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Review of the Escape Plus Lounge (for Virgin and Qatar) at Manchester Airport Terminal 2

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This is my review of the Escape Plus lounge at Manchester Airport Terminal 2.

About 18 months ago we ran a review of this lounge written by a reader – see here.  I finally got to visit myself this week and I thought I would add my own views.

Escape Plus is the ‘business class only’ lounge in Manchester Airport Terminal 2.  You cannot get in with a Priority Pass or other card.  You also can’t buy your way in.  It is only for Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers, and presumably status card holders travelling with those airlines.

All of the lounges are on the upper level of the main departure hall.  You turn left after passing through security and the stairs or lift you need to take are clearly marked.

On the face of it, this should make it an exclusive sanctuary.  In reality, it is far too small.  Virgin Atlantic runs a big operation out of Manchester and this lounge cannot handle it.  This is before you get to the point about whether Virgin Atlantic should actually be doing something a bit special for its passengers, as befits its image.

It wasn’t ‘standing room only’.  However, at the time I left, it was very close to the point where you would be sharing a table with someone else.

(The photos in this review were taken as soon as I arrived – I was very early and it got a lot busier later.)

Even if you had a table to yourself, as I did, it is simply not a pleasant environment when every available space – and the tables are quite close together – is occupied.

The lounge doesn’t even have its own bathrooms, sharing with the other third party lounges.

I’m not entirely sure why Virgin Atlantic puts up with this.  I also don’t know why the airport – which runs the lounge – has not dealt with it.  Over in Terminal 3 is the 1903 Lounge which is an excellent premium product which I reviewed here.  It is spacious, for the numbers allowed in, and it serves high quality food and drink.

The breakfast on offer in Escape Plus was exceptionally average.  Some egg, some cereal, juice and not a lot more.  It makes the British Airways Galleries Club experience at Heathrow or Gatwick look like a Michelin operation.

There wasn’t even a proper selection of newspapers or magazines – just a few random things scattered around.  They had probably received 2-3 copies of the Sunday Times and that was about it.

USB charging ports were on every table.  Plug sockets were harder to find although I did manage to find a table which had one under it.

To be totally honest, with the in-terminal restaurants relatively quiet as I walking to my plane, I seriously thought that it would have been a better experience to grab a table at one of those and work.

For now …. if you have a business class flight with Qatar Airways or Virgin Atlantic from Manchester, I would bring your Priority Pass or Lounge Club card if you have one.  This will allow you, space permitting, to pop into the standard Escape lounge or the Aspire lounge, both of which are on the same corridor.  These two lounges are often closed to ‘walk ups’ during the mornings, however, so it is not a guaranteed alternative.

A new pier is being built at Terminal 2, to open in 2020.  I don’t know if it will include any lounges or not, but hopefully the airport will take this opportunity to improve the provision available.  I can’t believe that Virgin Atlantic is happy with the status quo.

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Comments

  1. Having used that lounge a few times I’d agree with your assessment Rob.

    If VS want to keep expanding out of Manchester and compete with BA new routes from there then they need a proper Virgin Clubhouse. If I’m flying Upper I think it’s so much part of the experience.

    Also slightly OT but Virgin can’t offer a proper codeshare for connecting to FlyBE when on a VS redemption, ie they are unable to issue the flights as one PNR.

  2. Phil Gollings says:

    At least there was hot food. The BA lounge has none albeit a regular supply of cold toast

  3. The escape lounge is a similar experience but with more space, though to be fair I think both lounges reflect the whole MAN T2 experience – in its current state, its like the airport that time forgot

    my QR flight had about 7 J pax, so it was very quiet in the plus lounge – the food was ok, and it allowed you to escape from the maddening crowds. They did let me in the Escape lounge initially, as i had an early connecting flight to MAN, same as + experience but with dirty tables/sticky floors.

    as for the BA lounge

  4. Couldn’t agree more Rob,
    I live in Manchester and for my last couple of flights with Virgin, I’ve actually flown to London to avoid the poor T2 experience.
    Time Virgin upped their game……

  5. Gumshoe says:

    I believe there will be a VS Clubhouse as part of the T2 redevelopment.

    Until then there’s not much VS can do. There isn’t really the room to expand what there is, let alone conjure up a whole new lounge out of nowhere.

    I guess VS could pay MAG to enhance the experience for its passengers in the Escape Plus lounge but it has little incentive to do so when what competition it has at MAN has a similarly uninspiring offer until the new T2 opens.

  6. Sarah Jacobs says:

    I think the staff could do a bit more to improve the lounge. The food is displayed terribly and even the cheese is cut into unequal cubes!!!! They could offer nibbles and olives with the drinks.

  7. Turkish airlines Istanbul now that’s what you call a lounge

    • I hugely disliked that lounge – see my review – and really don’t know why some people like it. Even the size benefit is wasted since all they do is repeat the same food offering numerous times instead of offering a number of totally different options.

  8. Vistaro says:

    The Qatar lounge at MAN T2 is nothing short of a disgrace, Love Qatar but that lounge let’s them down, never use it and instead go to Broderick for a coffee.

  9. John Taylor says:

    A most helpful review, We live in the North East of England and are pleased to see Virgin increasing their flights out of Manchester. We’ve flown Upper Class with them on a few occasions from Heathrow and considered doing the same from Manchester. Not too sure at all now as relaxing in a nice lounge before your flight is all part of the experience.

  10. spacedog says:

    It truly is a miserable lounge. It has no proper natural light, the food selection is poor and last time we went it took ten minutes for them to let us in because the person at the desk didn’t believe Gold members were allowed in as we were flying in PE. We’d rather eat at one of the restaurants, especially as sometimes the tiny lounge is so crowded it’s not really very relaxing. It’s a shame we can’t still use the bigger Escape Lounge, that one isn’t great but was much more pleasant.

  11. My only recent UC experience was from Manchester and I wasn’t impressed with the lounge or the flight. Boarding was embarrassing, no priority for premium cabins, although they did halt the economy passengers to let us through which wasn’t an altogether pleasant experience ….
    Fortunately we flew BA F back from JFK, which was a much better experience, they let my mother in law into the Concorde room even though she was in J and would have upgraded her to F if there had have been space available, it was The Saturday at the end of October half term so very busy……BA were fantastic compared to Virgin on those 2 flights

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