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Review: the new Club Aspire airport lounge at London Gatwick’s South Terminal

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This is my review of the brand new Club Aspire lounge at London Gatwick’s South Terminal (the British Airways terminal).

This is part of our collection of UK airport lounge reviews, which is nearing completion!  You can find all of our UK airport lounge reviews here.

If you think we’ve been talking about this lounge for pretty much ever, despite it just opening, you’re right.  Club Aspire at Gatwick South has suffered from excessive delays due to problems with the contractors – it was due in early 2019 and announced in 2018.

It took over part of the old Virgin Atlantic lounge – the rest became MyLounge, which has been open for months and which we reviewed here.

Club Aspire is a much needed lounge at Gatwick South.  If you can access the British Airways lounges then you’re fine (see my review here of the EXCELLENT new BA Gatwick lounge complex).  If you are relying on Priority Pass etc, your only option has been the No1 Lounge (reviewed here).  The problem is that No1 Lounge runs to 100% capacity most of the time and you are unlikely to get in unless you pay £5 to reserve a slot.

Last week I went down to London Gatwick’s South Terminal to take a look.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Inside the Club Aspire lounge at Gatwick South

The lounge is easy to find, as long as you stay upstairs.  Once you have cleared security at Gatwick South, you head towards an escalator which takes you down to the lower level.  Don’t go down this.  All of the airport lounges – BA, My Lounge, No1, Club Aspire, Clubrooms – are on the upper level.  You will see a corridor to your left just before the escalator.  This is where you should go.

Once you pop out in the terminal, the entrance to the Club Aspire lounge – see above – is on your right.  Be careful not to confuse it with the My Lounge entrance which is the first one you come to.

The good news is that I had no trouble getting in to Club Aspire at 6.30am using my Priority Pass card.  There is no option to pay £5 to reserve a slot with Aspire lounges if you are using a lounge club card – if it is at capacity, you’re stuck.

Even when I left at 8.15am it was still far from capacity.  Word does not seem to have got around yet, although I don’t expect that to last for long.

The woman on the reception desk, and indeed all the other staff I interacted with, were exceptionally friendly.  Aspire has found some good people.

To be honest, when I walked in I was surprised.  The lounge simply is not very big.

I know that the old Virgin Atlantic space has been separated, but in my head – knowing how big My Lounge is – I thought that there was more space left for Club Aspire than there actually is.  It may even be smaller than My Lounge.

This is not quite the entire lounge, but it is most of it.  Behind me, not shown, is a large communal work table but nothing else.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

This is looking in the other direction.  I am not quite at the back of the lounge here, but I am nearly there:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

If I turn around from where I took the photograph above, there is this small sofa area.  Don’t ask why that net curtain is there ….

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

In terms of standard seating, that’s it.

Let me just talk about wi-fi at this point.  It isn’t working yet.  We were told to log on the My Lounge network – I hope No 1 Lounges knows this!  The problem is that, unsurprisingly, the signal strength coming through the wall from My Lounge on the other side is not too great.

Here is the bar which is off to the side – not surprisingly it was unmanned at 6.30am although the staff would have got you something if required:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

One wall of the lounge is glass, giving views out towards the parked British Airways aircraft:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Now we come to the weird bit.  Off to your right, at the top of the lounge, is a small opening.  When you walk through it, you find this:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

There are eight … well, I’m not sure what to call them.  They are not sleeping pods.  They are not work pods.  It is a semi-comfy chair in an open cubicle with some frosted glass.

Very, very odd.  And totally unused.  I took the photo above just before leaving, at 8.15am, by which point the main room was getting busy.  Not a single person was in this area.

There are also these odd seating areas to the sides:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Whatever the original plan was, it doesn’t work.  This area needs to be replaced ASAP with something that people will actually use.

The lounge has its own loos and one shower room.  It is an accessible shower and is in the same area as the accessible loo.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

There was a decent breakfast spread, with a buffet which looks like it took its design from a Hampton by Hilton or Holiday Inn Express hotel.  In the foreground below you have fruit, yoghurts, juices etc:

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

…. whilst to the side you have fruit and cereals …..

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

…. and at the back you have a decent supply of hot food.  There is nothing radical here but it does for job.  For clarity, there are no ‘cooked to order’ options at all.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

There is one more thing I should mention.  The lounge has decided that newspapers are yesterdays news and does not stock them.  Well, to be precise, it stocks exactly one copy of three different newspapers.  That’s it.  If you like to stock up for your trip in the lounge, you are in trouble here.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Is the Club Aspire lounge at Gatwick South worth a visit?

I’m in two minds about this.  Club Aspire has done at excellent job with the decoration and design.  The quality of the food on offer is also good.  On the downsides, however:

you have wi-fi issues, hopefully only temporary

no newspapers

it is a surprisingly small space to spend time in and

the weird area off to the side which tries to be a cross between a sleeping pod and a working pod and fails dismally at both

Whilst My Lounge next door is theoretically aimed at the youngsters and Club Aspire at an older clientele, in truth I think I prefer the former – especially as My Lounge has now metal cutlery and proper plates instead of the old wooden cutlery.  If you’re appealing to a slightly older base, newspapers are also a key requirement in my view.

My Lounge does not accept Priority Pass or Lounge Club (it does accept DragonPass).  For lounge card holders, your choice is between No1 Lounge – where you will struggle to get in without paying the £5 reservation fee – and Club Aspire.  Purely on the grounds that it is quieter, I would take Club Aspire.  You also have the option to get a £15 credit off your bill at the Grain Store Cafe in the main terminal by flashing your Priority Pass.

You can book for cash via the Lounge Pass website here.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (November 2022)

As a reminder, here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit card:

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 Plaza Premium, Delta Air Lines and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

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

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

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 £20.  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.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

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

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 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.

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

Comments (41)

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

  • The Original David says:

    Gatwick is one of the best reasons for maintaining BA Silver instead of getting a Priority Pass. The BA lounge is great, but all the other options seem woeful, even though they are all fairly new.

  • Freddy says:

    Those ‘sleep/work pods’ is where the private lap dancing happens. Surprised Rob didn’t know

    • Lady London says:

      Never mind if the WiFi doesn’t work you can always use an EE connection

  • c says:

    I thought the pods worked really well. They’re perfect for solo travellers who want to read / work quietly. They feel surprisingly private. They might not be the best use of space but I will enjoy them while they’re there.

  • Roberta Downes says:

    Loved the view of the planes in the lounge felt like I was sitting on the runway . Wonderful comfy layout. Nice and spacious. Given a card to order food from with couple choices . Rest laid out to help yourself. Comfy setting really nice.

  • Lady London says:

    Gatwick North Aspire has same incorrect view about not needing newspapers for their clientele.

    MyLounge in Gatwick North does take Priority Pass. Although they seem to be claiming they’re full when the lounge is practically empty – apparently they seen to also be joining the Collinson ‘we take Priority Pass but we’re full unless you paid us £5 on top of what we get from Priority Pass’ policy being practised.

    I am certain I could have gone around the corner, and ‘reserved’ on my phone paying the £5 surcharge for Priority Pass – because that’s what it is – returned in 3min and been miraculously let in.

    Thanks for the very frank review about Gatwick South Aspire it’s really helpful.

    • Shoestring says:

      @LL – I think there’s a minimum lead time of some hours required when you intend to pay the £5 reservation – 6 hrs?

      • Lady London says:

        *£#% Drat.

      • Polly says:

        Just found that out. No 1 was literally empty. Definitely income generation!

        • Lady London says:

          That is just my point Polly. It’s a little too concerted and recurring too often when lounges are not even close to half full, but empty. with a capacity that would take 2* Qatar business cabins available.

          they can say others booked they are waiting for, but IME there’s a high level of breakage on pre-bookings and it;s clear the lounges are not even bothering to account for that and let people in when they’re so empty.

          Rob’s nornally right but in this case I think the big thing is – the lounges already got more than the money that covers their fixed costs either by airline contracts – or by prebooks – and now it’s about ratcheting up the marginal revenue to earn a higher fee average from every additional passenger. It’s clear Priority Pass is less competitive than what they have calculated they can earn taking this approach – and it’s a concerted approach;. Happening too consistently (and for too long) not to be a strategy.

    • Polly says:

      They wouldn’t let us book as we waited!
      Made it into Aspire! But today we just got into Aspire by the skin of our teeth. Heard him saying that’s it, no more PP now. An American behind us furious. Was with daughter and grandson going to DUB on paddy air.
      Food lovely pulled pork rice, nice pasta salads, etc. Great lemon cake. Bar unattended, but charge for fizz. Nice selection of wines. Then went to GS to get gluten free orange cake for my

    • Roy says:

      No1 website no longer seems to be offering MyLounge reservations for PP holders – it only allows No1 and Clubhouse.

      • Rob says:

        Gatwick South doesn’t take PP, never has. Have they stopped at North too?

        (EDIT: quick checks shows PP still accepted at My Lounge North)

  • Iain says:

    O/T for a newbie…

    I’m flying to HND next year in March, and currently have a lowly Economy (cheapest fare) ticket. I can upgrade to Premium Economy for £225, but am I then able to upgrade again using my points? Or can you only upgrade once?

    • roberto says:

      It depends. If you are upgrading to WTP and paying cash you need to ensure your new ticket is now a “T” bucket , that will be up-gradable to Club assuming there is award availability in business.

      The reason I say this is that some WTP buckets are non up-gradable. Sometimes holiday companies commit to a number of flights+hotels deals but sell on these packages which are later split up and sold on again ( Amex do this often ). Those flights are super cheapo bucketed and are need to be further upgraded again before being available to upgrade to club.

  • Andrew says:

    I know it’s all quite complex and it’s important to have accessible shower facilities in the accessible loo, particularly for people who are not only faced with mobility issues but continence issues as well.

    But for goodness sake, don’t make it the only shower facility. I hate coming out of these shared facilities to evils from someone who can’t use a regular loo.

  • Nori says:

    At the time when Rob was there on Thursday morning is was practically empty, however on a Saturday at 1pm a few weeks earlier it was full and you couldn’t get in with your PP.
    Nonetheless, I found it to be a pleasant place to relax.

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

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