Some time ago I wrote that London City was selling space in its Jet Terminal lounge, branded now as its First Class Lounge. The reason for the interest in this is that, apart from the lounge that BA uses for its LCY-New York JFK flights, there are no other lounges at London City. Bearing in mind that a number of airlines offer their version of Business Class, this is a deficiency, probably caused by a lack of space.
London City now sells access to the lounge (£180 per go, £90 for the first two months as a trial offer), subject to space being available. I suspect if they have a couple of business jets coming or going, they are going to be sold out to fee payers.
I had been given a free ticket by a member of LCY Management who I know, and had a flight booked on Alitalia. Not every airline at LCY participates in the scheme and so you need to check before you book. Notably, British Airways is not playing ball at present. Lufthansa and Swiss are in, as is Flybe. Why does this matter?
Well, part of the service is being able to check your bags at the Jet Terminal and then be driven airside to the plane. The airline has to agree to these two features, and BA won’t for now.
Some weeks ago I contacted the staff there about booking and as Alitalia only came on board about a week before my trip, the timing was perfect. On the day of my visit, my meeting finished early and I asked if I could along a bit early (2 hours, in fact). They were delighted to help and asked that I call from the DLR, the stop before City Airport. I called and the host was waiting for me with a very nice van right as I came off the train.
The three minute drive to the non-descript building that hosts the lounge was spent checking that I had boarding passes, no luggage and that I knew the timing for the rest of my visit.
The gentleman looking after me (Liam), explained that I was the only passenger booked in for the afternoon, as although there was a private jet departure. It’s passenger would drive right on to the tarmac after security, and depart.
The food selection in the lounge is not extensive – don’t think BA’s Concorde Room or Lufthansa’s First Terminal – it’s sandwiches, cakes and yoghurts. All very nice I might add – tasty, fresh and with thoughtful ingredients. There was a wide range of drink available, a nice Nespresso machine, a range of teas, wine, champagne, wines, soft drinks and several British beers.
There are plenty of seats in the lounge, grouped in varying numbers as well as a couple of private rooms and smaller areas – all able to accommodate parties of different sizes. A huge wall of magazines and fast, free WiFi, coupled with some TV’s meant that the time passed quickly. Planes were landing towards the East and so flew overhead getting some decent views of them.
When it was time for me to go, I was taken to the private security screening area for the Jet Terminal where two lovely members of staff helped me through the process. No special treatment here – laptops/iPads and liquids out but it all felt very civilised.
I then popped back in to the mini-bus, handing over my passport and boarding pass to Luke, and then we were off down the ramp to my plane. I waited in the mini-bus whilst Alitalia checked my details and Luke returned the boarding pass and passport. A handshake and I was off on the plane, a good 5 minutes before the other passengers were released from the terminal to board. No worries about overhead space an a friendly welcome from the crew were added features of the experience.
Overall, it was a great chance to experience the lounge which provided gentle but thoughtful service.
Head for Points wrote a fairly hostile piece on the lounge, whilst asking for a free visit. I tend to agree that the price point is too high. Although I suppose Chief Exec’s not wishing to mix with the average traveller in what is a massively overcrowded lounge at peak times, will stump up the cash. You have to be sure that your airline participates but if you are going on a special trip, it is a unique way to start your journey. The highlights were the staff and the peaceful environment. I got on my flight unstressed and relaxed after a hard week.