Review: the British Airways arrivals lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5
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This is our review of the landside British Airways arrivals lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.
It is part of our series of reviews of airport lounges across the UK. You can see all of the lounge reviews here.
It’s not often I use arrival lounges in London – more often than not, it’s easier just to head home and freshen up there, before working from home for the day. I imagine most people using arrivals lounges are either people visiting London or heading straight into meetings.
Occasionally, however, I do head straight to the HfP office in Bank after a long haul flight. I thought it would be worth updating our review of the British Airways arrivals lounge in their home terminal at Heathrow. The last time we reviewed the lounge was in 2016!
Who can use the British Airways Heathrow arrivals lounge?
Compared to BA’s other lounges at Heathrow, the arrivals lounge has a more restrictive entry policy. Fundamentally, you have to be flying in First or Club to qualify, or have top tier status. Here is the full eligibility criteria
- British Airways customers arriving in First
- British Airways customers arriving in Club World
- American Airlines customers arriving in First
- American Airlines customers arriving in business class
- British Airways Gold cardholders arriving on any long haul BA flight
- American Airlines Concierge Key cardholders arriving on a long haul AA flight
If you fall outside of these categories, you’re out of luck. Neither British Airways Silver members nor other oneworld flyers get access, and you won’t get access if you aren’t on a BA or AA flight, either. You can’t use the lounge if you’re on a short haul flight.
Guests are not permitted, unless you are BA Gold Guest List, in which case feedback is generally that you can take up to five guests, albeit as long as they travel on British Airways flights.
Given that American Airlines has consolidated at Heathrow T3 these access rules are largely academic, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see some flights back at T5 eventually.
Remember that the arrivals lounge is landside, past immigration and baggage reclaim. If you are connecting from a long haul flight onto a short haul connection, it is easier to use the airside Galleries and Galleries First lounges at Heathrow.
The lounge is open from 5am until 2pm daily. 2pm is not due to any post-pandemic staff shortages or similar – the lounge has always closed in the early afternoon.
Where is the British Airways arrivals lounge at Heathrow?
You need to exit the secure section of the airport to find the lounge. This means heading through immigration, baggage reclaim and customs and out of the ‘point of no return’ doors into the arrivals concourse.
Once you pass the throngs of Addison Lee drivers and welcoming families you need to look for the orange bank of lifts. The direction will depend which exit you used, but it is pretty much slap bang in the middle of the terminal:
Take the lift or escalators up one floor and you’ll see the lounge entrance:
Inside the British Airways arrivals lounge
Once you’ve scanned your boarding pass with the lounge attendants you have free roam of the space. Immediately as you enter is a dining area and kitchen. The buffet is pretty much empty, save for a few pastries and fruit, thanks to the new QR code lounge ordering system that BA has introduced.
The QR menu lets you order to your specific seat and is a big improvement in my opinion. That said, it isn’t quite as convenient if you’re in a rush as you have to wait for them to bring your food out.
You’ll also find the Concorde Dining Room here, which is for guests flying in First only, or anyone with a Concorde Room Card, one of the benefits of Gold Guest List.
To the right you’ll find a casual seating area, with various muted TV screens playing 24 hour news channels:
Underneath the TVs is a lot of glass shelving that, in a previous life, was probably fully stocked with magazines and papers. Unfortunately these appear to have become a casualty of covid because there were no physical papers to be found anywhere in the lounge, which I think is a real shame. You can of course read digitally via PressReader.
The only natural light the lounge gets is from the windows overlooking the arrivals hall on the right, so it isn’t the brightest space.
At the far end of this part of the lounge you’ll also find the showers (more on that below).
On the other side of the entrance you’ll find the Elemis Spa, although it is empty and unstaffed. I am guessing that, like the airside lounge spas, it will not reopen.
If you keep walking, you’ll also stumble into a small work area with bar seating and mains sockets at every seat:
Showers at the British Airways arrivals lounge
The one thing that the British Airways arrivals lounge does not have in short supply is showers, because there are 94 of them. This means you’ll never have to wait long, if at all.
All 94 showers are located in a screened off area euphemistically called the ‘Hydrotherapy Zone’. You need to check in with the attendant to be allocated a shower:
Showers are numbered and grouped into colour, so you’ll be assigned shower ‘Yellow 6’ or similar.
It’s a bit of a maze, because they have been organized into undulating corridors. There are a patchwork of interlocking corridors you can get lost in – the only things missing are the distorting mirrors!
The showers themselves appear to be self-contained pre-fabricated units. They’re pretty basic, with more of a youth hostel vibe than premium passenger experience thanks to the plastic lining and blue linoleum flooring:
They even come with those wall-affixed hairdryers:
And, not to be forgotten, the essential BA lounge facility – a sharps bin! I’m sure this comes in useful for some, but it does make me chuckle how religiously British Airways fit sharps bins in lounge toilets. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another lounge feature them.
Toiletries are by Elemis, and towels are of course provided.
The shower itself was fine – decent water pressure and temperature, although operation wasn’t totally intuitive, to the extent that BA had mounted an instruction manual on the wall. The shower featured a waterfall and handheld shower head, plus massage jets (!)
Unfortunately, the unit was starting to show its age and the waterproofing in the corner of the shower cubicle was starting to peel off, exposing the rather less waterproof materials underneath:
Food and drink in the British Airways arrivals lounge
One thing the lounge does get right is the food. Apart from a selection of pastries and biscuits, all food must be ordered via the QR ordering system.
British Airways has pretty much got all of the bases covered. You can choose from:
- full English
- veggie full English
- bacon roll
- sausage pattie roll
- kipper and scrambled egg
- American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup
Around lunchtime the menu changes to a selection of sandwiches and soup.
As I had eaten on the plane I only went for a bacon roll to tide me over until dinner. Impressively, this was freshly prepared for me and much improved on the bacon rolls you can find airside in the departure lounges, which can often be a bit dry and tough.
Like the other British Airways lounges at Heathrow, the arrivals lounge is in need of a refit.
The sheer quantity of showers is impressive – it might even have the most showers in a single facility at any airport, globally – but the condition of the showers was less so. They are cheaply made and showing their age, and the undulating corridors also seem unnecessarily maze-like.
It’s a shame the Elemis Spa has not reopened. BA will have to make a decision on whether to reopen this facility or convert it to something else.
That said, the food offering was good and appears to be made-to-order, and I’m a big fan of the QR ordering system. One advantage of having the lounge is that you can refuse breakfast on the plane in order to get some extra sleep, knowing you can eat as soon as you land.
If you want to find out more, there is a special page dedicated to the lounge on ba.com which you will find here.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (June 2023)
Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK 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.
You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta Air Lines and Eurostar lounges. Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £20. You get four 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.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes 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.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.