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Who won ‘Best UK Airport Lounge (Airline)’ at the 2019 Head for Points Awards?

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Over Christmas and New Year, we are unveiling the winners of the inaugural Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards.  Today is Day 4, and we are moving into the more niche categories – which in many ways are more interesting.  Today we are looking at which is the best airline-run airport lounge in the UK?

The Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2019 are a great opportunity to recognise the cream of the crop when it comes to UK premium business and leisure travel. A lot of the areas we are covering, such as airport lounges and travel credit cards, are ignored by other awards because they are too niche – but for our readers, they are very important and appreciated.

Over 4,500 HFP readers voted over three weeks in November. There were 12 categories in total. As well as giving an award to each category winner, we are also giving out a number of ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards for products and services which we personally admire.

Each winner will receive a trophy which we will be presenting at a special dinner in January.

What is the best UK Airport Lounge

Today we are announcing the winner of ‘best UK airport lounge run by an airline’. And the winner is….

Cathay Pacific

…… for their lounges in Heathrow Terminal 3.

Cathay Pacific’s Business and First Class lounges at Heathrow T3 narrowly beat the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and Qantas lounge, also both in T3, as well as the United Club in Terminal 2 and the Qatar Airways Premium lounge in Terminal 4. The only non-Heathrow lounge to make our original shortlist was the British Airways Business Class lounge in Gatwick South.  (The British Airways lounges at Heathrow did not make the shortlist, since we felt there were far better candidates.)

Some readers disagreed with our shortlist and submitted their own choices under the ‘Other’ category.  The various Emirates lounges were nominated multiple times, as was the Singapore Airlines lounge in Heathrow Terminal 2.  Surprisingly (to us at least), the BA lounge in Newcastle was also mentioned a lot.  The most popular ‘write in’ entry, however, was the British Airways Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5, which is for ticketed First Class passengers only.

What is the best UK airport lounge?

If you have read HfP for a long time you may not be surprised that Cathay Pacific won this award.

We have always sung their praises, which is why there is no ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category.  I plugged the Cathay lounges in this article in the Daily Mail the other week, for example.

Frankly, it is just weird to look into the massively underwhelming British Airways lounge in Terminal 3 and see how busy it is.  What are these people doing?!  Their ignorance leads to our bliss, however ….. and of course if they all started using the Cathay Pacific lounges then they would rapidly head downhill!

What is the best UK airport lounge?

Cathay Pacific maintains an excellent reputation for its lounges which is helped by its exceptional ‘home’ lounges in Hong Kong – you can see a review of The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong here and of The Wing First Class Lounge here.

The Terminal 3 lounge reopened in late 2016 after a refurbishment led by designer Ilse Crawford.  The opening of the new Terminal 2 had freed up some space, allowing Cathay to expand into the old Singapore Airlines lounge.

Heathrow is the only airport outside Hong Kong where Cathay Pacific has a dedicated First Class section.  If you have a British Airways Executive Club Gold card you can use this area even if you’re flying to Barcelona on a £29 BA economy ticket!

Here you will find waitered a la carte dining. In the business class lounge you have access to an excellent noodle bar in addition to a small buffet.  The real feature, however, is the fantastic view you get of the apron and the Northern runway.

It includes a number of Cathay’s ‘Solo’ seats, such as the one in the image below, giving you an uninterrupted (in all senses of the word) view over the airport.

What is the best UK airport lounge?

You also have access to some very well appointed showers (eight, accessible by both Business and First Class lounge users) and bathrooms stocked with Aesop toiletries.

What you need to remember about the Cathay Pacific lounges is that they didn’t win your votes by being ‘flash’.  There isn’t free-pour Dom Perignon.  You can’t order caviar and blinis in the First Class restaurant.  What you DO get is a genuine commitment to quality and excellence across your entire lounge experience.

What is the best UK airport lounge?

If you are keen to give it a try, this article from September lists British Airways services flying from Heathrow Terminal 3.  You will need to have British Airways Silver or Gold status, or oneworld equivalent, or be flying in Club Europe, Club World or First Class, to access the Cathay Pacific lounges.  You can also access them if flying on Finnair, Qantas, American Airlines or – of course – Cathay Pacific itself, which we also recommend in Business and First Class.

Congratultions to Cathay Pacific.  Tomorrow we will look at your votes for the UK’s best independent airport lounge.

Comments (118)

  • Kevin says:

    “The most popular ‘write in’ entry, however, was the British Airways Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5, which is for ticketed First Class passengers only.“

    I would expect better from HfP. At least get the basics right in terms of the facts.

    • Qfx says:

      do continue….

      • Liam J says:

        It’s likely a reference to being able to get in with a CCR card (5k TPs per year for earning via flying)

        • Lady London says:

          Also tells us that a chunky number of HfP readers have actually been in the CCR, which makes HfP readers an unusual set of people.
          And also shows HfP readership contains a chunk of people much competed for by advertisers.

    • Rob says:

      You think an article on Cathay needs 2 paragraphs outlining the exact CCR access rules?

  • Stephen says:

    That is not a picture of the Cathay Solo chair – it’s just a normal armchair.

    • Peter K says:

      In the back of the picture with someone sitting on it?

      • Stephen says:

        Yes – there is no solo chair pictured in any of the pictures in this article.

        • Lady London says:

          +1. Those are nice though to sit in in front of the windows. For those that don’t fly enough so want to be constantly reminded they’re in an airport by looking out on tarmac and seeing oh look! yet more planes.

          I personally like spaces in airports that let me forget I’m in an airport.

          Cathay Pacific if you are reading this, please always keep the Solo chairs. I love them as they provide respite from several aspects of travelling. Also they are great if you need to work, and they balance a plate of noodles very nicely.

          • Shoestring says:

            rumour has it some strange people like to recognise the aircraft make/ models taxiing up & down etc and even take a picture or 2

          • Lady London says:

            Bet they’re all blokes.

  • BrightonReader says:

    So I’m flying Finnair business to Hel in a couple of months. I also have one world sapphire.

    So Cathay is the best lounge to use? It’s a 10 am flight so breakfast may be more important than booze.

    • Lumma says:

      If you’re looking only at breakfast, I’d say the buffets in Cathay Pacific and American are on a par. I do like getting some prr flight pick and mix from the American lounge. The Qantas breakfast was dreadful the last couple of times I was in there, either in the restaurant or the buffet upstairs. BA is just the usual bacon or egg sandwiches

      • Anna says:

        I’m not a big eater of sweeties but the fudge in the Qantas lounge was really good! I snaffled a few pieces as samples for my nearest and dearest but ended up scoffing the lot myself 😂

    • Rob says:

      Do the lot … BA, AA, Cathay, Qantas ….!

      • Harry T says:

        Can you access the AA lounge if you’re flying Finnair business? I’m flying out of T3 to Helsinki in May, granted the flight is at 8am…

        • Shoestring says:

          with Finnair Business you get an entry to No1 & can also use the 4 OW lounges – so all 5 are possibles

        • Lady London says:

          Yes its a OneWorld lounge as Finnair is a OneWorld airline so you can in LHR. According to Rob’s recent article the snaxxy new Finnair in HEL has slightly different requirements – its one if the lounges where being Gold makes a difference.

          The 3 airlines you have to watch most for extreme and non-alluance-conforming entry rules are QR (bigtime), LH (not much impact in the regular lounges but the First Class LH lounge in FRA very special) and SQ (very gradated lounge access in SIN). AF has their First Class lounge in CDG for keeps actually flying First differentiated like the LH one but no one seems to do AF much on here currently. Small differentiations that don’t affect us much like Chairman’s area in the odd QF lounge at home.

  • TripRep says:

    Do we reckon Virgin will be pulling out all the stops to make their new Manchester Clubhouse a serious contender for this award next year?

    • Kevin says:

      No. Even with extra flights it won’t have the capacity or the status of LHR. If they were interested in doing this then why not do it at LGW when they changed terminals.

      • Lady London says:

        A lot of money could fly out of Manchester though and a decent Clubhouse might do surprisingly well. I think VS has been in MAN a long time ago? and did not bother then though.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      In comparison to the current offering, if they create something that is just half decent it will seem like the Promised Land.

    • Jack says:

      I’m not sure lounge operators will give a monkeys about these ‘awards’ and to be honest neither are travellers, if you go via an airport you choose a lounge at that airport. End of.

      • Rob says:

        Aspire, No 1, Plaza Premium, PremiAir and the Cathay lounge head are coming to our dinner ….

        • Doug M says:

          Find out who pays what when we use other OW lounges, that would be interesting. The general FT consensus seemed to be that the first lounge you enter was paid by the operator of the flight, but no one really knew.
          I don’t really expect you to find out or publish, but it would be interesting.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve explained this here multiple times but no one ever listens! The lounge payment mechanism isn’t linked for multiple entries, so EVERY entry is charged full whack to the operating carrier. For oneworld anyway, I don’t know how star works.

          • Shoestring says:

            @Nick that’s what I would always intuitively assume to be the charging mechanism, but what do people think the amount is per person? for a Business lounge, I’d have thought £20 too low but £40 too high..ISTR hearing the £40 figure (or was it USD40?) mentioned previously…

          • Doug M says:

            @Nick. With respect unless you can offer some sort of backup with credibility to this you’re just a random on the Internet making claims of knowledge. If Rob says something then his website and experience offer some credibility to his remarks. Those of us that just post in the comments are simply randoms unless you have something to substantiate the claim. I’m aware enough to realise I’m also describing my own view on things.
            It seems to me to really have absolute knowledge on this you’d have to be privy to OW contracts, no?

        • Lady London says:

          Can you get them to dish the dirt on Priority Pass holders being constantly refused entry at the main airports in the UJ, his does what PP is paying them stack up against revenue per passenger from airlines, any hints as to the future of PP with them and their perception of PP’s strategy, who is their lounge customer evolving into, etc?

        • Chas says:

          I wish I had the opportunity to tell the head of Plaza Premium about my expat T5 yesterday – so glad I didn’t pay the standard £40 entry fee and instead got in via my Plat card. Next time I will genuinely choose Pret A Manger unless I fancy hitting the bar….

          • Chas says:

            *experience (not expat)

          • Lady London says:

            tell us more..?

          • Chas says:

            @Lady London – well it started off with having to queue for the best part of 10 minutes to get in (at c10am) as the sole member of staff seemed to be quite slow at processing people. A 2nd staff member only arrived to help once we were already at the head of the queue.

            Once inside, there was only seating for solo passengers, although we were lucky and grabbed a table of 4 as others were departing. They seemed thoroughly unprepared for how busy they were: tables took a while to be cleared, as did the food items to be replenished when they ran out. What was there for breakfast was very disappointing – insipid looking bacon and stale croissants to name the worst aspects. And what I expected to be fruit juices turned out to be squashes. Had it been later in the day I’d have tried to extract value for money from the bar, but didn’t feel like it on that occasion.

            No single calamitous event, but collectively it was incredibly disappointing, and not the premium experience I’d been led to believe it was. I’ve had more enjoyable times in the Aspire Lounge at Luton. If I’d have paid cash (as many in the queue ahead of me appeared to be doing), I’d have felt ripped off paying even half of the £40 entry fee. As it was, the only saving grace was the view across the tarmac, but even that didn’t stop us from leaving the moment we were done.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      It won’t be a contender irrespective because not enough of HfP readership will use it compared to LHR offering(s). Maybe a shot at an Editor’s Choice if it gets a personal visit but that will likely be a sample size of one.

      That said, I don’t think Virgin need to throw money and resources at this. The comparative lack of foot traffic might be the biggest boon to create a nice, calm, relaxing space without the need for gimmicks.

  • Vanessa says:

    I went to Cathay lounge on BA ticket previously and the noodle bar refused to serve non-Cathay ticketed customers.

    • Kevin says:

      How did they know? Did they ask to see your ticket? Seems odd, but the general reports are that the lounge has deteriorated this year.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Noodle bar staff won’t ask to see your ticket or your boarding pass! I have no idea what you are thinking of.

    • Doug M says:

      No? you sure. After entry I’ve never shown any ticket card or ID to anyone.

      • Rob says:

        Sounds like nonsense to me. There are 100+ of our readers in there each week on BA tickets.

        • Anna says:

          I was there 3 weeks ago on a BA ticket and ate from the noodle bar. Boarding pass was only checked at reception.

          • Vanessa says:

            The noodle bar staff didn’t ask to see ticket or ID, they just said they are not serving non CX passengers and I didn’t feel like lying. Perhaps it was a once off, but was not a good experience.

          • Lady London says:

            Was this SFO or LHR and how long ago?

    • Andrew says:

      This might be a nod to the CX SFO lounge during the BA SFO refurbishment.

  • TripRep says:

    Best lounge I visited this year was the Miami AA Flagship lounge, really impressive, great that BA CW pax get to use it.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    “Frankly, it is just weird to look into the massively underwhelming British Airways lounge in Terminal 3 and see how busy it is.”

    I gave up BA status nearly 10yrs ago now. The only time I am in their lounge is if my ticket allows it. I am not sure how weird that is outside the HfP bubble.

    • John says:

      Almost everyone who is entitled to access the BA lounge at T3 will also be entitled to access the CX lounge by virtue of their ticket or their status.

      The only exception I can think of is that BA allows GGL members to take 5 guests into BA lounges and during holiday periods this is sometimes extended to all Golds.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        I take it back. Seems like non-status CE ticket is enough. Shows how much attention I pay to lounges these days, or how infrequent my flights through major hubs are. Kids and school holidays will do that to a person.

        • Doug M says:

          A dose of reality helps too. Lounges are rooms with some drink and food. If they’re nicer than the food and drink you have at home you’re doing it wrong. The best lounge food I’ve ever had is not as good as the place at the top of road where I live.

          • Shoestring says:

            sure but it’s 2hrs of forced waiting around in an environment not of your choosing – which can be pretty unpleasant in the public areas of an airport, ie noisy, poor wifi, crowded etc & you can easily get hungry & thirsty

            so whilst I agree that most Chinese takeaways do a better food offering than the CP lounge, ie on any objective grounds it’s nothing like as good as most restaurants landside (not been in CP F lounge though!) – it’s how it performs in that forced waiting around period that matters

            and after 4hrs driving up the motorway to LHR, I do genuinely look forward to the relative comfort you get in a lounge

          • Doug M says:

            I confess, I do forget that some of us have long waits enforced by unreliable journey times given distance, and the need to pad for the unexpected.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      If you look at it from the public’s view (who are completely uninterested in the precise details of airline alliances), it’s perfectly normal to think that your ticket on BA would get you in the BA lounge, and weird to think that a BA ticket for a BA flight would get you in the Cathay/Qantas lounge.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Ofcourse it’s natural to follow the advice you’re given at checkin too. The lounge is xyz. It’s only also amazing how we all walk around with handheld devices which can tell you pretty much anything and no one uses them properly.

        Anyway more “secrets” for the rest of us

  • Susan says:

    Does anyone know when/if CX releases additional award seats? I’ve 2 PE seats on CX238 12/01/20 but hoping to upgrade if any J (or F!) are released closer to the time, not least so we can enjoy the CX lounge at T3. Thank you

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