Something is stirring on the first floor (two levels below the concourse) of Gatwick North’s lounge pavilion – and it isn’t clear what.
To be more precise, what’s happening is clear but who is behind it and how it will work isn’t.
But let’s step back.
Back in October 2021, the Club Aspire lounge in the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport closed for good – click for our story.
For a lounge that only opened in 2018 following an expensive refurbishment, and in a terminal that was always likely to get back to its pre-covid capacity pretty quickly due to its focus on leisure travel, this was unexpected.
There was 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 had 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 and My Lounge (now the easyJet ‘The Gateway’ lounge, reviewed here).
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 was unfortunate, as it meant it was two floors below concourse level and had poor views.
The decision was taken to close the Club Aspire lounge. In Summer 2022, it became the pop-up O2 Roam Freely Lounge. Anyone with an O2 mobile phone could enter for free, which was a pretty good deal – especially as the lounge facilities were decent. The pop-up closed on 9th October.
Enter ‘Flight Lounge’
The Club Aspire space, which we thought may end up being taken over by Global Airlines, has a new owner.
As you can see from the signage in the top photograph, it is a pay-to-use lounge called ‘Flight Lounge’.
So far, so normal – except that it isn’t actually open. Here’s the entrance which anyone who used the O2 or Club Aspire lounge may recognise:
The furnishings look a bit …. uninspired, but of course it may not be finished yet:
Things get a bit weirder when you start digging into Flight Lounge Group, the operators.
Take a look at their website here.
To say this is not the most professional website I’ve ever seen is putting it mildly. All of the links in the menu bar, and at the bottom of the page, even ‘Booking’, are broken.
It talks about opening on 1st July, but the booking widget says 27th July. And it’s now 7th August ….
Who is behind Flight Lounge?
Opening an airport lounge is a massive undertaking. As well as dealing with a multitude of airport restrictions, you need to staff the space for up to 18 hour per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. You need a bit of corporate muscle behind you to make it work.
I pulled up Flight Lounge Group Ltd at Companies House. It was incorporated last October. The three directors appear to be a parent (age 74) and one child and their spouse – Jonathan and Kayleigh Boot-Handford, both 38. Jonathan is the sole shareholder.
I can’t find any record of Jonathan or the company on LinkedIn. This is unusual because, given the size of my direct LinkedIn base, most people in the UK business travel industry are second or third level connections to me even if I don’t know them.
What we seem to have is a family which has decided to get into the airport lounge business, taking advantage of the money that Club Aspire spent on the initial fit out of the space.
Let’s see how it works out. There is no mention of joining Priority Pass or DragonPass on the Flight Lounge website or on the lounge card sites, but it is still early days.
We will pop down to take a look as soon as we can, and wish them well.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (September 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.
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £24. 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.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network. Guests are charged at £24 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.