Rather unfairly, London Gatwick gets a hard time from people, many of whom haven’t even actually flown through the airport. Thats’ not to say some of it isn’t totally warranted, it’s just that not all of it is. In 2017, British Airways rolled out new lounges at London Gatwick, including a Galleries First lounge for Executive Club Gold, Oneworld Emerald and passengers actually flying First Class.
Two years in, I felt like it was time to put the lounge through its paces once again, and see how it’s fared since the opening years ago. In short: it’s solid.
After navigating through the scaffolding and other passenger friendly features of Gatwick which have earned the airport its mediocre reputation, you finally reach the nice, clean scaffolding free British Airways Galleries Lounges in the South Terminal.
Up an elevator you go, and you’re instantly presented with a friendly welcome desk. Keeping the theme of life on board, Gold, Oneworld Emerald and first class passengers turn left into Galleries First, while Silver, Oneworld Sapphire and business class flyers can turn right into Galleries.
The first impression is good: there’s big floor to ceiling windows, relatively high ceilings and on most occasions, plenty of empty seats. Does it have a mystique, vibe or real allure – not really – but that’s true for most of BA’s lounges. It’s sophistication over style, though I do believe there’s more room to intertwine the two.
If you’re a plane geek, you’ll be quite happy here. The large windows offer uninhibited views of the approach path into Gatwick, allowing you to catch a British Airways Boeing 777, Cathay A350 or an Emirates A380 from 300 feet all the way down to touchdown. It beats TV these days, for sure.
If you turn left into the lounge, an immediate right and straight on until you hit an aisle will lead you into where all the goodies are. As far as things to keep you preoccupied go, the BA Galleries First Lounge has plenty, with a generous supply of high end booze, a business centre, help yourself buffet and screens with the latest news and sports.
Oh, and there’s one weird quirk here. Despite British Airways penchant for reserved styles and rather uniform spaces, there’s an over the top Austin Powers-esque seating area all on its own. I have no idea how or why it’s there, but it’s fun, and I like it, in a very odd way.
For spirits fanatics, most people look no further than the Johnnie Walker Blue, which is bountifully stocked in the Gatwick Galleries First Lounge, in addition to some non blended Scottish treasures and American bourbon. BA Galleries First at Gatwick currently offers Canard Duchene Charles VII for a blanc de blanc Champagne, and Jeeper Rose.
For those actually flying first class out of Gatwick, you’ll need to wait until on-board to enjoy Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, unlike out of Heathrow where the Concorde Room offers the same champagne as on board.
In terms of food, don’t get your hopes up. It’s just fine, and the buffet can patch an empty stomach, but it’s nothing to write home about. Breakfast is an entirely typical British fry up buffet, though there are some pastries and also yoghurt and healthy alternatives to be found. At other meal times, expect canteen style food, albeit fairly tasty stuff.
One nice addition, which is perfectly acceptable for airport coffee is the Union Coffee Roasters self service bar, which is certainly an improvement over the previous iteration. Outside of Australia there’s hardly ever any coffee really worth speaking of in an airport, but this is passable. A focus on alt milks and good “to-go cups” would definitely help elevate this setup further.
As to creature comforts and business travel necessities, the Galleries First Lounge at Gatwick has done a mostly excellent job. If only that extended to more proactive staff, that’d be even more true.
There are power ports at most seats, and the business area of the lounge, tucked behind the buffet is quiet and comfortable with plenty of space and gadgets to fulfil any business needs. It’s just really nice to see a business centre laid out thoughtfully, as opposed to most, which were clearly afterthoughts on what to do with an extra closet.
British Airways doesn’t often announce specific departures from Galleries First, so it’s important to keep an eye on the screen and note the time it takes to reach a gate. Most are between 4-8 minutes walk, but some require an additional bit of time, so if you like your priority boarding and want to queue up before everyone else, be sure to pad a few minutes ahead of your flight time.
What makes this lounge difficult to judge is the Oneworld Emerald slash “first class” designator, of which it’s really not anywhere near the standard offered by Cathay Pacific, Qantas and others in their first or Emerald only lounges. At Heathrow this is solved with the Concorde Room for actual first class passengers, but here at Gatwick, it’s just a bit of a stopgap that makes it a slightly above average business class lounge.
Sadly, I wouldn’t even say it’s amongst the best business class lounges in the world in terms or food or service. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to kill some time, have an expensive scotch on BA and enjoy the runway views, which are sensational.
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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