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Review: the new PremiAir VIP Terminal at Manchester Airport – get driven to your plane!

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This is our review of the PremiAir ‘pay to use’ VIP terminal at Manchester Airport.

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 (August 2022)

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit 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.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

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

American Express Amex Gold

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 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 (196)

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

  • Jody says:

    I find it a little bit worrying that they have marked up the smoked salmon as vegetarian. Makes me wonder what else they have got wrong food wise.

    • Anna says:

      I’m assuming it’s meant to be washed down with a glass of “Tattinger” (sic).

    • Andrew says:

      I was served a Prawn Cocktail starter on my flight from LCY to EDI the other week as part of my vegetarian meal. (I’m not vegetarian, they’d just run out of chicken).

  • CV3V says:

    OT, but lounge related, the recently reviewed Lomond Lounge at GLA is on offer on itison for £30, and includes priority security. Relatively speaking seems a good deal.

    • Rob says:

      It is also doing Priority Pass buy-ups for £15, a reader told me this week.

      • Grant says:

        Excellent news – no more curly sandwiches in the Upper Deck for me!

      • Gringo says:

        What do you mean by that?

        • Grant says:

          If you have Priority Pass you can get entry to the Lomond Lounge for a £15 top-up fee as opposed to paying the full fee which is normally £40.

          • Gringo says:

            Thanks 🙂 Going to GLA next month and that is not clear at all on the PP website

          • Grant says:

            To be fair, it is also not clear on the airports page for the lounge itself. By comparison when booking for the Clubrooms at BHX, it is easy to see the option to pay the top-up fee if you have PP.

          • Go says:

            They don’t seem to be promoting this anywhere and it may not be permanent. I passed through on Monday and asked on the off chance if they offered priority pass upgrades, which is when they offered me the £15 option. The lounge closes earlier at 8pm over the winter months. It’s an excellent lounge -see Rhys’s recent review

  • Chas says:

    OT (no Bits) – are there any points earning opportunities for setting up bank accounts for my teenagers? They obviously don’t have any DDs to take advantage of the current Barclays switching deal.

    • Rhys says:

      A lot of bank offers don’t require DDs – they work with standing orders too. You can move the money between two accounts to fulfil the requirements.

      • Shoestring says:

        they can all get free Halifax current a/cs, set them up online (2 mins) & verify in branch with a passport (5 mins) – qualifies them for Halifax cashyback offers incl 10% off Co-Op = £30 discount on your council tax + many others

        they can get Avios thru T-C-B (no age limit)

    • Andy says:

      Not points, but there’s small bonuses (£5 and £15) for opening accounts with Monzo and Monese. Both are app-based banks so I’m sure that would appeal to teenagers. The bonuses require a referral which I’m sure Rob will be able to sort you out with.

  • the_real_a says:

    I think what people in London often miss is the amount of contingency time people in the “regions” have to allow to hop across different modes of transport to the airport. When all things align i find myself at airports incredibly early, sometimes with 4 hours to spare looking for a productive quiet space. I would probably skip the office completely if i could guarantee a space such as Premair and work for half a day.. Its priced just about acceptable levels. Looking forward to trying it soon.

    • Lady London says:

      Hum. You’ve not had to do too many journeys around London relying on the M25 not being blocked, then :-). Or any of the other major routes in and out of London – such as the famous car parks known as the A40, A4 and parts of the North/South Circular. All of those can suddently block at any time of day turning a half-hour journey into a 3.5 hour journey without warning. Not just in rush hour.

      We also have to allow lots of extra time on all journeys in London – as there is traffic everywhere.
      If I’m leaving NW London for a flight departing 3pm at Heathrow, then I would never, ever,leave after 11am. Probably 10.30am latest. Even if the journey should take me about 1 hour on public transport. In a taxi I might, possibly, leave at 11.30am for the 3pm flight. But that would be chancing it. I’m not allowing for lounge time by leaving that gap, but all going well, I will get lounge time as a consequence. As I;m not super-rich I do have to allow contingency to be on time for flights. On the whole I’ve encountered less traffic jams up North than I am used to around London, by far. Let’s leave the M62 and other roads around Manchester out of that !! and the M6 anywhere near Birmingham… 🙂

      Only if you’re coming from the centre of London to the outskirts could you, possibly, allow less contingency. But that depends on time of day. Unless you travel by helicopter, the shorter road distances in London mean nothing in terms of how much extra time you have to allow on every journey.

      I travel by motorbike. In London, that’s the next best thing to a helicopter. IME using a motorbike in London is the only mode of transport that lets you make a promise about when you will arrive (if at all). You just have to have an appetite for risk. Riding a motorbike to work each day in London is great training for being aware of snipers in Iraq. As I found out when I did security training for someone that was thinking of sending me there :-). Up North I’d probably have to allow no contingency at all on a motorbike and in London very little. It’s very quick and does not require you to build much contingency into your journeys – just that people try to kill you all the time on a motorbike. Otherwise to be recommended 🙂

  • LewisB says:

    OT: I’ve been convinced by the other half to do a TUI holiday. Her idea of a holiday is sunbathing where as mine is walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Has anyone stayed in the Atlantica Dreams Resort & Spa near Rhodes? It’s one of those Sensatori packages, looks good and reviews back it up. Does TUI qualify for the 2x bonus on the Amex Gold? Anyone aware of any voucher codes floating around that TUI don’t publish themselves? I’ve never once booked a package holiday!

    • Anna says:

      I’m afraid I can’t answer any of that but Rhodes has some great ancient sites and also a fair bit of medieval history so you’re not doomed to be sunbathing or partying in Faliraki the whole time!

  • Oh! Matron! says:

    Off topic: Used the BA lounge at AMS yesterday (used PP to get in). Pleasantly impressed although it was a hell of a walk (everything is in AMS) from the Lounge to D24

    The only downside was that the brie wasn’t ripe. Pfffftttttt.

  • Graeme says:

    OT Rob, did you get confirmation from your Amex contact if the Marriott offer is for everyone or only those targeted via email? Apologies if I missed, last comment I saw you were waiting to hear back. Thanks

    • Rob says:

      No, no response apart from the original email saying she would get me a response ….

  • Tina says:

    How and when do you buy duty free Rob?

    You say it is not possible to leave the lounge once inside……

    • Rob says:

      I don’t buy duty free.

      Don’t smoke, rarely drink spirits, usually with only hand baggage so issues with liquids on the return, don’t like giant Toblerone.

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

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