A couple of observations from my time in London Gatwick. We may rue crowded lounges in the USA, but at least we can generally squeeze into them…or at least stand in line outside. But the lounge crowding at London Gatwick was on a whole different level.
London Gatwick Lounge Crowding – Don’t Even Bother To Try To Enter
First, I figured the lounges would be crowded (recalling my last visit before the pandemic) so my first stop was an attempt to visit The Grain Store, which is a Priority Pass restaurant at London Gatwick. Even with horrific security lines, I thought it would be worth the effort to have a decent cup of coffee and an English breakfast.
But the problem was that I flying out of Gatwick’s North Terminal and The Grain Store is in the South Terminal. When I got up to the front of the line, my boarding pass flashed red instead of green when I scanned it. A staff member, probably thinking I was first-time traveler, told me that I needed to take the train to the North Terminal. I explained that I just wanted to eat in the restaurant here, but he told me that it was only possible to access the terminal you are flying from.
I wasn’t in the mood to argue and believe that once you go through security at Gatwick (or Heathrow), you are “out” of the country (there are no formal exit controls) and that if you want to re-enter, you have to go through passport control in order to do so.
So back in the North Terminal I first tried to enter the No. 1 lounge but a sign outside the door said there was no space except for those with appointments or access on the basis of their premium cabin travel (i.e. no Priority Pass, although that word was not mentioned).
There was a QR code from which you could join a virtual queue, where I showed up as third in line. I figured I would not have to wait too long.
In the meantime, I went upstairs to the Plaza Premium Lounge, which I have access to thanks to my Capital One Venture X credit card. There was a sign at the entrance noting the lounge was full. Just to be certain, I asked the lady at the front if the sign was accurate.
She looked at me like I was absolutely stupid as if to say, “You’re new here, aren’t you?” But of course, the Brits are polite to a fault and she told me,”Whilst I cannot promise you access, please do check back at half ten” (which in German, directly translated would mean 9:30 am, but considering it was 9:45 am already, I guess she meant 10:30 am).
Thankfully, the easyJet Gateway lounge I reviewed earlier was crowded, but I was able to get in and enjoyed my Engish breakfast.
> Read More: EasyJet Gateway Lounge London Gatwick (LGW) Review
Concerning the No. 1 lounge queue, I did finally receive a text message that I could enter the lounge…three hours later. Yikes.
This is apparently very common at London Gatwick and is quite annoying. Obviously, a first-world problem…but that’s the nature of a luxury travel blog.
The sad thing? I don’t think there’s a solution. Too many with access, too little space. Until credit card companies and airlines tighten up or lounge expand in size, this problem will persist.
Two lounges I intended to review at London Gatwick were inaccessible due to overcrowding. These lounges were so crowded that passengers could not even line up outside. This sort of problem is why I so greatly appreciate Priority Pass restaurants. The sad news is that there is no end in sight and come spring and summer next year, the problem will likely be even worse.
The problem is, prople getting lounge access via credit cards, most of whom fly very very little.
End credit card access and allow only those with “earned” ( read … actually flying with an airline) status to access a lounge.
But they are enough of them flying to cause a disaster. A disaster in our world at least. And I don’t see it changing any time soon. Inflation up, markets way down, but people are spending money traveling like they don’t have a care in the world. Where is the money coming from?
That’s the question, right? Only thing i can assume is that people are going right back to their old spending habits of borrowing on credit. At least, that’s what the savings and borrowing rates seem to indicate.
People are using credit card for revenge travel. Give it 6 months. With the coming recession, massive layoffs and high credit card interest rates, a lot of these folks living outside their means are going to reduce or stop travel and also cancel their premium credit cards.
People have been saying “just give it 6 months” for a while now. While we are definitely going into a downturn / recession, travel still has a while to catch up to prepandemic levels, and people hold cash and assets in US$. I think there will be at least another year of big travel, driven by cheap international travel
The “disaster” will end next February. The stupid decision to rollover miles during the pandemic made almost everyone with status now. I have been a Delta Diamond medallion for over 10 years in a row and I found myself at #35 for an upgrade the other day. It used to be almost automatically. Many people will lose status which will separate the herd from the ones that that really fly. As for lounge access, make ir only available for people with status. Many will not be able to access anymore since they don’t have status. Also, no more free riders. Only if you have your name on the credit card you can access it.
I think this is more wishful thinking… by many metrics, Delta transatlantic flying is at all time highs. These customers are earning MQM and MQD on top of
rollover. There will be a lot of first time Diamonds in 2023.
Do you know what it takes to earn 125k MQM in a year? That’s not easy so those who really fly that much deserve it. All the rollover guys should be back to lower status. A Diamond as #35 on the upgrade list is ridiculous and as Diamond or 360 for 10 years in a row that was never the case.
The USA exports very little. Most of the economy is run on consumer spending.
@ Joseph Story- Yup, very little in exports. Only a record 1.76 trillion in goods in 2021. Reality doesn’t match your comment. Look it up first next time
@Jack- “The problem is, prople getting lounge access via credit cards, most of whom fly very very little”. Not picking on you for this statement, but my first thought was- “If they fly very little, then they’re not at the airport much, so not in the lounges much”. Although if the sheer number of these folks is large, they can swamp a lounge. I’d be interested to know what volumes of lounge visits are from “real” status, extended statuses, purchased the old fashioned way, via credit card, and via purchased class of service. Can’t imagine anyone has numbers on that, would just be interesting
@Joseph- although I acknowledge that the majority of GDP is consumer spending, Don’t want to gloss over that in my reply
Most of you guys got your status with your CC miles and then you started combinating flights and miles to get free upgrades and now you are conplainig about others. In my opinio. bussines lounges are for those passangars who are paying for their bussines card tickets, as the name suggest it ‘s a bussines lounge. As i said, most of you never pay for your tickets so stop whinig and complainig.
Thank you, Jack, i can only agree 100%
If they fly so little seldom is it just coincidence that they’re all there when you show up?
That’s an apples/oranges comparison. Too many people with access but don’t fly enough, yet there are enough flying constantly to overwhelm the lounges. It’s not a hard concept.
I understand this is how you make your living and everyone needs to make a living.
With that said between all the travel/credit card blogs (of which yours is one of them) interest in the sorts of cards which include lounge access and lounge access in general has increased.
An increase in lounge access means more people in the lounges which means things like long waits to get in.
The same thing happened with mileage redemptions, the more people who learned that they could fly in International First Class for not much money, suddenly wanted to fly in International First Class and as such the airlines raised the redemption rates.
The First rule of Fight Clubs is don’t talk about Fight Club.
I realize that is the antithesis of your job, but the long waits are in part caused by your profession.
Here’s an idea… make the whole airport a lounge. Put little buffets around the concourses so the pigs can feed. Then make the actual lounges not have food so the people that just want a quiet place to sit have somewhere quiet to go… maybe provide coffee and water at the most.
That’s similar to what I’ve thought: Airports are full of half empty stores selling overpriced junk to a captive crowd such as, and I find this hilarious, baggage. What good is it to buy an empty bag at the airport? To fill with the junk you buy there I suppose?
Half the stores could be closed and provide plenty of room for lounges. European airports generally have better areas such as long couches to sleep on (now that airports restrict entry to ticketed passengers, there’s not an issue with homeless vagrants.
I whole heartily agree with “Interested Reader” echoing what was posted regarding your job, still I have seen international first and even biz to a degree downward spiral. I was once on a Icelandic Air flight and there was sitting up front a travel “Blogger” who became more and more annoying as the flight went, several of us complained to the FA who in turn shut him down. I might add he had a companion in main cabin who kept coming up to the front as well. While in Africa on safari there was yet another travel blogger who was so bad the guide shut him down as well, to the point he was required to pay for a single land rover to take him out.
Having said this the cc companies have much to blame for all this mess we’re in, remember when the airlines were in dire straights awhile back the cc companies jumped in and purchased millions and millions of points/miles, now folks we are paying for all this crap.
Bottom line it’s going to be like this for sometime to come get use to it.
I was flying out of Gatwick North (on WestJet) last month and all the lounges had similar signs up, including the Plaza Premium. We were 3+hrs before our flight still (8min wait at security, zero wait at check in), so I tried to ‘pre-book’ on the Plaza Premium website.
Having never done that before I approached the friendly desk agent and asked how can I use my Visa/DragonPass to pre-book, and was told that as I was entering with DragonPass I, and my guest, would be allowed in.
Once we were in the lounge was half empty. Plenty of seats anywhere you wanted, food was fresh, plentiful, and tasty, no lineups at the bar. It was one of the more pleasant lounge experiences we’ve had (still doesn’t hold a candle to the AC Int’l lounge at YVR though)
having just recently flown through YYZ and having access to the new Air Canada cafe, this to me seems like a more modern and successful interpretation of an airport lounge. Have to have status, or be flying in J, or have one of only 4 very premium credit cards (Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege or Amex Aeroplan Reserve in Canada).
109 seats, a full coffee and juice bar with trained baristas, baked goods, grab and go snacks. It was an excellent experience, modern, well considered seating and working spaces, excellent service. We spent a couple hours here in the morning in August , and at most there were less than a dozen people in the lounge, and for quite a while, we were the only ones.
I know you’ve been here Matthew, but maybe larger spaces and more restricted entry is the solution, This is a lot harder to get into than a Maple Leaf Lounge, and the domestic MLLs at YVR or YYZ in the morning are a complete write off.
You can pay £6 to book No.1 access with your priority pass which also includes premium fast track security. So whilst I begrudge paying extra for something I’m already paying for there is some added value there and it’s a decent lounge
Absolutely can’t enter the other terminal at Gatwick, the only way to exit is to be escorted back out
First world problems. But don’t feel bad, this was the situation every day at the SFO centurion lounge where Amex Plat cardholders pay a $695 annual fee.
Was in Philadelphia yesterday and the Delta lounge had a line outside with at least 30 people. The other day in Minneapolis there were probably 15 people all from the same company like in a happy hour mode inside the Delta lounge. Airline lounges have turned into a zoo. I avoid them like the plague.
Is the North Terminal at LGW unique in not having a landside departures board anywhere?
My curiosity is why this is so widespread all of a sudden in 2022 when it was at most a fringe issue in 2019 outside of certain exceptions (of which ironically gatwick is one – also Amex C Lounges). But it seems basically at every UK airport a Priority Pass is now near worthless unless youve paid £6 to reserve a slot, and the blogosphere indicates US clubs are brimmed with people. Did half of the travelling public spend all of COVID lockdowns researching lounge access??! maybe!
Every cheap credit card comes with Priority Pass so that’s a disgrace. I rather seat by the gate than at a Priority Pass lounge.
The cards that come with PP are usually in the $500+ annual fee range, as far as I know. I wouldn’t call that cheap (at least not as far as credit cards are concerned).
>Lounges with good hot food, easily accessible with a credit card, but crowded
>Back in the day style, where only J flyers had access but you only had cheese and crackers at best.
“More restricted entry” is useless wishful thinking, no big business is going to turn down more access to more consumers just so elitist travelers can have their entitled “space.” Until then, enjoy the new normal.
I flew to Poland on 9/9 via Vienna. My first trip in three years to see mom and dad. I couldn’t believe how busy Vienna Airport was. Literally jam packed. IAD on the other hand was really nice. The security lines were short. Where is everyone going and in September when schools are back in session and the usual summer holidays are over? I was really shocked. It reminded me of the time I flew through Vienna at Christmas back in 2018. Told myself I would never do that again.
No Value. In fact, it’s a disadvantage. My opinion of EATING and FLYING; the two just don’t go well together. Alcohol prolongs JETLAG and makes you feel terrible (for an older person like me). And, there will be a line to use the toilet on the plane. LOL.
I have 2 United Lounge passes that I will never use and they expire in about 8 months. I’m giving them away for free. I guess get in touch with Matthew, the author maybe he will give you my email and I will email them to you (I don’t know if there is a name attached to the passes).
Fortunately I rarely need to depend on it but Priority Pass, certainly in Europe these days has the status of junk currency. You can rarely if ever gain access to a lounge with it. Someone needs to tell them to shape up their act because I for one, certainly won’t be renewing on expiry.
I don’t see UA or AA lounges as much different than pre-COVID. Sometimes crowded, but you can find a seat. And internationally I am usually in business, so get to use the airline’s own lounge, with no wait. PP lounges are always crowded and sometimes have lines (TK in IAD, for example). I’ve also noticed some airlines have closed lounges in the pandemic and sent their business class customers to PP lounges, kicking out the cardholders. BA at AMS, for example.
I’m a true business flyer, and sadly have the time away from my family to prove it. I tried using lounges numerous times in the last year and it was completely frustrating.
The UA lounges were slow to open back up and have had more limited hours, even as air travel picked back up. And forget about reciprocity of lounges if your airline lounge is closed-that’s the stuff of history books now (I found it’s especially bad in larger European airports).
I don’t see too many UA closed now. I know one remains closed in DEN but is under renovation, and one of the IAD ones, but, there are a few others there. And I’d say the food is a bit improved since before the pandemic. Domestically, I see the articles about crowded DL clubs, but haven’t flown DL in a while. Been to DCA and Portland and AA and AS lounges were open for their flyers. Been to a few of The Clubs, Escapes and Centurions in various places, and while some were crowded, have not had to wait.
Since I restarted flying international this summer:
CDG is a mess for anyone not flying AF business class since terminal 1 remains closed, though it has always been an airport where only Skyteam has good facilities.
BRU has the Brussels Air lounges and the Diamond lounges for other flyers, though not particularly special.
The BA lounge in AMS remains closed (which seems odd – they still have a lot of flights), but you get to use the Aspire (which is now tough for PP holders to get into). And if flying SN, the Brussels Air lounges are open.
LHR – the BA lounges in terminal 5 are back to normal. Have not done a lounge-hopping tour to check out the PP ones since the pandemic.
VIE – Austrian lounges seem back to normal for OS flyers. Didn’t visit the Sky Lounge.
If there are places in the EU that still have closed lounges, I’d appreciate hearing about it. Good to be aware. Info online is sometimes inconsistent.
Interestingly enough I flew out of Gatwick with a friend on Saturday morning and when I walked up to the Escape Lounge (PP) there were also signs stating the lounge was at capacity and only passengers who pre-booked would be admitted. Since there was no line, we just took a chance and went downstairs to the reception. The lady just scanned our boarding passes and priority pass without asking any questions and we were shown to a table. The lounge was maybe 20-25% full. Weird situation if you ask me.