Review of the American Airlines First Class lounge, London Heathrow Terminal 3

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This is my review of the American Airlines First Class lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3.

This is part of our series of reviews of airport lounges across the UK. You see all of the reviews here.

I started in British Airways Galleries First in Terminal 3 which I reviewed yesterday.  After an hour there, I decided to try the other Terminal 3 lounge I had never visited – the American Airlines First Class lounge.  I have been in the main Admirals Club business class lounge before which I reviewed here.

American Airlines is currently in the process of dramatically upgrading its main First Class lounges as Flagship Lounges as we wrote hereThe initial openings have had an excellent response and London Heathrow is on the list for refurbishment.  Frankly, it can’t come quickly enough.

If you travelling First Class on a oneworld carrier or have a British Airways Gold card, there is NO sensible reason to use any lounge except the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge.  It was only out of duty to HFP readers that I spent my afternoon in BA Galleries First and the AA First Class Lounge.  You don’t need to do this.

Getting in

As Anika also found when she flew Delta recently to Atlanta (review coming up) US airlines now impose an additional layer of security screening on their passengers.  You are required to have a face-to-face interview with an accredited agent before boarding.

As I was travelling without checked baggage and used online check-in, the first AA employee I encountered was the lounge receptionist.  It appears that she is accredited to do these interviews, which also explained the queue I found when I came into reception.

After an utterly pointless discussion where she checked that I knew my own name and asked me questions that she could never verify about my job, she put the required stamp on my boarding pass and let me in.  Had I not gone to the AA lounge, I would presumably have had to go through a similar process at the gate.

I’m not entirely sure of the entry requirements for the First Class lounge.  I am guessing, given how quiet it was, that you require either a First Class ticket or a British Airways Gold card or equivalent.  A Business Class ticket on its own is presumably not enough.

Inside the American Airlines First Class Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3

All you need to know is that it looks like an old people’s home. I kept expecting someone to start a game of bingo.  But, no, it was apparently an exclusive airport lounge for AA’s top customers.

I mean ….

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

and ….

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

and ….

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

I also recommend close inspection of the artificial ceiling and lighting in the other pictures below.

I was intrigued by the magazine selection, which showed that AA was even less picky about what it displayed, as long as money was handed over, than BA.  I can think of no other reason why they feel there is a demand for ‘Creative Chemistry’ or the official magazine of the Rotary Club of Great Britain or the official magazine of Wynn Casinos.

It’s not all bad.  The drink selection was OK, albeit worse than in Galleries First.  The alcohol was also free which would not have been the case if this was a US lounge:

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

There was a man standing by the entrance – which was a long way from the bar – guarding two bottle of Moet champagne.  I am guessing that he would have poured me a glass if I’d asked but it was clear they didn’t want to take the risk of letting you pour your own.

The dining area, as you can see from the photo above, had not a single person eating.  They had probably all seen the menu and walked off as I did.  There were no appetisers, three mains – teriyaki pork belly, wasabi crab cake, butternut puree – and only one desert, pumpkin pie with buttermilk custard.  I decided to pass. I certainly wasn’t hungry enough to sit, on my own, in an empty restaurant in full view of everyone else in the lounge.

The buffet, on the other hand, was quite impressive with a good mix of salads, wraps and some hot items.  It was good to see something different from British Airways lounge food, which rarely changes from year to year:

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

…. plus the usual nutrition-free snacks you always find in US airline lounges:

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

There’s little else to add.  There is an uninspiring work area:

…. and a handful of PC’s:

American Airlines Flagship First Class Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3

….. but, frankly, nothing to detain to you for long.

If this was, say, the lounge at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (which we have actually reviewed) then I would have said it was above average.  As a First Class lounge of a major international carrier, it falls well short.  The refurbishment cannot come soon enough.

I decided to head down to my American Airlines Boeing 777, board first and get some photographs of my business class seat.  That’s when things started to improve rapidly.

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  1. AA were asking extremely odd security questions at check in as long ago as Dec 2015. I’m happy with anything that might make my flight safer.

    The one thing that really annoyed me though at the AA Business Class check in was when they wouldn’t allow my (male) partner and I to check in together. My partner held back, and my first question to the agent was “do you allow married couples to check in together?” When she said “yes”, I asked her why she was discriminating against gay couples, and was she aware that such discrimination was illegal in the UK. She apologised, was very embarrassed, and my partner then joined me and we checked in together.

    In retrospect, I wish I had made a formal complaint to a manager, but I didn’t want to end up getting angry so I let it go.

    • I promise you, it doesn’t make your flight safer (unless you assume a terrorist is too stupid to remember their own name or say what job they do – and assuming they are not a full-time terrorist they probably do have a real job as well to discuss, from what I see on TV it seems most terrorists do try to fit it around their work commitments).

      I told her I review airport lounges for a living. Not sure if she thought I was taking the p*ss.

      • Its not the answers that are important Rob. It’s the way you answer and the way you react to the questions.

        • I wonder if they’re aiming for ‘mild incredulity’ as the response? If so they’ve nailed the questions 😀

      • I don’t think the way you answer plays any part, these are not skilled inquisitors, they’re airline desk staff. An interview with determination from mood, and how you answer would need to be far more complicated than this tedious sideshow. They can’t read an answer for more than the words, they’re not subtext capable. It’s more Security Theatre than security.
        It’s like the SSSS, what’s the point in announcing it in advance? Most couples/groups just hand all the carry on to other non SSSS travellers, so it’s not even an additional check in most respects.

    • Not sure what there was to be angry or complain about, unless you made it clear from the very beginning that you were partners and not just friends. If she assumed that you were friends, but then apologised and allowed you to check in together, surely there is no problem there?

      • The problem is, as a gay man, I have faced discrimination for much of my life.

        If a man and woman had gone to the check in desk together im sure they wouldn’t have been asked to check in separately.

        Now I agree, two men travelling together in business class are more likely to be work colleagues than lovers, but when we presented together at the desk she should have asked “are you family” and taken it from there. That would have been good customer service, which you expect at a business class check in, and should get anywhere.

        Unless you come from a minority group and have suffered from discrimination, then you may not understand the problem. I put up with it for years. I’m not putting up with it any longer.

        It is particularly disappointing in an industry where gay men make up a larger than usual part of the work force.

        • You’re quite right.

        • TBH I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let folk check-in together – I’ve done that plenty of times travelling with friends/colleagues!

          • I’m sure there are still UK companies that expect same-sex business travellers to share rooms to save money. Wal-Mart does this.

        • @Nick_C +1
          Have been in just that & other very similar situations several times in my 44 years. It was previously unacceptable & now illegal. They have always been told.

    • Last month my OH couldn’t check in online so I called BA to ask what the problem was, whereupon they informed us he had been selected for extra security screening. So if he was a terrorist he would have had 24 hours to change his nefarious plans.

  2. The AA lounge refurb(s) at Heathrow are still on temporary hold because they’re trying to discuss with BA using their spaces to have a joint oneworld one, but struggling to agree terms (from what I gather). Plus the demand for F lounge at T3 is going to reduce next year anyway.

    As it stands, given that Rob entered this one using his BA Gold status, which means BA would have paid AA handsomely for it, who’s laughing now?!

    Can’t wait to see the review of AA’s TATL business seat. I’ve flown it myself recently and liked it more than either CX, AY or IB, it’s comfy and private without being claustrophobic which is a major killer of many ‘top’ airlines I find.

    • I had an AA business ticket so I’m not sure if BA would have been billed for the difference between AA’s normal lounge and the F lounge.

  3. The work area looks like the library of my secondary school.

    Or a call centre I recently visited in southern France.

  4. Premier01 says:

    While not practical to use T3 lounges say on a BA LHR-JFK flight, would it be really allowed?

    What would the T3 check-in agent say?

    Would the security boarding pass scanners work?

    If you were had no checked baggage and a boarding pass, got through security what would the lounge dragons say and what would be an acceptable response?

    • Heathrow Personal Shopping is happy to take you across to other terminals to look in the shops so it is clearly possible. Whether they make it easy or not I don’t know.

    • Yes it is allowed but you may get a raised eyebrow from the lounge guardian – basically checking you are aware your flight leaves from T5.

      But a BA T3 check-in agent wouldn’t be able to check you in for a T5 flight – even if you didn’t have luggage so you;d still have to go to T5 then use the airside route to T3 and back to T5.

  5. Does anyone know what BA is charged if we lounge hop? Like most on here and FT, CX F is the best. We visit AA F (for the sweets) quick visit and then onto CX for food, we also popped into Qantas last week for a look (don’t think this will feature in our future visits). It would just be interesting to know. Hopefully they are charged as they clearly need an incentive to improve their own lounges!

    • I’m not sure what the cross charging is, but I bet most BA passengers with lounge access don’t realise they can use the non-BA lounges. I remember my friend looking at me like I was crazy when I told him to visit the Cathay lounge instead of the BA one, he didn’t believe it was possible to do on a BA business ticket!

    • The FT response to this question has been that the carrier is billed by the first lounge you visit, so if you go to CX on a BA ticket CX bill BA. If you then go to AA it’s tough, no bill from AA. If you go to BA first, and then another OW airline lounge, I’m not sure if that results in any 3rd party charge. One factor to consider here is that in many ways this benefits the likes of CX, they get additional income that supports the lounge, and enables a bigger nice facility than perhaps would be justified for CX only passengers. In truth I’m not sure anyone knows the real details on this, but some in the know over on FT definitely thinks it’s lounge first entered that gets to charge for your visit.

      • Shoestring says:

        What about if you use PP to enter several different lounges/ Grain? Must be they all get c.£15 a pop I reckon

        • Amex pays, so PP doesn’t care. And I reckon Amex never sees a breakdown which shows one person entering numerous lounges per day.

      • With respect to FT, on most things they’re accurate but on this they’re talking absolute nonsense. The intra-airline billing system is nowhere near clever enough to put lounge visits sequentially, each and every entry gets charged individually. There’s a hierarchy of ‘reasons for entry’ to determine who pays – e.g. if you’re flying business, then the airline whose flight it is, but if you’re there because of FF status, then your ‘owning’ carrier pays.

        I do know the figures but do not wish to share them. Needless to say though that it would be much cheaper for BA just to give every customer on their flight a bag of jelly beans.

        Don’t forget though that it works both ways. BA receives a lot of revenue from other airlines’ customers travelling through T3, particularly when you consider the proportion of shorthaul flying they do there and consequently how those they’re claiming for will likely be in economy.

    • US$60 for CX J and US$80 for CX F, at least in HKG, not sure whether the LHR lounges bill in USD or GBP

  6. OT but lounge related – does anyone know what time the Concorde Room stops serving breakfast? Really, really want to have breakfast there as opposed to MAN (meh) on my birthday next year – our connecting flight is due to land at T5 around 9.45 am.

  7. Neil Donoghue says:

    Myself and the wife will be flying from T5 on the 21st of December (Ages Away Yet) but happy to guest two extra folks from here in to the CCR lounge from 8am – 1pm.

  8. «I certainly wasn’t hungry enough to sit, on my own, in an empty restaurant in full view of everyone else in the lounge» – quintessentially British!

  9. Is this a 1980’s themed lounge?

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