Business & First
- Variety of seating
- Plenty of sunlight during the day
- Staff could be more polite
- Half the lounge closes hours before the last flight
- Private room for first class, VIPs
The SkyTeam Lounge at London's Heathrow Airport was the alliance's first-ever branded lounge, opening in 2009 and spread across two levels to cater for first class, business class and SkyTeam Elite Plus passengers flying with SkyTeam on both long and short flights.
For example, this lounge equally welcomes guests taking the one-hour hop from London to Paris with Air France as it does those flying further afield, such as from London to Seoul with Korean Air, to Shanghai with China Eastern and to Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines – from which passengers can continue their journey to Australia.
More recently, the lounge has also opened up to Qantas and other Oneworld frequent flyers booked on Oneworld alliance member Qatar Airways, and members of independent airport lounge programs like Priority Pass: particularly useful for Aussie travellers beginning their journey home from Heathrow's Terminal 4.
Here's what SkyTeam's flagship London lounge has to offer.
Location & Impressions
After clearing security screening, turn right, and follow the signs to the SkyTeam Lounge, near Gate 10.
As a Priority Pass guest, I found the staff at reception rather unwelcoming: comments like "I don't want your boarding pass" followed by "this level is closed, go upstairs using the lift or the stairs" didn't create the best first impression, particularly when I noticed that the downstairs level still had the odd passenger around.
Walking through the space, a TV monitor broadcasting the Netflix login screen – as opposed to any actual content – didn't make the inside of the lounge seem any more inviting...
... although the flight information screens were working, at least, displaying all flights departing from Terminal 4, not only those of SkyTeam member airlines:
If you're travelling in SkyTeam first class or you're a VIP-tier frequent flyer with a SkyTeam airline – an Air France Club 2000 member, for example – you'll have access to one of two private rooms on the lounge's upper level, tucked away behind a privacy screen:
The largest room, pictured here, can accommodate up to 14 guests, while the smaller room (not pictured) can seat up to four guests.
These rooms feature "exclusive beverage offerings", says SkyTeam, although this review will cover the main SkyTeam lounge only, as experienced by the vast majority of travellers.
- Business class and first class passengers flying internationally with SkyTeam member airlines including Aeroflot, AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Eastern, China Southern, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Saudia, Tarom and Vietnam Airlines from Heathrow's Terminal 4.
- SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers when travelling internationally with any of the SkyTeam airlines above.
- Selected SkyTeam Elite frequent flyers when flying with their 'home' airline, subject to the rules of each frequent flyer program. For example, Vietnam Airlines' LotusMiles Gold members flying with Vietnam Airlines only. This isn't an alliance-wide rule, so if you're a SkyTeam Elite member, ask your airline about lounge access.
- Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire frequent flyers (including Qantas Platinum and Gold members) flying with Qatar Airways to Doha, by special arrangement.
- Business class and first class passengers plus eligible frequent flyers of selected non-SkyTeam airlines including Air Astana, Air Mauritius, Royal Air Maroc, Tunisair and Uzbekistan Airways, also by special arrangement.
- Priority Pass and LoungeKey members, plus Diners Club cardholders, prior to any flight with any airline from T4.
Note that while Qatar Airways operates its own Premium Lounge in the same terminal, only first class and business class passengers are afforded access, with Oneworld frequent flyers travelling in economy class directed to this lounge instead, or the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge.
AusBT review: Qatar Airways Premium Lounge, London Heathrow T4
On the dining front, everything in this lounge is self-service, beginning with the standard chilled drinks and juices, along with machine-made espresso coffee and a selection of teas...
... aside a decent range of alcoholic drinks, with more tucked away in the fridges nearby:
As for food, however, the offerings aren't too exciting – my mid-evening visit found various salad ingredients...
... next to essentials like bread and fruit...
... with evening snacks including pickled cucumbers, pâté, cheese (which had mostly disappeared without being replenished), chutneys, and a cake:
Hot food includes soup, "mixed vegetables" (corn and beans tossed together), chicken curry, salmon in dill sauce, steamed rice...
... penne pasta with your choice of sauce (mushroom on the left, tomato and basil on the right), focaccia, and mini churros:
The churros were nice and the chicken curry was also flavourful, but the focaccia was rather tasteless – and like many things at this popular buffet, needed a refill.
While the lounge features two buffet counters, one on each level, almost every passenger was upstairs at this point and dining from the one buffet, so these were quick snaps taken as the flow of passengers allowed.
Once you have your food, there are plenty of places to eat it: either in a communal setting...
... or at your own dining table:
All things considered, the food choices here are pretty standard, with nothing particularly "wow" on the menu, or anything eye-catching taking place such as cooked-to-order dishes as are becoming increasingly popular in business class lounges, and near-expected in international first class lounges.
Travellers toting their own tech have a variety of spaces to set up and work, beginning with benches that offer convenient access to USB and AC power – just keep your AC travel adaptors handy as the plugs here are all UK-style, not international:
For a bit more privacy, cubicle-like seating is also available with similar power outlets built into the partitions, and some spaces offering desktop computers if you'd rather use those:
For collaborative working, communal desks are offered over in the quieter library area...
... but if all you want to do is a little light browsing and you don't have your own device, some seats near the buffet provide fixed iPads just for this purpose – but as many travellers fly with their own tech in 2018, we'd like to see more power outlets make an appearance, so that you're not stuck choosing a particular seat just to plug in.
Wireless Internet is available throughout the lounge, but speeds are pretty archaic. The fastest download I achieved was 1.65Mbps (the lowest was 0.66Mbps), while uploads hovered around the 1-1.5Mbps mark – ample for very basic web browsing, but not much else unless you're particularly patient.
If you have time to relax before your flight, there are numerous places to hang out: whether you're just enjoying a drink at one of the cocktail-table-equipped seats or are watching TV (with headphones) at the screens nearby...
... or perhaps even playing PlayStation to pass the time:
Otherwise, take a seat near the lounge's living wall by the entrance...
... or for a tad more privacy, follow that living wall further into the lounge...
... where more seats are available, away from the main walkways:
For longer stays or a quick power nap, there are day beds in a 'quiet room' upstairs...
... and at the opposite end of the lounge, a TV viewing area – shown here from the outside only, as it was proving rather popular with travellers on this particular evening:
The SkyTeam website claims that the lounge has a yoga room, but after exploring both levels of the space (including the 'closed' floor), I couldn't find it. The other thing tucked away is the Clarins day spa, where lounge guests can enjoy a complimentary 15-minute treatment...
... but this was located over in the far corner of the lounge's lower level, which had been "closed" hours before the final flight departure of the night, so I didn't have a chance to use it.
Overall, because this lounge caters to so many different types of passengers – ranging from Priority Pass cardholders on even the shortest of flights through to mid- and top-tier frequent flyers and business class and first class guests flying internationally – your perception of the lounge will largely depend on the nature of your journey.
For example, if your lounge access comes from Priority Pass or SkyTeam status as an economy passenger and you're only taking a quick flight across Europe, this is certainly one of the better pre-flight lounges in the region available to you, and trumps many "domestic" airport lounges around the world for passengers taking such short hops – Qantas Club lounges in Australia, for instance.
But if you're embarking on a longer journey, especially flying first class or business class, this probably isn't a lounge you'd arrive at the airport several hours early to visit and enjoy, simply because there's not a lot to do beyond looking at screens, with TVs, computers, PlayStations and your own gadgets how you'll likely pass the time: and you'll have plenty of time to do that on your flight.