British Airways has confirmed that it will not be re-opening the Elemis spas in its airport lounges.
The spas have been closed for the last year but there was no sign that the airline would be removing them completely.
British Airways said in a statement:
“We’re proud to work with Elemis, a brand our customers love, and we continue to provide their products on board our flights. Our Elemis lounge travel spas have remained closed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and we have decided that they will not be reopening. Over the coming months we will be reviewing new propositions to support our customers’ health and wellbeing pre-flight.”
Elemis has had the contract to operate the lounge spas since 2007, when it took over from Molton Brown.
Where were the Elemis spas and who could use them?
Elemis spas were found at London Heathrow and New York JFK airports in the following locations:
- Terminal 5A South lounge
- Terminal 5B lounge
- Terminal 5 arrivals lounge
- Terminal 3 departure lounge
New York JFK:
- Terminal 7 lounge
If you were flying on a First or business class ticket, you were entitled to a free 15 minute treatment. They were also available for Executive Club Gold members who were flying long haul.
At Heathrow Terminal 3 and JFK Terminal 7, the complimentary treatments were only for travellers on British Airways operated flights and not oneworld partners.
Is this really a great loss?
I am in two minds about this.
Let’s be clear. It was virtually impossible to get a treatment slot if you were flying in Club World or in the lounge as an Executive Club Gold member. Anyone travelling in First could pre-book, which left very few slots remaining. Unless you were facing a 4-5 hour lounge layover and put your name down on arrival you were unlikely to get in.
The treatments were also – as they were 15 minute slots – rather perfunctory.
The situation is so bad that I have thought numerous times over the years that BA could have been pulled up for false advertising. It liked to promote the spas as part of the Club World experience, but the percentage of Club World travellers on any particular day who could get a slot must have been low single digits.
That said …. it did add a halo to the British Airways lounge operation. BA has a very simple lounge strategy – it spends a lot of money on building them, and then tries to run them on the skimpiest of budgets. The state of the showers in Terminal 5 has been a hot topic for many years. The cost of running the operation would have been relatively modest – no more than the cost of running a typical small town hairdresser.
British Airways is simply following the trend by closing spas
When I were a lad …. flying Virgin Atlantic down to South Africa whilst working on toll road financings, it still had the in-flight massage service. A qualified masseur was part of the cabin crew and you could make an appointment for a massage during the flight.
Even when that service ended, Virgin Atlantic retained a decent selection of free and paid-for treatments in its lounges. The spa still exists at Heathrow Terminal 3 but virtually nothing is free these days. The closure of the spa in Virgin’s Heathrow arrivals lounge was announced in August 2019.
Etihad also turned the free Six Senses spa in Heathrow Terminal 4 into a paid facility, before deciding to close it entirely.
Are paid-for lounge spas the best way forward?
And yet …. are paid-for spa services really a bad idea? When we flew on Etihad 18 months ago, my wife paid for two treatments in the Abu Dhabi business class lounge. As she saw it, the benefit was the convenience. She was hugely busy and appreciated the ability to make the most of a couple of hours of lounge downtime. The fact that she had to pay was totally immaterial to her.
On the two occasions that I have had haircuts in the Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow, it is something that I would have been happy to pay for. It was more convenient than having to make time for it during the work day.
If BA had decided to turn it into a paid facility, but increased the range and quality of treatments and allowed proper pre-booking, it could have turned it into a selling point. Arguably it would be better than the current situation where people – especially first-time Club World flyers – turned up in the lounge expecting a treatment and were disappointed to be turned away.
I wonder what Akbar Al-Baker, the Qatar Airways CEO, has to say. Last week he declared that British Airways – in which his business is a 25% shareholder – was a ‘2 out of 10 airline’. However, he declared that he had confidence in the new BA CEO Sean Doyle:
“He’s a very good leader. He has my confidence … British Airways will come back to its old glory.”
OK Akbar …..