Review: The Escape Lounge at London Stansted Airport

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This is our review of the Escape lounge at London Stansted Airport.

You can see the long, long list of Head for Points UK airport lounge reviews here.

The official website for the lounge, where you can book visits for cash, is here.

We last looked at this lounge three years ago, when Anika popped in.  I had never been myself so I thought it was worth another look.  Very little seems to have changed, looking back at her review.

The ‘Escape’ brand is owned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), owner of Stansted.  You will also find three ‘Escape’ branded lounges at Manchester, one at East Midlands Airport and at some American airports.

I have a love / hate relationship with MAG and its lounges.  The ‘1903’ uber-premium lounge in Manchester (review here) is very good.  PremiAir, the new private lounge and terminal, is outstanding (and we gave it an award to prove it) and apparently may be rolled out at East Midlands and Stansted too.  Unfortunately the ‘Escape’ lounges are nothing to get excited about.

Frustratingly, MAG limits third party lounge operators.  There are none at Stansted or East Midlands.  Manchester only has a couple of Aspire sites, with No 1 Lounges and Plaza Premium not present.

Where is the Escape lounge at Stansted?

The Escape lounge is located at the far end of the airport when coming from security, halfway to the gates.  You do NOT get on the shuttle train, and if your gate requires the train you should factor that into your plans.

You have to walk through the l-o-n-g Duty Free arcade until finally reaching your destination, next to Pret A Manger.  The lounge itself is downstairs, which minimises the light:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

I had no problem getting in at 7.30am using my Priority Pass card.  It is not possible to reserve a place in advance if you will be using a lounge club card.

You can book in advance if you pay cash – if you do, the staff pop a ‘reserved’ sign on a seat for you:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

Starting at the far end, you have a reserved area which is only used for the two daily Emirates flights – it looks pretty dull, frankly – and contains a rack of magazines in Arabic:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

The main lounge area is brighter, with lots of green:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

and

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

The ceiling is quite low and dark.  This adds to the odd sense of being squeezed in.  There are windows overlooking the tarmac but these are mainly at the Emirates end.

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

I should give a shout out to the media shelf:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

Any regular British Airways passengers will be spitting out their coffee in shock at this point.  Yes, you have the Times, FT, Telegraph (and Mail), with magazines including Brummel (a City lifestyle title) and The Art Newspaper.  If Escape could scrounge a few magazines from Conde Nast to add to the selection it would be perfect.

Breakfast in Stansted’s Escape lounge

I was there over breakfast.  The buffet, amusingly, was almost a carbon copy of what I had just left behind at the Hampton by Hilton Stansted hotel next door (review), albeit with less choice:

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

and

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

and

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

Two years ago Anika said that the lounge had additional ‘paid for’ food options in the evening.  There did not appear to be any ‘paid for’ breakfast extras.  The bar also charges for champagne and premium spirits although everything else is free.

Another thing missing which was there three years ago were the combined ‘menu holders and USB charging units’ on each table.  I’m not sure if they come out after breakfast or if they have been removed.

Conclusion

The Escape lounge at London Stansted was pretty much as I expected.  I will give it brownie points for not being too busy and letting me in via a Priority Pass at peak hours, as well as for the newspaper selection, but then I wasn’t expecting it to be in a semi-basement with a low ceiling.

Manchester Airports Group can, and should, do better.  I don’t understand why we haven’t seen a premium ‘1903’ lounge at Stansted yet.  If No 1 Lounges, Aspire or Plaza Premium were allowed in (No 1 used to be here, years ago) it would give Escape a reason to improve.

If you can get in via a Priority Pass then you should come in.  If you are wondering whether to use your two Amex Gold Lounge Club passes here, I would be tempted to save them for somewhere else and sit in the Pret at the top of the steps.

Access is available via Priority Pass (free with American Express Platinum, or buy one here), Lounge Club (two free passes when you get a free Amex Gold) and the other major lounge schemes.

You can pre-book a cash visit to Stansted’s Escape lounge via the airport website here.

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

Getting airport lounge access via a UK credit card

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

Two free Priority Pass cards (one for you, one for your supplementary Platinum cardholder, each admitting two – so a family of four gets in free) giving access to every lounge 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

You get a Lounge Club card loaded with two free visits to any Lounge Club network lounge – see the list here.  The list is slightly shorter than the Priority Pass list, but not by much.  Additional visits are charged at £20 per person.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  No annual fee in Year 1.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

You get a free LoungeKey card allowing you access to any property in the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although regular travellers will find it cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card (adults only, of course).  The card has an annual 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.

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Comments

  1. Escape lounge isn’t worth the visit. We’ve flown Jet2 4 times in the last couple of years, you can see which pier they go from, from the terminal. Due to the volume of Ryannair flights and the shed like feel of their departure lounge it’s not so easy. Get yourself what you need from Pret head over to Jet2 pier, lovely and tranquil away from the mayhem that is Stansted. Fantastic runway view at the end for AV geeks

  2. The last time I flew from Stansted (mid-september last year), I arrived over 2 hours before the flight and almost missed it – 40 minutes checking in a bag and almost an hour in security. I haven’t dared risk it since, despite being my nearest airport. Was I just unlucky that day, or is this a not unusual experience?

    • Lady London says:

      Not at all unusual.

      Security often huge queues at 4.30am for all the flights Ryanair bunches at 07.00am. funnily enough queues can be light for awhile after that.

      This is an airport where hitting security straight after you arrive due to not having any luggage requiring checking is a really useful strategy.

      • Shoestring says:

        for a while Bristol Airport was advising all passengers to arrive 3 hrs before flight – and the queues really were horrendous at times – OK now and it’s back to a 2 hr recommendation

      • Hotel-User says:

        Just out of interest, what is the “earliest” you can get through security in the morning for a 7am flight ? I know that the airport is now not 24/7 open …. and that MAG have stopped pax “sleeping” in departures ( transport is a problem for early flights ).
        Don’t like our use airport, regularly, but some routes only seem to fly at silly O clock on FR

    • I arrived at the airport at 11.51am today and was in the lounge by 12.25pm and the queues were horrendous.
      Worst the queues have been for the last 1/2 dozen trips.

  3. Re: the reason there is not yet a nicer lounge at STN like 1903…partly it’s finding the space. There really isn’t any. You should likely see one after the planned terminal redevelopments (….if indeed they actually happen :-). And if they ever get more long-haul / US flights then that would also help support the case.

    Re: why MAG don’t allow many third party lounge operators…it’s because they like to do things themselves. They don’t want the competition. All part of their little rubbish pseudo airport and “airport services” delusional empire

    • You can always find the space. Escape is on the lower level. Weatherspoons is on the mezzanine (which never used to be there).

    • memesweeper says:

      STNs plan is a whole new terminal. Unfortunately for them the local council has said ‘no’ and the National government does not think it is strategical significant piece of infrastructure… so it may not go ahead. I’d not expect any improvements until this is decided which will doubtless take years.

      • Shoestring says:

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-48804549 – here’s the story

        fair enough I guess – I was a very young ‘No Wing Airport’ protester (7 back in 1970) – it was chosen as the 3rd ‘London’ Airport – and the views of local people must matter, even if they are NIMBYs and can’t see the big picture as regards the economy etc

        which is why Boris Island was actually an excellent idea, nobody much would have suffered noise & other pollution

        • “Wings off Wing” – I was there too, and a couple of years younger than you!

        • The problem is “who funds that pharaonic infrastrutcture”. Taxpayers money? Private money? Airlines?…

          • Shoestring says:

            there’s a pretty good case for airports/ airlines to be subsidised as they enable the economy to function smoothly

      • Lady London says:

        Surprised government is not overruling the local council’s refusal. I suppose the 2 cows and a sheep near the airport would be disturbed.

        Lived years in West London seeing councils get overruled on resisting Heathrow expansion.
        Despite massive petitions by residents who can t sleep and can’t hear themselves think in their own gardens. Seen at least 3 rounds of Heathrow expansion now since Terminal 4 was proposed. Residents are sick of getting woken by the 6 noisy third-world-standard polluting aircraft that are allowed to land in curfew hours because those aircraft are always late… lumbering in noisily every d*** night over my place in Kew…. I find it curious that Stansted’s local council and it’s massive population of cows and sheep has been allowed to resist the airport expanding.

        My memories go back to when STN was still a huge empty ex-military airport. I had a job as a ground courier meeting passengers from some few charter flights that used the airport then escorting them back to London on a coach pre-M25 and pre-M11. So it took hours. I always thought it would make a great commercial mainstream airport and it has. It’s just outgrown its facilities for passengers now.

        Allowing it to expand would relieve the pressure, allow the enormous airfield itself to be used better and provide a valuable service and more jobs. Who knows though, perhaps it will need to be commandeered back one day by the government. Maybe they know something we dont if they are not allowing it to expand.

        • Shoestring says:

          the 1600 people from Stop Stansted Expansion protest group say: ‘Up Yours!’ 🙂

          • Shoestring says:

            I remember the first time in my life I couldn’t sleep due to noise, it was when I was about 20 and went to live in Firenze/ Florence for a year to learn Italian – my first flat was horrendous as regards noise: single glazing and on a busy street. It drove me crazy, I had to resort to wine to dull my senses and moved out after just the first month.

          • Lady London says:

            1600 people protested plus 2 cows and the sheep? The government has ignored petitions of Hundreds of Thousands 000,000’s of residents in West London against each of the last 3 major expansions of Heathrow.

          • Shoestring says:

            and in Bristol pretty much everybody is supporting the airport expansion plans (doubling) as they recognise it’s great for the local economy

            airport is nicely placed, mind you – a few villages to annoy with noise but nothing much else

          • Lady London says:

            I wouldn’t mind moving to Bristol area – there is massive business growth in counties it serves. Sounds like local people have got sense about expanding their airport too. Rush hour traffic jams around Bristol now seem worse even than London though. Much less problem around STN. Except when idiots driving too fast in the Cambridgeshire fog cause pile-ups on the M11 when STN becomes impossible to reach by road.

        • I moved to Kew recently. Heathrow paid me half the cost of some new windows and can’t hear planes at all. Actually I got the new windows to block out noise from the train line behind my house

  4. Paul Higham says:

    I used this lounge every week for a year in the early afternoon with Priority Pass. Denied access a couple of times due to crowding, but only for 10 minutes or so. It’s…ok but if I paid for it, I might feel a bit short changed. Went downhill went they stopped serving cheese bakes… :). All being well will be trying it as an EK passenger later in the year.

  5. Hotel-User says:

    Was almost totally deserted at 4:20am last week.
    Breakfast had a few hot options, inc Sausage, beans and overcooked bacon. Juices were nice and not made with water. Shame there is a carbonated drink dispenser for sugar free drinks.
    Pastries were good and fresh. Did not see the USB charges.
    Bar was open and saw a few pints being served !! No signs of a limit …. Glad I was not on that flight.
    Staff friendly and welcoming. Loos outside unless disabled or ask niceley …..
    Worth the cost ( freeish with AMEX ) better than some of the lounges visited in APAC
    They will let you fill water bottles up as well for the flight.
    Only once had a long wait ( 20 mins ) in an afternoon when an Emirates flight was due… but que was managed according to your likely flight time. Looked like they had taken over 1/3 of the capacity ( and no one was using it from Emirates ….. )
    Agree that security is the first thing you should do at Stansted. Worth getting there early just to avoid the panic that the que for security has taken about an hour and the person in front has no bag for the 2l of liquid shampoo ……

  6. Colin JE says:

    Totally agree about the security queues. The first time I was there I nearly missed my flight and have since chickened out and bought Fast Track ever since. Perhaps the queues are MAG deliberately creating demand…
    I quite like the lounge, and the buffet food offering is easily on a par with other operators, though the Lounge closes quite early. I remember having to move to the Weatherspoons next to Pret for another hour when my flight was delayed.
    Having said that, if I lived nearby and had to use STN more often I’d be lobbying for No1 to raise the bar (no pun intended)!

  7. QwertKnowsBest says:

    Sadly Stansted has gone the way of MAN, I wonder why, oh they are both operated by MAG!

  8. It must be that fish finger sandwich on cheap white bread which makes MAN lounge “uber—premium” 😉

  9. I often skip it despite having access. They also stopped serving bottled water, their prosecco is some of the worse I have ever tasted.

  10. Standstill is (now) a hole. No two ways about it. If there is any way that the flying experience can be tweeked to p*ss you off, the staff there find it. The only airport I actively avoid.

  11. I fly from Stansted probably around once a month, and I actually prefer it over Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton.
    Especially when arriving into Heathrow it’s so annoying when you have to wait in a holding pattern, that hardly ever happens at Stansted.
    I never really had to wait in the security queue for longer than 10 minutes – no difference to Heathrow – but then I never take any 6am flights and prefer afternoon/evening flights. I also never check in any hold luggage, and can go away with a backpack for a 1 week trip without any issues.
    The old No1 lounge at gate 49 was really good, it’s really strange how there is no trace of it left – it’s just a seating area now, so there is definitely space to bring it back. Don’t really like the Escape lounge, very limited food and drink offer, plus it’s usually super busy in the evenings. The Aspire at Luton and most lounges at Heathrow/Gatwick are much better.
    I flew to Turkey out with Ryanair with a small bag only, back with BA in Club – I got this IKEA bag and checked it in with all my shopping on the way back :p
    https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/frakta-trunk-for-trolley-blue-90149148/

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