British Airways Arrivals at London Heathrow (LHR)

New York to London is one of the most heavily traveled international business routes in the world.  There are over 20 services daily on this route – BA alone operates eight each day.  Their oneworld partner, American, runs several more each day.

For many business travelers from New York, it has gotten to the point where London can be a day trip.  Take the early red-eye out, spend the day in the City or out at the Docks, then take an evening flight back home.

To make things as efficient as possible for business travelers, BA operates at London Heathrow (IATA: LHR) what I believe is the largest dedicated arrivals lounge anywhere in the world.  Located landside, after passport control and baggage claim in T5, they have gotten making a business traveler ready for a day of business down to a science.

I’ve used their arrivals lounge (this one, and the old one in T4) many times over the years, including earlier this week.  It can be a real benefit if you need to head straight into the office from your flight.

Once you leave baggage claim and customs, you exit into the lower concourse of Terminal 5.  Near the middle of the landside terminal area, there is the “Orange Lift” (or Orange Elevator, if you’re from the west side of the Atlantic).  You’ll know it when you see it – and it is tough to miss.  Simply take the lift up one level, and you’ll be let out almost directly into the lounge.

Tough to miss the orange

Entrance

Once in the lounge, there are five principal things you can do:

  • Shower and change your clothes
  • Eat
  • Get a quick massage
  • Use a computer – yours or theirs
  • Just relax

Depending on your circumstances, at least one of these – if not more – will be just what you need after arriving on a red-eye into London.

Shower area

Showers are off to the right when you enter the lounge.  I didn’t count how many there were, but I estimate there are 60 shower rooms available.  The shower rooms are small and certainly not luxurious – but they have exactly what you need to get the job done.

The shower is hot and strong – with an overhead spigot, half a dozen body sprays, and a hand wand.  Each room has a small but sufficient area to rest your bag.

The door has a large pass-through feature for pressing.  As soon as you get in the room, hang up in the pass-through what you’d like pressed – and the attendant will come and take it.  Within 10 minutes, it will be back, without any unwanted creases or folds!

They have a sign that indicates the entire room is designated as a wet area – imploring you not to leave anything you don’t want wet on the floor.  I think this is a design flaw, not their intent.  In any event, in my case, despite a long-ish shower, the floor of the room did not get wet.

There was some sort of signage for bath rooms.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a couple of larger rooms, with bath tubs and which are perhaps a bit more luxurious.  I didn’t ask about these.

Sometimes there is a wait for a shower.  In these cases, simply give your name to the shower dragon, then grab a coffee or juice and wait nearby.  I’ve had 20 people in front of me, and not waited more than 15 minutes.

A maze of showers!

A fairly big shower head

Counter space is a bit limited

Pressed in minutes!

Dining

Dining (for all but First Class passengers and Premier Card holders) is offered at a well-stocked buffet – akin to what you’d find at an upper-mid-scale hotel in London.  You could make a full English breakfast (which I often do!), or lots of other things.  I find the quality to be very good.  There are a number of different seating options – both communal tables and individual tables.

Lots of fresh fruit

Buffet area

The (Life Shortening) English Breakfast

First Class passengers and Premier Card holders are invited to dine in a small Concorde Dining Room, which is off of the main buffet area.  In this area, there is sit-down table service.  While I was there, only one passenger was in the Room.  I didn’t see the menu.

Concorde Breakfast Room

Spa

There is an Elemis Travel Spa in the lounge, which is to the left of the main reception desk.  There are probably half a dozen treatment alcoves.  They offer relatively short “over the clothes” massages and a few more specialized treatments.  I’ve partaken a few times, a 15 minute shoulder rub is nice if you have a few extra minutes.

This spa isn’t like the spa at the Thai First Class Lounge in Bangkok – it is an abbreviated edition – just enough to loosen up after the flight!

Sitting area in front of the spa

Connectivity

There is a business center with half a dozen computers.  There are printing/faxing facilities, too.  The business area has additional desks where you can set up your own PC.  Wifi was available throughout the lounge, and the signal was excellent everywhere I tried it.  The signal is password protecting – using a name of a city that BA services – ask when you arrive.  It seems like it changes every few weeks.

There is also a TV and newspaper lounge area.  They had a number of widescreen TVs showing news, financial news and sports.

Everything else

The lounge is open from 5am through till 2pm.  During my most recent visit, they put away the hot breakfast at 12:30pm, though a continental breakfast remained available afterwards.

At the old T4 Arrivals Lounge, there was a quiet room with some day-bed-like sofas where you could close your eyes for a few minutes.  There didn't appear to be such a spot at the T5 Arrivals Lounge.

Access to the lounge is, of course, limited.  Only passengers arriving on BA flights in First or Business, passengers holding BA Premier and Gold cards or AA Executive Platinum cards are allowed to use the lounge.  In all cases, you need to be arriving on a BA-operated longhaul flight to use the lounge.  Guests are not allowed.  I do not believe non-BA/AA oneworld Emeralds are allowed to use the lounge, except if they meet the class-of-service requirement.  If you arrive on American Airlines, you will be arriving at T3, where AA offers arrival facilities - you won't have access to this lounge, even if you flew on a BA codeshare operated by AA.  I’ve not tried AA's T3 arrival facilities, but will make a point to over the coming year.

When you are done at Arrivals, simply head back down two levels and get on the Heathrow Express into Paddington Station.  The ride takes 21 minutes – reliably!  I often arrange to have a driver pick me up at Paddington from the Express to take me onward.  More on the Express in a separate post coming soon.

If you are a business traveler arriving into London and plan to do business that day, BA’s Arrivals Lounge is an essential.  A few carriers offer hotel/Yotel access at LHR as an arrivals facility – but none come close to matching the ease of BA’s offering.  If I have any choice in the matter, when flying longhaul into LHR, I will be on British Airways.

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