- excellent cooked English breakfast
- free and fast wi-fi internet
- no natural light
- grim Heathrow Terminal (T3)
- top-notch shower
The American Airlines AArrivals lounge in London Heathrow airport's Terminal 3 is a handy option for travellers on oneworld airlines, including Qantas and British Airways passengers arriving from Australia via Singapore and Bangkok.
I'd previously used this lounge while travelling inbound on AA from the USA some time ago but at the time it didn't measure up to the British Airways arrivals lounge in Terminal 5 -- especially in terms of breakfast.
So I was interested to see whether the lounge had changed, or whether savvy travellers with a bit of time on their hands should still head over to the BA arrivals lounge in Terminal 5, which also has an Elemis Spa.
Location & Impressions
The AArrivals lounge is outside security and customs, a quick walk to the right of the main arrivals gate and up in a lift. Heathrow's a zoo, but it's one with reasonably good signposting.
Terminal 3 is the main "unaligned and other foreign airlines" terminal at Heathrow, which is a bit of a pain since it's often crammed with people, especially in the non-EU passport line and outside arrivals.
T3 is, frankly, grim and could use knocking down -- but that's not exactly AA's fault.
Once I'd arrived into the lounge I was greeted by a very warm and friendly British agent in AA uniform, who gave me all the information I needed, let me deposit my suitcase in the baggage room and pointed me towards the showers.
Inside the lounge, there's not a lot of natural light, and there's no view out of the building. In fairness, that's as much Heathrow's fault as AA's, but it does make the lounge itself a bit dim and dark, especially in the morning after a long flight.
All First and Business Class passengers on oneworld airlines can get into the lounge, including BA and Qantas. Oneworld emerald frequent flyers -- including Qantas Platinum -- also receive access.
You can also buy your way in for USD 90 + VAT (which is currently 20 percent), which works out to A$100 or UK£68. (Buying your way almost certainly isn't worth it unless you are heading straight from the airport to a business meeting and need to look your best.)
Having previously visited the lounge several years ago and experienced a rather paltry continental (i.e., cold) breakfast, I wasn't expecting much.
But I was very pleasantly surprised: the cold breakfast is much improved with bircher muesli pots, yoghurt, cereals and sandwiches, while the hot offering is now a full English, with eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns and baked beans, all of which were delicious.
A good selection of soft drinks (in tiny airline-sized cans) is also available, and there's relatively good espresso-based coffee (and, of course, tea) too.
You have several good choices for working areas in the lounge: desks in the business centre (with computers or bring your own laptop), at the breakfast tables in the lounge, or in the comfortable armchairs in the relaxing section.
The wireless Internet is a free and fast BT Openzone connection, which handled everything I threw at it from text email to downloading some large attachments.
All in all, the ideal spot to catch up on what you missed in-flight.
An arrivals lounge isn't really supposed to be relaxing -- more gearing you up for the day ahead.
The excellent showers -- with overhead and side-blast shower heads -- are fantastic for this, and each of the 29 shower rooms have their own loo, plus sinks to shave and put yourself together again, and a praiseworthy amount of flat space to spread out your washbag.
Razors, toothbrushes and so on are available from the front desk, so don't forget to ask for them if you're not carrying. The showers have shower gel and shampoo, but they're pretty industrial and aren't especially pleasant.
There's a small area around the back of the lounge with comfortable chairs where you can relax with a coffee if you're staying a while.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the AArrivals lounge, which has been dramatically improved since I last used it several years ago. With excellent friendly staff, a good breakfast and decent Internet, it ticks all the boxes, but there's no real "wow" factor.
Connecting passengers on BA flights from Terminal 5 should head directly there -- the lounge offering is much more extensive and includes access to the Elemis spa for a rejuvenating massage. There's also a view out onto the runways, nicer ambience and flight information.
But the AA AArrivals lounge has improved to the point where most passengers won't want to trek over to T5 for breakfast -- and that's got to be a good thing.