because I insist on all this culture immersion and sight seeing within an inch of my life, instead of just lying on a beach somewhere like other humans do when they need to relax before the vein in their head gets so large it becomes a citizen in its own right.
I hear a lot of these overly optimistic, ‘Zen’ sort of people talking about “no problems – only solutions”… So, I channelled the zen, and found one. A solution to my frantic panic around busy airports, hysterics over where I’ve put by boarding pass and the nightmare at security.
“What is this miraculous solution?” I hear you ask… A British Airways lounge.
There are two things I covet most in this life, the first, is a black Nando’s Card, because who doesn’t want a life time supply of free Nando’s? And the other, is to be accepted into the British Airways Elite of travellers and called by name in The Concorde Lounge!
It is no secret that British Airways lounges are among the most revered in the world, of course they are, they’re British Airways, they like to do things right; but when I was invited along to Heathrow to experience them for myself, they got me. Hook, line and sinker… I’m a Lounge kinda girl!
I thought I was a free-spirited travelling nomad who couldn’t care less about the time spent in transition from ‘A’ to ‘B’, just as long as I gathered up some amazing experiences when I got there. Fair point. But what everyone failed to mention was that the transition period could be a pretty great experience in itself!
Many a night I have found myself sitting on the tiled floor of an airport terminal, huddled around a plug socket to keep my phone alive, with my half eaten falafel wrap that I had purchased three hours previously. I never really minded – I had just got another pin in my map and memories for a lifetime. But when you’re tired, hungry and a little bit emotionally needy, some opulence and attention doesn’t go a miss.
Behold – The Lounge…
Heathrow, Terminal Five, where the holiday begins with flare and ends with ‘Oh la la’. There are three British Airways Lounges that I got to have a little peek inside, each one has its own charm – When I say ‘charm’, endless snacks and a glass of wine to kick start ones travels can always be considered ‘charming’.
The Club Lounge is great, away from the hustle and bustle of economy. Eat and chill to your hearts content while you wait for your holiday to really begin in style and comfort. Its elegant, functional, comfortable, chilled and a million miles away from my usual travel exploits.
Then, I took a step into First Class. Now, what have we got here. For a start, we have a fast track security and check in option with a direct route straight to the lounge. I always wondered why, no matter how well my eyes stayed peeled on the look out for a rock and roll legend like Rod Stewart or Steve Tyler, I never bump into them. They most likely take the allusive first class corridor, leaving me sitting downstairs, half stripped in my socks in a long security line, ever hopeful, but never in luck!
The best way to describe my entrance to the British Airways First Class Lounge was to ‘swan’. That’s what I did. I ‘swanned’ into an elegant, sophisticated lounge, greeted with a glass of champagne (of course) and breathed in a life of which I could very easily become accustomed. That lounge was more glorious than some hotels I have stayed in! I could freely float around, nibbling on snacks or taking a seat for a restaurant styled meal. British Airways has given the design and functionality as much thought and effort as everything else they do. It is practical, relaxed, not too ‘business’ and the sort of place I could visualise myself feeling just lovely putting my feet up before embarking on my travels.
And here comes the best bit… Welcome to Concorde London Heathrow. So called after the legendary Concorde itself and one of only two Concorde Lounges in the world. If you’ve tuned into your great British Airways history, you might have guessed that the other Concorde lounge is in JFK, New York; the two airports to have serviced Concorde.
Everything was hushed. I felt as though I had just stepped through a wardrobe of fur coats and half expected to be greeted by a friendly faun at a lamp post. I wasn’t. I was instead greeted by Tara, British Airways Concorde Team Executive, who turned out to be better than a faun… “Can I get you a glass of champagne?”, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, not at all shabby. I had reached the lofty heights of the elite and didn’t I just know it.
I caught myself on using correct pronunciation and and finishing my ‘ing’s’ properly to justify my presence. As the Lovely Tara took me around the lounge, I found I could put my posh voice back in the box, I was made to feel comfortable, relaxed and most whole heartedly welcome. Stylish, not stuffy. Concorde is the ‘piece de resistance’ of airport lounges. From the comfortable yet elegant furnishings, remarkable service, large opens beds that have the perfect view of the aircraft leaving the chilly British skies far behind them, some with a moroccan style privacy drape that would almost make you want to break out the Shisha pipe before you’ve stepped foot out of London – to getting first dibs for the tranquil Elemis Spa, this lounge is a destination in itself. You can even pre-book your own private Cabana, where you have all of your own room facilities to refresh, shower, snooze and revive between those exhaustive long haul flights.
Dinner in Concorde is an actual dining experience. No-one ‘grabs a quick’ anything here. The service is prompt, absolutely, but prompt food is not to be confused with fast food. I was invited to dine from the a la carte menu, nestled in an elegantly cosy lit booth to enjoy a full three course, restaurant meal with pink bubbles before my flight back to reality.
I thought to myself, ‘this is really the way to travel’. Surely I can be a wandering tie-dyed bohemian free spirit on a super tight budget when I get to my destination… I can lap up the luxury of a lounge for the little bit in-between. Life is all about balance, and the pendulum has swung in favour of the lounge! Maybe Tom Hanks could teach us all a lesson in his movie ‘Terminal’… Let’s face it, that would have been a very different movie if only he had utilised a lounge!