What are the best UK airport lounges you can visit for free with Amex Gold’s Lounge Club passes?

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We have made a determined attempt this year to build up our collection of UK airport lounge reviews.  We aren’t totally there yet, but we are well on the way.

Having just added reviews of the Aspire (click here) and No 1 Lounge (click here) at Edinburgh Airport, I thought it was worth an overview of all the lounges which can be accessed for free via Lounge Club.

Lounge Club membership comes with the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card, which is free for the first year. You receive two free passes to visit any Lounge Club lounge and further visits or further guests are charged at £15.  My full review of Amex Gold is hereYou will also receive a further two Lounge Club passes every year when you renew your Amex Gold card.

If you’ve not visited an airport lounge before, getting yourself an Amex Gold card is the best way to try one out for free.  There are a lot of places in the UK where you can use your two free Lounge Club passes, however, and the quality varies sharply.  Here are a few of my favourites.  (There are also hundreds of overseas lounges where you can use Lounge Club, of course.)

Heathrow No 1 Traveller lounge

The Lounge Club network via Amex Gold currently comprises:

The two best lounges on this list are arguably the Plaza Premium facilities in Heathrow Terminal 2 and Heathrow Terminal 4.  Skytrax recently awarded the Terminal 2 lounge the title of ‘Best Independent Airport Lounge in the World’ – I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it is very good.

I am also very positive about the No 1 Lounge chain.  The new site at Gatwick South (the BA terminal) is impressive, as was the – admittedly a lot smaller – Edinburgh lounge I visited last week.  No 1 in Gatwick North is also very good.

The Aspire lounge at Luton is very well regarded and is especially worth visiting because of the chaos that is the main terminal!  The Escape lounge at Stansted is worth visiting for the same reason.

Of the major airports above, the main one that I am not too keen on is the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.  This is generally overcrowded – you often have to wait for 30 minutes to get in – and the space inside is badly used.  It is unfortunate that the new Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 5, which opened last week, is not currently accepting Lounge Club.

Plaza Premium LHR T5

Getting an American Express Platinum card gives unlimited free visits!

Priority Pass membership comes with the American Express Platinum card. Both the main cardholder and one supplementary cardholder receive a Priority Pass, and each card admits two people for free. This means that you can get four people into a lounge for free, as many times as you want if both the main and supplementary cardholder are travelling together. There is NO LIMIT to the number of lounge visits you can make for free.  My full review of Amex Platinum is here.

As well as getting Lounge Club or Priority Pass membership via Amex, you can also buy Priority Pass membership directly. There are various membership options with different combinations of membership fee and ‘per visit’ fees – but, oddly, you cannot buy a card with the same features as the Amex Plat version, ie cardholder plus a free guest.

If you have a Priority Pass card, you get access to the following additional lounges:

If you fly out of one of these airports on a regular basis then Priority Pass via Amex Platinum may be more useful than Lounge Club via Amex Gold.

They are not the most exciting bunch of lounges though.  The two best ones on the list are the SkyTeam lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4 and the No 1 Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3.  However, in both of those terminals there is an equally good alternative via Lounge Club – the Plaza Premium lounge in T4 and Club Aspire in T3.

If you have an American Express Platinum card, you can also access the new Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 pictured above.  This is NOT a Priority Pass benefit – it is a specific Amex Platinum benefit.  You need to show your Platinum card and not a Priority Pass at the door.  This lounge is currently very quiet as word has not yet get around.  The same goes for the new Plaza Premium arrivals lounge in Terminal 3.

Overall all of the three cards offer impressive coverage and if you have no airline status and fly from the airports above on a regular basis you should look at ways of adding a lounge access card to your wallet.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. With the gold card can I use one for myself and one for a guest?

    • Yes. Or both for yourself on two separate visits.

      • Michael Watson says:

        My gold card renewed about a month ago. Should I be expecting some physical vouchers or similar, or are the new free ones somehow stored on the account? Thanks

  2. ChampagneSocialist says:

    Is the Heathrow T3 Club Aspire lounge open to Lounge Key holders as well as Lounge Club and Priority Pass? I ask because I hold an HSBC Elite MasterCard (with Lounge Key) but the missus doesn’t, so I’m looking for the cheapest way to get us both into the same lounge. Thanks!

  3. Travelling from heathrow t5 with two kids. I hold world elite and gold card. Wondered if i could use my world elite for my entry into lounge and the two free passes from my gold card ( lounge club ) for the two kids? Thank you

  4. Last three times I’ve been to Gatwick in both north and south terminal I haven’t been able to get into the no1 lounge as it was “full” including Saturday just gone. I could have paid 15 pounds for the VIP package and be let in. That was with my priority pass

    • We found the same in October. Told unless we had booked there were no slots for five hours !

  5. Got Lounge Club membership with the Amex Gold card. The LC membership card has got an expiry date in 2020. Does that mean I get 2 visits to the eligible lounges any time before this date? Or do I have to make 2 visits within a year (i. e. if I don’t make use of the free visits within a year I’ll lose them)? Also, if I renew my Amex Gold card, would the 2 free visits be added to the existing ones from the previous year so that 4 people (a family) can visit the lounge?

    • 2 free per year. They don’t roll over. Expiry date on card doesn’t make any difference either.

  6. the real harry1 says:

    Lounge Club, Amex Gold card year 2: do they add 2 new free lounge passes onto your existing LC card, or send out a new LC card? timing?

    • the real harry1 says:

      the answer is: the 2 new free passes in year get added onto your old Lounge Club card immediately your new Amex year starts

      so if you’re like me (ie not a serial 6 month churner) and sometimes hang onto your Gold card until you get the 15000 bonus MR points, then cancel for a pro rata refund of the £140 fee, you might want to see if you can get in a couple more lounge visits before cancelling

      my latest anniversary date is 11th November so that might work nicely next year for our Xmas out flights on about December 20th next year

      btw most state schools have got a strange calendar for Xmas hols 2018 – winter term finishes Friday 21st December 2018 & spring term begins Monday 7th January 2019, though no doubt our schools will be adding on inset days

  7. Alan Young says:

    Used mine last week in the T4 Plaza Premium Lounge & yesterday in the Al Khareef (Omanair) Lounge in Salalah Oman. What with the Hilton on points including breakfast & Qatar Airways on their promotion QMiles offer, we had a really good week away in the sun for virtually nothing. Nearly forgot the Good to Go promo as well plus the T4 Premier Inn for £29. Wish we could do that every month.

  8. I am perpetually suspicious that the No.1 Lounge in Gatwick South turns priority pass holders away as a matter of policy in order to force people to pre-book for a fee. I have not managed to get into the lounge ever, including at least 5 attempts this year. How have others faired?

    • Have been turned away twice and allowed in twice. One of the times being turned away was at 10am on a Tuesday in early December which I found ridiculous for them to call a ‘peak time’ yet 6pm on a Thursday in summer I’ve been let in! I do know they reserve a lot of places for Norwegian and Thomson premium long-haul pax but from memory most of these flights depart in the early and late afternoon?
      I just go straight to the Grain Store now to use my PP card – much better food and no stuffing around with access.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        I’ve got into the no1 lounge every time with loungekey, usually mid-week evenings. It’s a good lounge (unless you’re very hungry – the ‘meal’ they serve is on the small side but high quality) – I had a quick look in the Grain Store but didn’t rate their selection of beers etc.

      • We were turned away too with both pp and lounge key. So we went grain store stocked up..then tried no 1 again and got in this time. V annoying as people are expecting lounge entry with pp but it’s now not guaranteed. How are pp continuing to sell on this basis?

        • What is the alternative, given safety rules on capacity? The only option is a) stop taking PP or b) make the £5 pre-book compulsory. Are either better?

    • Wally1976 says:

      I took the family in there on a Wednesday morning in August (about 9.15am). We paid the extra £5 each to book guaranteed access (also included fast track security at the time). I asked on entry if we’d have been allowed in without the booking and was told “yes” but “we’re getting full so probably won’t be allowing entry for much longer” (without booking).

      Afterwards we went to the Grain Store and filled our boots with stuff to take on the flight to PFO 🙂

  9. Optimus Prime says:

    Here is a data point for Amex Plat: applied on Sunday evening, cards and PP’s arrived on Friday.

    BTW on Saturday I tried to make a payment of almost £1000 that got rejected. Had already activated and even made two payments – one with PIN, another contactless.

    Called customer services and they said they would take THIRTY MINUTES to clear it and call us back. First time this happened to me with any credit card provider. They usually tell me it’s all good after answering the security questions and I can use my card again.

  10. I think it’s a miss selling scandal that your free passes don’t give you entry when lounges are full, but those on PAYG can buy entry. IMHO, you should be able to pre-book your visits on par with PAYG

  11. The escape lounge at STN is significantly better than the aspire lounge at LTN I my opinion.

    • Joseph Heenan says:

      I’ve not seen the aspire lounge, but since escape lounge changed their food a month or two ago I don’t rate the escape at STN that highly. Unless you’re on an ‘unlimited visits’ scheme you should seriously consider going to the (often very quiet) upstairs bar in the whetherspoon’s instead for better food and a better range of drinks.

      It would be great if there was a guide somewhere with airport tips like the above, not sure it fits within headforpoints usual scope though – though I think for London City such a guide would be well placed on hfp given the lack of lounges. I don’t often fly out from city and it seems hard to get a decent bacon roll there from attempts so far…!

    • Lady London says:

      I would really like Stansted and Luton to allow another lounge to open at these airports. Both are unacceptably crowded too much of the time and their main attraction is because both STN and LTN airside general conditions are so beyond overcrowded much of the time too.

      I am sure the demand is there. More than one lounge can certainly make a living at those airports. With a bit of luck having more than lounge may well keep standards up due to competition. Why isn’t this happening?

      • Because Manchester Airports sees lounges as something it can do as a core competence (it runs some lounges in US airports too) and doesn’t want much competition. What you MIGHT see is a ‘1903’ premium lounge, cash only, as is now at Manchester.

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