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Best and worst airport lounges in the UK

Our inspectors find pay-as-you-go lounges an expensive letdown

Heathrow No1 lounge at Terminal 3 tops the table, but our undercover inspectors were mostly underwhelmed by tired buffets and dingy surroundings elsewhere.

Airport lounges are increasingly popular, promising to start your holiday in style. But priced at anywhere from £18 to £50 for entry, are they really any better value than the restaurants and bars at the airport?

Our inspectors tried out 20 lounges at some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh. They were mostly unimpressed, with only six of the lounges gaining a score of three or more out of five.

Worst airport lounge

Bottom of the pile was the Skylife lounge at Southend Airport, which was rated just one out of five. Promising to let you ‘live the high life’, our inspector instead found noisy TVs playing in the background that made it hard to relax and soggy prepacked sandwiches. Like several other lounges, there was no hot food available.

Given Southend Airport was recently rated one of the best airports in the UK by readers, the Skylife Lounge really is a waste of money.

Best and worst UK airports – readers rate the queues, services and seating.

Airport lounge ratings revealed

The No1 Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 was rated the best lounge by our inspectors, receiving four out of five thanks to a complimentary a la carte menu and cinema. But it doesn’t come cheap  –entry starts at £32.

Find out how the lounges at your next airport were rated below.

Airport lounge Price
(on door)
Runway view Explicitly bans onesies Our score (/5)
Birmingham Aspire £22 £24 Yes No 2
Birmingham No1 £26 £33 Yes No 2.5
Edinburgh Aspire £21 £24 No No 2
Edinburgh No1 £26 £33 No No 2
Gatwick Aspire North £18 £21 No No 1.5
Gatwick My Lounge North £20 £25 No No 3
Gatwick No1 North £32 £40 Yes No 3
Gatwick No1 South £32 £40 Yes No 3
Gatwick Clubrooms North £45 £50 No No 2.5
Gatwick Clubrooms South £45 £50 No No 2.5
Heathrow Aspire T5 £35 £40 Yes Yes 2
Heathrow No1 T3 £32 £40 Yes Yes 4
Heathrow Plaza Premium T2 £40 £40 No Yes 2
Heathrow Plaza Premium T4 £40 £40 Yes No 2
Heathrow Skyteam T4 £30 n/a Yes Yes 2
Luton Aspire £26 £28 No Yes 2.5
Manchester Escape T3 £25 £30 Yes No 2
Manchester 1903 T3 £30 £40 Yes No 3.5
Stansted Escape £25 £30 Yes No 3
Southend Skylife Lounge £18 £21 No No 1

What do the ratings mean?

1 = A sub standard lounge we think is well below average; 2= An adequate lounge with room for improvement; 3= a solid lounge that meets expectation; 4= An excellent lounge that’s above average; 5=An exceptional lounge

We inspected all 20 lounges between August and December 2017. All reviews were carried out anonymously.

Should I pay for an airport lounge?

Plenty of people like to grab something to eat and drink at the airport, rather than stumping up for the bad food and bad prices on board the aircraft. But are you better off with a lounge or is a restaurant at the airport better value?

Take our quick quiz below to find out.

How to save on airport lounge entry

If you are considering booking into an airport lounge, there is no reason to pay full price.

  1. Always book in advance. It costs £40 to enter No1 Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 if you pay on the door. It’s just £32 when booked online ahead of time.
  2. Shop around. Holiday sites such as Holiday Extras or Lounge Pass offer discounts. We saved 10% on entry to Gatwick’s Clubrooms by using a comparison website.
  3. Membership schemes, such as Priority Pass, can make access cheaper if you plan to use lounges a lot. Priority Pass offers entry to more than 1,000 lounges around the world, but at £259 annually you’ll need to use it more than once a month to make your money back.
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