Watching the state of British Airways lounges has been like watching an EKG machine lately. They’d flatlined for a while before covid-19, fully went under for a bit, and then a new team came and made them better than ever before. For the first time in a long time, people were really happy with the state of British Airways pre-flight offerings, which included ordering food and drinks from your phone.

But then the UK Government announced the remix, with Lockdown 2.0, featuring new guest stars, and with no warning for the travel industry. Interpretations to the new rule book require expert legal opinion just to discern whether a lounge can, or cannot serve food.

Of course, British Airways has access to these opinions, and could’ve kept lounges open, but they didn’t They announced that all lounges would shut, despite others at Heathrow remaining open, including bitter European rival Lufthansa. GSTP was among the very first to break the sad news.

I say this, because in the coverage of the closure, I remarked that I thought it was a mistake to fully close only because a happy medium could be reached. My exact words were

“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?”

With the outbound travel restrictions in place until the 2nd of December, anyone traveling until then really is moving out of necessity, rather than leisure. Though many costs to run a lounge are sunk, or fixed costs, reductions are of course necessary, but why not make the most with what you got?

A lounge is a “first world problem” in these times, but much like the financial crisis of 2008, it’s actually a critical time to remind travelers why you’re their choice. I argued in comments and elsewhere that it’s the time to double down to retain the few flyers who are still putting money in your pocket.

In the end, British Airways did exactly that. They reopened a lounge, they created grab and go options and they actually kept the majority of the bar available. Basically, a BA flyer isn’t getting the same new and improved lounge they were over the summer, but it’s still a lounge.

Still, it hasn’t kept the ever pedantic and beehive of Flyertalk forum members from complaining. I’m here to say, from the bottom of my heart, shut up and give it a rest already.

Could BA do more? Maybe. Did they meet in the middle and improve from a low which many found unacceptable? Yes. Do I expect that they’ll gear back up to the good stuff in just two weeks time? Yes. The lounge still offers…

  • private seating away from the terminal
  • fast wifi (particularly with few using it)
  • private, regularly cleaned restrooms (near priceless right now).
  • complimentary sandwiches and other basic fuel for the body.
  • full bar, all gratis and yours for the taking.

Having no lounge is no good, but having a lounge is. British Airways have delivered on something sub optimal, but better than nothing, which ultimately is set to last less than a month from start to finish. Anything above a nothing offering is an improvement.

Sure, the gamers who pervert the BA loyalty program as loss making customers who manipulate offers to their full advantage, for the sole purpose of drinking themselves stupid on expensive champagne won’t get the same joy for the next 14 or so days, but that’s hardly the “big picture”, particularly during a pandemic.

Travel is a series of compromises right now, from less flexible schedules due to fewer flights to ever changing offerings before flight and on board, but during a national lockdown, the most you can ask for is access to a private and tranquil space, with a little something on offer.

It’s fair for many leisure or business travelers to say they won’t travel until things return to full steam, but then again they wouldn’t be traveling right now then if that’s really the case, would they? I can’t wait for things to return to the new and improved full steam, but British Airways has reopened, and during a lockdown it’s good enough.

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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13 Comments

  1. I’m no BA fan but something *is* better than nothing, even if I’m BA traditional form it’s a cut down version of what the competition deliver… I saw a grumble about 20% of usual lounge capacity but my Reply: there are less than 20% of the regular passengers…

  2. Those of us travelling are still paying the same prices as before, though, and BA continues to perform well below others overall. I am sorry, but given that *even* Lufthansa manage to keep their lounge open at LHR as before and provide a prety much unchanged onboard offering, this sort of BA cost-cutting is really just annoying and absolutely not conducive to good will from me…

      1. Except the flights that I already have with BA during this period can’t really easily be moved to LH, can they? It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I am with the people who are cheesed off!

        1. Perhaps no, and I feel you there. I’ve traveled a few times this year, but am sitting out the month and hoping for better times in December and January. I think it’s just hard to get cheesed off by something so temporary. If they say this will last six months, I’ll cheese with you, and an opinion will follow saying that they’re milking it.

  3. I seem to be a solitary voice with the problem BA have created in the Seychelles. They have stopped flights to the UK from 9th November, effectively leaving passengers stranded. No one seems to be following or supporting the plight of these passengers.

  4. Evening Gilbert,

    Although I agree with you somewhat, suppressing opinions (including complaints) is not the answer and to be frank why should anyone conform to your, or my, way of thinking.

    If someone complains that’s their prerogative, we do live in a free society (smile) after all, albeit where consensus is largely engineered.

    BA have performed less than they could have done on occasions over the years, Covid or no Covid, and some simply don’t trust them to rise to the occasion.

    It could be argued that in times like these, they need to try even harder to earn trust… and no doubt they do at times, but hindsight doesn’t lend itself too readily to this position with BA… perhaps because I and lots of others have too many vouchers now that were unilaterally issued in place of agreed refunds over the phone.

    If you don’t readily play fair, you cannot cry foul when trust in you runs short, or expect additional consideration in a one-sided manner.

    Naturally, BA is in extreme difficulty… but who isn’t these days!

    If a fare to be paid was one penny short, a ticket to ride would not be issued. Therefore in return, service should not be one penny short either. If one side falls short, the other side should be recalibrated accordingly. If someone complains because the service falls short in their opinion, that is fair and is surely not unexpected.

    But, asking complainants to ‘shut up’ is complaining in itself and perhaps I’ve risen to the bait… but I’m not complaining (promise)… and it’s good to talk after all 🙂

  5. A fair article. BA have had a lot of (justified) stick but they have done some good things – status extensions, their ‘book with confidence’ policies, and the Heathrow lounge reopening, including this.

  6. I did a roundtrip last week to the States from London, out in F and back PE. The lounges were closed and the food, in both classes, was sub-standard. Plastic cups to drink from and wine splits even in F. 42 passengers total on a 787-9 and 32 on an A350 on the return. BA is not trying very hard at all.

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