This is my review of the British Airways First Class lounge at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Next to this you’ll find a tiny little nook:
Plus the buffet and self-serve drinks counter:
Behind this is a small working area with a printer and desks with plug sockets:
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:
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.
Spirits include Johnny Walker Red, Black and Blue label, Aviation, Gordon’s and Tanqueray gin and Ciroc vodka.
When it comes to hot drinks, you’ll recognise the Union-branded self-service zone from Heathrow:
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:
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 ….
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 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.