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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 – we only have a few hold-outs at Manchester.

Having just added reviews of the ART&LOUNGE at Heathrow T4, the Executive Lounge at Norwich Airport and – on Saturday – the SKYLIFE Lounge at Teesside International, 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 £20.  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.

It is worth remembering that – even if you do not qualify for the sign-up bonus on Amex Gold – you WILL still receive the ‘first year free’ and the two free Lounge Club passes if you (re)apply.

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.  (There are also hundreds of overseas lounges where you can use Lounge Club, of course.)

The UK 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 has awarded the Terminal 2 lounge the title of ‘Best Independent Airport Lounge in the World’ three years running – 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 relatively new site at Gatwick South (the BA terminal) is impressive, as are most of the others.  The only problem is that No 1 lounges are often full – the company encourages Lounge Club cardholders to pay £5 via this website to reserve a slot.

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 in 2017, is not currently accepting Lounge Club.

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 Platinum 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 The Platinum Card from American Express 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.  The same goes for the 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.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (February 2024)

Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.

You also get access to Eurostar, Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.

Additional lounge visits are charged at £24.  You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free Priority Pass card, allowing you access to the Priority Pass network.  Guests are charged at £24 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (46)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Gilly says:

    How long do we need to leave it before re-applying for the Gold card please? My partner cancelled his card in June – I know we wont get the points we just want the lounge passes but obviously don’t want to get a declined application.

    • Shoestring says:

      we don’t have much data – 6 months would obvs be ‘safer’ than 3 – maybe somebody else here has reapplied successfully after 3 months?

      otoh Amex don’t have any problem with you cancelling one card and applying for a different one the next day

      • Gilly says:

        Thanks Shoestring – still wavering whether to go for it or just pick up a couple of individual passes. May save the gold card application for next year’s summer hols.

  • Nick G says:

    OT – wife’s gold card and lounge passes have never been used in the past 12 months. It’s now nearly due to end it’s first year before we have to pay. We have a £2.5k hotel to pay next month in Doha so want to maximise our spend. Thoughts on the following?

    Options –

    1. refer me to a new gold card to get 2 MR per £1 but with no sign up bonus?
    2. Use our BA Amex’s instead?
    3. Other cards?

    • Nick G says:

      Should have added the lounge passes haven’t been used the gold card has!!

      • FCP says:

        Use a 0% FX card. will save GBP75. That’s worth more than the 5k MR.
        Unless you are recharging somebody else for the cost.
        I only use my Amex for GBP transaction. MBNA Horizon, or Halifax Clarity for all overseas.

        • Shoestring says:

          yep but if OP had been on track to hit £15000 spend, 0% card saving £75 = 6675 MR points (or £66.75) with the £2500 overseas spend, which proves that you don’t need to be scared about using Gold card abroad, just make sure you get the 10K MR bonus for hitting £15K

  • LewisB says:

    The review of the Executive Lounge in Cardiff is the old one. It got revamped ready for the Qatar launch last year where it split into two lounges, the usual Executive Lounge for any type of traveler and the 51 Business lounge for J tickets with Qatar and KLM. Will be at CWL next week and could potentially take some pictures for an update.

    • Rob says:

      Would be great if you could, we can dig out a reward if you want to write something.

  • Joe says:

    Not been to T3 in ages, what do you think is better Aspire or No.1 Lounge? Using Priority pass?

    • Shoestring says:

      reviews here on HfP – see links in article

      you’ll struggle to get into No1 with PP at many times – you can & should reserve your place for £5 – plus same issue at Club Aspire at busy times & can’t reserve place – I’ve been turned away from both.

      I prefer No1 because it is light & airy & has a better on-demand food selection – Club Aspire is very pasta-based outside brekkie. But whilst a bit more cramped, CA offers a great single malt and the crew there are very friendly, all from Goa and Hungary – very happy to keep you topped up as much beer as you want with single malt chasers until your flight gets called! (cold widget Guinness in cans as well).

      • Joe says:

        Thanks, think ill stick with no.1. Going early morning, but will reserve just in case. Been turned away from so many PP lounges before.

  • Tariq says:

    Looks like the new Lomond Lounge at GLA is now open but no news on acceptance of lounge membership cards.

    • Rhys says:

      I will be there next month…

      • Rob says:

        Reader told me last week that you can get in via a card via a top up fee, although none of the lounge club websites say this and it may be temporary as they build up demand.

  • munchimo says:

    Sorry, this is a bit off topic. Since the changes, if I refer someone for a gold card and they already have the BA card do I still get the referral bonus? (I know they won’t get the bonus). Thanks

  • Yawn says:

    How does Lounge Key fit into all of this? That’s what I have through Curve… Is it better or worse than Priority?

    • Rob says:

      Same owners (Collinson). Easy way to check is to look at the Lounge Key website and see if it includes any of the ‘PP only’ lounges we list at the bottom of the article.

  • sayling says:

    Flying in to Heathrow T3 on CW 16th November, but scheduled to land at 13:05, which doesn’t leave much time after getting through security and baggage to get to the T3 arrivals lounge that shuts at 14:00.

    AmEx Gold though… so now appear to have Lounge Club options open to us. T2 review is five years old now and there isn’t one for T4.

    I’d welcome recommendations, thoughts and opinions on the options available for us (wife and me)

    • Lady London says:

      Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at T2 is open much longer, you should be able to access with lounge membership. As it’s landside they will ask you for your boarding pass but as you’ll have just landed of course you’ll have no problem with that.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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