British Airways Galleries First Lounge London Heathrow Review

Filed Under: British Airways

I often bash Heathrow for being among the worst airports in the world, which I really do think it is. That’s largely for reasons outside of the airport’s control, as they’ve just kept expanding and expanding without additional real estate, which I imagine is really tough. This has led to one of the most convoluted terminal layouts I’ve ever seen.

While we’ve reviewed just about every aspect of Heathrow Terminal 5 (The Concorde Room, The Galleries First Lounge, The Galleries Lounge, etc.), I figured I’d write this installment since, although these will never be the best airline lounges in the world, I actually didn’t find this visit to be actively unpleasant at Heathrow.

Our flight from London to Los Angeles was scheduled to depart at 10:25AM. We decided to leave the hotel nice and early to beat traffic. Even though it was a Sunday, I figured traffic would be a lot better at 6:45AM than at 8:30AM, for example.

We took an UberX to the airport at 6:45AM. It was a new C-Class Mercedes, and the flat rate pricing was 37GBP, which seemed extremely reasonable. The drive took just 25 minutes, so it saved a significant amount of time compared to taking the Underground.


The Terminal 5 check-in area is quite nice, though the premium check-in is located at the far end of the terminal, opposite of where we were dropped off (I had forgotten where premium check-in is, so that was my mistake).

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Terminal 5 British Airways check-in

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Terminal 5 British Airways check-in

Since I’m oneworld Emerald we could use the BA First check-in counter, where a friendly associate had us checked in within a couple of minutes.

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Terminal 5 British Airways First Class check-in

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Terminal 5 British Airways First Class check-in

The benefit of schlepping to the far end of the terminal was that it was near the south security checkpoint, which was apparently significantly less busy than the north security checkpoint.

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Terminal 5 security signage

There was a dedicated Fast Track security checkpoint. In other words, not only did you have a separate line if you were eligible for Fast Track, but the checkpoint was dedicated as well. As a result, the queue was extremely short, and we were through in less than five minutes. That’s probably a new personal best for me at Heathrow. Best of all, they weren’t ridiculous about liquids, as they often are.

Once past security we found ourselves in the center of Terminal 5, which is actually a pretty nice terminal, especially with the holiday-themed lights they had dangling from the ceiling.

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Heathrow Terminal 5 airside

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Heathrow Terminal 5 airside

We headed towards the Galleries First Lounge. Just past security there’s a door to The Concorde Room, though if you only have access to the other lounges you have to walk left towards the escalators, take them down a level, and then walk back in the opposite direction to take an escalator up to the lounges. Quite a roundabout way to go!

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Heathrow Terminal 5 airside

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Heathrow Terminal 5 escalators to British Airways lounges

As a reminder, the Galleries First Class Lounge is for oneworld Emerald members, as well as oneworld first class passengers. Those traveling in British Airways first class have access to The Concorde Room, which is the airline’s real first class lounge.

The first stop was the Elemis Spa, which is located between the entrances to all the lounges. As a first class passenger you can book an appointment in advance, while as a business class passenger you can only book day of. Every other airline which offers spa treatments seems to be able to accommodate passengers within an hour or so, while I never find that to be the case at British Airways. We asked about the possibility of a treatment at 7:30AM, and were told the next available was at 10:30AM. Nevermind then!

British Airways Elemis Spa London Heathrow


Once inside the lounge we headed to the dining area, which is located past the entrance and to the left. I do love the horse lamps they have just past the reception desks. If I ever buy a home I’d kill to have one of those.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge entrance Heathrow

The dining area is decent enough for what essentially amounts to a lounge for elite members. There’s a buffet in the center of the room, and then a couple more drink and food stations along the wall.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge buffet Heathrow

The buffet had absolutely massive croissants, chocolate danishes, and rolls.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

Then there was a typical hot British breakfast, which I’m not personally a fan of.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

Next to it was fresh fruit, yogurt, muesli, etc.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

Then there were some rolls with jam.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

On the buffet by the wall they had cheese, cold cuts, cereal, and granola.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge breakfast buffet Heathrow

Then there was also a huge drink station with fresh juice, soda, water, beer, etc.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge drinks Heathrow

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge tea & coffee station

In addition to the buffet there was an a la carte menu, which read as follows:

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After a quick breakfast we headed to my favorite part of the lounge, located at the other end. Specifically, the champagne bar.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge seating

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge champagne bar

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge champagne bar

They had three types of champagne on offer:

While not quite as nice as the Grand Siecle on offer at The Concorde Room, that’s a mighty fine selection for what essentially amounts to a oneworld Emerald lounge.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge Taittinger rose

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge Taittinger champagne

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge Castelnau champagne

We didn’t actually have that much more time in the lounge, so I spent a few minutes walking around and snapping a few pictures of the lounge.

Right next to the champagne bar is the business center.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge business center

Then in the main area of the lounge closest to the champagne bar is an area with hardwood floors and plush chairs.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge seating

The rest of the lounge has slightly more comfortable couch-style seating, with partitions between seating areas to create more of a sense of privacy.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge seating

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge seating

My other favorite area of the lounge is the terrace, which overlooks the terminal. The one issue is that there aren’t many outlets on the terrace, so it’s not ideal if you’re trying to charge your electronics.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge terrace

The most offensive aspect of the lounge are the bathrooms, which could use a refresh, to put it mildly.

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British Airways Galleries First Lounge bathroom

Our flight was scheduled to board at 9:45AM, so we decided to leave the lounge at 9:30AM. Our flight was departing from the C Pier, which meant we had to take the train two stops from the main concourse.

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Heathrow Terminal 5 escalator to train

That required going down the escalator to the lower level.

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Heathrow Terminal 5 escalator to train

I thought it was pretty hilarious that Emirates had a huge ad right above the escalator, in a terminal which is exclusively served by British Airways and Iberia. Sort of brilliant!

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Emirates ad in British Airways terminal!

The train runs frequently, so within about five minutes we found ourselves in the C Pier.

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Terminal 5 train system

There we had to take the escalator back up to the concourse level.

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Terminal 5 Pier 5 escalator

Our departure gate, C53, was just two gates from the escalator.

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Terminal 5C Heathrow

The views of planes from this concourse are quite nice. There was a British Airways A380 right as we got off the escalator. While I don’t love British Airways as an airline, their paint scheme is mighty sexy, in particular on the A380.

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British Airways A380

Then two planes over was a 777-300ER, which would be taking us to Los Angeles.

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British Airways 777

We seemed to arrive at exactly the right time, as boarding commenced just two minutes after we arrived at the gate.

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Departure gate C53 Heathrow

Because of how the gate was situated we didn’t even have to battle our way through a huge crowd to get on the plane.

British Airways Galleries First Lounge bottom line

This was probably the most pleasant experience I’ve had at Heathrow. Security was efficient, the lounge was nice enough, and I got on the plane pretty quickly. As far as Heathrow and British Airways go, I think that’s about all you can ask for.

At the same time, it amazes me the degree to which Virgin Atlantic kicks British Airways’ ass. Keep in mind I was using first class check-in and what’s technically their first class lounge.

As a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class/business class passenger you can use the dedicated Upper Class check-in area, which has a private security checkpoint, and then their incredible Clubhouse at Heathrow. That lounge beats The Concorde Room, in my opinion, let alone any business class lounge offered by British Airways.

  1. Thanks for the review. My wife actually prefers the GF to CCR because she prefers the buffett option than a la carte… So we eat there and then rest in the CCR if we are flying BA F….

    Is UberX in London liviered cars (a la NYC) or any Joe with a Car?


  2. @lucky if im traveling first class on BA, I can access the Concorde room, but what about my wife who is traveling biz class, also on the same BA flight? I know im going to get grief for separate booking classes. Presume I’ll let her have the afternoon tea and extra room on board. Meanwhile on the ground, is a guest allowed or strictly First only in the champagne, er… Concorde room?

  3. Man, that’s an early time to leave a hotel for a 10:25 flight! Were you up early anyways and just decided to spend the extra time in the lounge instead of at your hotel? I would have saved the money on the Uber and taken the Piccadilly line and it would only be about 20 minutes longer- $50 savings.

  4. Tri n as a first class passenger you can guest your wife into the CCR.

    I can’t believe there was such a blatant error on the gf menu!

  5. Is it only me or does the food area of this lounge look like a cafeteria? Really pathetic for supposedly first-class. I’ve only ever been to the Sky Team lounge, as Delta has decided not all Delta business-class passengers are worthy to use the Virgin lounge. So while I can’t comment on the Virgin lounge, I can say I have always been impressed by the Sky Team lounge. When I was there last — about two weeks ago — it was fuller than I’ve seen it in a while but I was able to get a double spa treatment, all the newspapers I wanted, lots of wine, a couple bottles of hard cider to take with me, and decent food. My only complaint is the staff are contract there and can’t actually do anything to help you with flight issues.

  6. In T5, if you’d like to have a bit of a stroll on a long day of sitting, eating and drinking, you can take the elevators (rather than the escalator) down a level below the train and use a tunnel to walk to the B and C piers

  7. For me, LHR is one of the best if not the best airport. To be honest it’s really surprising to see that a well travelled person like Lucky complains about how confusing the LHR’s layout is. Just follow the instructions and you’ll know where to go. It’s that simple. Lastly I managed to go from one terminal to another under 30 minutes including the security checks.

  8. Great review and pictures, very harsh on Heathrow though, great facilities and Terminal 5 is amazing, great retail outlets. Have you travelled through Seattle (Sea Tac) ?

  9. The Briton in me is sad…. you don’t like the English breakfast? 🙁
    Who doesn’t like bacon, eggs, sausages (my personal favorite), beans, and bread on a plate?

  10. Oh dear! The bottles of champagne remain open: they do not put any special cork to keep the fizz in!

    There are not chocolate danishes, and rolls: there are pains au chocolat, and pains aux raisins… ;-))

    Thanks again for this lounge review.

  11. I fux with a full English breakfast. I order Heinz beans in tomato sauce by the case from Amazon. If I get home late, drunk, tired, whatever, it’s the easiest thing to throw on some toasted crusty bread+pepper+Lea & Perrins and scarf down. The whole can… ^_^

  12. @Legoboyvdlp

    “Who doesn’t like bacon, eggs, sausages (my personal favorite), beans, and bread on a plate?”

    Mostly the rest of the world who is not British?

  13. Am I just lucky (pun intended!) – every time I have used terminal 5 at LHR I have absolutely flown through. No queue to check in, straight through security, then hundreds of well thought out options to while away the time.

    I appreciate LHR as a whole is dodgy criminal, but T5 in isolation has always been a dream.

  14. Thanks for reviewing the food options. Each time I’m there, I seem to not make it past the bubbly.

  15. @No Name

    I’m not a Brit and the traditional English breakfast if my hangover cure, even if not hungover I enjoy it.

  16. Agreed LHR security can be a nightmare (esp with conformance) but I think the signage is extremely clear, so I don’t find it all confusing.

    For international flights the lounge is reasonable/OK but domestic flights as a OW Emerald it is fantastic, just annoying when you have to drive at the other end. The non-stoppered champagne is rarely an issue given the rate they go through it at!

    I think the breakfast options are pretty comprehensive – a good spread of hot and cold buffet and some a la carte options.

  17. Great review as always Ben, love how many pictures you take. Heathrow is a complete mess and I imagine if they could(which they can’t) they would knock it all down and build from scratch and if they did it could be in the top few airports in the World. Having tried a lot of American breakfasts I far prefer English back bacon and a full breakfast, I find American breakfasts to concentrate on the sweet side far too much. Thanks as always, looking forward to more travels!!

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