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We try the private jet departure experience at Gatwick (whilst flying BA) – our review of Signature Elite Class!

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This is our review of the Signature Elite Class private jet terminal transfer at Gatwick Airport.

It may surprise you to know that you can enjoy private jet-style experiences at many UK airports, even if you are taking a normal commercial flight.

Many of the private jet terminals located at major airports also cater for commercial passengers, letting you check in, drop your bags and enjoy the quiet comforts of an exclusive lounge before using a private security channel and being driven to your aircraft.  Manchester Airport is about to launch its own VIP terminal for commercial passengers, PremiAir, as we covered here.

What we didn’t know, until recently, was that you could do all this at London Gatwick, courtesy of Signature Flight Support.  We thought it was worth taking a look at Signature Elite Class, the ground service it operates for VIPs, celebrities or simply those with deep pockets.  Signature kindly offered us a free visit to see what you get for your money.

Trying Signature Elite Class at Gatwick Airport

The Signature terminal at Gatwick is a small, single-story stand-alone building around the corner from the main South terminal:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience exterior

Although most passengers arrive by car, you can also be escorted through the airport from the train station, which is how I arrived. It is a very short walk through a maze of corridors as well as a brief jaunt outside via mostly covered walkways. This is what you see when you arrive:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience entrance

The terminal is currently undergoing refurbishment and recently had a new roof, which is why the scaffolding is still up.

Inside, you are greeted by this lovely wood-panelled entrance:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience inside

… as well as the lovely terminal staff.

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience welcome

The terminal itself is made up of three exclusive, private lounges. You do not need to share with anyone else! I was shown to one of the three rooms:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience loungeand

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience loungeandSignature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience lounge

‘My’ room came with a dining table, sofa seating area around a TV as well as another sofa area centred around a feature coffee table made from a Harrier jump jet turbofan.  You can see the coffee table had The Telegraph, Financial Times, Times and Daily Mail. There were also a range of magazines, including Hello, OK, Vogue, Tatler, The Economist and more.

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience coffee table

It was beautifully light with two sides having floor-to-ceiling glass windows, which I was told were extra-strong bombproof panes!

On sitting down I was offered a choice of teas, coffees and waters as well as champagne. I went for a cup of tea as well as a glass of champagne (all in the interest of the review, of course!):

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience champagne

The champagne is Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut. Since I was travelling alone I had a small bottle, although they also stock full size bottles.

When you arrive the Signature staff will take your passport to issue your boarding pass as well as any baggage you want to check. It is all done for you whilst you relax in the lounge – you literally do not have to think of anything at all.

What is especially good is that, in the event of any delays or cancellations, you are still landside. You only go through security at the very last moment before being driven to your airplane. This means that if your flight is delayed for several hours you can leave the terminal at any point without the hassle of going back and forth through security.

The food selection

As I arrived at 9am I was offered a breakfast spread, which comprised of a selection of fruits, some very tasty yoghurts, pastries and a small plate of soft cheese and ham:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience food

The lounge does not cater for hot food, although as it is landside you could probably get yourself a takeaway! For large groups and special occasions they can and do bring in external caterers.

Bathrooms

Toilets are shared between the three lounges. The male toilets had two cubicles and looked very nice:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience bathroom

Boarding your aircraft in style ….

There are no departure boards within the lounges, since the staff come round to get you when it is time to make your way to your aircraft.

I was heading up to Glasgow on British Airways, the reason for which will become clear in a couple of days.

I was asked whether I wanted to board first or last.  Being sat in an aisle seat with very little luggage, I thought it would be nice to be boarded at the very last moment.  I could enjoy the peace and quiet of Signature Elite Class a little longer!

This was duly arranged by the lounge in liaison with British Airways, who sent a member of staff down to the terminal to sort out all the paperwork for my departure.

About 15 minutes before my flight’s departure I went through the private security channel in the Signature terminal, which was manned by some very lovely staff.  I then got into the transfer car to be taken to my gate:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience transfer car

It took a minute or two to get to my aircraft:

Signature Elite Class Gatwick Private jet terminal experience aircraft

…. where I was taken up the stairs to board via the jet bridge.

Conclusion

The Signature Elite Class experience at Gatwick Airport is – as you would expect – a very exclusive one.

Unlike similar services at other private jet terminals – you can see Rob’s review of the Luton Signature experience here and Anika’s flight from the First Class lounge at the London City private jet terminal here – it is entirely private, with your own lounge.

That does mean that it comes with one of the highest price tags of any private terminal departure experience, although it is far cheaper than the £2,750 + VAT for 1-3 people you can pay at the Windsor Suite at Heathrow.

For Signature Elite Class at Gatwick, you are looking at £660 for the first passenger and £310 for add-on passengers.  This is clearly not cheap, but if the money is not a problem then it is great to have the option to travel like this.

Whilst the Signature terminal at Gatwick is one of the oldest surviving buildings at the airport – it is from the 1960s, and some elements such as the beautiful wooden panelling definitely evoke that era – it has been updated many times since.

Signature is currently in the process of figuring out the future of the terminal. Whether that means building an entirely new facility – their Luton terminal is amazing as Rob found out – or extending the current one to fit the new body scanners that are becoming mandatory at UK airports is yet to be decided.

What IS certain, however, is that the entire interior will be getting a complete refurbishment in the near future. This means that I will have to check it out again when it is all complete.  This is, of course, in the altruistic pursuit of making sure you, dear reader, are up to date with all premium and luxury offerings that are available from your local airports!

Thank you to the team at Signature Flight Support for arranging my visit.

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Comments

  1. Little Pansey says:

    If you have to order a take away you might as well have stayed at home to eat it!

    What happened to the luxury car transfer rather than a mini van, would have been nice to have used a luxury Tesla or something similar.

    • I suspect that most people use the service to reduce the time waiting around. When you can guarantee that you’ll be through security and customs within minutes, you can arrive 30 minutes before your departure….

      • If that’s the point, then travel form LCY. Check-in closes 20 min prior to departure.

        • Errr, no. City and Gatwick have vastly different route networks. When was the last time you saw an Emirates A380 land at City?!

  2. So it was a domestic flight, why was your passport needed, and do you get to skip the biometrics?

    • Passport or other photo ID is required for a domestic flight.

      • Not on BA.

      • That is not true. Hand baggage only on a domestic flight you won’t show ID once. If checking baggage you can show passport or driver’s licence.

        • We flew MAN to EDI on Flybe a few years ago and had to show photo ID. I remember as my mum doesn’t travel abroad any more so had to show her driving licence instead. My son and nephew who were under 16 didn’t need ID.

          • Flybe aren’t BA. The companies have different policies.

          • I assumed the private jet experience isn’t just for BA pax! And as jc says, if any airline suddenly decided they wanted to see ID as a condition of boarding, you’d be stuck…

        • Not showing ID (anecdotally) isn’t the same as not needing ID. BA say you should be carrying it – they can ask to see it and if you don’t have it you’re screwed

        • Jovanna says:

          They’ve accepted my luggage with my BA Executive card and also my credit card. I imagine BA would accept my library card or anything else with just my name on when dropping bags.

          • Jovanna says:

            Also, stopped twice by the police at one of those check points that they have. Waved through both times when I informed the police that I was travelling on a domestic flight. I never travel with a passport when flying on a domestic flight with BA, unless I’m picking up a hire car (old style driving licence – sometimes asked for photo ID at the rental desk), and I’ve never had an issue with it. I probably do about 15 domestic returns per year and have done for over 10 years.

  3. Thomas Tuyaerts says:

    So you would have paid £660 for a continenal breakfast, a glass of champers, sitting on sofas so ugly’ a carehome would not touch them!! To have you driven upto your plane on a minibus? Even if you have the money, this is not classy!!

    • And an office water cooler for water – they couldn’t even run to some mineral water for your £660? I think I’ll stick to Galleries First, have a hot breakfast and also the choice of boarding first or last.

      • Water coolers are additional – they also provide still or sparkling.

        You are looking at it the wrong way. Those things are nice to have if you have to check in 2+ hours before your departure. This service means you can check in at the last minute, and you never have to see another person or navigate the mazes of Gatwick.

        Very valuable if you value your time & privacy highly.

        • Surely you still need to have checked in by the normal airline cut off times so 45 mins for BA short haul and 60 for long?

          What about screening hold bags? What if you were flying to the US and got SSSS? Or needed a visa check?

          • PremiAir is handling US flights from Manchester so clearly there is a way around that.

          • I don’t believe so. Hold luggage is taken to the aircraft with you – it is, effectively, the last luggage to go on. That means you don’t have to be there 60 minutes in advance. Because Signature liaises directly with the airline they can time it perfectly.

        • Spoken like a blogger doing product placement! 😉

        • Stoneman says:

          I take the point but I would think that if someone valued their privacy so highly then they would not be flying from a commercial airport.

          • Lady London says:

            Actually no. There are different preferences amongst the wealthy too.

            For instance commercial airliners can be perceived as much safer than private jets.
            This type of service works well with that preference for its target customers. Leaving aside the range issues with the majority of private jets on long haul etc.

          • I was in 1D on a Hamburg flight recently. Prince Harry was in 1A, bodyguard (female) in 1C.

            Private jets are not common in Europe vs US. If you live in Chelsea etc, getting to Biggin Hill or Farnborough is a pain vs Heathrow. The key destinations have so many daily scheduled flights that the ‘flexibility’ of a private jet isn’t worth much. It’s a different game in the US when most flights from small-ish city to small-ish city require a connection.

        • Thomas Tuyaerts says:

          Saying we look at it the wrong way ? Lets do the maths. You say you can arrive 30 minutes before shedule departure? So where is the added value if you can’t even have a glass of champagne for your £660 ? Rob must be having you on some salary for you to be able to defend spending this kind of money to save yourself an Hr of airport time??? Come on! People with money most of the time have money because they do not like spending it!….A bad deal is a bad deal!

          • You’re not rich enough Thomas 🙂 My multi-multi-millionaire software company owner mate dropped me an email to thank us for running this and that he would be checking it out next time he was passing through.

            This terminal is not owned by the airport – Signature is a private company. It clearly makes large sums of money doing this, both for scheduled passengers and for private jet arrivals, or it wouldn’t still be there. It is not a start-up trying to create a market which may not exist.

            Similarly, Heathrow seems to have no problem selling Windsor Suite access for £2750 + VAT.

            And as I said earlier, the London City First Class Terminal is so busy you are lucky if you can book a slot on the day you want.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            The Windsor suite is actually nice though and I suspect LCY will up its prices to smooth out demand it’s worth more too, if they don’t they are crazy as obviously leaving money on the table if demand is that high.

            Signature aren’t refurbishing this because they think there’s no need as people will pay for privacy regardless of the hard/soft product offered.

            I guess I’m not rich enough to splash £1k on this product. If it was nicer I might be swayed by a great experience On a special occasion. but right now this isn’t for me. Tbh if it was a special occasion I’d swerve LGW.

          • The occasional times I book myself into CE from Munich to London, I normally skip the lounge, and don’t have much interest in the other perks. But the benefit of not having to worry about the queue at security means I get an extra 30-45 min with my kids at the play area before saying goodbye. There is no better perk of premium travel than this! If someone has the money, the cost for that 30-60 minutes could easily be justified for the right reason.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Agree with both these comments. £50-100 maybe. £660 no chance that front door is horrid too nothing screams luxury to me.

        • You are making a mistake by substituting ‘luxury’ for ‘privacy / peace and quiet’. Most super-wealthy people I know – and my neck of the woods is not short of them – live in scruffy houses with scruffy furnishings and wear scruffy clothes. My neighbour has 6 supercars he rotates (and is 71 with a 31 year old wife, wife has a Phd from Imperial) but lives in a tip. People who pay £660 for this are not doing it to drink Cristal.

          It is worth noting that getting into the London City First Class lounge with chauffeur transfer (£95) is now hard. It sells out many days. I tried to book it recently for 10 days ahead and could not. Only 4/7 days next week are currently available.

          • But why not provide a premium service and cater for those of us with money but want luxury too. And your friends you cite here can just go in a mess it up a bit if they want to feel at home.

          • The terminal is getting a full interior refurb so that is exactly what they are doing….

          • Lady London says:

            Does he rotate the wives as well ?

          • Yes. This is the 4th that I know of. Youngest kid is 10 years older than current wife.

          • Lady London says:

            Sounds like they should put the price up then..

          • TGLoyalty says:

            That’s what they refer to as an outlier.

            There are many people who want privacy and also enjoy the finer things in life. Rhys was shown around all 3 rooms so there was obviously no other taker of the product while he was there.

          • Also please get your SW3 stereotypes right. People who live in tips with furniture they didn’t buy are a specific type of “English posh” but rarely stratospherically wealthy in the manner that makes a “trips via Biggin Hill” a regular substitute. Russian oligarchs on the other hand don’t have holes in their sweaters.

            Just own up to the fact that you’re plugging your lost Amex revenue by now writing vapid advertorials.

          • Signature didn’t pay us and the article was, by a massive margin, the most-read yesterday.

        • Lady London says:

          I was actually thinking “now I know if I am really late for my flight, I can balance the cost of missing it and having to buy another ticket at last minute prices, against £600 cost of this service and it might work out ok.

          Trouble is, I suspect a minimum advance booking period might be required so that they can arrange things.

  4. I’d consider the£50 fee for the new facility at Manchester airport, £660 is a tad beyond good value. I know millionaires that would agree with that, in fact they often fly economy long haul.

    Seems a fitting place to put this link, wonder if Private Aviation and business class flying could be due for higher taxation….?

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/1-of-english-residents-take-one-fifth-of-overseas-flights-survey-shows

    • This was particularly an eye opener…

      “10% most frequent flyers in England took more than half of all international flights in 2018”

      • I was more amazed by the fact that “48% of the population did not take a single flight abroad in the last year.”

        • You’re not a Tory MP or a High Court judge are you by any chance? I recommend a week in Rotherham for you.

          In a country where 7% of the population used a food bank at least once last year this should not exactly be a surprise.

          • Food banks are a leftist scam. Full of fatties with big TVs and a love of booze.

            REAL working class people go out and work and do everything they can to get money in their pockets.

          • Lady London says:

            @Don I can see where you’re coming from. But if you were to volunteer at a good bank a couple of mornings and see who’s coming in and why they’re coming in, I think you would end up agreeing that the type you mention is very minority.

            There’s also a lot of silent hunger. Very many ordinary people fall on hard times, mostly not due to their own fault and dont have a food bank they can accessor are too proud to ask for help or too unresourced to fight the bureaucracy to get state help. 7 percent figure does not capture these.

        • Stoneman says:

          Leave London and go and visit the rest of the U.K. You will soon learn that this figure is not surprising.

          • Lady London says:

            USA is similar I think, only more so.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            I can completely believe 48% didn’t take a flight in the last year. Lots of people choose not to fly for all sorts of reasons not just wealth (I know people who go on holiday three times a year but always drive). But I’m sure the amount of people that have ever left the UK is far higher than In the USA.

    • TLDR: These could be the good old days, consider making the most of them…
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49808258

    • Lady London says:

      I don’t want to be rude. But this kind of rubbish could put me off reading The Grauniad. Have they no other narrative than ‘soak the rich’? Must have been short of news that day.

      • LL – the last link was Aunty Beeb.

        If the consensus of scientific research is correct and our leaders are sincere about their policies, them I’m all for increasing APD. Especially if it funded planting trees and alternative forms of travel.

        • Lady London says:

          Hi TripRep, Let’s not go further OT about the trendy leftiness of the Beeb. See you at one of the HfP events?

  5. I doubt even Gerald Ratner would pay and us that – “Total Crap”.

  6. Rhys, how is baggage handled on arrival? Do they fetch it for you? Is it sent by courier, or do you still have to wait for the bags?

    How early would one have to be at the terminal if you have checked bags for a British Airways flight? If they really manage 30 minutes before departure, rather than 30 minutes before boarding, that would really be a time saver on a long-haul flight.

    • Bags are picked up by Signature from the cargo door and then brought to the terminal. I believe the bags are always last to go on to the aircraft so will be first to come off.

      Not sure what the exact timings are before departure – there is probably a cut off – but given it took me 1 minute to get through security, 2minutes to drive to the aircraft I can’t imagine it’s very long!

      The terminal also has private customs and border control, so you can effectively immigrate within seconds.

  7. I think all the comments here that talk about the sofas, the style of the wood panelling are missing the point. You don’t mix with the riff raff at the airport at all, just like at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. That’s what you are paying for and for those who have the money they can now have that kind of experience.
    Many times now I don’t bother staying in the lounge (I have a BA gold card) since it’s full of people talking loudly on their phone or even worse face timing their other half who you can see is still wearing a bathrobe. Posh sofas and bottled water don’t make up for that.

  8. Lady London says:

    What is this about ‘new body scanners that are becoming mandatory at UK airports’ ?

    • They are getting those millimetre wave scanners where you have to stand like you are about to get arrested. Currently they only have an old fashioned archway scanner.

      • Lady London says:

        Ok, hope the option remains to opt out.

        • Curious – why?

          • Lady London says:

            I always allow extra fime on my journeys in case I get a “random” when I walk through the security scanner and get directed to those horrible new machines.

            Reason is, I *always* exercise my right to opt out of the new ones. Taking time walking me to private room for search etc. I try not to waste anybody’s time, but it’s a deeply held personal belief. I haven;t routed flights via Australia (where there is no opt-out) since they came in. Luckily the USA also has an opt-out and several TSA staff have told me whilst searching me (not in a private room there) that they also opt out too.

          • “it’s a deeply held personal belief”

            But why (if you’re happy to share)? I just can’t fathom why anyone would have any more issue with this than they have with, say, a metal detector… or a vending machine…

            Also IIRC there are rare but possible circumstances where the US will deny your request to opt out (related to SSSS maybe?)

          • Lady London says:

            Works for me now. Not a belief I’m ever going to change.

          • Jovanna says:

            I opt out from time-to-time. If I’m barked at or feel herded like a sheep then I’ll opt out. Also, if they are insisting that everyone steps through the machine rather than the metal detector then I’ll opt out.

          • Neither of the apparent opters out has yet answered the question of why…

          • Shoestring says:

            I guess they see the scan as a violation and quite possibly carcinogenic
            https://www.smartertravel.com/can-the-tsa-see-you-naked/

      • “I guess they see the scan as a violation and quite possibly carcinogenic
        https://www.smartertravel.com/can-the-tsa-see-you-naked/

        The flight itself is definitely carcinogenic (0.08 mSv) on the other hand.

  9. This looks super non premium for a rather silly price. I say this as a BA GGL member who spends a lot of time in airport lounges. A slight time saving and being driven to the plane in a minivan after a spending some time in a rather sub-par waiting room, that’s not exactly very premium is it?!

    The argument about very wealthy people valuing their time may or may not stack up. My boss, who has a substantial 7 figure income, would laugh at this.

  10. I’m finding the animosity on this thread quite bizarre, yes basically its a ‘puff piece’ that few of us will aspire to. Notwithstanding that, I find it quite interesting, a bit like how the motor trade is influenced by F1. I’m sure a few of Rob’s readers will enjoy the facilities, the majority won’t, but it wasn’t long ago that the airport lounge was beyond the majority. Now it is so packed that those of us that have free access find ourselves paying extra for fear of being turned away!

  11. I think this should be called signature elite shed – give us 600 quid so you can hide from the public before the flight 🙂 also why there is Audi A8 on the photo ? I think Ford transit would be more appropriate

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