Update: British Airways will reopen the Galleries North Lounge at Terminal 5 from November 16th, in response to customer feedback…

From Thursday November 5th, England will ban all non essential outbound travel for a period of at least one month. In response to the news, air travel demand plummeted to new lows beyond any reasonable estimations. It’s going to be a long, cold winter for airlines, particularly for UK based British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

In response to what is now virtually an entire lack of demand, British Airways has made the decision to close its London Heathrow airport lounges entirely, leaving the few frequent flyers who embark on journeys without an oasis in the interim.

British Airways Closes Lounges

“From this Thursday, 05 November, due to the UK Government’s national restrictions, our Galleries South Club and First lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5 will be closed”.

In an internal memo to staff, British Airways spilled the beans on airport lounges. In short, there won’t be any for a while. However justified, the move is an unwelcome one for passengers, particularly after British Airways used lockdown part one to massively improve Heathrow lounge offerings, including waiter service using your mobile phone. Sources inside the airline also believe the Concorde Terrace will close as well.

UK Government restrictions could technically shut down the ability to serve some food or drinks inside, but the private spaces still provide a welcome bit of tranquility, with power ports, private restrooms and access to reliable wifi. Surely sealed, to go bags and some canned beers could also feature?

Globally, airports have successfully argued that local restrictions on food and beverage do not apply, since airside areas are international transit zones, and continue to offer full service. Basically, this is a lot more about cost cutting than government rules.

Update: GSTP has learned that UK Government legislation (15.5) for the lockdown specifically allows lounges to remain open, and to serve food and beverages, which proves commercial reasons to close, rather than requirements. Read the legislation.

Though cost cutting is undoubtedly necessary for all airlines, it puts British Airways at an odd disadvantage in its Heathrow home base. The majority of non Oneworld airline flights, including rivals Star Alliance, Sky Team and Virgin Atlantic are flying out of T2, which features not one but two open lounges. It’s unclear if these T2 lounges will also close.

British Airways and Oneworld partners including American, Iberia, Cathay and Qatar, all of which are utilizing Terminal 5 will now leave customers without pre-flight lounge access. With UK travel restricted to business and essential flying, the few people who are buying tickets would likely be eligible for lounge access, and won’t be happy not to find it.

How long will the closures last? That’s anyone’s guess.

UK lockdown is scheduled to end December 2nd, but like all things involving covid-19 – that’s subject to change. Lockdowns around Europe are said to be in hopes of curbing infection and preserving December holidays. But if people don’t start booking travel in large numbers again, lack of demand and incredible losses may keep airport lounges shut well beyond government restrictions.

It’s a hard time for British Airways and all airlines.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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29 Comments

  1. An understandable decision, even if on commercial grounds. BA have for about a decade prioritised profit over passengers, today that may be more to do with financial survival at scale, over passengers. In itself a questionable objective given their service, policies and consequent reputation in recent years.
    However, given their competitors offer at this time, it goes nowhere to the hoped for levelling up in BA’s products and services.
    #BelowAverage

  2. First world problems. There is a global pandemic happening if you didn’t realise!? The industry is in chaos and many airlines won’t survive. I really don’t think the closure of a lounge should be the priority of anyone that is “choosing” to travel atm. Get real.

    1. There’s a website for keeping up with first world problems. Actually, quite a few, and this is not one of them. The BBC, CBS, NPR, I can all recommend highly.

      This is a travel website, where we talk about all things travel. An airline is choosing to cut costs at the expense of the few people putting money in their pockets right now. It’s a choice, however necessary. With extra document checks, many people will need to get to the airport earlier, an someone buying a business or first class ticket highly values the private space, and ability to eat or work prior to a flight.

      There’s nothing wrong with wanting the world to survive and also wanting the experience you paid for.

    2. J! – I am currently at T5 LHR – 11.07.2020 all lounges are closed. Everything restaurant and coffee shop closed, except Pret A Manger, has a very long line. Probably 25% of the normal passenger traffic crammed into 1% of the Terminal. Social distancing impossible. Most because the lounges are closed, dining and seating areas are roped off with security directing all passengers to huddle in from of the A10 gate lift. As I write this we are more crowded than a London bar on New Year’s Eve. If there was ever a “super spreader” this is it! Closing off most of the restaurants, lounges, dining areas and seating, works against everything the liberal media/politicians has been saying. Because this is so bizarre, I plan to post pictures. Forcing international passengers to huddle, in a small waiting area is a sorry and possibly dangerous way show our support.

  3. Can i transit through England to get to USA , im exempt as per president trump travel proclomation

    1. If you can find a flight, yes. With fewer people traveling, schedules will be reduced to absolute bare bones, so just be mindful of flight plans subject to change.

    2. only if your a us citizen and your studying or working in the USA otherwise from that British citizens cant go the USA the borders are closed to us

      1. @simone Not true, I’m a British Citizen and I’ve been to the US twice since lockdown or whatever you choose to call it, third time coming up at end of month for Thanksgiving…

  4. Firstly the very vast majority of first and business class tickets are very cheap in the current climate by historical standards. So missing out on the lounge isn’t really an argument for not getting what you paid for. The huge drop in the number of passengers means there is plenty of more private/quieter areas airside. There are many places to still eat and drink before a flight and as you are saving on the ticket price it’s not significant.

    The real point here is THERE IS A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. People are dying. Everyone has to make sacrifices. People need to be realistic about what their “choice” to travel in a pandemic. Really you should just be happy about getting from point A to point B as safely as possible atm. Want everything you normally get a bargain price then fine. The airline won’t be there after this is all over and you have less choice, less completion a d higher prices in the future.

    1. Your first assertion is simply not true. For future bookings in 2021 there are very good deals. For near term bookings, prices are higher than most years in historical terms. I have the data on this, because I collect this sort of data and analyze fares every day.

      Contrary to your second point, having flown quite recently in the USA and UK, there aren’t actually that many quiet areas, depending on the time of day, and in the UK most food places will close in the airport, since they’re publicly accessible. So no, there aren’t lots of “places to eat and drink”.

      To your third point, again, it’s possible to have all the compassion and togetherness with the struggles of the world, but also believe that an airline choosing to cut costs (most of which are fixed, sunk costs, and won’t move the needle enough to make or break the airline) is wrong. You’re conflating many thoughts, and few of them are accurate, however much we may like them to be to the contrary.

      1. A recent flight from IAD to London… Certainly NOT quiet, almost a normal day / afternoon in the C/D gates, IAD had all three parallel runways for arrivals at 3pm, its busy, but once you get to 630pm it’s all closed… On the flight from LHR to IAD I don’t count Pret or Boots or WHSmith Prepacked sandwiches as ‘many places to eat’…

  5. My English daughter lives in Dallas would I be able to fly over to visit her from England for Christmas for a month

  6. Not usually a BA hater, but they really are doing everything they can to turn a business class ticket into nothing more than a lie flat bed, we recently returned from Seychelles and BA hadn’t paid the lounge fees there (so club/first BA ticket holders couldn’t use the lounge), the food they served from SEZ-LHR was inedible. The back of the plane was practically empty and i wished i had of just bought an economy ticket – taken a row (or 2) for myself + my own food. The lack of business class value these days is astonishingly bad…

  7. I only scanned the article so I may well have missed it but isn’t BA just closing its HEATHROW lounges?

  8. Even before the pandemic BA has been cutting costs, it seems their only worry is meeting shareholder value. The brand has already been tarnished and I’d take any other carrier over BA whenever possible. How can other carriers offer decent service and BA can’t? I think this article offers a fair and balanced view of the situation, the lounge can stay open, the lounge could serve a reduced option of food and drinks and they could open just one part of the lounge, but they decided to close blaming on the government when the real reason is cost cutting.

  9. So just closing two lounges at the southern end of T5 then? That leaves Galleries North open. Not exactly the end of the world.

  10. I thought i should point out the error – “UK lockdown is scheduled to end December 2nd”.

    Just to correct this – This is currently an England-only lockdown, not a UK wide one.

  11. I take over 150 flights per year, mostly long haul.
    BA are so dismal that i only ever use them as a very last resort…. Old planes,outdated service and high prices. Most of my (large) travel budget goes to Emirates generally faultless with good food, service, lounge. BA only attracts stuffy old golfing duffers!

  12. Just received this email from BA. “Unfortunately, due to the UK Government’s national restrictions, we’ve had to temporarily close all lounges at London Heathrow. ” looks like they believe they’re shutting because of the lockdown.

  13. Thoughts, anyone? Every time I read the regulations, I convince myself of a different answer.

    I’m a US citizen, resident in England, and need to travel for work to the States for a couple of days. Under this new regime, am I allowed to do that? Can I leave home here? And quarantine when I return.

    1. Hey Airfarer, historically, if flights are going, there’s little a country can do to stop a foreign passport holder from leaving, at least in the UK. If you have essential travel, or permitted business travel, you’d be able to fly. Technically you may be in a grey area leaving the house to go to the airport, but the trip itself would be ok under either of those two reasons. You can indeed quarantine upon return. I’m on day 14 now of mine. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks, Gilbert. I appreciate the response.
        No lounges, 12 hours in a mask, and food from a box. Sounds like fun.
        I’m heading west.

        1. Any time. Honestly not so bad on board. Lounges are frustrating, but the mask isn’t awful. Did LA a couple weeks ago and really didn’t mind, particularly if you can get some shut eye.

  14. Why are you so rude and arrogant in your replies to your readers Mr. Ott?
    I’m out of this s**t fight blog.

    1. Where, may I ask, am I rude? I correct the record to a factual basis where necessary, and answer questions where possible. I allow people to comment, but absolutely feel entitled on my own space to correct the record of factually incorrect comments, or inaccurate assertions. Is that unreasonable?

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