Aspire to Be Better: A Review of the Aspire Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5
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To The Point
Heathrow Terminal 5’s Aspire Lounge is great if you have a bit of time for a quick drink before your flight, but not so great if you have some time to kill and would like to relax with some nice food. Pros: Great selection of complimentary drinks in comparison with other non-airline lounges and good views of the apron and runway. Cons: Too small and crowded and quite a basic food choice.
As many of those traveling through Heathrow’s Terminal 5 have access to British Airways lounges through their Executive Club membership or are flying in BA premium cabins, I was intrigued to see how the Priority Pass lounges faired in the face of heavy competition from the airline’s five departures lounges and its neighbouring Plaza Premium lounge. So, I chose the Aspire Lounge to be the first non-BA lounge that I would visit on my tour of Heathrow’s lounges.
The lounge was open for the majority of the day from 5am to 10:30pm. I gained access to this lounge by showing my shiny new Priority Pass card, which I received as one of the benefits of having the Platinum Card from American Express. You could also pay for entry for £34.99 per visit, which was cheaper than the alternative pay-per-use lounge in Terminal 5 and, as you’ll see, probably better value.
The Aspire Lounge (no longer with Spa, despite the advertising), had plenty of signposts from security on the upper level of Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The signs took you near the A gates and the terminal’s other non-British Airways lounge, The Plaza Premium Lounge.
The first thing I noticed was that the lounge was quite cramped and narrow as it was wrapped around the central kitchen and old spa facilities. There was a variety of different seating, from booth sofas to tall workstations and restaurant-style tables and chairs.
The narrowness was a bit of a problem, as the lounge was extremely busy and passengers hurrying to catch their flights struggled to pass those who were at the self-service food stations with their suitcases without causing a commotion. I noticed a couple of the tables closest to the food service and bar had reserved signs on them — I would recommend this if you’re coming with your family and friends and would like to guarantee having space to sit together.
As well as the lounge feeling cramped, the temperature seemed way higher than it should have been, which added to the claustrophobic feel of the space. Despite the lounge being overcrowded, the seating areas didn’t look or feel worn, and the decor appeared fresh and modern.
There was quite a large unoccupied space in the middle of the lounge with a fridge and coffee machine, but no guests at all. I can only assume this was the old spa that they tried to make use of, but it appeared that none of the guests in the lounge knew about it. Incorporating this more into the main lounge would really help in terms of space and reduce the cramped feel.
I noticed that most of the seating areas were close to power outlets with UK, USB and European compatibility, but there was no clear dedicated business or working space for meeting preparation or catching up on emails.
For those AvGeeks amongst us, this lounge did offer a fairly decent view of Runway 9R/27L and the apron between the A and B gates.
One thing I found quite strange was that there were no bathrooms in the lounge. I was told just to use washrooms in the main terminal building that were about 50 meters away from the entrance of the lounge. Why they didn’t make use of the dead space in the middle of the lounge and converted it into washrooms I have no idea — I mean, that’s like going to a restaurant and then being asked to use the public toilets around the corner, right?
Shower facilities were, however, available for £20 per use, which seems about the norm for these kind of lounges.
As for as other entertainment outlets go, I noticed one TV screen that was oddly positioned in the main thoroughfare and buffet area above the cereal.
It was a bit of a free-for-all — there were people eating, emailing and lounging in pretty much any space they could find. In addition to the lack of space dedicated to working, studying and emailing, the Wi-Fi was one of the slowest I’d experienced in a while.
Food and Beverage
There was a small selection of English breakfast components to mix and match as well as porridge. It would appear false advertising is a theme with the Aspire Lounge and “Spa,” as instead of the advertised fruit salad, there was a bowl of chopped green apples and no sign of any homemade yoghurt with granola. Maybe these were about to be replenished, but I didn’t see them during my stay of around an hour.
There was also a small selection of boxed cereals and only one type of milk, which wasn’t even labeled. I wasn’t overly hungry during my stay, so I put together this rather sorry-looking egg bap/sarnie/butty/cob/bun.
The staff seemed rushed but efficient. Throughout my stay, there was a server battling her way with a trolley through the people and suitcases in an attempt to clear away plates and glasses and keep the place looking clean and tidy.
On the plus side, the bar and its drink offerings were definitely an asset to this lounge. The bartender rushed when telling me what was and wasn’t complimentary, but it seemed to be only prosecco (by the glass and bottle) as well as cocktails and some of the higher-quality wines that weren’t included. Yup, that’s right, spirits included in a Priority Pass lounge, and there was Italian beer on tap — what more could you need for a free preflight tipple? There was also a self-service soft-drink dispenser and still and sparkling water taps as nonalcoholic options.
The lounge was cramped, hot and noisy, meaning that I felt quite uncomfortable during my short stay. However, the food that was there was surprisingly good. If I’d just fancied a quick couple of drinks before my flight, I would definitely have popped in. The misinformation regarding the lounge also being a spa and some of the food options available was disappointing, but the space did feel clean and fresh despite the number of guests, and the staff did their best to keep everything in order.
All photos by the author.
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