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I visit the new PremiAir VIP Terminal 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 you want to know about Avios redemption ideas from Manchester, this HfP article looks at Avios flights from UK regional airports.

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.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (June 2021)

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of 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 and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two 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 two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and 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 (196)

  • Harry T says:

    OT, no bits:
    Is there a limit to how many Amex cards you can hold at one time before you will not be approved for another one?

    • Shoestring says:

      no – but there will be once Amex UK start closing down accounts for gaming the system, same as in USA

      coming to an Amex account near you soon

      • BJ says:

        The million dollar question is are they really going to close accounts of gamers who refer lots of new non-gaming customers for them? Has this happened in the USA?

        • Harry T says:

          @BJ Flyertalk and Reddit reports indicate the people who were shutdown heavily abused the self referral systems and other loopholes.

      • Harry T says:

        Tbf the American AMEX system is much more open to abuse with the huge amount of cards and MS opportunities.

        Besides, Shoestring how are we meant to generate enough Avios to travel to sunny places without utilising Amex loopholes?

        • BJ says:

          That’s your problem Harry, not amex.

        • Genghis says:

          It’s still possible.

          • Harry T says:

            @Genghis care to elaborate? I’m interested.

          • Genghis says:

            You’re still relatively new to the game. You’ll learn.

          • Harry T says:

            Very cryptic!

          • lebron 23 says:

            not cryptic at all.

            for a number of people it is BAU with amex churning. multiple reports of people who have slipped through the net on the new “24 month” rule.

            it is worth doing an attempt after 6 months to see if you are one of the lucky ones

          • Rob says:

            Or not – because if it fails, which is likely, you have reset the 24 month clock.

          • Charlieface says:

            Out of curiosity has anyone managed it with another Amex STILL open?

          • lebron 23 says:

            I disagree on this one rob im afraid.

            downside is vastly outweighed by potential upside

            downside – u delay by 6 months….mehhhh

            upside – in that 24 month period you can get 4 churn-cycles through

            will leave it to others to judge what’s best

          • BJ says:

            @Genghis, what’s this; some sort of Mongolian water torture for poor Harry?

            @Charlieface, if I understand your question correctly then – yes.

          • Harry T says:

            @BJ, @Genghis obviously doesn’t think I’m ready for the true secrets yet! 😉

            I think I will apply for the SPG soon, as I would be eligible for the bonus under the old system.

          • BJ says:

            @Harry T, nah Genghis knows you will get there, just takes time and effort. He was not hiding any great secrets but I knew you would take it that way, hence my comment to him 🙂 There is loads of info here on HFP to help you. If you have not already done so then work through university series, beginners guide, current promotions, credit card reviews, and details of the hotel schemes. It is obvious from questions you ask that you are getting there. Beyond information, it is all about commitment and effort. I recall when @Liz was new to this, what she achieved in a short time, abd presumably continues to achieve, was astounding, a greatvexample of what is possible even for a newbie.

          • Liz says:

            Not earning nearly as much as I did due to lack of churning this year but still make sure every penny earns me something. Doing ok this year as we are converting our stock pile of clubcard points in to Avios with the 40% bonus. Next year will be dire with no churns and no tesco transfers but will still keep plugging away. I am not paying off Brighton with my Curve card but I do use it for paying in to savings and occasional Revolut top ups so earn extra IHG pts. Got enough miles saved for 4 trips to the USA.

          • Harry T says:

            @BJ thanks for the advice 🙂
            I’m working my way through the archives.
            Not taken much interest in the hotel schemes until now as I usually find an independent hotel I like on Amex FHR or just go with AirBnB etc. Should probably broaden my horizons though!

            @Liz any tips for a newbie? What’s the 40% bonus on transfers?

          • Liz says:

            @Harry T – I found HFP at the very end of 2014 so back then there were alot more opportunities to earn Avios. HFP taught me about card churning between partners, Small Shop opportunities and buying through cash back sites which I had never done before. There were alot more tesco offers back then including online shopping bonuses, wine by the case and tesco direct offers which are now long gone. The 40% bonus is from the tesco shell offer. We are converting our large stock of Tesco CC pts earned from a few years back so reaping the benefits now. We are retired and spending more time travelling. We are not frequent fliers and dont have large HMRC bills to pay like others. So now we just collect where we can. I dont want to abuse any loopholes in case any accounts get shut down so playing things safely these days. I like to collect one 241 voucher and one free IHG night and get Spire each year if I can and retain Gold on HH – if I do that then I am quite happy.

  • Simon says:

    Have to say that I’d rather use this than the Windsor Suite at T5 which I found a bit claustrophobic (and didn’t include food beyond a cuppa without extra cost). At LHR I think they plan to have you last to board rather than at the front of the queue too.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      The windsor suite is in London. Not sure how suitable this would be for folk in manchester 😉

  • Chechire Pete says:

    Rob, did you get escorted onto the plane too? I ask as last week when flying down to Heathrow 3 people appeared and were escorted to the front. Then they were all escorted onto the plane. I wondered who they were! The guy then stayed with them (somewhere behind me,) and left when boarding had finished, could have been something else I guess!

    • Rob says:

      No.

    • RussellH says:

      We travelled LH First HKG-FRA-GLA in early Feb this year. We were escorted onto the plane at HKG.
      I have had a re-read of Rob’s review of the First Class Terminal at FRA from 2017. He mentions that “LH is reportedly not too keen on transfer passengers using the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt. It is meant for people starting their trip in Frankfurt” That did not appear to be the case on our trip as the Cabin Services Director made a point of telling us about the First Class Terminal as we approached FRA.
      The bad bit was that we had to immigrate into Schengen, and then find our way to the First Class Terminal at 0600 in the cold and dark, not dressed for Frankfurt at that time of day and year! It was not easy.
      But once we found it everything was fine. We had a 6 hour layover, so we needed somewhere comfortable. And we did get a Porsche transfer to the foot of the steps up to the A320 for GLA. The driver asked if we wanted to board first, making ourselves comfortable while the rest boarded, or whether we wanted to wait in the car until the last minute (as Princess Anne did on the one occasion I have flown LHR-GLA). But we did not have an escort onto the plane.
      In the restaurant of the First Class Terminal the menu was cooked to order only, IIRC.

      • BJ says:

        Might be my imagination but I think I read that the cars have been or are going to be chanted to minivans? I wish they would reschedule the GLA and EDI flight times they are either too tight or much too early for many Asian connections otherwise I might focus more on LH despite poor earnings.

    • the_real_a says:

      You have obviously never been deported from anywhere… 🙂

      • RussellH says:

        I was walking through the forest in Slovenia (in 1968, still part of Jugoslavia) when we met a patrol of about a dozen fully armed soldiers who made us turn round and then escorted us back to their base, not the hostel we were staying at. Was scary at first, then after some radio conversations the officer in charge detailed two soldiers to escort us back to the hostel.
        Of course, the soldiers had to stay in the bar with us all evening to make sure we did not try and escape again. I suspect this was a very popular duty!
        🙂

  • Anna says:

    I’ve just tried to get a price for Premium Departures with parking; you can select this option but when it goes through to the payment page there’s just the charge per person and no mention of the parking. I’m assuming it’s not included free? (Though awesome bargain if it is!). Can’t get past the captcha either to submit an enquiry – might need to pick up the phone 🙄

  • SteveD says:

    OT, no bits: Revolut

    I am trying to verify my identity but my phone camera is damaged and won’t focus close enough to the relevant ID. I’ve searched the help, tried chatbot, joined the community (but don’t seem to be able to create a new post). I can’t find any alternative.

    Am I basically looking at a new phone before I can use Revolut? I know this is a bit ‘out there’ but just wondering if anyone has had any experience of communicating with an actual person at Revolut?

    • Rhys says:

      borrow someone else’s phone? Once you’re registered you can use your own.

    • Benilyn says:

      Use a friends phone.

      • SteveD says:

        Oh, OK, thanks I’ll try that – didn’t think i’d be able to use the same details on 2 different phones.

        OT (no bits).

        Anyone know where I can get some friends? 🙂

    • Bagoly says:

      No chance of accessing a real person there.
      It’s a great service until one has something irregular.

    • the_real_a says:

      You can send the docs as attachments via the message system…

    • Charlieface says:

      Use Bluestacks or MeMu with a Webcam on a PC or laptop

  • Jane says:

    OT, sorry, no bits. Despite being ready to book at midnight for the last two nights I was beaten to the avios seats for my return flight for next October half term (outbound already booked with 2-4-1). I’m working on plan B and can see seats available but if I cancel the original outbound how long will it take for the 2-4-1 to be available again ? is it immediate ? many thanks

    • Anna says:

      I’ve done this once and the voucher re-appeared within a couple of hours but I don’t know if this is standard. Would it be possible to call BA and have them cancel and make the new booking at the same time?

      • Jane says:

        thanks for that, I decided to go for it in the end and cancelled. for reference if anyone else needs to know, logged out and back in again and the voucher was there immediately. new flights now booked and all sorted. My first midnight booking fail !

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          I did this too and it was a (nervous) couple of hours waiting for me..

    • KevMc says:

      Is there another airport nearby with availability that you could use for the return? Then just need to get a connection – we have had to do this for our outbound to CPT (so actually flying to JNB) , but were lucky to grab the direct inbound back.

  • Anna says:

    I’m loving the breakfast menu, except that they look to have spelled “Taittinger” wrong 😯 (unless they’re serving a cheap knock-off, it’s slightly blurred when you expand the picture!).

  • Shoestring says:

    O/T anybody familiar with both Malaga and Alicante *old towns*? Looking at a ‘city break’ for a couple of days and only really interested in the old town/ charming historic centre & historical buildings/ tapas scene/ real Spain etc

    Both seem much of a muchness online?

    • Roberto says:

      I live in Malaga and its right up there with old town charm but Seville would my choice for your needs.

        • Shoestring says:

          cheers but they (wife & daughter) were in Sevilla in October! & fancy somewhere new

          • Rhys says:

            Grenada? Close to Malaga, Alhambra on your doorstep etc. Just booked flights there for my mum and me.

          • Shoestring says:

            my wife & I loved Grenada but a) late February it’s just that bit colder (700m) & b) they wanted to go from Exeter = Malaga, Alicante, Malta. There is a new Ryanair Alicante flight from Newquay which would be excellent as it’s just down the road, unfortunately doesn’t fly on ‘good’ days in Feb.

          • Shoestring says:

            * ie without the hassle of travelling on somewhere else once plane arrived

          • Rhys says:

            BA fly direct to Grenada too in the summer season.

          • EwanG says:

            Off to the Caribbean for the weekend….? 😉

          • Rhys says:

            I’m actually going to Granada in February but it still catches me out!

            I once realised I had mistakenly booked flights to San Jose, California instead of San Jose, Costa Rica despite reminding myself about a million times that I must pick the right one. Thankfully the AA customer service line was fantastic and rebooked me with 12 hours’ notice for the difference in fare only, which was about $10!

          • Anna says:

            You should be very careful with Granada/Grenada – a few years ago there was a big football match near Santiago de Compostela and some fans did apparently end up in Santiago de Chile!

            But Malaga is fantastic for historic sights, there’s the Alcazaba and Malaga Castle itself (featured on the Dan Snow series, “Battle Castle”), both beautifully preserved, plus the cathedral and Roman ruins right in the city centre.

          • The Original Nick says:

            @ Harry, I go to Alicante most years. Will be there again in January. We always stop at the AC Marriott which is easy walking distance into the old town. Plus the bus stop is literally outside the door which you can get the buses to and from the airport every 30 mins or so. Nice Marina to walk around. Castle is nice to get some views from too. Old town is full of tapas and bars.

          • Shoestring says:

            Malaga & Alicante are both going on my tapeando list when I get a chance, don’t you worry 🙂

            I know Spain quite well but have stuck to places I like without exploring enough – I’ve probably spent about 10 weeks just in Salamanca so must spread my wings a bit more!

    • Michael says:

      I’m a big fan of Alicante, my wife and I have been a handful of times in the past year. The old town is lovely with some great tapas options. I highly recommend it for a city break

    • AJA says:

      I recommend Malaga despite Roberto trying to put you off. The old town is lovely, it is all flat so easily walkable (apart from the castle hill), charming narrow streets , Picasso Museum, Roman Amphitheatre, great restaurants. What’s not to like? I stayed at Parador de Gibralfaro on the hill next to the castle, great views but steep walk down to the old town and get a taxi back. Alternatively there is a Marriot right in the centre.

      https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/agpmg-ac-hotel-malaga-palacio/

      • Genghis says:

        We love Malaga too. A really chilled out city with some good food options.

        • Shoestring says:

          Thanks all, I think I’ll recommend Malaga to my wife with a few comments from above. Malaga’s a bit cheaper to fly as well, £116, Alicante’s £135 – Malta would be £65 return but as my daughter’s studying Spanish GCSE, not a bad idea to keep her interest going by practising a bit, she enjoyed that in Sevilla.

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