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.