In a surprising move, the Club Aspire lounge in the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport has closed for good.
For a lounge that only opened in 2018 following an expensive refurbishment, and in a terminal that should be close to its pre-covid capacity next Summer, this is unexpected.
There is a reason, of course.
Club Aspire lounges – as opposed to standard Aspire lounges – are owned by a joint venture between Swissport and Priority Pass-owner Collinson.
The same two partners recently acquired No1 Lounges, which includes the flagship site in Gatwick North. In fact, it came with three sites in Gatwick North – No1 Lounge, Clubrooms (still closed) and My Lounge (still closed).
You can see how four lounges could be seen as overkill and Club Aspire had a poor geographic position. It occupied the bottom level of the Gatwick lounge pavilion. This is unfortunate, as it means it was two floors below concourse level and had no views from the main area. There were windows but they were frosted.
Is four lounges really too many for Priority Pass though? Especially as, at present, only two – now one – are open. As any regular Gatwick North traveller will tell you, it is difficult to get in anywhere with a Priority Pass card – British Airways has block booked a lot of capacity across the independent lounges in Gatwick North for a start.
Without stating the obvious, it seems odd for Priority Pass to devalue the perceived value of their product by closing a lounge that their parent company part-owns.
Plaza Premium’s takeover of the Virgin Atlantic lounge may have played a role
As we exclusively revealed, Plaza Premium has re-opened the old Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse as an independent lounge.
Plaza Premium is not part of Priority Pass, so this lounge will not be siphoning off that business from Club Aspire. However:
- the ex-Virgin Atlantic lounge is ideal for premium airline passengers, and I would expect British Airways and the other legacy carriers operating from Gatwick to move here
- it is accessible by American Express Platinum cardholders (who get a Priority Pass by default) and DragonPass cardholders, so it will take some traffic from No1 and Club Aspire
It will be interesting to see what happens to the Club Aspire space
Are there any airlines operating from Gatwick North – and planning to remain there when Gatwick South re-opens – who would want their own lounge?
Are there any independent lounge operators willing to take it on? I suspect that Priority Pass would refuse to deal with them, preferring to send traffic to lounges that its parent partly owns, so it would need to survive on airline contracts and/or DragonPass. Would any other financial institution be willing to take it on and create a branded lounge?
Across the UK there are now a number of abandoned airport lounges. This includes the old BA spaces at Newcastle and Manchester, the No1 / Clubrooms lounges at Edinburgh and Luton and this Aspire space. I am sure that more lounges which we expect to re-open will not do so.
There is an opportunity here, if someone is willing to seize it ….
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (November 2021)
As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge 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.
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.