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Review: the British Airways Galleries First lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5

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This is our review of the British Airways Galleries First lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5.

There are some unexpected gaps in our airport lounge reviews. We’ve been to every corner of the UK to review airport lounges but there are huge holes in our BA Terminal 5 coverage. The last time we looked at Galleries First was 2012 (not a typo) and it wasn’t even a proper review.

The reason is that the lounges are always so busy that it’s impossible to get the photos we need. However, two weeks I found myself on the last flight departing Terminal 5 and around 9pm I realised that I was virtually alone in the lounge.

British Airways Galleries First lounge review

This allowed me to get enough pictures to show you what you’re missing. It was obviously dark outside when I took the photos so the lighting could be better in places. Unfortunately the lack of people may give a false impression of how calm the lounge is during the day ….

Who can access the Galleries First lounge?

You do not need to be flying First Class to access the Galleries First lounge. In fact, if you are flying in First Class then you shouldn’t be here – you should head to The Concorde Room lounge next door instead.

The requirement for Galleries First is that you are flying on a oneworld carrier (as this is T5 it would only be British Airways or Iberia) either on a same-day First Class ticket or with oneworld Emerald status.

Anyone with oneworld Emerald status (ie. British Airways Executive Club Gold) can access the lounge, with one guest, even if you are flying on a hand-baggage-only economy flight. Separate guest rules apply to Gold Guest List and Premier members.

Entering the Galleries First lounge

There are two entrances into the lounge. Whilst the manned desks are still there, you are only likely to use them if connecting.

Anyone starting in London is likely to enter via the First Wing. This is the dedicated First Class / Gold card check-in and security area at the far south end of Terminal 5:

(Galleries First restricts you to one guest. If you are a BA Gold travelling with more than one other non-Gold, you can check in at the First Wing. However, you cannot use the private security lane or the Galleries First lounge. You need to go back out into the main terminal and use the main security line.)

Once you have cleared security you walk down a passage and you enter the Galleries First lounge here:

British Airways Galleries First lounge

The layout is a bit tricky to explain. Entering via First Wing, if you keep walking you will go directly through the main seating area, past two bars, and eventually emerge on the far side on the terrace:

BA Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

The terrace has a small self-serve wine and champagne bar, and you will occasionally find pop-ups here promoting various brands. The atmosphere is a lot different in daylight. There are around 40 seats out here although most are in groups of four.

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

You’ll see from the rack above that BA is in no rush to bring back newspapers or magazines, apart from High Life.

Let’s run all the way back to the entrance and do the full tour.

On your right as you enter is this self service bar. New furniture was being installed in this area when I was there, hence the lack of people below – the area was actually cordonned off.

More furniture in the lounge has been replaced in the last fortnight since my visit, so some of what you see below is already out of date.

Galleries First BA lounge Heathrow T5

To your left is another self-serve bar and snacks area:

British Airways Galleries First lounge self service bar Heathrow Terminal 5

It doesn’t scream ‘premium’ and that’s because it isn’t – Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker Red and Black, Martini, Bacardi etc. There was a selection of Ciroc flavoured vodkas

The old business centre / champagne bar is now a ….

Immediately to your left is a corridor which leads down to what was originally the business centre and the champagne bar.

The business centre was ripped out post pandemic (fair enough, it wasn’t necessary in the 2020s) and replaced by sleep pods in May 2021. These seem to have been a flop and have also now gone.

The pods have been replaced by this uninspiring and windowless area of additional seating, although as few people know it exists it is probably quiet during the day.

British Airways Galleries First Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

As for the champagne bar? It’s now a hot desking area:

Galleries Lounge Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

The bathrooms – now unisex – are also in this area. There are only cubicles, each containing its own sink.

Britsih Airways Galleries First lounge toilets


British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 toilets

I couldn’t access one of the showers. They are apparently in need of refurbishment but I don’t have any first hand experience of them.

The exit

Head back to the main area and continue walking towards the terrace, you come to the exit (the only exit – you can’t leave by the First Wing entrance). This is also the way in if you are in transit.

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 exit

The dining area

Continue walking, past this group of monitors (PLEASE BA, convert one of these into a flight information screen!):

British Airway Galleries First Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

…. and you see a large area running off to your left. This contains the buffet and coffee stations.

During the pandemic, BA introduced ‘at seat’ food ordering in Galleries First. This was fantastic. Apart from the obvious benefit of not having to leave your seat and baggage to get supplies, the food you received was restaurant style, as a proper plated meal. Everyone loved it and declared it the way forward. So …. BA scrapped it.

You’re now back to the buffet only. You can still order drinks via a QR code from your seat but that’s it. I honestly don’t get it – a new system was developed which everyone agreed was a huge improvement in every way (except possibly the cost) from the old one, and it was dropped.

The first area contains a number of Union Coffee-branded drinks stations. If you like stocking up on clasic British biscuits, as my son does, you’ll be very happy here!

Galleries First coffee heathrow terminal 5

Before you get to the buffet you’ve got sandwiches and cake:

Galleries first lounge heathrow terminal 5 sandwiches

…. a salad bar:

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow terminal 5 salad bar

… and, erm, the kids play room!

Galleries First kids play room heathrow terminal 5 lounge

Here is half of the hot food area. Late at night, it was an odd mix of pies, fishcakes, pasta, curry, rice etc. The quality is not bad, to be honest – I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just ‘slop’ because it isn’t. However, it is fundamentally the same food that is served in the two Galleries Club lounges in Terminal 5A.

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 lounge buffet

In terms of seating you’ve got a variety of options, assuming you don’t want to carry it back to your lounge chair. This is behind the buffet:

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

There are long tables like this:

Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

…. and some standard cafe-style seating:

British Airways lounge FIrst Class Heathrow Terminal 5

I haven’t shown you much of the main seating area. This is mainly because, at 9pm, it was very dark. It also gets a bit dull showing lines of leather armchairs!

It’s worth highlighting this staffed bar – the only staffed bar in the whole lounge – which has had a facelift recently. This is meant to be a ‘premium’ bar, stocked with products chosen by BA’s Master of Wine. I’m not sure what champagne is currently available but you should approach with modest expectations.

British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5 bar

Here is one run of seating to give you a feel:

Galleries First lounge London Heathrow Terminal 5 British Airways


British Airways Galleries First Class lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

As I said above, a lot of the furniture in the lounge was changed in the week after I was there. Here is a shot of the same wine cooler above showing the new-style chairs (thanks to Shane for this):

Review British Airways Galleries First lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

Whilst the main business centre disappeared a couple of years ago, there are still a couple of terminals and a printer in a small area near the entrance to the balcony.


I use the Galleries First lounge a lot, and have come to accept its various quirks. If you look at it as what it realistically is for most users – a space for Gold card holders to use before catching a short haul flight – it does the job.

The food and drink, and the general overcrowding (unless you’re on the last flight out as I was!) are arguably acceptable for this ‘Gold card member flying to Milan’ market.

It’s a quirk of the BA structure that a non-status member on a £4,000 Club World ticket will be sent to the inferior Galleries Club lounges, whilst a Gold on a £39 one way economy ticket to Amsterdam can come here. Remember that anyone with a First Class ticket won’t be in Galleries First – they will be in The Concorde Room next door with proper restaurant-style food and service.

It is also worth stressing – because I think many forget this – that the ability for a BA Gold to get from a taxi to Galleries First via the First Wing in under 10 minutes is a real perk, unmatched at any other European terminal.

Of course, the best British Airways lounge in Terminal 5 is probably the mixed Business / First Galleries lounge in the 5B satellite which we recently reviewed here. It has now finished its upgrade with a new hot food live cooking area.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (April 2024)

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 Eurostar, Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 £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.

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 Priority Pass card, allowing you access to the Priority Pass 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.

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.

Comments (145)

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

  • will says:

    I’ve only skimmed the comments but the toilet situation has got off very lightly here. They are absolutely disgraceful, both in terms of quantity and quality and they take up huge amounts of space for their number.

    See the Cathay Lounge in T3 if you want to know how to design a functional and pleasant toilet facility.

    • Londonsteve says:

      +1. It’s really not rocket science to come up with some decent loos, the Cathay ones are nice and really feel premium. Does the job perfectly. The Qantas lounge ones are also lovely and meet the expectations of those flying in F since it’s a shared lounge, but there can be queues for the cubicles at peak time in the evening since QF2 has a lot of premium capacity, plus non-Qantas passengers also coming in. It suggests that where there are a lot of pax (i.e. J and status pax) a ‘normal’ WC is a much better solution than individual cubicles.

  • Lady London says:

    The overwhelming feeling is just sadness looking at these pics and reading the writeup. I can still smell the dodgy burger and the loos.

    If this is what Club Class travel is about why do people aspire to it?

  • Paul says:

    The toilets are really quite disgusting and the image simply does not show just how vile they are.

    • will says:

      I’m absolutely in awe of the fact that the toilets have not been renovated/redesigned.

      Does anyone know how many there are in total to serve the entire lounge?

    • ABC says:

      Cannot agree more with these comments. The toilets in the south Galleries lounge are utterly revolting and a disgrace to BA. The smell is over-powering and permeates the surrounding seating area. The toilets themselves are often broken and the flush button being positioned behind the seat is ludicrous. These problems are not be difficult to fix if there was any remotely responsible or energetic management or supervisors. On my last visit I complained to the manager’s assistant (as the manager was absent) and left my card asking for the manager to email me. 3 weeks later and I have never received an email – tells you all you need to know! If possible I travel Qantas to Asia these days, their lounges are far better and their lavs are clean.

  • Mark says:

    Was sorry to see the sleeping pods go. I often travel from North American to MAN via T5 and the sleeping pods were great for catching up on sleep between connecting flights. A quick 45 minutes in the pods was amazing. Definitely agreed about the toilets, they’re shockingly outdated. And the showers in the T5 arrival lounge, don’t get me started! Horrific!

  • sam says:

    The toilets and showers at the lounge are really sub standard and I have seen better NHS hospital showers than this . So basic and hardly a nice experience .
    British airways on board first toilets are equally basic and could do with a upgrade .

  • simon says:

    The pictures tell most of the story – the toilets for example you can see the flush button is directly above the toilet seat – so in the Gents toilet there are some issues obviously ! All of the toilets have had this issue for as long as I can remember and it says a lot that most have not been remedied from this design fault which would not cost BA that much The T5 lounges are tired, well overused and unwelcoming – the loss of the Champagne bar which was a landmark – is a shame – the lack of quality food ( just marmite soldiers and boiled egg and some pastries, an apple is all uninspiring etc ?) All in bigger version of the terrible BA lounges in T3……I tend not to bother going into them anymore but have yet to try the refreshed B lounge at T5….agree with the other points A few changes could make all the difference……….bringing back some papers would be good (As regular travellers know all of the GQ Motorsport Vanity Fairs, Vogue etc are there but hidden and not put out – you have to go to little door by the main terminal entrance to the lounge and ask….same in the Concorde lounge)

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

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