First, Not Best: A Review of the British Airways Galleries First Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5

May 5, 2019

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To The Point

If an à la carte breakfast or waiter service for an evening meal is something you appreciate, then this is the lounge for you. If you’re flying First Class for the first time or become a Gold elite member and are expecting a big jump up from the Galleries Business Class Lounges, then I would tell you to not get your hopes up. Pros: Great a la carte breakfast. Cons: Very busy for a First Class Lounge

After my first tour of London’s Heathrow airport and its many lounges, I still hadn’t managed to get access to the Galleries First lounge or Concorde Room. But, I would get another chance, thanks to the team’s idea to review all four classes of service on a British Airways flight between London and Abu Dhabi.

Having spent lots of time in other Galleries lounges — especially the North outpost — over the past couple of years, I was really looking forward to experiencing the next level of British Airways hospitality and to see how the Galleries First lounge compared.

In This Post

Access

The Galleries First lounge is open from 5am until 10:30pm. Both first-class passengers and Gold card holders are eligible to use the lounge, but BA First passengers also have access to the Concorde Room, so you tend to find that the First lounge is actually mostly occupied by passengers with British Airways Gold status flying in any cabin class on a scheduled flight departing Heathrow (LHR) the same day. I only have Silver status but was traveling with others from the TPG UK team that day, and as Nicky was traveling in first class, he was able to bring me into the lounge with him.

Location

The British Airways First lounge is past the dedicated first-class check-in wing and its security check at the southern end of Terminal 5.

There was even a small seating area complete with refreshments in the wing — a little unnecessary, considering I was in the lounge within minutes, but a nice touch all the same.

I knew I’d arrived at the lounge when I was greeted by the British Airways horse statue.

The Space

My first impression as I turned the corner was that the lounge didn’t appear all too dissimilar from the Galleries business-class lounges. It looked about the same size and even busier than the quieter business-class lounges, Galleries B and Galleries South lounges.

I chose to set up camp and order my a la carte breakfast from the quieter, brighter and all-round more tranquil space on the terrace at the far end of the lounge.

The space also doubled as a nice spot for catching glimpses of passing Queens (Boeing 747s).

There was a small but perfectly functional business area complete with printer and scanner.

I have never felt the need to use a luggage check within a lounge before, but you could leave your cases at a horse statue or at the designated luggage check.

There was a dedicated area for children, as with the Galleries North, South and B Gates lounges.

The main food area doubled as a buffet and dining area during the day, but in the evening there was waiter service for those departing after 8pm. My flight was in the early afternoon, so I didn’t get the chance to experience that, but if the breakfast a la carte menu was anything to go by, it might be worth checking out.

Amenities

If your idea of bliss is watching aircraft lining up for takeoff whilst tickling the keys of a piano, then this would be your spot.

There was also a rather large selection of newspapers and magazines, as well as numerous large TV screens showing a selection of subtitled news channels.

The washrooms were perfectly clean and tidy, though there was quite a queue, which I’ve never encountered in a British Airways lounge before. I’m not sure whether that means there are insufficient bathrooms for the size of the lounge and number of guests or whether it was just a coincidence that so many people needed the loo at once.

The showers for this lounge were shared with the Galleries South lounge and the Concorde Room and were just outside the main entrance to the lounge between the Elemis Spa and the Concorde Room. If you do want to freshen up, make sure you pop over to the reception desk to secure yourself a slot, as it may get busy at peak times.

If you were traveling in first class, you could reserve your complimentary 15-minute treatment up to a month before you traveled. (I would highly advise doing that to avoid finding it all booked up.)

Food and Beverage

For me, what really sets an airport lounge apart is an a la carte menu. While good mass catering for customers with short wait times does suit the usual buffet seen in many airport lounges, when the effort is made with even the smallest of menus, it really makes all the difference. This lounge offered exactly that, and there was more than enough to choose from.

As I was traveling with Nicky, we thought we’d order a couple of things and share. We went for the grilled Scottish kippers and the egg (not eggs) Benedict. The food came quickly, and we had just enough time to sample it before heading off to check out the Concorde Room.

You could tell the egg Benedict had been freshly prepared. It was tasty and the yolk, though slightly overdone for my liking, was still warm.

The breakfast buffet in the First lounge took a more traditional approach compared to the other Galleries lounges, in that you could pick and choose from each of the items you would expect to see in an English breakfast and make your own version of the same.

You could also help yourself to the usual Galleries selection of pastries, fresh fruit and cereals.

There was also a selection, well, half a selection of cold meats and cheeses, which I assumed was about to be replenished.

As is to be expected of a British Airways lounge, there was no shortage of beverages on offer. From those ever-present Union coffee machines to ingredients for make-your-own Bloody Mary and everything in between, the lounge covered pretty much all bases.

There was a generous selection of wines, as well as a number of different spirits available to fill your glass as full as you wished.

There was also a pop-up Belazu sampling stall. (Belazu sells Middle Eastern snacks and and ingredients.)

Overall Impression

In short, I like this lounge. However, in terms of major differences in offerings between a business-class and a first-class lounge, it falls slightly short of being a real first-class Lounge  — but that’s what the Concorde Room is for. The a la carte menu is a definite bonus for Gold members who aren’t traveling in first class, but I would definitely recommend the Concorde Room rather than this lounge for any first-class passenger flying out of Heathrow.

All photos by the author.

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