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British Airways has permanently closed its Elemis lounge spas

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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:

British Airways closing Elemis lounge spa

“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 to close Elemis lounge spa

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 …..


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Comments (62)

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

  • Andrew says:

    Appointments were much easier to come by in T5 Arrivals (which weren’t pre-bookable) and were always a welcome additional to my post-flight experience after a shower and a champagne breakfast in the CCR. So the service will he missed, but certainly an unsurprising move. Retaining the spas for paid treatments for business and Gold but free for First would have seemed a good compromise.

    • Doug M says:

      But if after F customers booked there was no meaningful availability then free or paid wouldn’t have mattered.

      • Secret Squirrel says:

        But when a service includes a payable charge then it suddenly becomes available…

      • blenz101 says:

        It would have been possible to increase the number of therapists to provide the addtional paid capacity though. Certainly at T5 there always seemed to be plenty of treatment rooms but very little activity actually taking place.

        After the treatment I ways seem to recall being left in the massage chair for an extended period. I wonder at least if the chairs will be retained, should be possible for any of the lounge/shower reception staff to be trained to operate these.

  • Andrew says:

    I would imagine that Al Baker isn’t a fan of spas so will endorse this change – Qatar Airways don’t have a spa in their Al Mourjan business lounge in Doha and the spa in the Al Safwa First lounge only offers paid treatments.

  • Doc says:

    Wouldn’t miss them too much since we only managed to get appointments twice in the last 10 years and the experience was very underwhelming. Last time flying First as Gold, only my wife could get an appointment and this was me trying to book almost 4 months in advance. The Etihad spa and massage service, both in LHR and in AUH lounges were much better when they existed.

  • Anna says:

    I would have thought there would be high demand for paid services – it’s often tricky to try and squeeze in a mani/pedi/facial prior to a holiday (along with all the other preparations) so it would be very convenient to know that you could have this while waiting in the lounge.

    • 1ATL says:

      Surely that’s why we all go on holiday anyway? To lol about in a lovely spa after a day by the pool or out and about… not in a room at an airport where we’re all in travel mode and got places to be?

      • Lady London says:

        Rob is right. Even cheapos like me would have been happy t pay for manicure, pedicure, facial at the airport.

        Haircuts/men’s barber services (paid) would also go well. For women more a treatment or blow dry as we tend to be loyal to our hairdressers.

        I used to plan lot of my shopping for the airport as it was one of the rare times I had time, getting quite good at keeping in touch with the various shops to pre-order or ask if they could get hold of something to be bought duty-free. Often there wasn’t much saving on the price but saved lots of time.

        Spa would be the same. I’d want some kind of concession on the price as the spa is unlikely to be my preferred one. But very happy to choose from a menu and pay. The Virgin Club Lounge got that paid menu system rightI think.

        At least BA didn’t try to say it was Covid that made them shut it.

        • Blenz101 says:

          Odd they didn’t put it down to Covid. Would have been understandable that offering a spa service aimed primarily at connecting international travellers could be a vector for Covid for the foreseeable future. More plausible than what they did to the food.

          Hopefully they do have a plan for the space. Even if only to use the space to upgrade all the toilets and showers.

  • Maggie Bris says:

    As I have never been able to get an appointment I won’t miss it. I would try to use a paid service but not sure such a scheme would make it easier to get an appointment.

  • E says:

    Here’s my cynical idea for a cheap use of space with low ongoing overheads which is nontheless highly marketable and on trend: ‘a flexible and relaxing self-guided yoga and meditation space for our first and club world passengers, where guided sessions and meditations can be downloaded for free to smart phones from our partners at headspace’

  • Adam says:

    We were lucky and I’d say when travelling together with my wife we got appointments at least 75% of the time. I rarely bothered when travelling alone on business except in the arrivals lounge after coming of an early landing longhaul.
    My wife thinks the lounges are a loss though…she enjoyed them and it was part of the treat of travelling in club or first for her. Means I’ll have a harder time justifying the premium cabins going forward!

  • Matthew says:

    Only ever used so treatments from Etihad and Thai and both have scarred me for life. I was having a back massage in the Etihad lounge in LHR once, sat in the chair feeling relaxed then all of a sudden the lady jammed her elbows in my back….the shock of it caused me to accidentally trump. Never been so embarrassed….! I just wanted the chair to swallow me up. The second was when I was flying Thai First and was offered a full body massage. I changed my mind at late notice when I was handed some paper underpants and asked to change! Opted for a foot massage instead…fully clothed!

    • Harry T says:

      Enjoyed the first story 😂. It’s quite normal to be given some disposable underwear for a proper massage, without a happy ending lol

    • Louie says:

      You missed a treat not having the Thai First massage. My hubby still raves about it ten years later and he’s had plenty of massages over the years.

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