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Review: the British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick’s South Terminal

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This is my review of the British Airways First Class lounge at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal.

This is part of our series of reviews of airport lounges across the UK.  You see all of the reviews here.

Five years after the lounge complex first opened, and two years after the entire South Terminal was closed due to the pandemic, British Airways is back at Gatwick South with a new short haul operation flying alongside its long haul leisure routes.

On my way to Mauritius earlier this month, I thought I’d take another look.

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal

Who can use the British Airways First lounge at Gatwick?

Despite being called the First lounge, British Airways doesn’t operate any flights with a First Class cabin from Gatwick. Instead, the BA First lounge at Gatwick is exclusively for British Airways Executive Club Gold cardholders and oneworld equivalents.

This means that any oneworld Emerald frequent flyers can also use the lounge, provided you are flying on a oneworld airline.

If you are BA Silver cardholder or a oneworld Sapphire member you can use the British Airways Club lounge next door, which we reviewed here.

The First lounge is open from 5am daily, with closing times between 8pm and 9:30pm depending on the flight schedule.

Getting to the British Airways First Class lounge at Gatwick

…. is a faff, and the airport tries to make it even harder.  When you come through security, there are escalators taking you down.  Do not go down the escalators.  It is a trick.

The escalators drop you in the duty free shop, through which you have to do a snake-like walk to reach the departure area. At this point you need to go back UP another escalator to get to the lounges.  Don’t do it.

Instead, to your left immediately before the down escalators after security, is a corridor. Take it.  You will realise that you were very close to the lounges all the time.  That’s two minutes of drinking time saved.

You come out next to Club Aspire and My Lounge. You need to walk across to the other side of the mezzanine floor where a tiny corridor in between two shops leads you to the No1 Lounge, No1 Clubrooms and the BA lounges.

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal entrance

Whilst the No1 facilities are on the same level as the mezzanine, BA passengers then need to head down another corridor, take a lift and then go down yet another corridor.  It is important that you leave the lounge in good time to get to your gate, which may take longer than it would in Terminal 5.

Inside the British Airways First Class lounge at Gatwick Airport

You check in for the BA lounges with the same staff. Turn left for the First lounge and right for Club:

BA lounge reception Gatwick

To be honest, I have never been hugely impressed by the look and feel of the lounge.

If a random stranger walked in by mistake they would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the Club lounge next door.

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal seating

The furnishings are identical to the Business lounge.  The First area is also relatively small and I suspect, at certain times, it will be more crowded than the Business lounge. The main zone is a square, dual aspect space with double or triple heigh ceilings which adds a bit of scale.

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal seating

Next to this you’ll find a tiny little nook:

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal

Plus the buffet and self-serve drinks counter:

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal

Behind this is a small working area with a printer and desks with plug sockets:

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal workzone

The Tracey Emin artwork which used to be here wasn’t visible – either I missed it or, more likely, it was sold off in BA’s lounge artwork sale during the pandemic.

On the other hand, you do get excellent views across the airport, including down the runway where you can watch aircraft take off and land:

British Airways First Class lounge at London Gatwick's South Terminal view

Food and drink at the BA First lounge at Gatwick

One of the reasons to come to the First lounge would be for a slightly higher quality of drink and a higher quality food menu. During my visit this included English Sparkling Hattingley Valley Blanc de Noirs, Lanson Extra Age Rose and Palmers & Co Brut Reserve champagne. A few months ago we spotted Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé which was a pleasant surprise.

BA First lounge Gatwick champagne

Spirits include Johnny Walker Red, Black and Blue label, Aviation, Gordon’s and Tanqueray gin and Ciroc vodka.

BA First lounge Gatwick spirits

When it comes to hot drinks, you’ll recognise the Union-branded self-service zone from Heathrow:

BA First lounge Gatwick coffee

British Airways has retained the QR-ordering for its First Class lounge. Apart from a few bar snacks and muffins it is the only way to order ‘proper’ food. This is, in my opinion, an upgrade.

Items include a barbacoa beef tortilla, ham hock salad and afternoon tea, with finger sandwiches and scones.

I had the tortilla and salad, which I enjoyed:

BA First lounge Gatwick food

Conclusion

British Airways did a good job back in 2017 with its new lounges at London Gatwick’s South Terminal.

Whilst it isn’t the easiest place to find, it is a lovely space and the designers have done a good job in creating different styles of seating to serve the varying needs of travellers.

The food and drink is on a par with Heathrow and, given that Gatwick tends to play second fiddle to Heathrow, this is as good as you could have expected. In fact, I find the Gatwick lounges to be much better than their Heathrow counterparts, with far more natural light, fewer guests and generally more pleasant spaces to be in.

British Airways could do something slightly more with the First lounge, especially as it shares the exact same furniture as the Club lounge next door. Although there are no flights with First departing from Gatwick it would be nice to differentiate the space slightly.

I am not sure how busy the First lounge gets. When I was there, in the late evening, BA only had a handful of departures left. It may be that it gets more crowded at peak times than the Club lounge next door due to its significantly smaller size. You may want to take a look and decide for yourself – I know that Rob doesn’t hold the lounge in particularly high regard and prefers a quiet corner of the Club side, albeit he pops into the First side for some champagne first!

If you have access to British Airways lounges, it is worth giving Gatwick another look if you are on a route served by both of the major London airports. You will be pleasantly surprised. If only there were plans to upgrade the old Club World seats on the Gatwick fleet to Club Suite ….


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (October 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

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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 Air Lines 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.

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 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 (50)

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

  • PlaneSpeaking says:

    We went through the F lounge yesterday. It was pretty empty but it was quite early – we arrived at 05:15 for one of the first flights of the day. We quite like the F lounge as we find the Club lounge a bit too big but if we have to use the Club lounge, we’ll hide on the Mezzanine as per Rob’s recommendation a long time go and which makes it very pleasant but I note from the comments that this appears to be closed now. We’ve never found the first lounge to be too busy, at least during the times we go and which tend to be just as breakfast stops/lunch starts. Mind you, there was a large family near the windows by the toilets letting their kids run riot – I hope they’d gone by the time you got there Matt! As I commented on FT, there was no Coke or Diet Coke. The staff are always lovely in the F lounge and I asked one of them if they had any as I’m rather partial to a splash or two in my JW Blue! They said they didn’t have any so I asked if they might consider buying some from downstairs. They said they’d speak with the manager who came over after a few minutes and apologised and just said “we don’t have any”. When I asked why not, he just said it’s due to Covid. I said that’s odd as I was in the same lounge last month and there were no Covid issues so I asked if he might consider buying some from downstairs given that this was a first class lounge. He just stared at me blankly whilst he computed it and then said no which wasn’t the best way to handle it. The QR codes are still there with good food and great service. There was even a small buffet too – some rather nice small and round cheese omelettes, some very flat burgers (more like a sausage taste than a burger but quite pleasant) and a few other bits and bobs but if you want the full English, that can be ordered via the QR apps can some very tasty kippers. We didn’t see any magazines – they’d normally be on the table by the entrance so I guess these are still enhanced but the crisps are back which we always enjoy. All in all and apart from zero Coke as opposed to Coke Zero, it was a pleasant way to spend 45 mins. We’ve never had an evening flight from Gatters so it will be interesting to experience the lounge when we go to Mauritius in a few weeks, both in terms of how busy it gets and the food as well (and hopefully, they’ll have stocked up on Coke by then too).

    • Matty says:

      I think a Gold Card Holder Lounge would be a more appropriate title for this lounge but it’s not quite as catchy. For a couple of quid, if that, then I’d expect a Coke or a Diet Coke to appear if it was a true first class lounge. It might be going above and beyond but it’s what you’re paying for.

    • Mayfair Mike says:

      If the coke was so important to you, why didn’t you walk downstairs yourself?
      I’m personally glad the manager took this approach. Staff resource is far better spent on keeping areas clean and serving the QR code orders for the benefit of many than going off doing personal shopping for needy, idle, middle managers.

      • PlaneSpeaking says:

        I don’t really see why you had to make such a personal and ill informed attack but there’s always one I suppose. This is a review of the F lounge at Gatwick South and as with all reviews and articles, people are invited to reply with their own observations which is exactly what I did. If it had been the champagne that had run out, would you have said we should have all walked downstairs and bought that too? It’s a first class lounge and it didn’t deliver, the excuse being Covid, and which wasn’t acceptable in my opinion.

    • Taylor Stephen says:

      Coke in JW Blue. You gotta be out of your mind. Absolute sacrilege.

  • Heinztein says:

    Hi Rhys. Out of interest, what has your strategy been for getting BA Gold and how much would you say you’ve spent on flights in order to get it?

    I ask as someone who travels monthly but can’t get close to hitting gold, even with leisure travel included.

    • Alan Vickers says:

      How I have obtained Gold (and almost retained Gold) is via the 25% reduction from 1500 to 1125 coupled with the double tier points offer for holidays 5 nights and above.

      Even an WTP return to the States will get you 180+180, a CW return trip to the same destination will be 280+280.

      Alan

    • Rhys says:

      Long story, but I don’t have Gold from my own travel, because I don’t actually fly BA all that much (lots of reviews of other airlines etc) so my Gold is gifted to me via a friend who is GGL

    • Greenpen says:

      I got there from the BMI take over and then with long haul through Doha with Qatar, couple of trips to NZ fell into the same collection year. However, it comes and goes a bit and I can’t retain it year after year. When I flew for work I kept *A Gold fairly easily.

      As I pay for all my own flights now I tend to look at price which means I spread travel over all three alliances. It remain unclear as to what I can do with Aeroflot miles which is sadly where I chose to deposit Sky Team miles!

  • Jamie says:

    The First Lounge been either closed or closing last few times I’ve been through.

    “Not enough people”.

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