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Who won ‘Best Independent UK Airport Lounge’ 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 5, 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 INDEPENDENT airport lounge in the UK?

If you want to know who won ‘best airline-run airport lounge’ then read yesterday’s article here.

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 Independent UK Airport Lounge’. And the winner is….

Plaza Premium Heathrow Terminal 5

Plaza Premium took the top three spots, although that is not surprising as all three were for London Heathrow lounges.  Terminal 2 Departures was second whilst Terminal 4 Departures (which I like a lot) was third.  The three lounges we shortlisted from outside London (Lomond in Glasgow, Clubrooms in Luton and my personal favourite Northern Lights in Aberdeen) scored fairly equally.

Best UK independent airport lounge

I have to be honest and say that this was the toughest shortlist to draw up.  We did not include any No 1 Lounges, partly because they are now often crowded and are turning away lounge card guests.  I DO admire the company, however, and I believe that they are fully responsible for Aspire upgrading its lounges and for making Plaza Premium launch in the UK with such a high specification.  The UK lounge scene would be a lot worse without No 1.  We also didn’t include any Aspire lounges, although they ARE in contention for tomorrow’s award of ‘Best New Lounge’.

No 1 DID get a lot of ‘write in’ entries, under the ‘Other’ category.  Almost all of them received some votes – Heathrow T3, Edinburgh, Gatwick North, Gatwick South and Birmingham, plus Clubrooms at Gatwick and Birmingham, My Lounge at Gatwick and The House (now back under Etihad control) in Heathrow T4.  Aspire received votes for Gatwick South and North, Heathrow T3 and T5, Newcastle, Belfast, Edinburgh and Bristol.  The premium ‘1903’ Lounge in Manchester, which I loved when I reviewed it, also had support, as did the Causeway Lounge at Belfast International and the Rendezvous Lounge on the Isle of Man.

The bottom line is that this category had the widest range of ‘Other’ write-in suggestions.  This is good news and shows that the independent lounge sector is in fine health.

Best UK independent airport lounge

But back to our winner

Plaza Premium Terminal 5 was an excellent addition to Terminal 5 when it opened in late 2017.  As this is the main base of British Airways at Heathrow, it was always likely to prove popular with Head for Points readers.

In truth, the Club Aspire lounge at the other end of Terminal 5 was a bit of a missed opportunity, with the limited amount of space available being badly used.  Plaza Premium did a far better job.

It is worth noting that you cannot access Plaza Premium Terminal 5 via Priority Pass or Lounge Club.  You CAN access it by showing an American Express Platinum card or using DragonPass.  This makes its victory in this category more impressive, since substantially fewer of our readers can gain free access than they can with most of the other shortlisted lounges.

Best UK independent airport lounge

This is, of course, also the reason why the lounge scores so well.  It is usually quiet.  Before NatWest started giving out DragonPass as part of its Black package, it was incredibly quiet as my photos in this article show.  Compared to the chaos of the British Airways Galleries Club and Galleries First lounges in T5A, or the Aspire lounge (which usually has a queue of Priority Pass holders outside), Plaza Premium is a welcome respite.

The buffet is superior to what British Airways offers too, and there is also a decent bar.  The views are fantastic, since you are in a corner of the glass walled terminal building.  Two sides of the lounge are floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the tarmac.

Best UK independent airport lounge

I would love to see Plaza Premium given a larger space in Terminal 5 so they can really work their magic.  In the meantime, Head for Points readers seem more than happy enough with what they are offering.

Congratulations to Plaza Premium who will be joining us at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.  Tomorrow we will look at your votes for the best new airport lounge to open in 2019.

Comments (38)

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

  • Shoestring says:

    Just a reminder that you get 6 Dragonpass lounge passes with the Barclays Travel Plus pack, which costs £18/ month and includes RAC breakdown + worldwide family travel insurance (under 80YO)

    You can turn off the cost after 6 months minuimum and restart it the next year.

    It’s what I used to get 5 of us into No1 T3 last week, ie the holder + guests can mean the whole family. Entry costs £16/ person after you use up the 6 free lounge passes.

  • Concerto says:

    Usual person with feet and shoes up on the table in the last pic.

    • Shoestring says:

      wasn’t mentioned yesterday but the best seats in Cathay Pacific Business lounge have the individual proper footrest pouffes to make you feel good about sticking your feet up

      a big positive with that nice view whilst you sip your Champagne

    • Lady London says:


  • BJ says:

    Just for fun, when all the awards are done and dusted can I suggest that Rhys normalise the results based on airport or carrier passenger numbers as appropriate to see what difference, if any, that makes to them? I know it is very simplistic but it could be enlightening in some categories

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I’m surprised there wasnt an Editor’s Choice for this award. No surprise that LHR once again dominates but HfP have seen more UK lounges in person than most. I guess they must be in full agreement with the result.

      • Rob says:

        There are 5 Editor’s Choice to come from the 7 remaining awards so we had to pace ourselves. This was a tricky one because – except when we visit new lounges for review purposes – we rarely use third party ones. If we’d done this last year I would have given one to Northern Lights but not having been for 18 months it seemed a bit risky if it has changed. If I am back in Aberdeen next year for any reason it may win!

  • Pete says:

    Silly question perhaps, but does Plaza Premium allow a guest when using the Amex Platinum?
    If so it sounds like an excellent alternative to the Galleries for a family of 4!

  • John says:

    Would seriously question why people would write in Causeway Lounge at BFS as being best of anything.

    Poor facility at troubled, badly run airport which is inferior to main rivals BHD George Best and Dublin, in pretty much every respect. Numerous reports/reviews have covered this, over a depressingly long period.

    As to Plaza Premium T5, last time I visited, super helpful receptionist said she wouldn’t process my DragonPass entry, until I’d checked out the space to ensure I’d be comfortable.

    There’s been more people through earlier, and she wanted to be certain my stay would be up to their usual standard. It was.

    • memesweeper says:

      I can understand why it’s nominated — yes, it’s an average, small lounge with nothing outstanding bar the odd good soup — but it’s an absolute haven compared to the unremittingly dire airport it’s situated in. I’d pay cold hard cash for admission without a second thought if I’m ever unfortunate to be waiting in International again.

  • aston100 says:

    Can anyone confirm what kind of a discount the Lounge Club card provides once the 2 free entries are used up?

  • Babyg says:

    The only issues with this lounge is the number of items that are chargeable from the bar, e.g. After you’ve paid you £50 entry fee you stil need to pay for champagne and its difficult to find seats for groups of 4 etc, but all that said if I am travelling alone I’ll go here over the BA options.

  • Lady London says:

    Which nutter wrote in Aspire T5 ?

    • Shoestring says:

      how bad is it? Club Aspire T3 is very heavy on bland pasta mains – in fact if you don’t really like pasta, you’re right royally fettuccine’d – but has saving graces with the bar incl cold Guinness and a good single Scotch malt

      why is Aspire T5 so bad?

      • Lady London says:

        This is supposed to be a nomination for the best airport independent lounge. suggest you visit sometime and see. Try to do it on something cheap.

        I think I’ve been in about 5 Aspires. There are only 2 of them I would go back to and one of those only just. T5 Aspire is ghastly quality, horrible environment, and a complete ripoff. Other than that I quite like it.

        • Unsavage gerbil says:

          Why are they a rip off?

          • Lady London says:

            I gave 2 lots of detailed feedback on Aspire T5 when lounges came up as a topic last two times I think.

            Basically at £40 or so it’s s ripoff. There is nothing to comfort or rest the soul and no peace. Quality of food available is execrable. 3 varieties of pasta all soggy and dishes messed around and not maintained. No protein unless you count carefully measured little squares of mass produced cheese.

            No alcohol worth bothering with. Very little choice of drinks overall. My pet hate all minerals delivered to your glass by a HOSE – literally a spray hose. The ultimate in cheapness. I wouldn’t even go into a pub that does that if they gave me the drinks free.

            Environment badly laid out and toilets outside. Showers exist but cost a chunky extra fee to your £40 or £59 to get in. There’s much, much more but I think I’ve said enough.

            I am happier in the crowded noisy Pret in the middle if the terminal. I pay there but at least a level of quality is available. Remember that’s only Pret. So think how bad quality must be in Aspire T5, to make me want to be in Pretty paying instead.

            Sooner than spend £50/£40 or even £20 in T5 Aspire I would recommend the Fortnum & Mason oyster/snack bar near there. Cost won’t be much different and your nerves won’t be shattered with the noise and jostling. I got in free as I used to maintain a Priority Pass. But even free there’s no way I’d set foot in T5 Aspire again. Life’s too short.

            Staff are pleasant and hardworking and did a better job of promptly clearing tables than the Plaza Premium team were managing.

          • Doug M says:

            Maybe it’s me. But never had a salad, soup or sandwich in a lounge that comes close to Pret in terms of quality. I’m amazed people would pay £40+ to get in a lounge. There are usually some acceptable food options, and quiet spaces if you search around a bit. It would be a very rare occasion I’m going to drink £40 worth of alcohol before I get on a plane.

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