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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)

  • BJ says:

    Would be great if we knew the proportion who voted for it had actually been in it. Based on peoples actual experience I suspect Virgin Clubhouse would have been the winner by a considerable margin.

    • John says:

      Based on HFP reviews I think the clubhouse may be better, but Virgin doesn’t fly anywhere useful so I’ll never get to experience it.

    • Rob says:

      Doubt it, given you need to fly VS Upper Class or be Gold to get access. Even I’ve only been in the Heathrow one twice in 20 years.

    • Cat says:

      The Clubhouse was fun, but I was massively disappointed that they had closed the jacuzzi and sauna, just weeks before I went for the first time. I’d remembered to pack my bikini in my hand luggage and everything!
      It is supposed to be pretty rammed though now, isn’t it, since Delta started using the Clubhouse too? In contrast, the Cathay lounge was wonderfully peaceful and relaxing!

      • Dev says:

        Yes Cat, it is very crowded especially before the Delta flights depart. Had to walk around the lounge the last few times I was in there. One time I even perched on a window ledge behind the bar area for 30 minutes, before I could find a seat.

    • Doug M says:

      Agreed, I never miss an opportunity to dig at Virgin, but the Clubhouse is far nicer than CX lounge. The CX lounge is very nice, and I’d say best OW in T3. But it’s completely overplayed whenever a lounge in T3 question comes up. They all have strengths and weaknesses, for me CX has great showers and usually less crowded. Crowd it and it’ll be no better than BA or AA.
      The Clubhouse is really very good. But then it’s not full of status holders on £29 tickets to Barcelona 🙂

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Qantas is better than CX in my opinion. Prefer the buffet plus the look, feel and space.

        Ba lounges at Heathrow need a long overdue overhaul.

        • Doug M says:

          Been some talk On FT of a T5C lounge. Suggestion to relieve overcrowding to make refurb of T5A lounges possible. Current levels of use mean refurb impossible.

          • Anna says:

            That would make a lot of sense – all the long haul flights we take from T5 depart from C concourse so that must also apply to a lot of other pax.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            But they aren’t refurbishing the T3 lounges either when there are now 3 other fresh options

        • Polly says:

          Quantas staff great at topping up the champers glasses tho..a real treat.

      • Rob says:

        May soon be full of KLM Golds on £29 AMS flights if AF and KLM move across. Safe from Flybe pax due to lack of domestic area in T3.

        • Doug M says:

          That would be great. Of course the Clubhouse would then be like T5 Galleries First, a giant seething mass of humanity. OK, it would be busier and less pleasant.

  • Derek Scott says:

    The link to the T3 BA route list is a little outdated now. San Diego is now a T3 route

  • Andy S says:

    I don’t seem to be getting emails from this site ant more. Thought it was closed for Xmas until I saw this in my google.feed. Is the emailer broken or is it just me !

    • Rob says:

      Emails are going out fine. Drop me a note with the address you use and I will check your account.

      • Dev says:

        Rob,

        Now that another reader has reported an issue, I should add that since early December all the HFP emails go into my Spam folder. Not sure why this is happening.

        It is not a major issue for me, I know that I have to go into the spam folder every morning to retrieve them. As I have not changed anything on my computer and email account, I did wonder if something has changed on the server that sends the emails out. Perhaps if more people report this, then it is something for the service provider to check.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          Dev, click to add the sender to your safe list and it will be back in your inbox every day instead.

      • Andy S says:

        Thanks, all sorted

  • PlaneSpeaking says:

    The Cathay first class lounge in T3 is good but it does seem to have lost its shine recently, mainly with the a la carte food offering although this is my personal opinion and others may disagree. Does anyone know if they changed caterers recently?

      • PlaneSpeaking says:

        Ah, thanks Rob and yes, that will explain it. I think it’s still a decent offering but just not quite in the same league that it used to be which is a shame but maybe they’ll take note of passenger feedback on sites such as this (and many thanks to you as always for everything you do for us).

        • Anna says:

          We will be there in April, do you have any lunch recommendations?

        • Dev says:

          Despite the change in the management and catering, in my experience the Cathay Pacific first class lounge is still the best in LHR T3. Was there last week for an early morning flight and the Asian breakfast, with croissant and jam on the side ;), was the best thing to get me through a hectic day of meetings!

          Well done Cathay Pacific!

        • Lady London says:

          Maybe it’s Accor. TBH I think having Accor is a mistake by the QF lounge as well.

      • Stuart Evans says:

        In the context of both CX and QF lounges being very good, I can see CX having the slight edge on the First side. But looking at the original reviews and recommendations, plus allowing for some drop off at CX since the change of operators, it looks as though QF might be better for Bus, especially if, like me, you enjoy a G&T. Of course, QF has more restricted hours but my next flight fits in to those very nicely. What do others think?

        • JRC says:

          Pick your poison: champers CX, Gin QF, Coffee QF, Asian food: CX, Cake/ British Fare: QF. Or do what I did last time- coffee and cake in QF, then headed over to CX for champers and lunch 🙂 it’s pretty much table service if you sit in the booths by the noodle bar. They offered to refill my champers when I was there last (Nov).

  • Travel Strong says:

    LHR T3 lounge query…
    I’m landing into LHR T3 with Delta in DeltaOne, and leaving a few hours later with BA in Club Europe.
    No airline status but Amex Plat / PP holder.

    I believe this gives me Eight(!) lounge options.
    Virgin Arrivals
    Plaza Premium Arrivals
    No1 Lounge
    Aspire Lounge
    BA
    AA
    Cathay Pacific
    Quantas

    Is there any reason to do anything other than hit Cathay Pacific lounge?

    My priority is a shower and some real food (substantial meat and carbs, not bar snacks), and a bonus would be the ability to put feet up and nap for 20 mins!

    • Shoestring says:

      I only know 6 of those lounges (not Virgin or Plaza Prem) and honestly CP doesn’t strike me as being much better (if at all) than the other 5 – they all have some good points, eg the BA Business lounge has/d a superb wine selection in terms of about 100 different varietals, sure they are not all particularly expensive bottles if you were buying them at a wine merchants but there’s enough good stuff there to keep a wine buff happy

      I like the good aspects of CP, don’t get me wrong – but it is quite dark, drab & dated, lots of browns & if you are not a fan of brown, it feels a bit of a glum lounge – whereas Qantas is light & airy & I thought their fresh food/ veggie & salad stuff was really good

      could go on but it’s going to be personal taste for everybody and all 6 lounges that I know have some (very) good points – you’re a bit spoilt for choice

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Plaza Arrivals lounge has a proper made to order meal and the quality is pretty good.

    • Brian says:

      I’d start with Virgin arrivals. If you have time, try Cathay too.

    • Lady London says:

      Great feedback from others about all those T3 lounges @Travel Strong but most of them won’t be available to you as you are arriving in T3 and most are departure (only) lounges. They are in the departures area of the terminal and as British airports segregate departing and arriving passengers very strictly, you won’t have access to departure lounges like the CX one nor any if the other departure lounges such as QF.

      You are leaving on BA which means on departure you would only have access to lounges in T5 (if you bothered).

      Of the available Arrivals Lounges in T3 as Virgin is harder to get into and you are arriving on Delta which gives you access I would follow @Brian’s recommendation and do that first. Then if time I would look at doing Plaza Premium as well. After that I’d head over to T5 and do anything but T5 Aspire or maybe not bother if I’m lounged-out by then.

      • Lady London says:

        PS am assuming to get into Virgun Revivals lounge you will be travelling on a sufficiently high class on Delta as you mentioned you don’t have airline status. Status doesn’t matter for Pl Pr as that is a paid lounge in T3 (which does accept Priority Pass amongst the various ways of paying) and doesn’t matter either for Pl PR T5 except T5 won’t accept Priority Pass but will let you in with Amex Platinum or Centurion.

  • Martin C-C says:

    Yes, I always use Cathay Lounge when using Terminal 3. I’m surprised that the article comments on BA Lounges not doing well – it’s a no brainier – total number of premium passengers flying daily, plus status gold and silver, plus other airlines …..and huge number of long haul club world passengers sitting 8 across – nobody else does that! The volume of people using their lounges make them zoo like.

  • AJA says:

    Well done Cathay Pacific. Definitely deserved. Looking forward to going there on 4 Jan for my flight to LIS though am also going to pop into the Qantas lounge as well. Won’t have time to do AA and will give BA’s lounge a miss.

  • Nick_C says:

    I loved the Cathay Lounge at T3 when I tried it recently for the first time. I was flying BA.

    But I think one of the things that makes this lounge special is direct access from the Lounge to the Plane if you’re flying with Cathay.

    • riku2 says:

      I have never seen direct access from the cathay lounge in T3 to the plane and I’ve been there about 20 times in the past year. I don’t see how it’s possible given where in T3 it’s located even if you are flying on CX.