My biggest life lesson this year? Not to take direct flights from your local airport for granted. Learned on a delayed train to Birmingham, the day before the 6am flight to Almeria from the city that was the only one that meant the whole family could holiday in the same place at the same time. Ugh.
Still, the announcement that direct flights between Glasgow and New York were to be withdrawn over the winter presented my sister and I with an opportunity: a chance to try out No1 Lounges’ luxurious pre-flight departure lounge at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal.
With two lounges at Gatwick Airport (North and South terminals) and one each at Heathrow (Terminal 3), Birmingham and Edinburgh, No1 Lounges promises fully-tended bars, fresh, seasonal food and all the amenities you could possibly need pre-flight including plug points, unlimited wi-fi and a decent selection of newspapers and magazines to take away with you. Located just past security, the South Terminal lounge is one of the newer lounges in the No1 family and offers gorgeous runway views – even better if you time it for the sun going down.
As an additional perk, included in the entry fee is a fast-track pass through security – meaning you can just about head straight to the lounge on arrival at the airport (or from your connecting flight, as the case may be). Perfect for a pair of over-excited sisters, reunited for the first time in four months and with more than usual to catch up on (cue MC flashing her dazzling engagement ring again).
On arrival, we were handed a hot food menu from which we were invited to select one dish, as well as access to self-service treats, snacks, tea, coffee and soft drinks and a staffed bar. Seasonal food is something of a selling point for No1 Lounges, and the winter menu for afternoon/evening arrivals features your choice of a filled Yorkshire pudding, mushroom risotto, goat’s cheese salad or fish finger wrap. The self-service selection at the time of our visit included bar snacks of nuts, olives and rice crackers, fresh fruit and a minestrone soup so good my sister went back for seconds, and a selection of freshly-baked brownies, traybakes and cookies (so good I went back for seconds).
Despite my sister being partial to a fish finger sandwich (don’t get her started on how much Findus imports cost in Dubai), neither of us could resist the Yorkshire pudding with chicken and seasonal vegetables. Tasty, warming and wholesome, it was the perfect sustainer ahead of an eight-hour flight with only airline food for company.
The No1 Lounges bar is well-stocked with premium spirit brands: I had the choice of three different varieties of gin for my pre-flight gin and tonic (or three). Anyone who has ever taken an all-inclusive holiday will know that booze is ripe for cutting corners, so I was really impressed by the selection – which also includes draft and bottled beers, cider, wine and sparkling wine, and even champagne for an additional charge. Obviously, the staff are keeping an eye on you to make sure you’re not over-indulging in contravention of aviation rules, but with your booking giving you three hours access to the lounge you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a few drinks responsibly.
I was really impressed with my first-ever lounge experience. As a fairly frequent traveler I’ve perfected the art of getting to the airport as late as possible, grabbing a Starbucks and reading just about anywhere, treating the airport as an inconvenient necessity to be endured rather than as part of my holiday. After our emotional reunion in Glasgow Airport (so exciting I left my wallet in the house!), MC and I were thoroughly in holiday mode – and I can’t imagine the New York trip I’ve been promising we’d take together since her 18th birthday starting any other way now.
With delicious food, lovely drink and a relaxing atmosphere (the Gatwick South Terminal No1 Lounges even includes a quiet “Library” area and a sports bar-type room with big screen TVs, ensuring every type of traveler is catered for) No1 Lounges definitely took the stress out of our stopover. Special thanks to the lovely bartender who remembered my gin preference for each subsequent order, and for the excellent ginger loaf cake – although I agree with my sister that it would have been even better with a wee slick of butter, proving definitively that you can take the girl out of Glasgow but you can’t take Glasgow out of the girl.
Access to No1 Lounges starts at £26, depending on location; and includes fast-track security, three hours of lounge access, one cooked dish, unlimited self-serve food and unlimited bar drinks (within reason, not including champagne). I’m starting a petition to get them to open in Glasgow next!
I was given complimentary access to No1 Lounges, Gatwick Airport South Terminal in exchange for a blog post, but my sister wasn’t – and all opinions are, as ever, our own and unbiased.