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Who won ‘Best New UK Airport Lounge 2019’ at the 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 6 and it is our third airport lounge award.  We are looking at which was the best airport lounge opened in the UK in the last 12 months or so?

If you want to know who won ‘best airline-run airport lounge’ then read this article here.  To find out who won ‘best independent airport lounge’ read 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 New UK Airport Lounge 2019’.

There are, in fact, two winners.  We have awarded an Editor’s Choice on top of the reader vote.

Firstly, the winner of the reader vote is….

Club Aspire, London Gatwick South Terminal

This was a closely fought category.  From an eight lounge shortlist, Club Aspire at Gatwick South won with 26% of the votes.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Second was PremiAir in Manchester.  Third was the No 1 Lounge in Edinburgh (see our review here), closely followed by My Lounge at Gatwich South, reviewed here.  The other shortlisted lounges were the uber-premium Lomond Lounge in Glasgow (which Rhys was very positive about), Clubrooms in Luton (which impressed me, although the food was not perfect on my visit) and the new Aspire and Clubrooms lounges at Birmingham.

What did our readers like about Club Aspire at Gatwick South?

This lounge clearly won a lot of support because it is based in the British Airways terminal at Gatwick, which is heavily used by our readers.

There had also been considerable ill will towards the No 1 Lounge at Gatwick South, which is now virtually impossible to access en spec with a Priority Pass or Lounge Club card due to overcrowding – you need to pay £5 in advance to reserve a slot.  It didn’t help that No 1’s ‘hipster’ My Lounge did not join Priority Pass or Lounge Club when it opened earlier in 2019.

Club Aspire suddenly offered a very welcome alternative.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

The lounge occupies part of the old Virgin Clubhouse, with My Lounge taking the other half.  It is therefore smaller than I was expecting when I paid a review visit in October.  It was still finding its feet at the time but it was clearly a classy space with a decent breakfast buffet, including cooked options, and what looked like an impressive bar, although it was far too early for me.

When I was there, word had not got around and it was remarkably calm.  It has clearly managed to win over our readers in the first couple of months since opening, and hopefully it will remain relatively quiet.

Review Club Aspire lounge London Gatwick South Terminal

Let’s move on to Editor’s Choice.  We decided that this was the ideal category for an Editor’s Choice award, which goes to:

PremiAir, Manchester Airport

The idea behind Editor’s Choice is to celebrate a product or service which is too niche or too new to win a public vote, but which hits a certain level of excellence.  PremiAir, on this basis, is a deserving winner.

PremiAir Manchester best new lounge

If we had an award for most appalling airport experience in the UK, Manchester would be a strong contender.  PremiAir, a brand new private terminal – built totally away from the main terminal, near the Runway visitor park – allows you to bypass it completely if you are flying with a participating airline.

PremiAir was my classiest airline or airport experience of the year.   You enter into a beautifully designed space, where you can relax in a private lounge with floor to ceiling views over the taxiway.  Aircraft pass within feet of your, erm, feet.  You can eat and drink from an a la carte menu and, when it is time to go, you go through a private security and immigration channel and are driven to your aircraft.

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

The clincher is that this is all very reasonably priced.  Using the terminal without visiting the lounge is just £50, and we’ve seen it as low as £40 with recent promotions.  The full experience with lounge access is £100, reduced to as little as £80 recently.

This certainly isn’t peanuts, but if you are paying for a premium ticket – or your time is literally money and you value some extra working space – you won’t be complaining.

Review PremiAir VIP terminal Manchester Airport

PremiAir is also the best value private terminal experience in the UK.   London City Airport charges £95 to use the Jet Centre and be driven to your plane but the lounge and refreshment selection is nowhere near as good.  Signature offers an equivalent service at Luton but charges £200 for the first person (£100 for additional party members).  It’s also worth noting that PremiAir is purely for commercial passengers, whilst London City and Luton are using existing private jet terminals.

My full PremiAir review is here if you want to find out more.

Congratulations to both Club Aspire and PremiAir, who will be joining us at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.  Tomorrow we move onto hotels, with your votes for the best new UK airport hotel.

Comments (60)

  • n_g says:

    I like the quiet area in that new Club Aspire. Dropped into the Grain Store first when I visited a few weeks ago which is a convenient combination.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    If this was closely fought with the winner getting 26% of the vote and PremAir coming second one assumes it also registered somewhere near 1/4 of all votes. I don’t know what these percentages equate to in terms of actual votes but given it’s recent opening and exclusive offering I wonder if it got more votes than actual customers this year?

    It makes perfect sense as an Editor’s Choice but I’m astounded it came second outright.

    • Rob says:

      It is relatively clear to everyone, though, that this is an exceptional facility. You don’t necessarily need to have used it.

      It is interesting that some places are getting awards even though clearly not all voters have used them (not that this necessarily matters) whilst other places are over-performing (in my opinion) simply because readers HAVE used them.

      I’m pretty sure that Plaza Premium Terminal 5 had never beaten PP T2 in any sort of award before yesterday, for example.

      • Doug M says:

        Voting for things you have no direct experience of makes no sense.
        Most awards are a but of fun, but it’s unusual to see the person promoting them being quite so honest about their failings.
        PremAir Manchester, voted number 1 private lounge by people that have never visited!

        • Mac says:

          Yeh it’s joke, too many people getting caught up in a wave of self interest about a topic that matters little. I appreciate news is slow over christmas but really ANOTHER awards scheme?

          • Mr. AC says:

            I think it’s perfectly reasonable and useful. E.g. BA reminds itself that were it not for the strength of the Executive Club, they’d have way less lucrative business, and Virgin maybe getting a chance to have another think. Same with lounges – showcasing the outfits that are doing it right so that the laggards get their act together.

          • Rob says:

            You’re aware that if properly scaled up over 2-3 years we could eventually make £50k in a night from an awards event? 🙂

            We got a full article in the Daily Mail this week on our awards. I have (most of) the 30 most influential people in the sector coming to a dinner in 2 weeks. We have winning companies promoting HFP by promoting their success across social media (Aspire’s press release just turned up). Seems quite good from where I sit.

          • Doug M says:

            Absolutely Rob. But you’d have to have some very skewed logic to think an award voted for by many with no direct experience of what they’re voting for makes sense as an award. Does it make sense as a commerical operation for the organiser, apparently it does.

          • Rob says:

            I struggle to think of ANY set of awards in the travel space which are resticted to those who have used the product or service in question, so I don’t think we’re exactly out on a limb here!

          • Shoestring says:

            the last thing you should be doing is talking about it

        • Rob says:

          Except it wasn’t voted No 1 – but if had been, that would not have been a surprise. However it is very clear from the reader winners that most people HAVE been voting only for things they have personally tried, hence the win for Aspire today.

        • aston100 says:

          ***Voting for things you have no direct experience of makes no sense.***

        • Lady London says:

          But a lot about this site is aspirational, surely? And of the available sources I’d trust Rob and his team precisely because he is so frank.

          I do use this site to distinguish and feed back on things I have access to and must use. Such as airport hotels, airports and lounges and the odd train. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested to hear about the IC Porto or Amstel or Hyatt Kyoto? all of which are currently out of my reach.

          The difference I’d that I trust Robs statements about, say, a new hotel whereas for hotels commented on other sites (bar one other) there is a bigger judgment to be made. And what makes it very real and fun are the commenters here.

          So as Rob can be trusted then a number of readers, including those for whom its currently aspirational, or even those who’ll never experience the hell that is MAN but think its good to see this new concept, have voted for Premiair. No problem as we and the site are stating it openly as a factor – its the factors not the result, that get attention.

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            I’d agree with this.

            Rob’s opinion is worth vastly more than many alternative sources. Which is why as as Editor’s Choice I would not quibble. But people voting in droves for something they have not experienced? That makes no sense. Questions that I felt I could add no value to I skipped. More should do they same.

          • Peter K says:

            I also skipped non-relevant questions. But then I read the information on the first page of the questionnaire that you can skip a question if it’s not relevant. So many people commented under the article that there was no “none of the above” option so they randomly picked one as to be unbelievable.

            Many people do not read information properly any more. There is more information available than ever but less read.

  • Robert says:

    From the photo it appears you can also begin watching the movies, with a large screen installed in the limousine taking you to the aircraft. Is it a long journey, as I would’ve expected a more standard airside shuttle vehicle?

    • Rob says:

      It’s a fairly long ride, yes. Remember that you are nowhere near the main terminal building, which is where the aircraft are. You don’t even approach it via the same roads as the main airport.

  • Chechire Pete says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your editors choice Rob. We passed thru on our way out to Spain last week, and were so impressed we booked for the arrivals experience when we return in the NY. Totally transforming experience, well bar one point. My small man bag got shunted over at security as it does 50% of the time at Manchester but at least I had 3 private personnel to examine my glasses case! Exactly the same bag never gets inspected at all at LHR packed exactly the same! There’s still a bizarre screening regime at MAN which often boggles the mind…… The staff are also brilliant there. Think it will inevitably get busier once the cat is fully out the bag! They were saying they’ve recently had Football team parties pass thru circa 40 people, so its definately being picked up by the rich & famous!

    • Tom says:

      Yep, have used PremiAir twice so far and both times they’ve sent one of my bags for secondary – not sure what it is they are picking up that no other airport is!

    • Doug M says:

      Part of secondary is just random I believe. That’s one of my big objections to the process. Bag gets random secondary, and you have to wait while they clear the bags of people that either don’t care or understand what can be taken in hand luggage.

      • Lady London says:

        +1, which is why I hate randoms too. Complicated at LGW by my opting out of those nasty super-scanner machines they then put you through, which wastes everybody’s time. Got told off for avoiding ransoms once too!

        • Lady London says:

          *ransoms not ransoms. If its going to overwrite what I’ve typed I wish it would have done it before I checked it and not snuck it in as I clicked to submit

  • Tom says:

    PremiAir is indeed wonderful and even more so when you consider it’s at the hell that is MAN, as you say. I can’t imagine that anyone who has used the facility wouldn’t vote for it over the other choices on the list.

    Can’t help but feel the £50 ‘reasonable price’ is not relevant though as it isn’t a lounge at all at that price!

    • Lady London says:

      I wonder how much of the £50 (for the option that doesn’t contain a lounge which I would guess is where the profit is) has to be handed by Premiair to the airport? Has to be £20, at the very least?

      • Rob says:

        PremiAir is owned by the airport.

        • Lady London says:

          They are clever then. Segmenting demand and finding the level they can charge at for each.

          Leaves the majority of the airport as a hellhole while they work around to picking off segments. Which does not feel fair for most users but will eventually ensure they optimise the money they make across the various segments. I think this trend is beginning, and will happen most large places eventually.

  • Daniel says:

    The Club Aspire is most definitely a welcome addition to the overcrowded Gatwick South Terminal to alleviate some of the overcapacity. However, the lounge itself is small and 3 weeks ago, I again was turned away at 9am. I feel that the appeal of having another lounge is what swayed the readers rather than the quality being any good.

    • Lady London says:

      Quite. This goes to my point about the factors going into how which people voted, are more important than the results.

      For instance I could guarantee that an even vaguely half-decent new lounge at Stansted, to add to the down market Aspire incumbent, would prob get excellent votes from a set of people who use that airport regularly as the airport is such a hellhole and the level of the Escape lounge’s provision leaves a chunk of needs for which there is volume there, unmet.

  • Charlieface says:

    +1 for most appalling airport experience, you should make an award for that. MAN should be the winner, it’s dire.

    • Harry T says:

      Newcastle airport has very few options for direct flights, but repeatedly hearing how awful Manchester is on HFP has put me off travelling for West to expand my options!

      • Lady London says:

        You’d be better going North than West Harry.

        • Harry T says:

          @Lady London – Edinburgh?

          • Lady London says:

            Apparently. Some aspects like rip-off for drop-off (copied from STN, surely?) seem to have got worse than last year but there are improvements too like new lounges and the BA lounge there was always very OK.

            My partner has family in N.Yorks and if I couldn’t get a flight from Newcastle I would definitely head to Scotland. H***, based from feedback from locals such as Anna on here, I’d even head back to London sooner than MAN.

          • Harry T says:

            @Lady London
            Thanks for the thoughts. I’ve flown with Qatar out of Edinburgh and I’m going to use EasyJet for a couple of short city breaks too.

      • Charlieface says:

        Coming from Geordieland meself, I used ter luuv going fro N’castle AIrport.
        In my limited experience it’s definitely the most welcoming.

        • Harry T says:

          I actually really like the airport – it’s small, easy to navigate, friendly and never too busy. The Aspire lounge isn’t too bad either. It’s just the dearth of direct flights that irks me! Usually find myself catching a plane down to Fortress BA.

          • Genghis says:

            Not flown from NCL for years but the proportion of people at the boozer for early morning flights always amazed me.

          • Harry T says:

            I was flying to Amsterdam this summer and people in jean shorts were ordering multiple alcoholic drinks from the bar in the aspire lounge… at 5am.

    • Lady London says:

      Next year?

      Horrible-est airport experience?
      Most disappointing lounge experience? This is one No.1 would win, as so many people who were denied entry would vote for it! And yet one or two No.1’s are relatively good quality in the UK.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Yes MAN is dire, but let’s be fair – the biggest reason for that is the terminal upgrade in progress. You can’t complain too much when they’re currently spending £1BN to improve it so at least there’s hope in the next couple of years that things will improve. If nothing was happening then that would be much more of an issue.

      … and you can now just pay £50 to avoid it if it bothers you that much. A very welcome option – I can understand why people who haven’t yet experienced it would (perfectly validly) vote for this – they can certainly have an opinion about being given that choice!

  • Craig says:

    OT: Monese Gift Card is back, £100 for £80, HNY100.

    • Shoestring says:

      HFP will report on the story tomorrow afternoon

      • Shoestring says:

        it’s a bit too HUKD and you guys don’t want a free £20

        • Craig says:

          I do, £60 for free and counting.

        • Shoestring says:

          got it! 🙂

          • Shoestring says:

            £100.00 has been added to your Gift Card Balance

            🙂 bit of a faff as I had to add foreign wifi to my phone etc, all done lol

            thanks Craig!

        • Rob says:

          Not eligible, which implies that people who got in before can’t get this.

          • Shoestring says:

            not eligible can mean no £80 in the a/c balance

          • Craig says:

            I’ve had the £50, £100 and still managed this one too?

          • Shoestring says:

            I’ve had the £50, £100, £100, £100!

            and I’m a late/ reluctant Monese sign up

            still can’t get the wife to do the selfie – ‘I don’t need a free £85!’

            she was quite pleased with the £600 of Radley handbags (£150 to you as well except HFP doesn’t like that)

          • Craig says:

            You need to speak to my other half, more than one handbag for £600, the usual rate is about 0.5 for £600!

          • Shoestring says:

            I was aghast at £200 each! obvs I am not a handbag user/ buyer normally but seems a lot for what you get

            if your wife is over the £1K mark, I suggest you have a high earner there and should cherish her to the best of your ability 🙂

          • Craig says:

            High value but not a high earner!

          • Cat says:

            Glad she liked the handbags Harry!
            Mt current favourite is my Guess bag, given to a good friend who just didn’t like it, so she passed it on to me, but the next favourite is a gorgeous sequined number I picked up in Jodhpur for about £1.50.
            I haven’t even managed to get the ring-phobic OH to let me refer him to Voldeportal yet!

          • Lady London says:

            I don’t mean to be rude Craig but at that price, she’d better be 🙂

          • Craig says:

            She’s worth every penny and more Lady L, she’s my holiday partner in crime who rolls her eyes when I talk about points but relishes every minute of the rewards that it brings.

      • Rob says:

        I’m actually in the office today, so I can manage a quick cut and paste 🙂

    • @mkcol says:

      Thanks, redeemed that now quite perfectly.

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