When stepping off a long flight, there's nothing better than having a place to shower, freshen up, have a bite to eat and a cup of freshly-brewed coffee.
That's exactly what the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 has to offer, welcoming guests arriving (and even departing) on any airline: including Qantas, which recently axed arrivals lounge access for business and first class flyers here at T3.
Location & Impressions
After clearing passport control, collecting your baggage and exiting the Customs zone, you'll emerge in Terminal 3's small public arrivals area.
Walk forwards while veering towards the right, take the door outside to the bus/coach pick-up area, and you'll find the entrance to the Plaza Premium Lounge on your left, opposite bus stops 17 and 18.
Here's what you're looking for, and if the door doesn't open, just hit the buzzer to the left.
Once inside, you'll notice that this isn't your typical Plaza Premium Lounge – in fact, it's the only Plaza Premium-branded lounge in the world that doesn't have the company's signature look and feel.
The red, white and blue theme is instead left over from the lounge's previous operator, Delta, which vacated the space when it moved into the London Heathrow arrivals lounge of its partner Virgin Atlantic.
In any case, it's a compact lounge divided into two sections. On one side, there's a small buffet and dining area, just off reception.
On the other, a sitting room and relaxation area, with showers and restrooms down the corridor.
This lounge opens from 5:30am to 2pm daily, catering primarily to passengers arriving on long-distance flights at a time when their hotel room may not yet be available.
Travellers touching down at Terminal 3 after this time and wishing to use an arrivals lounge have the option of walking over to Terminal 2, where Plaza's separate arrivals lounge closes much later at 10pm.
Complimentary access is provided to the following guests:
- American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion Card holders with a same-day arriving or departing boarding pass from any terminal at Heathrow Airport (any airline).
- Priority Pass, Lounge Club and DragonPass members, in line with the inclusions of their individual lounge membership, presenting a same-day boarding pass. However, shower facilities for these visitors are subject to payment.
- Delta and Virgin Atlantic passengers directed here from Virgin's own Revivals Lounge during peak periods, which may include business class guests and eligible members of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (Gold and above), Delta SkyMiles (Platinum Medallion and above), and Virgin Australia Velocity (Platinum and above).
- Japan Airlines' VIP passengers, by invitation only.
- Plaza Premium Smart Traveller members (formerly Arrture) redeeming 1,000 loyalty points for use of the shower, 1,800 points for a one-hour stay (including a shower), or 2,500 points for three hours of access.
- Selected HSBC Platinum, Business, Corporate and Premier customers presenting an eligible credit card issued in Hong Kong or Malaysia. (No access with Australian cards.)
Not on the list above? Paid entry is also available online at the following rates:
- Shower only: £21 (A$40)
- Two hours: £41 (A$78)
- Five hours: £68 (A$130)
Passengers can also purchase access directly at the lounge reception desk at similar rates.
Given the limited space available here compared to Plaza Premium's other arrivals lounges at Heathrow, you won't find any hot food at the small buffet.
Expect to find lighter bites like fruits, cereals, pastries and crackers.
For something more substantial, look to the fridge below for fruit salads, lunch salads, wraps, sandwiches, cheeses, meats and yoghurt.
Given the lounge is built for the breakfast crowd, all beverages served here are non-alcoholic, with soft drinks, juice, milk, plain water and fruit-infused water at the ready.
Most appreciated after a long flight is the espresso coffee machine, where a DIY latte was acceptable. Teas are also available.
The dining area is relatively compact, with a few tables surrounded by London-themed artwork.
However, even during a three-hour stay, the lounge never got busy, so the number of available tables wasn't a problem.
Beginning your day by catching up on email, or getting down to more serious business?
You'll find seats tailored to work on the right-hand side of reception, where individual pods provide handy access to AC power with both UK- and US-style outlets.
On the other side of the lounge, this bench seat is conveniently close to the coffee machine when you're in need of an extra espresso hit, but only provides US-style power outlets: another remnant from the lounge's Delta days.
The dining area also sports US-style sockets along the red booth seat.
If you didn't pack a US adapter and need a true UK-type outlet, sit near either end of the bench and plug in:
The lounge's complimentary WiFi network delivers download speeds averaging 2.2Mbps and uploads a tad faster at 2.6Mbps: fine for basic web browsing, but slow for anything else.
Given Heathrow Airport's free WiFi service pumps out downloads of around 51Mbps and uploads of 85Mbps as tested on the same day, it begs the question why Plaza offers slower Internet to its paying guests than what's available for free to everybody in the building.
When your schedule allows for a little post-flight relaxation, pull up a seat here and unwind.
Shower facilities are available here – contact reception to book, and to pay the 'shower surcharge' if your visit was with Priority Pass or similar. (No extra charge applies to AMEX Platinum & Centurion, however.)
All in all, this is a simple arrivals lounge designed to meet travellers' basic needs after a long flight, but not one where you'd plan to spend hours, except as a place to work before heading into town.
Chris Chamberlin visited the lounge using a membership card maintained at his own expense.