Over recent years there has been a growing trend for using airport lounges before travel. They offer a quiet sanctuary, away from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.
Years ago these lounges were the privilege of those who had booked the most expensive airline tickets and were VIP’s. Over the past few years airports and service providers have harnessed a growing demand in the market and now most large airports across the world have lounges that the general public can pay to use.
The level of service you receive varies depending on who the lounge is operated by. For a recent flight before a business trip to Germany I treated myself to access to the Number 1 Lounge at Birmingham airport (BHX).
As a Gourmet Society Card holder I was able to take advantage of a preferential rate of £17 for priority lane security, up to three hours lounge access, unlimited alcohol (within reason) and something to eat. Being that the average pint costs over £5 in airport bars this deal was incredibly attractive!
I made my way through the fast track security line (although this wasn’t really needed as there was virtually no one in the normal queue!) and to the lounge to be greeted by a warm friendly smile from reception who gave me a menu card and ushered me in.
I found a place to sit, left my bag then made my way to the bar – the choice of drinks is as good as any normal bar. I opted for a glass of Chenin Blanc and was served by a very happy member of staff called Shendy – he was very friendly and clearly enjoyed his work.
The food menu had some good options, with a meat filled Yorkshire pudding, a salad, a fish finger wrap and a wild mushroom risotto to choose from. I opted for the risotto and placed my order at the bar with Shendy… and got another glass of wine!
About 5 minutes later another member of staff brought out the risotto. I’ve travelled to Italy a lot and my preferred cruise line is Italian, so I’ve eaten a fair few risotto’s. Mass-producing them to be served quickly is not an easy task and they can often become too mushy or gloopy – not this time.
This well-presented plate had everything going for it – fantastic flavour and just enough. If you feel that you need more food the other great thing about the lounge is the buffet area with salads, bread, fruit and cakes.
The timing also means that even if you’re in a rush you have time for something to eat, and I dare say wait less time and receive better quality than in the airport bars ad restaurants.
After finishing my food my empty plate was soon collected. Time for another couple of glasses of wine before the flight!
All in all I’d estimate the value I got from the lounge to be about £40 if you average £8 for a glass of wine, £3 for fast track security and £10 for the meal. It’s impossible to beat that value in my mind. Of course there was also decent WiFi and somewhere to charge mobile devices.
The lounge itself was nice and quiet, well-lit, very comfortable with a good mix of sofas, tables and chairs, lounge chairs etc. Even on busy days it would be an oasis from the crowds of the main terminal.
No1 Lounges also operate a booking system, so if you’re due to travel on a busy day you can ensure there is space for you by booking ahead – if you turn up on the day you may a) be charged more and b) be turned away if there isn’t room.