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. Great review. It’s a shame stansted doesn’t have a better lounge offering. I’ve heard the Escape lounge being likened to a transport cafe and I wouldn’t say that’s far off the mark! We were quite happy with the dinner selections though as there were, if I remember correctly, four different pasta dishes to choose from, along with soup and nibbles.

  2. The Original David says:

    Were you still there at 10am when “Salmon XI” turned up to claim their spot? Sounds fishy…

    • Lady London says:

      For any reservation they seem to block off the few decent tables completely literally 3 hours ahead. Then the people are late….and they still keep the table it seems 1-1 and a half hours? after the reservation time.

  3. Worth noting that if you are visiting by virtue of your higher class of air ticket (Business, Flex Plus etc) you don’t need to walk through Duty Free. You simply take a left at WH Smith and use the Fast Track entry door and you are directly outside the lounge.

  4. I was there about an hour before you and while I agree it’s nothing special, as the terminal area can get very busy it’s a nice place to sit and have a coffee. If I was travelling with family, I’d rather go for breakfast at Giraffe.

  5. Matthew C says:

    Does BA use this lounge for its BIZ passengers or the No.1 Lounge?

  6. Was there last in November at lunchtime.
    Managed to get in via Priority Pass.
    Basic but tasty food options.
    No sight of those usb charging holders

    Lounge is now limiting alcohol to 2drinks per person (saw a sign at the bar mentioning this, not 100%sure if enforced)

  7. That’s clearly the time to visit it, Rob! I went mid afternoon and had to queue for about 10 min to get in, was absolutely rammed inside. Food offering was OK but nothing special.

  8. Worst of all, mobile phone reception is quite poor in this lounge IME.

    • Lady London says:

      0 actually. The only bit of 1-bar coverage is about 4ftx2ft in front of the left hand side of the far lounge windows (that is now blocked off for Emirates according to Rob).

      Tbh even at usd10 Pret is better value. Although of course as it’s Stansted and MAG can’t be bothered to make decent provision for anyone, it’s persistently the most rammed Pret I’ve ever seen in my life.

      Stansted Airport and the Escape lounge are low, low quality and in do many ways a miserable experience.

      The only bright spot is the staff in the Escape lounge who do a wonderful job with a poor offering. Skilled also – they are very expert at handling stag groups that only want to get drunk at ungodly hours if the morning.

  9. Been there three times this year and told twice it was full.

    They block a large section off for Emirates when they have a flight scheduled who reduces capacity massively.

    Stansted desperately needs another lounge.

    • Lady London says:

      MAG is missing a trick not adding 2 higher quality lounge options. It wouldn’t cannibalise the Escape lounge much and could raise the airport’s reputation. MAG would make more money overall.

      I can hardly imagine what Manchester Airport passengers must go through at MAG’s home airport MAN.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        Read the article and you will see mention of the excellent premium offerings at MAN and a new terminal opens this year so things are on the up. It is significantly better than Stansted from a lounge perspective.

        • Only if you can get in! I’ve been granted access to the Escape Lounge in T3 once in 4 years – still it’s a good excuse to trot out when I’m cancelling my gold Amex 😂. If OH and I were having a couples trip away I might consider the PremiAir offering if it was on special offer at the time.

      • peter king says:

        We go to 1903 or premiair 🙂

    • Lady London says:

      When I’ve been in there early people were getting turned away around 4.45am or not much later.

  10. I have flown Emirates from there about a dozen times and I now actively just avoid this place, it’s dire at time with cold food and little or no bar service where you beg for a drink.

    Less hassle to goto Weatherspoon’s above it !

    So much for EK having their own lounge. I was shown the space 14 months ago and nothing has changed

    • Lady London says:

      Weatherspoon’s has the highly visible flight announcement screens that are visible from your table. Helps a lot when a gate is finally announced when MAG thinks they’ve kept you penned in the sh1tty beyond-overcrowded main shopping arena to have spent your money – then you finally see which gate.

      Important as Stansted is dominated by Ryanair which means everyone then rushes like a pack of wolves to the gate. Gates go from stone cold empty to rammed in 5mins or less as people don’t want to be No. 71 in Ryanair’s queue and have their hand luggage taken off them and checked.

      If you have any mobility problems but short of declaring yourself disabled, or if you’re not prepared to use your elbows defensively if not offensively then avoid Stansted.

      • Most annoying thing about them not showing the gates until the last moments is that the bars in the gate areas are actually nice calm quiet places compared to the rest of the airport, but that’s probably because you’ve just got time to neck one point before you need to queue up.

        Make sure you never board the shuttle train by accident. It’s a nightmare trying to get back to the main terminal when you’ve sleepily misread Barcelona as Bratislava!

        • Lady London says:

          Haha. Been there done that. MAG is so desperate to keep you shopping they don’t post which gate number until anyone that’s not race-fit or has anyone elderly or slow with them, is in real danger of not having enough time to get to a C gate before they will be denied boarding.

          The end of the queue that has passed through the gate may be less than 10 feet away – literally – and the plane may not even be there as they make everyone stand in the tunnel or on the stairs for ages – but Ryanair’s contracted staff will deny you boarding if you’ve not been able to run a mile in 15 mins or so.

          G*d help you if you accidentally head to B gates rather than C gates or vice versa as you say. Even old US airports aren’t as bad as Stansted in this kind of thing.

          • I was at MIA years ago when they changed the actual terminal our flight was departing from, announcing it during our 2 hour wait to get through security (this was around 2002 at the depths of US airport direness). Then they told us to run really, really fast if we wanted to make our flight (we did, with seconds to spare).

  11. memesweeper says:

    You’re being too kind about the breakfast being similar to the Hampton. No eggs for instance, I don’t recall anything cooked other than bacon rolls. It’s abysmal. I’ve visited twice with PP and LoungeKey before, and frankly I won’t even give them the benefit of that business in future (even though the cost to me is zero). Good magazines or not this place deserves to be deserted until it is improved. You’ll find me in Giraffe or Pret.

    • Lady London says:

      There is quite a well rated HIX not too far from STN that I’ve always had in mind to try if travelling to STN by car. According to the ratings it’s infinitely better than either the Radisson or the Hampton and reasonably priced.

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