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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
How is Club Aspire dealing with covid?
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
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 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.