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Review: the new Club Aspire 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 No 1 Lounge (reviewed here).  The problem is that No 1 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, No 1, 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 No 1 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 find full details, and book places for cash (£24.50) if you don’t have a Priority Pass or similar, on the Aspire website here.

Club Aspire Gatwick South terminal lounge review

Getting airport lounge access via a UK credit card

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

Two free Priority Pass cards (one for you, one for your supplementary Platinum cardholder, each admitting two – so a family of four gets in free) giving access to every lounge in the Priority Pass network – search it here.  You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

You get a Lounge Club card loaded with two free visits to any Lounge Club network lounge – see the list here.  The list is slightly shorter than the Priority Pass list, but not by much.  Additional visits are charged at £20 per person.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  No annual fee in Year 1.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

You get a free LoungeKey card allowing you access to any property in the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although regular travellers will find it cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card (adults only, of course).  The card has an annual 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.

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Comments

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

      • 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.

    • 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 sis..fun..

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

      • 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)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Nothing has changed. The lounges are in cahoots. The extra capacity hasn’t eliminated the need to pay a £5 booking supplement. I tried 2 weeks ago with Priority Pass and despite walking into half full ( at best) lounges I was still turned away for not having a reservation. I dont see a Priority Pass as a benefit much these days.

    • Lady London says:

      And before anyone believes their excuse of contracted airlines departing soon needing the seats, Aspire and MyLounge both had most of the lounge empty behind them with far more capacity free than needed for that. If Advance reservations was part of that excuse then they seem not to be allowing for ‘breakage’ at all.

      • It makes no sense though. These are fixed cost businesses. They need a LOT of guests to breakeven and, once they’ve hit breakeven, every extra guest is pure profit (more or less) and you want to get in as many as possible.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          That would probably be the CFO’s view. The staff on the door may prefer to run it to give themselves an easy life….

          • I agree, I was at LBA last month and got talking to an elderly couple who had been in the lounge for over 5 hours (delayed Jet2 flight), they claimed that at any one time there were never more than a dozen guests in. I was at first refused entry but did manage to blag my way in. This was a Thursday at 15.30 ~ total guests in at that time 7.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          There must be something to it because of all the reports of people being turned away from lounges only half full.

          Is the PP deal a limited amount of walk in customer per hour/day?

          • Shoestring says:

            I don’t think it’s that at all – I think the lounges are playing it straight with contracts and looking after their guaranteed revenue flows

            so they agree a deal with an airline that they will provide (say) 25 places for Business customers between x & y, charge somewhat low (maybe £10-£15 each) as some of them won’t turn up

            the lounge can guarantee the revenue stream plus cut costs on staff a bit & also cost of goods (food & drink)

            the lounge is actually very happy to be empty half the time as long as an airline contract is in place for the empty times!

            playing it straight because the lounge could obvs allow in a few more people at times they know will usually be half empty but where they have an airline contract – but they are choosing not to cheat on the contracts with airlines, if they contract to/ say they’ll leave 25 etc places empty ‘just in case’, that’s what they seem to be doing.

  10. Daniel But says:

    Big fan of this lounge and although not as big as No1 lounge – it is (for now) a much quieter. Nice choice of food and choice in the buffet is definitely better than No1.

    Does anyone know if this lounge will be used for Business class passengers at Gatwick. One of the main reasons why No1 is always full is because other airlines send their business class passengers there. China Airlines has a A350 flight every evening and as a result the lounge is always full until that flight has left.

  11. IslandDweller says:

    I’ve made a written complaint to Priority Pass about how useless the membership now is. Refused entry to five different lounges in the space of three weeks. All claiming to be full with pre booked customers.
    No reply from them yet…..

    • Lady London says:

      Only 5 times?
      🙂
      I will take a guess that once costs are covered (whether by a slug from an airline for their business class pax, or by people who reserved quite a few of whom won’t turn up), the lounges have run the numbers and decided Priority Pass isn’t paying them enough. So they’re now developing other channels of revenue which appear predominantly leisure oriented.

      Good luck to them but their focus on non-PP channels has made Priority Pass simply not giving the near-certainty of availability of somewhere to work with light refreshments available that didn’t have to be counted and paid individually, that worked with PP before. Plus the mediocre level of many lounges and their awfulness when rammed. PP lounges don’t work for frequent flying for work anymore.

      • I don’t like what I’m hearing about these cards of late. It seems particularly nasty if people it’s hurting most are those who can’t afford business class seats and purchased a card believing they would get in. Surely it’s time to raise the benchmark so you know you are either going to get access or a partial refund?

    • The only purpose that will serve is to demonstrate your own ability to write.

      I have a couple of credits left on my Priority Pass before it expires just before Christmas. I probably won’t attempt to use them, and certainly won’t be renewing.

    • We’ve cancelled 2 gold and 2 platinum Amexes in the past couple of years and blamed PP each time! Never had any kind of follow up on this either from Amex or PP.

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