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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.

Comments (58)

  • 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)!

  • QwertKnowsBest says:

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

  • John says:

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

  • Alex says:

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

  • Nathan says:

    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.

  • Peter says:

    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/