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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.

Stansted Airport

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.

Review Escape Lounge London Stansted Airport

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.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (May 2022)

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges 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. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a 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.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (58)

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

  • Paul says:

    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.

        • Anna says:

          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.

  • AlanG says:

    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.

      • Lumma says:

        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.

          • Anna says:

            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).

  • 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.

  • Andy S says:

    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

  • J says:

    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

    • Yuff says:

      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.

  • Aaron says:

    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

    • Rob says:

      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

        • Andy says:

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

        • marcw says:

          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.

        • John says:

          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

  • 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.

  • 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 ……

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