I visit the new PremiAir VIP Terminal (yours for £50+) at Manchester Airport – and get driven to my plane

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A couple of weeks ago, the new VIP terminal – PremiAir – opened at Manchester Airport.

Importantly, ANYONE can use PremiAir if they are flying on a participating airline.  It isn’t just for the super-rich either.  Fees start at just £50, which many people will find a modest price to pay to escape the nightmare that is the main terminal complex at Manchester!

Clearly we were intrigued, so last week I headed up to Manchester to take a look.  We paid the standard £100 fee and the terminal did not know that I was there to write about it.

Where is PremiAir?

The good news, for those keen to see as little of the main airport as possible, is that PremiAir is nowhere near the main terminal.  It has been built next to the Runway Visitor Park, on a piece of land which was originally given over to plane spotters.  It is also close to the massive Amazon fulfillment centre, if you have ever driven past that.

At present, there is more signage to the Runway Visitor Park than there is to PremiAir.  It is already showing on Google Maps so it can be picked up by Uber and taxi apps.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  The final couple of minutes of the drive take you onto very small roads and you begin to wonder if you’re going the right way.  Suddenly an old Trident aircraft appears – part of the Runway Visitor Park – and you are there.  A security guard at the gate checks you off on the list of booked guests and you are driven to the PremiAir entrance.

Click on any picture to enlarge:

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

Apologies for the lack of blue sky but this was Manchester in November 🙂

I was slightly shocked to find that everyone, including the security guard on the gate, knew my name.  The reason became clear very quickly – I was the only person booked in.  I had the entire terminal to myself for the 90 minutes I was there, which was certainly a novelty.

There isn’t much to explain.  The very friendly reception team check you off and confirm that your ID is in order and that there is no reason, eg customs declarations, why you might need to go back to the main terminal.  Here is a stock image:

PremiAir Manchester review

I had no luggage to check in so there was no need to have that transferred across.  I was then shown into the lounge area.

It looks great.  Knowing that the lounge is literally on the edge of an active taxiway, so you have aircraft passing within 100 feet of the windows every couple of minutes, the architects sensibly let the view dominate.

It is a long thin space dominated by floor to ceiling windows on one side.

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

and

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

The space features strong use of wood, which I found attractive.  This 45 second video gives a full panoramic view of the space (note that I am literally the only guest):

At one point you can see the car parked up outside, ready to drive me to the main terminal.

This 30 second video shows how close to the aircraft you really are:

This is very much ‘stealth wealth’ territory.  If you’re looking for Cristal on tap then you are very much in the wrong place.  This is part of the drinks selection although it was far too early for me – you can see the spirits in the video:

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

Apart from a selection of pastries and cookies which are out on display, all food is cooked to order.  You are given a menu – click to enlarge:

PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport food

As you can see, the breakfast offering has a variety of hot and cold items, from a ‘plated’ hot breakfast (presumably something like a full English) through to lighter items like fruit and yoghurts.  There are separate menus for lunch and dinner which I didn’t see.

I ordered a ham omelette which was very classily done.  I didn’t take a picture as the lounge manager had come over for a chat and I felt a bit stupid getting my phone out to photograph my breakfast!

There’s not much more to say.  I didn’t see any showers.  The loos are suitably smart.

The transfer to my plane

This was the cool bit.  When my BA flight back to London was ready for boarding, PremiAir staff came over and took me to my car.

You go through a door where there is a passport control and security screening.  It was the first time in my life that I have been greeted by name by a security screener!  I did not try to photograph this as it was likely to lead to trouble.

I hopped into the car and off we went:

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

Passing three of the parked up Thomas Cook aircraft on the way:

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

Terminal 3 is a long way from PremiAir, which is great because you get a full drive around the airfield.  It seems that not all aircraft gates have easy access for car passengers from the apron.  In my case, we parked up at Gate 49 which was the most convenient.  The two PremiAir staff and I went into the terminal, up to Departures, and then did the 45 second walk across to Gate 135 which BA was using.

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

I was Group 1 boarding anyway, but the PremiAir staff took me to the front of the line and told the agents at the gate to let me go first.

I have done the ‘be driven to your plane’ thing a few times in the past, most recently at Frankfurt’s First Class Terminal (First Class passengers only) and at London City Airport’s First Class Lounge (£95 fee) but this was the best drive I ever had.  My last First Class Terminal drive was around 30 seconds as the aircraft was on the nearest gate!

If you’ve used the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, then PremiAir does not compare.  There are no baths, no cigar room, no luxury restaurant etc.

If you’ve used the First Class Lounge at London City Airport then PremiAir IS directly comparable (and costs the same – £95 vs £100).  PremiAir is a substantially ‘nicer’ facility though.  It is bigger and brighter, and you can have food cooked to order.  City Airport will bring you a tray of sandwiches and that’s about it.

(Here is my review of Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal.  Here is Anika’s review of London City’s First Class Lounge and my update from earlier this year.)

What does PremiAir cost?

Here is the PremiAir website.

For departing passengers, there are two options:

Priority Departures – for hand baggage only passengers, you can pay £50 per person and check in at PremiAir.  You will clear immigration and immediately be driven across the airport to your departure gate in a shared vehicle.  You only need to arrive 60 minutes before departure.

Premium Departures (what I did) – for passengers with luggage and/or who want a private lounge, you can pay £100.  You will check in and clear immigration, and then be able to use the lounge in the terminal before being driven across the airport directly to the steps of your aircraft in a private vehicle.

There is also an arrivals service (£125) as well as the ability to book a private suite for your party on arrival or departure.

Note that pre-booking is required, because all passengers need to have their passport information screened in advance.

If you need parking, the site says:

“If you’re using PremiAir for your trip, you can also park your car with us using Manchester Airport’s Meet & Greet parking service. On arrival at PremiAir, simply leave your key with our host and they’ll take care of the rest. Alternatively, we offer a small number of parking spaces outside the PremiAir terminal building.”

Which airlines can use PremiAir?

The list is constantly growing, although some airlines (eg Lufthansa and United) who were originally named as participating are no longer listed.  Virgin Atlantic has just been announced as the latest to sign up.

The current list as shown online is:

Aegean, Aer Lingus, Aurigny, British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Iberia Express, Icelandair, Iraqi Airways, Loganair, Norwegian, Oman Air, Pakistan International, Pegasus Airlines, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines (exc Houston), TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Vueling

What are the opening hours?

At present, PremiAir is only open until noon.  From December, it will be open between 4am and 10pm, every day except Christmas Day.

The Priority Departures service is available for flights departing between 5am and 10pm.  The Premium Departures service is available for flights departing between 6am and 10pm.  The Arrivals service is available for flights arriving between 4am and 8pm.

Conclusion

I was very impressed by PremiAir.  Given how painful the main terminal can be, I can promise you that I would be using this myself if I flew from the airport on a regular basis.

At £50-£100 per person, it clearly isn’t aimed at the family market – although there are plenty of people in the airport catchment area who will be happy to pay.  The main market is going to be corporate travellers (for whom paying £100 is a bargain if they can get more work done than they could do in the terminal) and the airlines.

At present, the premium experience at Manchester is dire beyond belief.  Fly on Qatar Airways in Business or Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class and you are dumped in the terrible Escape Plus shared lounge.  Whilst Virgin Atlantic is opening a Clubhouse next year, I can easily see Qatar Airways, Etihad, Oman Air etc offering their premium passengers the opportunity to use PremiAir at their expense.

If your time or quality of life is more important to you than money, I strongly recommend you give PremiAir a try.  I doubt you will go back once you’ve done it once.

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Comments

  1. The review mentions a “private lounge” but the pictures look like a shared lounge with the other passengers (if there are any). The lounge access is a bit strange for priority departures customers since you’re not allowed to use the shared lounge – so if you turn up 90mins before the flight (having left plenty of time for traffic jams on the M6) you are straight away driven to the main terminal? Or are given the option of paying the difference to sit in the lounge? or if your flight is delayed ? driven to the main terminal to wait there?

  2. “I was Group 1 boarding anyway, but the PremiAir staff took me to the front of the line and told the agents at the gate to let me go first.”

    Interesting! How to win friends and…… cause “gold” rage! 😉

    • Shoestring says:

      Exactly! You could – much as it makes me want to vomit – expect this for a ‘proper’ VIP – but not for somebody/ a nobody who has merely paid a lot for a private lounge/ security/ transport to plane.

      Can’t see that lasting (unless airlines agree to it somehow when they sign up for Premiair?)

      • I had this in reverse at AUH. I should have been boarding at the front but by the time I got to the gate there was a huge line of economy passengers boarding. Gate agents wouldn’t let me go to the front of the queue and insisted I take a seat until all passengers boarded. They explained that they thought it would be much more comfortable for me than boarding with the crowd, and actually it was 🙂

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          BJ – you’re right it is! I’ve never understood why boarding first to spend LONGER in a cramped metal tube (and never lose sight that that’s what it is – even the pointy end seats are less spacious than your average shared hostel) – is seen as a priviledge. A REAL perk would be getting on last about 30 seconds before the doors close :D.

          • Would he fine with me if all the premium passengers went on then. Only issue for me is that my bags are directly above my head so I like to get on early. Placing bags close is generally not an issue in business but once in a while it can be.

      • It can be a fun/ strange experience too as the passenger; as GGL I quite often get the AA CK premium service at the airports that have it. One notable experience this year was in Phoenix in October; as they do they marched me to the front of the long line of AA Platinums and First class pax for boarding. This time it included MC Hammer (and his entourage) who was with some airport service The AA CK Service generally makes sure you are sat down and happy before letting anyone else board; which is truly special. If only BA treated GGL so well out of LHR.

  3. So if I don’t have baggage to check in, I only pay £50, but don’t get to use their lounge at all? What happens then, they just rush me straight off to the main terminal and dump me at the gate?

    • You park up. Stroll in. Walk to the no queue immigrstion guy. Use the no queue security. Jump in the car. Get driven to your plane.

      You need to remmeber that MAN is not like Heathrow etc. It is hell in the main building.

  4. I was surprised by the scale of this in the photo and wondered why Manchester needed a CIP terminal as big as this. It soon became obvious from your review that it was a non VIP terminal, being something more akin to a fast-track standard lounge with VIP prices. I imagine it will remain largely empty most of the time until substantial discounts appear in the usual places or the likes of Qatar takes it up for premium passengers. Looks very nice and I am sure much more pleasant than getting through the main terminal but it needs to offer more for £100-125. The £50 offer is a waste of money.

    • For you. Not for much of the target market. If you’ve paid £1500 for a flight or £5000 for a holiday it’s a rounding error.

      If you are paying £25 for a lounge then you’re better off rocking up here 60 mins before departure and paying your £50. No lounge needed.

      • No, sorry, when I pay £1500+ for a flight (which I do) I expect it to include fast track and a decent lounge experience, not to mention seat selection. I doubt many here consider it a rounding error. I have no experience of using Manchester, and I know EDI is smaller, but you can turn up at the airport here one hour before departure just fine.

        • You don’t get that at Manchester though. Look at my review of Escape Plus when I did Virgin Upper last year. I would rather sit on the concourse. As part of that same review, Virgin staff put me through the VIP / crew security line because fast track was so long.

          • I hear you, that’s why I like smaller regional airports. Also why I much prefer First Advance on the train between Scotland and London.

        • RussellH says:

          You are lucky having no experience of MAN.
          Recent experience at EDI has been pretty dire too – horrendous crowds.
          GLA at the end of Jan this year was much quieter – too quiet almost. We got there about 100 mins before take off, having allowed for delays due to snow on the M74, but the road was clear.
          No one at the LH check-in desk until just over an hour before take off, so we had to hang around the check-in hall instead of being in the lounge.
          Big contrast from when I lived in Dunblane – GLA was the busy airport, EDI was the little local airfield where you could park right outside the terminal door for 30 mins with no problem.

          • The ground level check in area at EDI is dire, reminds me of the old LHR T2 with low ceilings and all. Always try to have a BP to avoid. going there. Next problem is the fast track upstairs, often not fast at all but at least these days they have finally learned who can and cannot use it. The trick is to be late, and then you get to go even faster track.

      • Lady London says:

        For Cheshire money, £50 is almost not enough.

  5. “I can easily see Qatar Airways, Etihad, Oman Air etc offering their premium passengers the opportunity to use PremiAir at their expense.”

    I really doubt this will be the case. QR J class passengers at Birmingham don’t get access to the No.1 Clubroom, which would be an easy shift.

    • Shoestring says:

      hang on – the evidence points to Premiair being desperate for income, I reckon they could easily agree to a heavily discounted arrangement with airlines for the right quantity of guaranteed passengers per flight

      • TGLoyalty says:

        It’s only just opened Harry we’ve seen other reviews where Rob etc were the only ones there and now slots are booked up day in advance

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You would hope they really wouldn’t as it will be unmanageable when a plane with 40-50 J passengers leave. Unless Rob is taking equivalents of BA premiers when there are probably a couple flying on any flight.

      There are plenty of people that would pay £100 to skip the hoards (footballers etc) or something that would pay £200 before the start of a special couples holiday etc I’m sure the pricing and lounge is there to cater for a small number of passengers flowing through each hour all day

      • Forgot about footballers and their entourage. I guess they will likely be the main users in Manchester but if you end up there with a whole team, or two, of them then I doubt it will continue to be a premium fast experience with much peace and quiet.

        • But then the noise & excitement will be coming from their own team, and not strangers wanting photos etc 🙂

          • It wasn’t the players I was worried about…

          • ThinkSquare says:

            I once shared a LHR-MAN flight with the Chelsea team, and they were a paragon of good behaviour.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            Indeed this isn’t the 80s with “the lads” on a rare foreign excursion. Modern top footballers are so well travelled that they’re basically just another jaded international business traveller on yet another plane journey for work; and likely to behave as such.

          • Jose wasn’t there?

  6. Premium departures ‘get a private lounge’?

    Do you mean private car transfer?

  7. It was pointed out previously but there’s no requirement to “clear immigration” even though it is north of Watford 😂. I would be genuinely tempted to use this facility though, to avoid the usual T3 experience. Is it £100 for children as well, though, given that they obviously can’t fully partake of the facilities?!

    • Shoestring says:

      plenty of people would see it as paying an extra £60 (vs £40 normal lounge entry) to get special treatment, fast security & car to plane – plus a *guaranteed* seat in the lounge

      £60 is chickenfeed (for many people) to get those benefits

      • TGLoyalty says:

        If they opened something like this at Birmingham I’d be paying £100 to use it.

        I don’t understand people saying ‘a proper vip’ either. What makes them ‘a proper vip’ other than some money and maybe a bit of fame? Life is full of people paying their way up queues (inc. Gold TP runners) If the deal with the airlines is we offer this service you need to push them up the boarding queue then that’s the deal they’ve agreed to and it doesn’t matter what your status.

        • Shoestring says:

          yep that’s my hunch – ie when the airline signs up for Premiair, they also sign up to allowing Premiair customers to jump to the front of the queue

          but as Nick noted – the Group 1s aren’t going to like it! I must say it’s great to board first 🙂 – not (for me) because of gloating or getting overhead bag space – I never had an issue with that in all my years of travelling on BA – but just because like most people I don’t like queuing/ elbows/ queue cheats – I used to get my youngest (daughter) to try and look like a 3YO for as long as possible so that we could board first, which became slightly embarrassing/ get a few looks once she was 7 so I had to give it up

      • I think most FF already have access to lounges and fast track so it’s total not extra for most.

        • Not at Manchester, where the lounges are usually refusing Priority Pass for most of the day and/or are shite 🙂

          Only 1903 is worth a visit and that costs almost £50. And you still need to fight through check in, passport control and security.

          I get a feeling that you have never flown from Manchester …..

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            I think we may be straying into the realm of hyperbole to describe Manchester.

            Yes, the experience could be better but that is hardly news. They are spending £1bn upgrading it as you would have been hard pressed not to notice.

            To describe it as “hell” is a touch too much or is a result of an overly comfortable existence.

            As for the lounge, this should work very well in Manchester. There is more than enough potential foot traffic to make it viable even once the lounge situation is addressed as part of the rebuild.

          • No, never flew from MAN as I stated in an earlier comment. I now feel fortunate 🙂

          • Lady London says:

            Is there really a worse airport than Stansted or Luton at a mildly busy time? Is Manchester really that bad?

            How does Liverpool compare?

          • ThinkSquare says:

            In my experience Luton is worse than Manchester. Stansted is better. I’ve never flown from Liverpool but I understand it is a very pleasant experience.

          • Luton is a hell hole on so many levels. I live 10-15 mins drive away and always choose Heathrow and even as far as Gatwick. They have plans to add another runway and further expansion. It’s one of the worst laid out Airports i’ve ever been to. Its really not that hard to plan a proper flow for transport and passengers.

  8. The Original David says:

    “We paid the standard £100 fee and the terminal did not know that I was there to write about it.”

    If you were the only customer, do you reckon anyone might have googled “Rob Burgess” and figured out what was going on?

    • No.

      And if they had, the only thing that may have been different would have been the manager not coming over for a chat. It would be a pretty weird manager who deliberately avoided talking to his only customer though.

      They probably guessed by the end, because one of the drivers was ex-VS so we were chatting about people we jointly knew.

  9. Andrew M says:

    OT (sorry, no bits). Hertz. Any PC suggestions to go with a booking via Hertz Australia for a UK weekend rental? Currently getting best rate with Visa CDP 884058 (am not Amex Plat). Open to any suggestions as to a better CDP (open to all or many!). Thanks.

    • Charlieface says:

      Flying Blue or Accor are 15%, I think.
      The Visa one is the same but for some reason doesn’t work on Hertz AU

      • Lady London says:

        Visa, unusually, does seem to bean excellent discount this time round. I landed a hire that was £65-75 on uk site, 54 on Oz site and shocked me by being 28 with Visa. Historically, agents in UK/IE seem to have access often to MC deals – they are very helpful when you call them. Depending on country sometimes AAA or equivalent can improve the rate if nothing else is around.

  10. Shoestring says:

    O/T World Duty Free (Dufry) – sale starts today, with 15% off many already sharp prices, eg
    1L Baileys – £10.00
    200ml + 50ml Calvin Klein CK One – £23.95
    400g Toblerone – £3.00
    90ml Lacoste Touch of Pink – £26.75
    30x Ferrero Rocher – £6.00

    No idea if it’s restricted to genuine DF (non EU/ EEA) passengers at these prices.

  11. Shoestring says:

    Qantas is to test a new, ultra-long haul flight from London to Sydney as part of a trial for a potential commercial route. The flight will see a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner carry just 40 people – including crew – to the other side of the world in approximately 19 hours.

    • Andrew M says:

      Reason being that a full load would not make it all the way!

    • I asked to join them – unfortunately national media only 🙁

      • Not sure I would want to spend 19 hours on a plane, even in J or F. When I did Sydney, we had about 4 hours in KL. Getting a shower and having a chance to walk around properly made a big difference.

        I wonder if Qantas will introduce low density seating on the non stop services, like Singapore where some flights only have PE and J?

        It amazes me that non stop is more economical, especially as they will have to carry extra crew and fuel for such a long flight.

        • The thing is, once you are on the plane a few extra hours don’t really change much, in my experience. May as well just stay on, sleep a little longer or watch another film, and then freshen up when you arrive.

          Let’s be clear – Qantas haven’t decided whether they will be launching non-stop to Europe. It may not be economical…

          • Rhys,

            Sam Chui is on that flight. He isn’t national media. But he will put out flattering reviews and videos on YouTube. Flattery clearly gets people anywhere and everywhere. 😉

            Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, has stated that their aim is to have Business, Premium Economy and Economy cabins for these flights. So not just the premium seating configuration that Singapore Airlines has chosen for their ultra long haul flights.

            Nevertheless, as you say, there is no guarantee that Qantas will actually proceed with these flights. It is rumoured that Airbus has put plans for the A350-1000ULR launch on hold for this very reason.

          • I wouldn’t be surprised if Qantas is paying Chui for the coverage 🙂

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