I’ve just arrived at British Airway’s Heathrow T5 lounge. And the food choice is appalling. I’m no Gordon Ramsey, but if someone offers me food that even I can produce myself with my non-existent culinary skills, I’m not impressed. That’s why the option of toast as the centrepiece of the BA food offer doesn’t do it for me.
Why is British Airways getting it so wrong? Using the lounge is often viewed as a perk for regular travellers. I do look forward to unwinding on a comfy sofa, in relative peace compared to the bustle of the airport and browsing the free magazines and books on offer.
Some airports and airlines offer superb lounge facilities. The Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong, known as ‘The Wing’, has food to rival any good city restaurant. Qatar’s stunning lounge in Heathrow T4 features delicious petit fours and a menu hand-delivered by attentive staff. I felt pampered, like a traveling oligarch or rich oil sheik, rather than someone who’d juggled his credit card loyalty points to get a ‘free’ upgrade.
If you want to pay for private access then you’ll get back your £20 entrance fee at the Number 1 North Terminal Lounge at Gatwick with snacks, drinks and comfort. Yes, some people use the lounges to get sozzled on free booze, but surely it can’t be difficult for Britain’s national carrier to offer something we can be proud of? If I leave the lounge and walk a few hundred yards I can find caviar and lobster. Pret a Manger and Eat have a better selection. And it’s not as if BA don’t charge for business class or make out that lounge access is a frequent flier treat.
This doesn’t feel like it. Ok, I have been to bad lounges too. In May 2015 I paid to use the Plaza private company lounge at Vancouver airport because of a long layover. The food offer was limited to panini’s and crisps. The Wi-Fi was just the free airport internet and the electric sockets were literally hanging off the wall. I considered earthing myself before I plugged in my phone charger. But the quality of the offer at the flagship BA lounge at our biggest airport really takes the biscuit. Actually, I wouldn’t mind if they had biscuits.
At 11.10 am the food offer is toast with jam or marmite, fruit with yoghurt or porridge and a croissant. That’s it. A concerned attendant overheard my conversation with another disgruntled passenger and offered to help. “Would you like a sandwich?” she helpfully enquired. “What do you have?” I asked. She rattled off the short list and both me and my fellow famished traveller settled on tuna. Five minutes later she sheepishly reappeared full of apology. “My manager says you can’t have one until 1 o’clock when the sandwiches are delivered”
I’d love to know which lounges you rate or reckon should be avoided.
BA often get their cabin crew to trot out this the line over the cabin tannoy: “Thanks for flying BA. We know you have a choice.” Clearly that doesn’t apply to their lounge services. But it’s a point I will remember next time I fly.