What’s Right – And Very Wrong – With the British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow

The one thing that British Airways does well on the ground is their check-in experience for first class and oneworld emerald elites which includes British Airways Golds and higher and American AAdvantage Executive Platinums. It’s a quick, dedicated, visually appealing security check.

Since I was connecting through Heathrow I wasn’t using the First Wing. Instead I walked through the quick transit passport check, and queued for transit security. The security situation even for ‘Fast Track’ can be long and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such sour and slow moving employees as at Heathrow security screening.

Once through security most passengers, who aren’t using First Wing, have to walk through the airport in a manner designed to push them by a whole bunch of shops. All of Heathrow is designed to maximize the likelihood that you’ll spend money shopping — even how late gates are posted for flights, you don’t congregate at the gate, most passengers are stuck with nothing to do but spend money in stores.

British Airways has business class lounges, first class, and the Concorde Room. The first class lounges are really for elites because British Airways first class passengers use the Concorde Room.

You can enter the Concorde Room via the first class lounge if you have access, or if you’re connecting just turn tight after you clear security and walk past all of the security screening to the end of the corridor where you find a non-descript door with an agent in front who welcomes you in. Inside an agent at a desk will check your boarding pass credentials for access.

The Concorde Room features:

  • sit down dining, as well as the ability to order food or drinks from anywhere inside the lounge
  • access to the Elemis travel spa
  • uncrowded spaces compared to other BA lounges
  • three cabanas, private rooms with showers and comfortable seating
  • concierge

The Concorde Room is a nice enough lounge. I don’t find the food to be very good, and the service is often confused at best. My criticism of the lounge is that it isn’t as nice as it should be for a lounge that is so exclusive.

I do not mind spending time in this lounge. It just isn’t a world’s top 10 lounge, or even top 15. And it should be.

British Airways has replaced the furniture in the lounge, the new furnishings are an improvement. The ‘outdoor’ deck inside the terminal is nice though of course it’s similar to the deck in the Galleries First lounge. There aren’t enough power outlets.

The only thing about the lounge that ought to be special but isn’t quite there are the cabanas. These are three private rooms with couch, two small tables, a chair and private bathroom with shower.

It’s nice to get real privacy away from everyone, to shower and change and relax for a period of time especially during a layover after a long flight.

Since you can order food and drinks anywhere in the lounge, that includes to your cabana. There are menus in the cabanas. There used to be a phone on the desk. You’d call, and no one would answer. Now there’s a button to push that’s on the table, you push the button and no one comes.

I pushed the button wanting a second bottle of still water (there was a bottle of still and sparkling in the room when I got there). No response. Pushed it again 10 minutes later, no response. Went out to the Quintessentially concierge desk where you check in for the cabana and told them I’d like a bottle of water, they instructed me to… push the button.

After explaining that I did that several times to no avail they did promise to send someone right away, and several minutes later someone did show up.

Service in the lounge is hit or miss at best, and often just downright confused. When I checked in for my cabana they couldn’t find my booking. It was on the piece of paper in front of them, but the whole thing is done handwritten into a book rather than electronically. And it’s a mess.

When you ask to make a reservation – the best way is to make a request via the YouFirst web page – they will look in the book to see if there’s time available, and if there is they will hand write it in. What happens if you change your plans or cancel? There’s a handwritten reservation that doesn’t get updated. The idea that they haven’t made this process electronic is absurd.

I made a reservation for after my outbound long haul flight. I changed my return flight and wanted to book a cabana but it was only about a month out and there were no reservations available. A month in advance. Three cabanas, clearly, aren’t enough.

The spaces aren’t nearly as nice as the cabanas in the Cathay Pacific Wing first class lounge, but they’re better than not having a cabana. I think about them like:

  • A Minute Suites room
  • With a private bath and shower
  • Where you can have food and drink delivered

And that’s pretty good for an airport. In fact, the food itself while not great even for an airport lounge strikes me as better than it used to be.

British Airways really should invest in re-doing their first class lounge. Recognize that British Airways is never going to provide exceptional service, but they offer decent booze. It seems to me the lounge would be better with more cabanas, and a better process to manage them, at a bare minimum.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. The late posting of gate assignments and the ridiculous transit security are two of the main reasons I’m trying to avoid LHR lately.

  2. The British Air First Class lounge has made transfers at LHR easy for us now, especially since we usually try to spend the night at the Sofitel to avoid crazed rushes to catch connections through Heathrow. I agree that the airport is designed for encouraging spend and certainly not for ease of travel, but the First Class check in has made Heathrow a much better experience for us.

  3. My family had the opportunity to spend several hours at the Cobcord room 2 years ago with my then 1.5 year old son. After flying direct from the West Coast it was really nice to have a Cabana reserved. We took showers to freshen up and then my wife was able to nap with my son while I had my free massage at the spa and a few drinks and lunch at the bar.

    For those of us that don’t get to travel international First more than a few times in a lifetime the Concord room is a real treat. I’m sure it can be improved but compared to spending a layover in the terminal it is a huge improvement.

  4. I will take space in a lounge over service any day ! I have been in the Concorde room 4 or 5 times and it’s been great compared to most biz class lounges packed ! Amex centurion Terrible ! Packed ! Most priority pass always packed ! Concorde room does a good job.

  5. I’d like to know what BA is doing with its Business class lounge in JFK Terminal 7. I flew to London in November. The lounge was undergoing construction, and they shunted us off to the 1st class lounge for dinner. I stupidly asked if we had to go back to the Business Class lounge after dinner, and was told that yes, I should I figured no one would notice – we didn’t have labels after all, and I stayed in the First class lounge until, eventually, my flight was cancelled, and I had to go home only to return to JFK about 5 hours later.

  6. @Frank

    Yes, if your criteria is better than a priority pass lounge, then BA’s three-cabin first lounge is pretty great 😉

  7. Accurate review. The last time we were in the Concorde Room, our cabana had broken furniture–one of the legs on the daybed was broken and it was almost unusable. The furniture was also not clean. It could be great, but the Concorde Room is run just like the rest of BA–Bloody Awful!

  8. Agree with your review.

    Compared to other F lounges in Europe (especially the AF, LX and LH offering) the concorde room is inferior. Slow to non existent service, mediocre food, not enough seating, not enough power outlets and and and….

    Also I dislike LHR. In most other European airports you don’t need to go thru security connecting between European and US flights. Not so here. And security is slow, disorganized and unfriendly.

    But then considering how inferior BA F is compared to other airlines F the lounge matches that experience.

  9. In my opinion, like many of your blogger brethren, in my opinion you seem very entitled and biased.

    Of course the Concorde room could be better, it could offer a Michelin star restaurant and a personal Butler and masseuse for every passenger, perhaps a private hotel suite with a workout room for each guest.

    In reality…It’s streets ahead of any US based lounge I’ve ever been in including Centurions.

    In my many visits to the Concorde, I’ve had a very personal service from an excellent attendant there who tailor made food without even being asked, for my child. I’ve drank a lot of vintage champagne and superb wine (not American rubbish, do you know the difference?) eaten many an excellent a la carte meal with flexible substitutions etc, with often friendly servers. I’ve showered and had complimentary treatments galore. There’s great natural light and views from humongous windows overlooking the busiest runway with the most diverse air traffic on the planet.

    Emirates Dubai F lounge is obviously better but not by much.

    Like I said you’re entitled and I’m not sure you can spot the class in First Class?

    BA First on board is not premier obviously, but I’ve had better food than Emirates F and way better service too, by that I mean kind, warm, and very professional all at once. Not always but frequently.

    I don’t fully understand the BA bashing… take another look at American carriers and their offerings?

    Lemme guess, you know much more than me ….as a “thought leader”, and world traveler (PS I am too, a full time traveler actually, and an ex pilot for BA’s main competitor)

  10. I agree about a lot of what you said ! I would rather hang in the terminal than be in so many of these crap lounges ! The Concorde room has always been great for me . The space alone makes it tops .

  11. @Andy you are comparing the Concorde Room – a first class lounge ONLY FOR FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS that purports to be one of the world’s best – against US-based business class lounges, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. It’s a nice lounge! It just doesn’t live up to the hype.

  12. The review is accurate, but I think it is a bit to harsh. Yes, La Premiere CDG and LH First in FRA are better, but I am happy with the BA burger, the breakfasts, and the champagnes. One thing I particularly agree with has been the threadbare furniture. But it is still better than any other lounge in LHR I have visited. Admittedly, I do not fly to Asia much, and would not be surprised to find those better in quality and service (and probably based on much more expensive F tickets).

  13. I had a a not great experience there on my one flight in BA first class.
    They didn’t bother to check me in so my flight didn’t show up on the board, the shower rooms look like dorm showers, and they never brought out my food.
    I had a short layover because of security and was very hungry. I asked what could be made quickly and they said a burger. Great. I ordered one and saw one of the servers walk out fo the back with a burger about 10 minutes later and then turn around and walk back. I didn’t think much of it but after 5 more minutes I asked on the burger and was told it would just be a few more minutes. I asked 5 minutes later and was told that it was brought out but I was not sitting where I said I would be and so they had thrown it away. I had seen the server leave the room and then turn right around so that was not possible. I was really upset and very hungry. They told me I should rush to my plane which turned out to have been delayed.
    They also failed to mention the buffet in the room next door when I mentioned that I was hungry and had short time that would have helped.
    Not shelling out for that again.

  14. My fav lounge at heathrow is the Cathay one. Always empty for American flights back to the states. Good food, good view of the tarmac. I hate terminal 5 for ba. Will usually choose American (plane is far better too) over ba, but have a soft spot for that 747 upper deck 🙂

  15. BA check-in for First Class at LHR is nice. Concorde Lounge is wonderful if you haven’t been exposed to some of the world’s great First Class lounges, but it isn’t competitive with the best ones. I am a fan of the CX lounges in HKG, but even they could be even better.

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