This post is part of a series reviewing our 2015 Anniversary trip to Europe. For a full list of the posts in this series, and for an overview of the trip, check out the index page.
After our amazing transatlantic flight we had a 3 hour layover in overcast London before the short flight to our final destination, Basel. Well, the layover was supposed to be 3 hours. We ended up getting a slightly longer taste of the Galleries Lounge than we would have liked. More on that later . . .
Galleries is the British Airways business class lounge. I believe we would have had access to the Galleries First lounge as well, but we were a bit groggy this far into our 24+ hour itinerary and we saw the Galleries lounge first, so that’s where we settled in. A quick check of our boarding passes gained us entry. Neither Nicoleen nor I were interested in using the showers so we sought out a place to sit and set up shop.
London Heathrow airport houses two Galleries lounges in Terminal 5, and we were at the northern one. Both were very busy when we arrived around 6:30 local time. The lounge is located right next to the runway and it was fun to watch planes taking off and landing. We found a little more free space “outside” on the mezzanine area, overlooking the concourse. Our stomachs thought it was sometime after midnight, but I had declined breakfast on the long haul flight so I went in search of some food and drink.
But since I was finally in Europe I was looking for something savory for breakfast. These little warm sandwiches fit the bill:
And in case your body was still on some vastly different time zone, you could dig into the wine and chips:
Besides food and drink, Galleries lounge also provided a wide selection of magazines and newspapers. Nicoleen and I had some good laughs reading the British tabloids and catching up on the scandalous lives of celebrities we had never heard of.
One negative thing I should mention is the bathrooms. They were hot, small, plain, and their condition was borderline deplorable. Unless I was missing some other, hidden bathroom entrance, the only ones available were all single rooms. Even the men needed to stand in line to get in! Sorry ladies, we’re just not used to it 🙂
As our flight’s boarding time drew nearer, we threw an extra mini Diet Coke can and bag of Sweet Chili and Sour Cream kettle chips (they were so good!) into our backpacks* and walked down to the gate.
* Travel Tip: Take full advantage of complimentary snacks and beverages by stashing a spare in your backpack or purse. Rarely will you get any dirty looks for doing so, and you’ll be glad you have the supplies if you end up stranded on a delayed flight, on a train with no dining car, etc. Always be prepared.
The gate was actually a bus stop where we were to load a bus that would drive us to the tarmac for outside boarding. On the board we noticed an unspecified delay was marked on our departure flight. The gate attendant was unable to give us a time estimate. Despite Nicoleen’s apprehension about me missing the flight, I decided to walk back up to the Galleries lounge and see if the desk agent therein could get me any better information.
After showing my boarding pass to gain entry, I walked up to the information desk and spoke with the agent about our delay. As she was making some calls I noticed on the departures board that our flight number had changed, which worried me a little. The agent was very helpful and discovered the nature of the delay: a mechanical problem. She didn’t have a time estimate but she told me there was no imminent risk of boarding. That’s the piece of information I was looking for; I could call Nicoleen and have her come back up to wait in the lounge.
I was unable to reach her on the phone so I walked down to the gate to rescue her from the growing line of people waiting for the bus. We went back up to the Galleries lounge and I once again showed credentials at the door. The desk agent told me in her charming London accent to stay close to the desk so she could advise me when I would be needed at the gate. Nicoleen needed a nap by this time so she went out to the mezzanine and found a quiet(er) spot to snooze.
After I had enjoyed another bag of Sweet Chili and Sour Cream chips and a couple very weakly mixed cocktails, the announcement for our boarding came over the PA. I retrieved Nicoleen from her slumber, and we left the Galleries lounge behind to board our short flight to MLH/BSL/EAP (Euroairport).
Galleries Lounge Access
For the official word on access rules, see the Oneworld Alliance lounge access page. In a nutshell, any passenger connecting through or departing from LHR in a business or first class booking can use Galleries lounges. The lounge access at this airport gets a bit more complicated because of the number of lounges (see this Lounge Buddy overview) and the special rules for the British Airways Concorde Room. In fact, the latter has such a confusing set of conditions for access, there is a multipage thread on Flyertalk just for discussing the nuances.
Although Galleries is British Airways’ business class lounge, the food and beverage choices, amenities, and decor were on par with the first class Flagship Lounge we had visited in Chicago. Reading other reviews, it seems like the packed house we experienced is pretty common at this lounge. Despite the bathrooms and the crowd, we definitely relaxed more than we would have in the public areas of the terminal, so the lounge served its purpose. The dedicated agent for lounge visitors also turned out to be quite helpful.