I’m a massive geek when it comes to my flight reservations. From the moment I get an itinerary locked in, the fun begins. I make sure to switch to the appropriate FF number (I don’t always have status in the same programs that I have miles with), I get my seats assigned (taking care to observe the most frequent flight trajectory on flightradar to assure the best views) and I select meals where applicable (this is particularly fun on SQ where the menu varies quite a bit depending on the flight origin).
As luck would have it, this meant that I locked in my limo transfers on the QF F tickets a couple of weeks before the policy was changed, eliminating limos for award tickets.
I was impressed by how spacious the car was and loved the luxurious look of all of the leather and walnut trim. There was even a selection of “inflight magazines” as well as some bottled water. This definitely felt like the appropriate way to begin an F trip.
After an hour or so we pulled up to LHR Terminal 3. My girlfriend K arrived in her own limo about 30 minutes later; she was coming from home and I’d come straight from the office. Unfortunately her driver refused to change the route when she asked him to avoid traffic (“don’t worry, I drive this route every day”) and then left her with 3 large bags at the opposite end of the terminal to the QF check-in. Not the most auspicious start for her. Not that this would linger long in our minds, given what was in store for us
We quickly checked in at the QF F area (which is also available to BA CE passengers as well as OW Emeralds) and the agent let us know that we were able to use not only the BA lounge but also the EK lounge, as a result of QFs partnership with Emirates. I wasn’t expecting this as previously this wasn’t the case for flights on QF metal. Given that Alaska doesn’t allow non-US residents to buy their miles any more, I really wasn’t expecting to have much to do with EK for the foreseeable future and was excited to experience a little of this hitherto unknown airline's product.
One thing that I like about LHR Terminal 3 is that all the lounges are close together, so lounge hopping is a relatively simple task. We headed to the EK lounge first. There is a reception area on the ground floor with elevators and stairs heading up to the actual lounge.
The cool thing about this lounge is that it has jetbridges connected to EK’s A380s. Also they have Voss water which, if you care about that sort of thing, is a pretty fancy water. The bad thing about the lounge is… pretty much everything else. The lounge is enormous and has the feel of a, moderately fancy, Spanish motorway service area to it. Marble floors, lots of wooden chairs and lots of tables packed closely together.
The food selection was probably the highlight for me, with a variety of hot and cold options. I went with some cooked chili prawns and a mixed ceviche plate.
Also, it has to be said, the alcoholic beverages were definitely more on the business class end of the spectrum.
Given that this lounge is shared between F and J you would hope that the F would bring the average up so to speak. This is not the case. If I was travelling in EK F, making this my only lounge option, I would definitely try and minimise my lounge time and get on board asap.
With a couple of hours to go before our scheduled departure, we moved quickly on to the CX F Lounge.
What a difference. Where the EK dragons were abrupt and officious the CX receptionist was warm and polite, wishing us a pleasant stay in the lounge as we entered.
The lounge itself is quite small and has the feel of a private club. There is a TV area with large sofas, just as you enter. There are a few dining tables next to the F & B and then a series of sofas and chairs overlooking the tarmac.
The décor is warm and modern. I particularly liked the opaque glass walls, illuminated to show the bamboo behind them.
I always get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I see a Solus chair. I instinctively associate them with positive travel experiences.
There was a selection of noodles and dim sum available as well as salads and cheese. The drink was a notch above the EK lounge with LPR champagne available as well as Woodford Reserve and one of my favourite gins: Citadelle.
Of the three lounges we visited in T3 this was my favourite, K agreed although she was disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be visiting the VS clubhouse on this occasion (which is better than the majority of F lounges worldwide, in my opinion).
Before anybody accuses me of being biased and taking way more photos in this lounge, I'll say that the privacy afforded to us by the relative lack of people (especially after the departure of the CX evening flight) made it much easier to take pictures, without drawing excessive attention to myself.
I’d read on a number of TRs that the BA Galleries First lounge was worth visiting as it had a champagne bar serving LPGS, a restaurant reserved for ticketed F passengers and access to the spa in a nearby pay-lounge since the closure of its on-site Elemis spa.
Whilst the Elemis spa is now closed for good, there is a spa at the Number One lounge, useable by QF F passengers. The BA dragon was unsure of the procedure though and radioed for a QF agent to confirm. She said that he would find us and that we should enjoy the lounge in the meantime.
Our first stop was the champagne bar, which surprisingly had zero people in it. The LPGS is now gone, ‘enhanced’ away by BA and replaced with standard Laurent Perrier Brut. Not a bad champagne of course but also not a drink worth making a detour for.
That explains the lack of people.
The wines were very much of the £5-£7 a bottle calibre and the buffet selection…
A picture tells a thousand words. Although in this case one word would suffice. Disgusting.
No problem, we thought, we can head to the restaurant for pre-flight dining. An exclusive facility reserved for ticketed F passengers.
We waited around for a while until someone ran over, genuinely surprised to see anybody in the restaurant. He dumped down a couple of menus and then disappeared for a while. He came back asking if we wanted any champagne. I thought I'd try my luck, "I don't suppose you have any of the Grand Siecle champagne lying around do you?"
He looked at me like I was from Jupiter.
"The one in the black bottle."
"No, I don't think so, I'll check."
And off he went.
Shortly after this the QF agent (actually the same guy who was manning the check-in counter) came over to let us know that the spa was not available. He said that in future we should let staff know at check-in if we want to use it as it closes early. Whilst I understand that there may be procedures in place, it would have been nice to have been made aware of them during check-in rather than being told after the fact.
5 minutes later the waiter returned to take our food order, no mention of the champagne. Having looked through the options there really wasn't anything appealing on offer. We decided to make ourselves some small plates of chorizo and cheese, retiring to the main bar area of the lounge.
I have to admit, the decor here was pretty decent. I'm more a fan of the CX style but this lounge definitely has more character than a lot of others I've visited. In fact, it is a really apposite lounge for BA. Not the best hard product, soft product or F&B but nonetheless it has a certain style and charm that people really like.