Executive Airport Lounges: Are they worth the money?
I’ve travelled through tens, possibly hundreds of airports over the years and I’ve only even been vaguely aware of the concept of an executive lounge. I’ve always assumed these classy airport havens are for a very different traveller to me. You know the types… CEO’s, celebrities and well-to-do folk who prefer not to mix with the rabble in the chaos of the main terminal. However, during a recent trip to the Alps over New Year we had the honor of being invited to check out the Club Aspire Lounge at Gatwick’s North Terminal to see for ourselves what life is really like on the other side. And of course I’m going to share all the details with you right here….
The Club Aspire Package
The concept of a Club Aspire Lounge is that you pay a flat rate to enter until your departure from the airport. Once you’re admitted all food and most drinks (alcoholic and soft drinks) are covered in the cost. You’ll also receive unlimited WiFi and have access to charging facilities. There is a set capacity in the lounges so they never feel over-busy and there’s always enough seating for all guests. With this in mind it’s advisable to book your visit ahead to guarantee a space. The cost of our visit was £20.99 per adult. Prices vary slightly dependent on airport and the time of year but tend to range from £18 to just over £25 per person. Children aged between 2-11 are charged at a slightly reduced rate of £17.99-£19.99. Children aged under 2 years of age are free of charge.
The lounge suite was clearly signed from the main terminal. I was surprised to see that Aspire was only one of a number executive lounges available. Once we’d found Aspire there was a short wait whilst the receptionist saw to two customers ahead of us. We were then greeted warmly and told to find a place to sit and settle in. We had to enquire as to what the arrangements were for food and drink as this wasn’t obvious to us as first timers. We were informed that lunch was available from a hot and cold buffet and that all drinks were complementary from the bar with the exception of champagne and prosecco.
The lounge itself looked smart, clean and exude a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. There were around 30 people in the lounge including two families with young children. We found a spacious corner cubicle to base ourselves. We had plenty of room for our luggage and could happily sprawl out over the large seating area. We also had access to a good selection of magazines and a large TV showing the news.
Food is available for guests to help themselves from a buffet area in the centre of the lounge. We had the choice of a cold salad bar, hot soup, bread rolls and crackers, a selection of four hot main dishes and a small platter of cake. The salad bar offered a choice of mixed leaf salad, sliced tomato, sliced cheeses, cold pasta, sliced meats and a chick pea dish. Our main choices consisted of a chicken and bacon white bean casserole, mashed sweet potato, vegetable and bean tagine and Moroccan spiced cous-cous.
Overall I was slightly underwhelmed by the food. The choice was quite limited and despite being ‘fine’ it certainly wasn’t anything to get excited about. I also questioned whether our children would eat anything if we had them with us. I noticed the family on the table next to us were feeding their children bread rolls and crackers with butter and a few bits of salad. I’m certain ours would have done the same.
As the lounge was relatively quiet we were able to get served straight away each time we visited the bar. The service we received was a bit inconsistent with one member of staff happy to pour us doubles and offer a range of choices for both spirits and beer…whilst another seemingly quite strict on pouring singles and reluctant to open the fridge to share the full line of bottled beer. Despite this both bar tenders were friendly, polite and made us feel welcome as guests.
During our stay we made the most of the included drinks (we were on holiday after all!) having a beer and two gin & tonics each. We actually arrived at the airport an hour earlier than we would usually to make the most of our lounge time and to ensure that we’d have time to kick back and enjoy a few drinks before our flight. In all honesty this was the highlight of this experience. Having the luxury of a quiet bar area where we could chat to the staff and make the most of the first part of our trip.
I can see the appeal of executive lounges but I think they suit a certain type of traveller ideally with the luxury of time to kill in the airport. I would be tempted to invest in this type of experience again in the future but only if we were travelling as a couple. The cost is good value if you can make the most of your time but I would personally count it as a luxurious indulgence to start a holiday in a special way. I don’t think we would really benefit from investing in this kind of luxury as a family group as our kids are fussy eaters and the food wasn’t really geared towards their tastes.
I’ve put together a few tips for anyone considering trying an executive lounge experience:
- Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Check for any deals at the time of booking.
- Arrive in good time to make the most of your experience. I would advise giving yourself up to an hour longer than you would usually schedule.
- If you are travelling as a family it may be worth enquiring what the dining options are for children ahead of your visit.
With thanks to Aspire Executive Lounges for inviting us to try out their Gatwick North Lounge. If you would to find out more about Aspire Lounges please visit their website here.