Rough Around the Edges: A Review of the British Airways Galleries North Lounge at LHR
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To The Point
As far as airline lounges go, I wouldn’t rank the BA Galleries North Lounge in my top five. However, it’s perfect for a drink and light meal before your flight. Pros: Good food and drink offering with decent runway views. Cons: Very busy and in need of some TLC.
London’s Heathrow airport is one of the world’s busiest, with over 80 million passengers having passed through its terminals in 2018. And, being the home base of British Airways, it’s likely that if you’re a Brit, you’ve spent some amount of time at LHR. With that in mind, one of the projects we wanted to kick off with the launch of TPG UK is to give a full review to every major lounge in the airport. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing all these reviews, the result of many hours spent in the airport — and in the air after visiting each of these lounges.
First up is British Airways’ Galleries North Lounge in Terminal 5. Having spent a fair bit of time in Heathrow over the last year, I became quite familiar with this lounge, as it wasn’t until recently that I became aware that the larger and more spacious Galleries South Lounge actually exists at the opposite end of the terminal.
The opening times of the Galleries North lounge are from 5am to 10:30pm daily. As long as you have Gold or Silver status with BA (Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire) you can access this lounge no matter what class of service you’re traveling in — I’m a Silver elite with BA (Oneworld Sapphire), so that’s how I was able to access this lounge. If you don’t have any status in the Executive Club programme, you can enter the lounge if you’re flying in Club World, Club Europe or First.
The British Airways Galleries North Lounge is the closest lounge after clearing security, unless you have access to the Concorde Lounge which is just on your right after clearing South Fast Track security. After clearing security, stay to the left along the mezzanine level of the terminal, go past a few shops and then you’ll find the Lounge at the northernmost end of the main Terminal 5 concourse.
I have always found the Galleries North Lounge to be very busy — this visit was no different. I immediately noticed that since my last visit, the relaxed sofa seating near the buffet was removed and replaced with tons of tables and chairs. Now it looks and feels more like a shopping centre food court or a school canteen than a business-class airline lounge.
As you continue on towards the left, there’s a more relaxed seating area with sofas, armchairs with tables and a counter with high seats looking over onto one of Heathrow’s two runways.
To the right is a “terrace.” It’s still inside the terminal, but outside the main lounge and is often less busy than the main lounge area — head over there if you’re struggling to find a seat!
It was difficult to find an empty seat in the main lounge area, never mind an empty seat with a power outlet close by — though I was able to find one after multiple trips around the lounge. I’d say only about half of the armchairs available have power outlets close by (they’re found underneath the tables between the chairs), but the rest just have tables with loads of dead space underneath them. It’s confusing to me why they all aren’t the same, as it makes for a bit of a wild goose chase if you’re looking to sit and charge your devices at the same time.
If you do manage to find an empty seat with power outlets close by, you have UK, EU and USB compatibility.
I ended up settling for a barstool seat at the high ledge by the window, sacrificing charging my devices. Thankfully I had the views over the apron and runway during the busy morning rush to take my mind off my rapidly depleting phone battery.
There’s quite a large business centre complete with computers and printing capabilities which may be useful if you have some last minute travel documents to print, or have work to do and for some reason left your laptop at home.
For families, there’s a separate zone for kids, complete with a highchair, snacks and kids TV programmes. I’ve never actually seen anyone use this room on any of my visits, and this time was no exception. If you’re travelling with kids, you’ll likely have the place to yourselves.
It’s pretty clear how busy this lounge gets as there is a lot of wear and tear on the furniture, chipped table corners and just a general tired feel about the place. In comparison to other airline lounges, the décor really is lagging behind, but I guess the worn appearance comes with the territory of being such a busy lounge in BA’s home airport and terminal.
The washrooms are individual, which is great as you’re able to freshen up or even have a shave in private. This is the first time this has ever happened to me in this lounge, but despite there being an attendant on duty to clean between each visit, I found a couple of the bathrooms with rubbish on the floor and dirty toilet seats. Yes, I know that’s the fault of the last person to use the bathroom, but if there’s an attendant on duty you don’t expect to encounter dirty toilets.
The use of showers in BA Galleries Lounges is free, and when I checked about booking myself a slot would have been able to go straight in as there was no queue. If you would like have a shower, I would recommend going straight to the shower desk to book yourself in so you don’t miss out during busy times. The shower I checked out, unlike the rest of the bathroom, was clean and fresh — I would definitely have hopped in if I’d have had the time.
Many First and Club World passengers don’t know this, but you’re entitled to a free, 15-minute spa treatment when departing, and also when arriving (if your flight is over six hours) at the Galleries Arrivals Lounge. The spas are situated in the Galleries South and Galleries B Gate Lounges and not in this lounge, so if you fancy a bit of pampering before your flight, then head over to either of those two lounges.
The Wi-Fi worked fine and enabled me to access and reply to emails but when checking the download and upload speeds they were actually pretty poor (download: 3.16mbps, upload: 0.99mbps).
Food and Beverage
Probably owing to the sheer volume of passengers using the Galleries Lounges at any one time, all food and drink options are self service. There is a decent selection of hot and cold food options to suit most tastes and dietary requirements. There was everything from hot mini bacon sarnies (baps/cobs/buns – depending from where in the UK you’re from) on different types of bread and veggie frittatas to a fresh looking selection of fruit and cereals and porridge with various condiments.
Despite how packed the lounge was, all of the areas were clean, tidy and relatively well replenished. Compared to other airline lounges, the selection probably isn’t as vast but it certainly beats the usual scrambled eggs, beans, sausage and mushroom selection that is standard in many lounges.
If you’re a coffee lover like me, then you’ll know getting a good coffee on the move can be difficult sometimes. This is something that I think the Galleries Lounges do well as their “hand-roasted” Union coffee is nice and smooth and doesn’t leave a cheap and nasty taste in your mouth. There are two large coffee bar areas in this lounge meaning I didn’t have to queue for the two double espressos I got myself that morning. Both areas were well stocked with tea cups, coffee mugs and espresso cups as well as all the sugars, biscuits and flavours of Twinings tea that you could ask for.
No matter the time of day — even in the early morning — the self-service bars in the lounge were fully stocked and loaded with a selection of wines, spirits (including Grey Goose vodka) and the fridges were full of various cans of soft drinks and both a lager and a pale ale option for the beer lovers. I also like how there are different glassware options to suit your drink of choice, whether it’s a whiskey or a gin and tonic.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in this lounge over the years, so I knew what to expect before my visit for this review. I think the food and drink selections are what is to be expected of a lounge of this size and that gets as busy as this one does. However, I was slightly disappointed when I saw how many tables have been crammed into the main eating area when you first enter the lounge. It really doesn’t look great and is probably more cramped than some airport food courts I have visited over the years. The main thing that lets this lounge down, though, is the wear and tear and wasted space in between seats that could be utilized with more charging points.