- great wine
- delicious curry
- dark, without natural light
- disinterested staff
- Elemis Spa for massage or facial
With a British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Singapore on a Qantas-BA joint venture service, I ventured into the BA Galleries Lounge in Terminal 3 a few hours before my flight, around 5pm.
Terminal 3 is home to all oneworld airlines that aren't British Airways, plus the joint Qantas-BA Kangaroo Route flights to Singapore and Australia.
BA's Galleries lounges are the set-piece lounge offer of the partnership in London, much as Qantas' international business lounge is in Sydney.
So my real question was: is this lounge as good as Sydney's?
Location & Impressions
The lounge is located in Lounge Area F (Heathrow unhelpfully directs you to meaningless letters rather than using, say, airline codes) and is open "until last departure".
Snake your way through the endless duty free shop (which is airport operator BAA's fault, not British Airways'), turn left as soon as you're out and walk past Thomas Pink's stylish shirt shop until you spot the "Airline Lounge" signs.
Down a rather industrial corridor, you'll find the dark blue automatic doors for the BA lounge complex, where I headed for the Galleries Club (business class) section.
Three rather disinterested lounge staffers seemed more interested in talking about holidays in Ibiza than with getting people into the lounge, and they didn't drop their conversation as I and several passengers approached.
Once inside, Galleries Club is split into several areas: a small "drop-in" area with comfortable chairs and power points starts off the lounge, leading into a rather soulless fluorescent-lighted section near the food.
Further in is a section on the left with wine bottles on display and comfortable seats, and a large business area on the right with computers, printers and laptop spaces.
Towards the back of the lounge is the attractive Silver Bar, which contained several relatively upmarket bottles of red and white. The Chenin was especially good.
This isn't the lounge to pick if you want natural light to reset your body clock, though -- while there's a view round the back of the airport, there's not much light coming in.
Business class passengers departing on a British Airways or other oneworld flight are given access to the lounge, and oneworld Sapphire-level frequent flyers (equivalent to Qantas Gold) get in regardless of what class they're flying.
Only business class passengers or BA Gold frequent flyers are allowed a massage or facial session in the Elemis Spa, though.
The Galleries First lounge is available next door for first class passengers and oneworld Emerald tier (Qantas Platinum) cardholders.
I arrived in the early evening to find a reasonable spread of "things in sauce over carbs" -- beef stew, chicken and vegetable curries, rice, and pasta with arrabiata sauce. The chicken jalfrezi I had was delicious, but the pasta was a bit rubbery.
A cold buffet of salads, cheese and meat (with bread) means you can put together a sandwich, and there's soup as well.
Breakfast runs until 12 noon, lunch to noon and 2pm, and dinner between 5 and 7pm. I was there for the dinner hour, and the offerings were slightly less impressive than the Qantas International Business Lounge in Sydney.
The wine selection was impressive, with bottles on offer at the Silver Bar and a separate display closer to the entrance.
The champagne -- Ayala, a lower end label that's much too yeasty and uninteresting for my taste -- is available only from the staff on request.
My advice: the wine is better than the champagne, and you don't have to wait for it to be brought to you. The Chenin was particularly good.
BA's wifi speed was relatively slow (especially when compared with the American Airlines lounge in the same terminal). At 2.6Mbps down and 1Mbps up, you won't get much of a movie downloaded or a file uploaded before your flight.
Power points are well spread across the lounge, although not in the dining area. The "drop-in" area has UK, European and US (with 110v power) power points, so you should be able to charge your electronics before your flight.
A business area inside the lounge was nearly empty, with most passengers preferring to use their own laptops. With a busy lounge, the space could have better been used for more quiet seating.
While the food area got a lot of foot traffic and was quite noisy, the back area by the Silver Bar was a little quieter, with a bit of natural light. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of natural light, and the construction of the building blocks quite a bit of it with overhangs.
At the end of the day, this is a functional lounge for an hour or so's email checking and gadget charging, with a bit of time for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. Luxury is left to the first class lounge.
International newspapers and magazines are available in the food area if you want to catch up on yesterday's news, while showers are also available on request if you want to freshen up.
The windows by the Silver Bar are remarkably badly soundproofed, so unless you enjoy the dull roar of a 747's ground power engine, sit somewhere else.
As it turned out, I found BA's Galleries Club lounge to be the least attractive of the three oneworld lounges in London Heathrow's Terminal 3.
While it was much better than the problematic BA-Qantas joint venture lounge in Singapore, it fell behind Qantas' light, bright and airy international business lounge in Sydney.
And it's certainly not a patch on BA's other Galleries Club lounges in its flagship Terminal 5, on the top floor of the terminal with loads of light and space.
My advice: skip the BA lounge for the Cathay Pacific lounge, which you're able to access with a business class ticket or a oneworld Sapphire (Qantas Gold) frequent flyer card.