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A newer review of the Aspire Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5 is available via this link
The opening of the Aspire Lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on 4 August was an important milestone for a lot of travelers because it became the first independent lounge to open in the British Airways dominated terminal.
Why’s that important?
Before Aspire opened their new lounge at T5 the only lounges travelers could hope to access were the British Airways lounges – and if you weren’t traveling in a premium cabin or if you didn’t have British Airways or OneWorld status you couldn’t get in.
The opening of the Aspire lounge has changed all that.
Aspire lounges are part of the Priority Pass network which offers lounge access for a price rather than based on your cabin of travel or airline status (for more information on the Priority Pass program take a look at this post from my “useful info” section). The lounge can also be accessed by purchasing a 3-hour pass in advance or by walking in on the day (subject to capacity constraints.)
The Aspire lounge at Heathrow T5 is anything but cheap with adults and children aged 2 and over paying the same price (no charge for infants/toddlers ages 0-2)
Access on the door – $61 (£40/€55) per person for 3 hours
Pre-paid access – $54 (£35/€48) for 3 hours
If you have Priority Pass access your cost will vary depending on your membership and will range from free (i.e included with your annual subscription) to £15/$27 per visit. For my visit I used my Priority Pass select card that comes with the Amex Platinum card so I had nothing to pay.
What’s the lounge like?
The Aspire lounge at T5 is located directly underneath the British Airways lounges at the south end of the terminal – near Gate A18.
If you’re not 100% sure where it is, follow the signs for the British Airways lounges (south), head past the Fortnum & Mason bar, ignore the escalators that lead up to the BA lounges, continue ahead and take a left at gate A18. You’ll see the lounge directly ahead of you:
The lounge is set out in a narrow “J” shape so, once you’ve checked-in at the desk, you take a sharp right to enter the lounge and walk down the short part of the “J”.
On your immediate left is the small (very!) “spa”…..
….and on your right are a few 2-seater tables
I consider these to be the “seats of last resort” as the foot traffic going past could become pretty annoying at peak times.
Straight ahead (and what is the bottom of the “J” shape) is a seating area with more small, 2-seater, tables and a single 4-seater:
….and as you turn the corner of the “J” the tables continue….
As you walk past these tables and turn left to proceed up the long side of the lounge’s “J” shape you see the bar area with the bar on the left…..
….and seating on the right.
There are also a few booths that seat more than just 2 people but they were all full and I wasn’t about to creep anyone out by taking pictures of families relaxing before their trips 🙂 – You can get an idea of what a booth looks like from this photo looking back at the bar area….
As you can also see from the photo above, just past the bar area is where the food and snacks are laid out and where the self-serve coffee machine and soda machine sit:
Opposite the food area is a work area (without any computers) which Aspire describes as a “high bar work desk” with a “host of charging points with UK, US and USB ports”.
Guests can sit on either side of the “high bar work desk”…..
….but, if you sit facing out, you get to watch the airport in action rather than fellow guests helping themselves to snacks……
Further past this work area is one more “high bar”
(those stairs are one of the fire escape routes for the British Airways Galleries First lounge which sits above the Aspire lounge).
Lastly, once you get to the top of the “J” shape, you reach the “Rest Pods”:
The rest posts are included in the price of admission but they have to be booked at reception. Each “pod” comes with a “fully reclining lie flat chair, personal television, space to stow a bag, a small desk and a privacy curtain”.
The “small desk” is actually a shelf and it’s pretty much useless as a “desk” – the only seating available in the pod is a lie-flat recliner so I’m not sure how Aspire think anyone is going to use it as a desk.
With only 6 pods in the lounge I would have assumed that they would be pretty hard to book but, during my short visit to the lounge, all 6 were free – possibly to do with the fact that they’re at an extreme end of the lounge where no one really has any reason to go.
The lounge offers free Wi-Fi for all guests – not really that major as Heathrow T5 now offers free Wi-Fi throughout – but the availability of US power ports together with USB ports is a definite plus.
Food & Drinks
The lounge’s homepage goes into good detail on what guests can expect to find on offer during their visit.
Importantly, not all food offerings are included in the price of admission:
And, while soft drinks are free……
…and while some alcoholic drinks are free (no self-serve, all drinks are bar service only)….
The more premium drinks/labels come at an additional cost:
For anyone wondering what a “Wine Flight” is, here’s what the Aspire website has to say:
Overall that all sounds ok. I don’t have much of an issue with a lounge charging for premium drinks – I’m used to that with most US lounges – and the food selection described above should be enough for most people without the need to resort to a “premium meal”….but that’s not exactly what I found when I visited.
I was in the lounge at around 10:30am (according to the time-stamp on the photos I took) so that should have meant that the morning selection was still available – I expected to see breakfast rolls, fruit, cereals etc…
Instead, this is what was laid out:
That was it.
That certainly wasn’t breakfast and it looked like it was a limited selection of what’s advertised as the afternoon (after 11am) offering.
The one bartender I saw on duty was working pretty hard so I wasn’t about to waste his time by enquiring about the food – I had no intention of having any food as I’d already eaten upstairs – but I did wonder if, despite the phrase “help yourself” appearing in a number of places on the website, food was meant to be ordered. Was that why there was such a paltry selection on offer?
So, rather than disturbing the staff, I used the very convenient “chat with us” option on the Aspire website to ask about the food (name of CS person removed):
We can learn two things from that conversation:
- I can’t type quickly and spell the word “pasta”
- Pretty much all the food options should have been out and available
You could try to argue that, at 10:30am, I was there pretty close to the time when the staff would be changing over the food…..but what was laid out had clearly been there a while so that excuse doesn’t work.
To say that the food offering was pathetic would be doing “pathetic” a disservice.
The Spa at the Aspire T5 lounge looks tiny. In fact if its limits (excluding showers) are what you see as you walk past you can’t really call it a Spa….more a walk-in closet where you can get a treatment.
Per the Aspire T5 website:
As things stand there isn’t any way to pre-book your “spa” treatments so it’s first come, first served, but the website has a message to suggest that they’re working on bringing a booking system online.
As part of the spa the Aspire lounge also provides showers for guests…at a price. And what a price it is!
In case you can’t read that, here’s an extract from the Aspire website:
That’s $30 (£20/€27) for a 30 minute shower. And that’s on top of whatever you paid to get into the lounge in the first place. You have to be pretty desperate for a shower, on a very generous expenses package or pretty full of one of the lounge’s “iconic cocktails” to think that was a good idea!
Presumably the lounge was so restricted for space that they don’t have enough showers to go around…so their solution was to make them so expensive as to be prohibitive for all but the wealthy, desperate and/or inebriated.
I was pretty happy when I heard that Heathrow T5 was going to be getting a non-BA lounge but this was a colossal disappointment.
- The lounge is narrow and has no feeling of space (despite the enormous glass walls that define T5).
- The location is very obviously an afterthought rather than a planned airport lounge and it looks like Heathrow has turned an access/service area into a thin lounge to eek out a bit more rent.
- The lounge didn’t have enough staff on duty and the food on offer was laughable.
- I didn’t think to check the restrooms while I was there but, according to a review on the Aspire lounge site, they’re outside of the lounge itself – amusingly the reviewer still gave the lounge 5-stars!
If I’d paid to get into the lounge I would have been demanding my money back in about 2 minutes flat. A family of 4 could easily be paying upwards of $215 (£140/€190) to get into the lounge and I’m not convinced they’d always find somewhere comfortable to sit.
And it’s not just me who thinks this place isn’t up to much – the reviews on the lounge’s own website would seem to agree. At the time of writing there are ten reviews in all – six 2-star reviews, two 3-star reviews and 2 reviews from people who clearly have never seen an airport lounge before (5-star reviews).
If you don’t have Priority Pass access I’d give this place a wide berth. For $54 (£35/€48) per person you would be better off finding a bar/restaurant in the terminal and relaxing there. You’d still have free Wi-Fi and you’d probably have a better experience.
Have you visited the Aspire lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5? Let me know what your visit was like in the comment section below.