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Review: the Club Aspire lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5

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This is our review of the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

There has always been a big hole in our reviews of UK airport lounges.  We have covered some of the smallest, nichest lounges out there, but we have never properly covered the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.

The reason for this is simple – we don’t like it.  I was there when it first opened back in 2015 and was not won over.  Attempts to go back for a fresh look were always ruined by the long queue of Priority Pass holders waiting to get in – presumably blissfully unaware of what was to come.

Coronavirus has some upsides, however, and on Wednesday I found that I could walk straight in.  It was clear that I hadn’t been missing much.

Aspire Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 review

What is wrong with the Club Aspire Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5?

The bottom line is that the Club Aspire lounge is the wrong shape and far too small.  It should never have been built where it is, by Gate 18, in a mirror image of where Plaza Premium is at the other end of the terminal.

The Plaza Premium lounge feels bigger even though they are in identical positions.  It is possible that the entrance to Plaza Premium is further forward, which gives it more floor space to play with.  The truth is that I don’t think the issues at Club Aspire are fixable within the current footprint.

Review Club Aspire Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

Even during covid I couldn’t find a ‘good’ seat.  There were some empty tables in the dark corridor opposite the toilets as you go in, but you have no windows or natural light here.  There were bar stools around a table.  There were some bench seats.  Could I find a standard chair around a standard table? No.  They were all taken.

Most of the images here are stock photos because it was too crowded to take more, given how narrow the space is.

What you can’t tell from the photo below is that the lounge does not go back as far as the windows.  There is a huge gap filled with two escalators.

The bar, pictured above, is a nice feature. The picture below is typical of the seating available:

Aspire Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 review

The good news is that, at some points since 2015, the Bliss spa area has been removed.  The logic which made Aspire put a large spa into a very small lounge was never clear.

Review Club Aspire Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

For some reason, this area below is currently closed off.  It does give you a feel for how wide the lounge is – this is a real picture from last week:

Review Club Aspire Lounge Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

How is Club Aspire dealing with covid?

Very well.

The lounge has brought in an app ordering system similar to the one used by British Airways in the Galleries lounges at Heathrow.

You scan a QR code on your table to bring up a menu, select your order and it is brought to you.  The app is actually better looking than the British Airways version:

Review Club Aspire Lounge Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

The hot breakfast items included Sausage Barm, Veggie Sausage Barm, English Breakfast and Veggie Breakfast.  The Sausage Barm is below, along with the odd looking glass of orange juice which seemed to have discoloured on its path from carton to table:

Review Club Aspire Lounge Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

A barm is type of white bread roll, typically used for chip butties. You would not typically hear the word used outside North West England and I wouldn’t have put it on a London airport menu.

I’m also pretty sure that your average barm eater would not be satisfied to receive a roll containing just one sausage, sliced in half ….

Continental options included Forest Fruits with Greek Yoghurt and Granola, Croissants, Yeo Valley Yoghurt and Cereals with Milk.

Premium drinks are charged extra in Aspire lounges.  A class of Moet & Chandon champagne will cost you £8 whilst a bottle will set you back £40, which is the standard supermarket retail price.

Conclusion

Winning the contract to build a lounge in such a tight corner of Heathrow Terminal 5 – in a space which was never planned to house one – was always a bit of a poisoned chalice for Club Aspire.

The airport seemed to learn from its mistakes and gave Plaza Premium more space a few years later, even though both lounges have the same curved shape.  There appears to be space available to bring the Aspire lounge entrance forward by 10-15 feet and it would make a big difference if it did this, remodelling the entire space at the same time.

If you can’t access the British Airways lounges in Terminal 5, my strategy would be:

  • Club Aspire lounge, if you have a Priority Pass or DragonPass card, if there is no queue and you can’t access Plaza Premium
  • Eat and drink in the terminal restaurants, if Club Aspire has a queue and you can’t get into Plaza Premium – it really isn’t worth queuing for 15 minutes to get into the Club Aspire lounge

For cash, I struggle to justify paying for the Club Aspire lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 when Plaza Premium is so much better and also lets you pay for access.  You can book cash visits via the Aspire website here.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

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

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

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit 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.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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 (35)

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

  • ChrisW says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It has to be the worst lounge at LHR. Too small, awful, cramped layout.

  • IanM says:

    Well maybe but when I went last week it was much better than the Plaza Premium, which was…..SHUT!
    No lounge is good when it’s busy, I thought it was okay, pleasant service, good views, and very quiet when I was there.

  • Bobri says:

    Never understood the appeal, never made time to sit in a lounge on the outbound as London airport commute is probably the longest in Europe. If I was coming to the airport hungry, Pret has got better food than this lounge.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Agree but if you travel via car and don’t want to risk unpredictable M25 traffic meaning you’re late or rushing to check in then you tend to head off a few hours earlier than you need to.

      If you then arrive with hours to spare a lounge is much better than the general concourse.

  • william Portlock says:

    I dislike most generic lounges and if I didn’t have access to the BA First/Concorde lounge or the BA business lounge in area B (my favorite) at LHR I’d rather sit in Pret or the Fortum and Mason bar. Indecently how Am Ex thinks the use of these generic lounges are a benefit to warrant the £595 fee is beyond me.

    • Blair says:

      T5 LHR is not a useful case study to judge though. In lieu of lounges there’s plenty of decent options and let’s be blunt the passengers are a more discerning lot. Where the generic lounges are helpful are in say Manchester or Stansted, where one would face a wait seated amongst passengers of less discerning tastes and where the few options centre on a raucous bar.

    • Doug M says:

      Amex is a weird one, the lounges I’ve visited in the US always seem at capacity, which makes the fee seem very high, but they are pleasant. At T5 if I get bored with BA lounge I did find the Plaza Prem quite nice, never bothered with Aspire. If I want peace and quiet I just walk the tunnels, I find that great for decluttering head, other tactic is to go to extreme ends of terminal where typically fewer people and more sense of space. Biggest issue with T5 is inadequate AC, terrace of GF always feels uncomfortably warm. That is another reason I like walking the tunnels, always cool.

  • Memesweeper says:

    Plane Food was our choice in T5 last time we wouldn’t all get into a lounge — infinitely better than Aspire. Not ridiculous pricing, good grub, and a nice enough location.

  • Ian_H says:

    “A barm is type of white bread roll, typically used for chip butties. You would not typically hear the word used outside North West England and I wouldn’t have put it on a London airport menu.”

    Last time I was at MAN they were using “roll” in the Aspire lounges – the “Sausage Roll” caused a LOT of confusion when people thought they were getting a pastry filled with sausage meat.

    I’m sure that even airport lounges in London understand the word barm and I suspect its used Aspire wide to prevent misunderstandings.

    • Gavin says:

      Bap is the word which should have been used

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Perhaps the word Brioche is more to Rob’s liking

      There are bread rolls in the UK other than what you find in Waitrose 🙂 And you’ll find oven bottom muffins, baps, barms, stotties et al are perfectly suited to grilled pig products

      Anything is better than the tepid bacon rolls in Galleries, though. They were never cooked properly. You’d have to take two, rip the bacon apart to get the cooked bit, in order to have something that approached sustenance

      • numpty says:

        In Scotland you can buy burnt rolls, deliberately burnt, hate them. you want a nice soft ‘morning roll’.

        • Peggerz says:

          For burnt roll I assume you are referring to the very fine ‘well fired’ roll.
          Also a sausage on a roll , as opposed to a sausage roll, is universally known as a roll and sausage. Unless you are referring to the Lorne sausage where you would request a ‘square sausage roll’.
          It can be an epicurean minefield……

        • Jill ( Kinkell) says:

          …..or a butterie aka rowie. Aberdeenshire folk will know what I’m on about!
          However, a floury bap is best for the bacon butty (IMO)

      • Rhys says:

        Rob is from Sheffield!

      • Doug M says:

        I hate Brioche, and the trend to use it for burgers. Nothing worse than a nice burger being wrapped in near cake. Brioche NO.

        • Rob says:

          Pret used to do its sausage, bacon and bacon and egg rolls in brioche but ended up dumping the idea (too greasy I think) and went back to bread.

        • Bagoly says:

          I completely agree. Even some of the Burger Buns on sale now have so much sugar that I can taste it.

      • Andrew says:

        Nom. Black Pudding roll with runny egg. Then “butteries” or “Aberdeen Rolls” with jam to follow.

        Your taste buds will thank you, your arteries might not.

        • RussellH says:

          There is (was??) a bakery opposite the HIE in Aberdeen that did very good rowies. 2016 was probably the last time we were there. We bought the entire stock to bring home.

    • Pete says:

      I think even the most M25 centric folk must have some awareness that there are different words for bread products outside of the honeypot.

      • Sandgrounder says:

        Tesco used to sell barmcakes in London 25 years ago, it is most popular in the north west but not unheard of elsewhere.

  • Simon says:

    I like the clever use of 1 male model with multiple outfits. Really gives the impression they have a large area to get changed in.

    • kitten says:

      same female model too. Presumably since this is UK and not, say, Germany, this means there are 2 changing rooms

  • Mark says:

    We were in the Club Aspire lounge Saturday morning. No problem getting a table so obviously less busy when we were in. At least it was an option to use the Amex Gold included priority pass visits that would probably have otherwise gone unused, but £60 walk-up rate for six hours… they’re having a laugh!

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