As someone who spends an awful lot of her time Up in the Air, I’m a big fan of airport lounges – I love that feeling of leaving the rest of the world behind as you walk into a secluded space where you can while away the hours before your flight with a meal, free wifi, newspapers and, perhaps, a beauty treatment. My favourite airport lounges include Virgin’s V-Room, and, if you have older kids or are travelling on your own, the Clubhouse, where a few years ago I sat next to Dean Cain (Superman) while we both checked our emails *sigh*. I’ve been in airport lounges all over the world, and my least favourite lounges are the ones shared by more than one airline, as they never seem to have much identity. Although they’re still preferable to being out in the hub.
So when I was offered the opportunity to experience the No. 1 Traveller Lounge at Gatwick North, which you can book and pay for regardless of which airline you’re travelling with, I was very interested to see what it had to offer. My previous experience of paid entry lounges is limited to Servisair, which I’ve always found pretty soulless, so I was intrigued to find out what No. 1 Traveller had to offer.
When I arrived at the lounge the receptionist greeted me with a big smile, and I was struck by the cool, contemporary design. There are several areas, including one for dining, a few for lounging, a quiet/library area and a TV room showing movies, plus a beauty salon.
I visited at breakfast time, and there was a small buffet – pastries, cheese and bread – plus a selection of tea, a coffee making machine and juice. Apparently it’s possible to order one hot dish, but no one bothered to tell me this. It’s also possible to order more dishes, and these start at £6, but although I sat in the ‘bistro’ area, no one attempted to find out if I wanted to order anything at all.
And unfortunately while I was there one waitress slipped on the floor and had a nasty accident involving lots of crockery, which put a dampener on the atmosphere.
After eating a croissant (warm, bonus), I decided to look for the kids’ playroom. It was so small I almost missed it – I can’t imagine it would be able to accommodate more than one child at a time. Perhaps they don’t want to encourage people with young families.
There are a lot of chairs of every possible style (including hanging chairs), so no shortage of places to sit – although bad luck if you want to read a newspaper, as the only ones I could see were a few copies of the Financial Times.
I tried to get online on one computer and discovered the ‘s’ didn’t work on the keyboard I was using (a barrier for me), and shortly after that one of the other guests told me the internet connection had gone down completely. Which is a bit of a fail for an airport lounge.
The noise level in the main seating area was awful and echoed right across to the dining area, which instead of making it feel like a chilled out space to relax before a flight made it feel as though you were in the middle of a pub.
I didn’t get to experience the beauty salon but I noticed that the treatments all cost extra.
And when I opened the door of the disabled loo I noticed a used nappy in the waste basket. The lighting in the other loos was dismal – hopeless for someone who, like me, doesn’t do her make-up until she actually arrives at the airport.
So, weighing it up:
No. 1 Traveller Lounge at Gatwick North costs £22.50 per adult for up to three hours, £10 per child aged 2-11 and infants are free. Obviously I only visited one lounge, and the others may be better/have more to offer (and prices vary from airport to airport). In any event, what you’re paying for, I guess, is that little bit of seclusion before you start your holiday, and refreshments. While it is preferable to being out in the main fray, it’s not a patch on the airline lounges, the kids’ space is woeful, and there are some areas which really need addressing. For me, it was more style than substance. 3* (out of 5)