Expert guide: best oneworld first class lounges at Heathrow T3

By John Walton, June 14 2012

Flying from London Heathrow's Terminal 3 and got a Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum card, or the Emerald equivalent with other oneworld airlines such as BA and Cathay Pacific?

There's no shortage of oneworld lounges at T3, including three first class lounges accessible to Qantas Platinums and oneworld Emeralds: those are American Airlines' Flagship Lounge, British Airways' Galleries First lounge and Cathay Pacific's First Class lounge.

But with only a few hours before your flight, which one should you choose?

We've reviewed them all -- and the results of our on-the-ground tests (not to mention our real-world pictures) may surprise you!

The three lounges in a nutshell

The lounges are all fairly near each other in T3's "corridor of lounges" which is so familiar to frequent flyers.

Once you pass through the irritating Heathrow duty-free maze make a left turn for Cathay, go straight on for BA and turn right for American.

BA's Galleries First is the default lounge for most Australian travellers.

It's long but not deep -- around the size of Qantas' Sydney International Business lounge. Pick it for champagne, wine or food, but skip it for business use, natural light or a view.

BA's Galleries First food and wine is great, but don't expect to be able to spread out and work in the business area.

Cathay Pacific's First Class lounge is a tiny gem, with particularly good work areas and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Veuve Clicquot champagne is firmly business class, although the wine is well chosen. The at-seat noodle bar is a real draw -- there's just something about noodles before a flight that ticks the box.

We'd normally never suggest anyone pick an American Airlines lounge over any non-US airline's facility, but the wifi is blisteringly fast: we're talking 15 Mbps down and nearly 18Mbps up. (That's compared with just under 4Mbps down and 0.5 up at BA's lounge, or 2Mbps down and 0.2 up at Cathay's.)

Speedy and rock-solid wireless Internet is a weakness of many airport lounges and there's nothing more frustrating when you're trying to send or download some large files before your flight.

If you need to be connected and don't care about bargain-basement wine or unimpressive food, this is the lounge to pick.

Blandly corporate and with missable food options, the American Airlines lounge nevertheless has blazingly fast wifi.

Who'll like each lounge

Wine and champagne lovers: BA

If you're a fan of wine and champagne, BA's Galleries First is absolutely where you should head.

Current champagnes when I visited were Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle and Bollinger Rosé -- both well up to the international first class standard.

You may have to sample both champagnes to figure out which you think is better. Alas.

If you're not a fan of the bubbles, Galleries First is also blessed with some fabulous wine.

Unusually for me, the top three are all whites, although there are also some respectable reds:

  • Pacific Rim (Washington state, Columbia Valley) Riesling: off-dry but pleasingly complex
  • Morgan (California, Monterey) Sauvignon Blanc: herby, mouth-filling and a real find
  • Dom Jean-Pierre Sève Pouilly-Fuissé: oaky, buttery and classic; a must for lovers of traditional French wine
If you spot either of these bottles, pour yourself a drop. They're both brilliant.

Widest range of table-served food: BA

Table service that's brasserie standard (though not up to Qantas' First Class Lounge standards)? BA Galleries First is the place to head.

If you're in time for breakfast, do take advantage of perfectly-poached eggs. Later in the day, the meze plate is great, and the gourmet burger is also very tasty.

Cheese fans should ensure they don't neglect the utterly fantastic cheese plate on the back page: it's a real gem.

Great cheese — shame about the pub-style cutlery wrapped in a paper napkin.

Space to spread out and work: Cathay

Of the three oneworld lounges, Cathay Pacific's is the smallest, but it's full of natural light from windows on two sides.

Noodle fans (who will love the made-to-order noodle bar) aside, the reason to choose the Cathay lounge is its full-sized work desks.

Enough space for even the largest laptop...

Each desk has a computer, but there's more than enough space (and an easily accessible power socket) to set up your laptop and spread out your work. (Or your noodles.)

Lightning-fast Internet: American

Yes, we're ordinarily as reluctant to visit a US airline lounge as you are. They're normally so far below the accepted international standard that you can barely see them.

"Depressingly corporate" or "corporately depressing"? You decide...

But the American Airlines lounge in Heathrow has one redeeming feature: super-fast Internet. 15Mbps down and nearly 18Mbps up is world-class.

The AA Flagship Lounge has the worst food of the three lounges.

The buffet's rubbish and the wine would have me reaching for the softies, but if I needed to download a hefty file you'd find me in the AA lounge.

A shower (and a spa): BA

British Airways Galleries First has the best showers of the lot, with side-jets and decent Elemis toiletries.

The side-jets are a great way to wake yourself up (or apply heat to a sore back).

BA's Elemis Spa offers facials and massages for passengers in BA business or first class and BA Gold frequent flyers. Sorry, valued Qantas partners, you don't get a look-in.

If you happen to be on a BA flight, though, the Elemis spa has some basic sessions you might enjoy. Don't expect it to be up to the Qantas First Lounge standard. The facials are probably the best of the lot.

Ambience and view: Cathay

Let's face it: sometimes what you need at the end of a London business trip is a decent glass of something, a comfy chair and a view of the sunset (and maybe the oddly calming giant airport fishbowl of planes taking off, landing and trundling around).

Floor-to-ceiling windows and chairs facing outwards: some of the best views in the terminal.

For that, Cathay's lounge is my pick. The deeply comfortable chairs by the windows and a glass of Veuve Clicquot is a fantastic way to spend the time before boarding.

Overall pick: BA or Cathay

Assuming I didn't have some serious Internet-requiring work to be done, I'd probably pick the BA and Cathay lounges: BA if I were hungry or fancied a really good drop but was happy with a bit of a dark, closed-in ambience, or Cathay if I wanted noodles and space but didn't need a gourmet experience.

Disagree? Have a special place in your business travel heart for one of these lounges? Feel free to sound off in a comment below!

And for the very latest in news, reviews and information you can use, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton
John Walton

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.



10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Completely agree.... Whilst I would wish I could say that the BA lounge is the best (given that it is their home airport!) I have to say that I almost always go to the CX lounge. The whole wine / champagne thing is lost on me since I don't drink and the comfort of the CX lounge surpasses that of the BA lounge... and those noodles... a definite delight pre-flight!

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

I quite agree -- what is it about noodles that makes them so perfect pre-flight?



25 May 2012

Total posts 9

Not sure i'd call VC Ponsardin strictly business class champagne, QF have it in their F lounges in MEL, SYD and HKG, Malaysian has had it at their F lounge in KUL, and so has JAL F at Haneda at some point. 

Mind you i'd still take the Laurent Perrier out of the two. 

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

I would -- at least the basic yellow label, which is what Cathay serves. If it were the excellent 2002 Vintage (which is an absolute steal at its price point) or, less likely, La Grande Dame, or even my personal favourite, the slightly oaky Cuvée Saint-Petersbourg, my call would be different.

Old Mrs Clickwot has been very clever with her marketing and brand positioning -- but one of my tests when comparing champers is to compare UK prices. Poms know their Pommery (sorry, sorry, dreadful pun) and Veuve can't command a price premium there. Veuve, Taittinger, Lanson, Piper...they're all in that £25-35 retail price bracket that says "business" to me.

Don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't turn down a bottle if you're passing through duty free -- but when the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle retails at approaching the £100 mark the yellow label is not even in the same league.

Agree with you on the LP over the Bolly Rosé though...and I'm a real Bolly fan.



Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2012

Total posts 166

Great article John.

I am flying 1st with Qantas from LHR - MEL and will be checking out these lounges for sure. Its a pity that a Qantas 1st passenger cant use the BA Spa pre flight but not to worry. By the sounds of it il be heading to the BA lounge for some nice food and a wee tipple, followed by the Cathay lounge to relax before boarding. I'll have to give the noodles a go now !

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

Cheers LoveToFly -- let us know if you become a first class noodle convert! (My top tip on that if you like the wonton noodles: ask for extra wontons and don't skimp on the chili sauce.)



20 Jul 2011

Total posts 73

I think the BA First lounges in LHR suffer from the fact that they're actually just elite frequent flyer lounges - their actual first class passengers use a separate lounge (the Concorde room) where I expect BA makes more of an effort.



12 Jul 2011

Total posts 76

The Concorde Room is in T5, not T3. BA First passengers travelling to Aus would use the Galleries First lounge. 



02 Sep 2012

Total posts 2

Last time I was in the BA Galleries First Lounge, I was refused access to the dining room and told it was only for First Class passengers. So it was disappointing not to have been able to enjoy a sit down meal in the hours before my next flight. As a result, I will be thinking of heading to the CX First lounge on my next trip.

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

AwayAgain, I talked to British Airways about this on your behalf. Their spokesperson said that the dining area in T3 is absolutely open to anyone who has access in the lounge. You weren't talking about the T5 Concorde Room, were you?

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