Flying for me is a special occasion. Months before take-off, I will spend countless hours researching the specifics of the travel experience. This past summer, I had the chance to fly in Lufthansa First Class and logically, I made an extensive list of everything I wanted to experience months ahead of time, including the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt and being driven curbside to the aircraft in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. I covered almost everything on the list and it was glorious. Said otherwise, I'm a planner.
However, a few weeks ago, I was presented with a quick weekend trip to London, which left me scrambling and unprepared to my preferred travel planning methods. While this is quite typical and expected for folks who enjoy booking award tickets, the adrenaline of figuring it out within a week is both invigorating but also intimidating. I managed to whip up flights on American Airlines Business Class and opted to return in British Airways First Class from London (LHR) to San Jose (SJC). On the return, I gave myself additional time in London to explore the many lounges British Airways operates and The Concorde Room.
Airline: British Airways
Lounge: The Concorde Room
Location: London, United Kingdom
I checked-in for my 12:50PM flight at 9:30AM, giving myself a few hours to explore and enjoy the ground experience. For those traveling in First Class on British Airways, the ground experience includes a dedicated check-in area, which is more than just a single counter but a fully walled off corner of Terminal 4. This is followed by a dedicated security line, which leads into a hallway and directly into the First Class lounge. By design, the seamless flow from curbside to lounge is thoughtful and world-class. I continue to be impressed by British Airway's innovative design sense.
Once past security, passengers are shuffled into the Galleries First lounge, which is open to both British Airways passengers and oneworld Emerald members. This space is a catchall and certainly gets quite crowded during peak travel hours. The lounge you should spend more time in is the Concorde Room, just on the opposite side of the Galleries First lounge, which is reserved specifically for British Airways First Class passengers.
So, once past security, you’ll want to exit and head across the atrium past the Elemis Spa and into the Concorde Room. Once inside the Concord Room, I found the space to feel quite choppy, sectioned off into smaller seating areas and “living room” spaces. While each space is intended to be intimate, reminding you of different rooms in your own home, I think the overall design is less than ideal given its relative size which isn’t very big.
Now, the plus side of this space is the outdoor/indoor patio and balcony area. It’s such an incredible view to look out from the balcony and onto the tarmac. I was thoroughly impressed by the sheer number of British Airways flights, given how many gates were occupied. Service, on the other hand, was disappointing. Not only did the lounge not staff enough servers, they were very poorly trained and simply put zero-effort into the service. My guess is the staff is contracted by British Airways, which I would encourage the airline to revisit.
The lounge also offers on-demand dining with a rather extensive menu. Having not had breakfast, I decided to order a traditional full-English meal, which was delicious.
I love dedicated airline services, particularly at hub airports. I think it's a phenomenal way to bring an airline's brand to life. But, no matter how great the idea is, the proof is always in the pudding and British Airways' execution with this space is mediocre at best. Now, I know British Airways' strong suit isn't their ground services but, compared to their onboard product, British Airways has yet to capitalize on this opportunity. For starters, I would urge the airline to bring on more professionally trained personal attendants checking-in on you and providing you updates on your flight. Secondly, there needs to be a higher level of personalization and attention service delivery. Overall, while the space is decent, it's far from a crowning First Class product.