The British Airways Concorde Room… a bloody disaster!

One of the things I was most looking forward to about my quick “five countries in five days” jaunt I’m currently on is a visit to the British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow.

Most rank the Concorde Room as one of the top ground experiences in the world, so after my amazing Emirates lounge experience yesterday I was quite excited. I didn’t actually have very high expectations since I’ve done the other best first class lounges in the world, like those offered by Lufthansa and Thai.

My delight with Heathrow (which isn’t the lounge’s fault) began after security. I took a picture of the entrance to the Concorde Room (which is just after security) with my phone, and was immediately approached by one of the security officers — “let me see that photo and then delete it immediately.” I responded with “sorry, to clarify, I was taking a picture of the lounge entrance and not the security checkpoint. Here’s the picture.” I showed her the picture and she said “delete that right now.” I said “is photography not allowed at the airport or why?” She responded with “it’s a security policy but has nothing to do with security.” Huh? I deleted it and she said “you better not restore that photo.”

Whatever. I was looking forward to being greeted by a friendly agent in the Concorde Room, though instead I got greeted by Carol Beer’s sister. For those of you not familiar with Carol, here she is:

There was no “hello” or anything, but our boarding passes were simply thrown back at us.

I figured the Concorde Room would at least be relaxing. After all, it’s only available to British Airways first class passengers, while other OneWorld first class lounges are available to OneWorld Emerald members and partner airline first class passengers. My point of comparison was the Galleries First lounge, which is more or less for partner first class passengers and OneWorld Emerald members.

Instead the lounge was a zoo and it was a struggle to find a seat. I don’t hold that against them since there are some weather delays, though.

As far as the bathrooms go, while they were spacious, they were extremely industrial looking and not very clean.

Then it was time to eat something in the Concorde Room dining area.

We walked up to the counter and I said “hello,” and the waitress simply walked away and huffed, having clearly heard what I said. She returned and simply said “two?”

She brought us to our seats without saying a word, and after 30 seconds came back and said “ready?”

I ordered an open faced chicken sandwich, one of only four things on the “light bites” menu. She looked at me like I was from another planet and said “we’re out.” So I ordered something else.

Then our food was served. My friend had ordered a burger, and as she brought the plate I could have swore she said “f@ck, f@ck, f@ck.” Excuse me?!?

As it turned out they had placed the silverware too close together, so she was asking my friend to move his fork a little bit. Still, I can think of better ways to do that than “fork, fork, fork.”

Then we ordered dessert. The warm chocolate fondant with vanilla bean ice cream sounded good. Unfortunately the ice cream was already completely melted… if it even was ice cream to begin with.

Then it was time for the spa appointment I had made for 1:20PM. I got there at 1:15PM and was told that my treatment would be running about 15 minutes late. It wasn’t a big deal, but just further contributed to my feeling that nothing was going right.

The Elemis Spa is located just outside the Concorde Room, and I made three separate trips in and out. By the third time I figured I wouldn’t need to show my boarding pass again since it was the same lady each time. I asked if she wanted to see it, and she said “yeah, I have no way of remembering who walked in and out.”

So to sum it up, the lounge was crowded as could be, food mediocre, and service horrible. With the exception of at the Elemis Spa I literally felt like I was the biggest inconvenience everyone faced that day.

I hate to say it, but given the option I’d rather visit an American Flagship Lounge, where at least I’m not made to feel unwelcome.

Have you visited the Concorde Room? What was your experience like?

Comments

  1. I loved it when I was there and found everything great, including the cabana rental. Loved the open – air patio, too.

  2. What a shame. I’ve had some good experiences in the Concorde room with great food and really great champagne. Never had a problem with Elemis either. What a shame on the delays and cleanliness. The service in the Concorde room could do with being improved for sure, the contract staff are nothing special. Strangely the regular Galleries First lounge staff seem to have more ‘stability’/tenure and I’ve had very personable and friendly service there.

  3. While the service is less formal, I’m still a big fan of the CCR. I feel I connect with the employees on a more personal level, similar to the AAngels at smaller/not-busy ACs. Crowding can definitely be a problem, but I find the terrace and cabanas (when available) extremely relaxing places to wait for a flight. It want to think you had an atypical experience, but perhaps this review is simply emblematic of a bigger problem with BA: consistency.

  4. I could not agree more with your assessment of the Concorde Room (and the entire BA First experience for that matter). The BA product comes across as trading on reputation and past glory, with an overwhelming impression of being an old boys club where newbies are only reluctantly shown the ropes.

  5. I have not been impressed with any BA lounges. On a trip to CDG via LHR last May I found the Concorde Room to be as you describe. Not particularly well done in terms of design, unfriendly service, and just generally unkempt.

    I just used the BA Galleries lounge at JFK en route to NRT on ANA and found that lounge to be the pits. In fact, we had two glasses of champagne and went to the Club World lounge, which was marginally better. I will note that there were numerous BA employees going over plans to “remodel” the JFK Galleries lounge, though the remodel seemed like no more than an extension of the bar area and increased food offerings.

    I still like BA First to Europe, though not as a first choice. Of course, I’m using the BA Visa companion ticket to get two tickets for ~$2,300 and 150,000 avios. I’d imagine this is less than impressive to someone paying the asking price (or even upgrading from business).

  6. Looks like you got the exact same washroom picture as Gary.. I’ve been twice and found the experience to be ok.. reserving a Cabana is a nice way to get a shower and some rest; especially since if I’m not mistaken there are only other showers in the Elemis area… I wish that they had a buffett area because sometimes I just want to grab some stuff to eat.. the terrace is quite nice though…
    FDW

  7. To be honest I love the Galleries First Lounge at LHR (especially at T3). It is mostly empty (I counted between 5-12 people every time I went there recently), staff are friendly, loving the Champagne bar and the food is good, too! The one time we were at the Concord room I was underwhelmed. I especially found it irritating that I had to ask someone every time I wanted anything – Champagne refill or anything else. I’d much rather head to the bar and get it myself. Of course in the great lounges like the QF 1st Lounge in MEL or SYD my glass never went empty in the first place….

  8. OMG, I hope our upcoming experience will be better than this.

    My wife and I are traveling BA F and her sister and husband will be in Y+. Does anyone have first-hand knowledge of whether or not we can guest them in with us or buy a pass to the CCR?

  9. Experienced the CCR T5 just after New Years. I was similarly underwhelmed after high expectations. In general the staff are helpful but only to the minimum required. I think they are emulating the ‘British Club” model where service staff are meant to be ‘wallpaper’ and effusiveness is discouraged.

    Though seriously – the ala carte restaurant staff are down right grumpy and surly.

    The experience you had outside the front door (before you even check in, which is inside the door) is a consequence of everyone with any status or sense of self-importance (just imagine how many people that is) trying to get in to the CCR. So I think they deliberately put a troll at the door.

  10. Ben, I’m really saddened by your experience. That’s the trouble with you Americans, you’re too polite. I would have been barking at a manager well before half of your experiences.

    My 5 visits to the CCR have been brilliant. Always reserve a Cabana for some private time , a shower or chill out. The lounge has never been at mire than 30% capacity any time I’ve been in it.

    I do conceed though that the restaurant staff can be rude and abrupt. I’ve put up with it in the past, but after reading this, I won’t ever again!

    You’re a premium passenger to be in that room. I also think that as subjective and fair as you’ve been, you’ve hit a cascade of bad luck.

    The security debacle is not acceptable and you should report this. It’s made me make dam sure i take a photo of the door next time i go through so my next post may be from a cell 😉

  11. Indeed, we seem to have photographed the same paper towels in the same Concorde Room washroom.
    http://boardingarea.com/viewfromthewing/2013/01/20/new-years-in-paris-air-france-business-british-airways-first-and-the-park-hyatt-vendome-british-airways-club-europe-paris-orly-london-and-the-concorde-room/

    This more or less matches my experience though I go out of my way to try to warm up the grumps sometimes.

    All in all I probably would take the Flagship lounges over the Concorde Room crazy as that sounds, though I find the Chicago one a bit cramped (but super friendly!).

  12. I would gladly take a BA First or Concorde lounge *any* day compared to the lounges of a US carrier… to say otherwise is misleading and false reporting.

  13. Carol Beer video is hilarious except it is real – in China during the early 90s. It wasn’t at a travel agency but state run departments stores in Beijing. The clerks could not care the least about showing customers on the shelf because there was no incentives for doing so, would rather be chatting amongst themselves & reading news…typical socialist country where everything was controlled by gov and individuals has no reason to work hard. Now its changed. Its goes to show how in 20 yrs a more free market + private wealth system can do in that respect.

  14. It’s a nice lounge, but you really shouldn’t expect anything more than Galleries First – it has slightly better décor, but not much beyond that.

  15. I too thought the Concorde Room was nothing special. I certainly didn’t feel special while being in it and the shower rooms/toilet facilities are as sterile and industrial looking as the picture indicates.

    The Galleries First lounge is much more spacious, less crowded and all around a better experience given I can serve myself and can avoid feeling that I’m being ignored by the wait staff.

  16. The Concorde lounge is much better than domestic lounges, that’s for sure. I had a 7 hr layover, so I love the cabana room. Their handling of appointments was sort of a mess for a couple of passengers who wanted to use the rooms. Overall, I found it to be underwhelming as well and preferred the Wing lounge in HKG as the best lounge in my experience.

    I ended up leaving and wandering around into the first galleries where I had a better time (foods, reading materials, lightning). I prefer it over the Concorde room.

  17. I fly BA F and used the CCR every other month, and most of the time have a similar experience. LHR is horrible, you were lucky that you didnt have to take the train that is always full and have to fight for space. The lounge is always full, the food really bad (not even decent), service inexistent (most of the time because lounge/staffing is over capacity).
    A lot of folks will tell it is great only because they don’t use the lounge a lot or do not have the point of comparison a lot of frequent F flyers have.

  18. Though nothing excuses some of the experiences you had, your experience is indeed an exception to a generally very good experience in the CCR. Considering the challenges BAA has faced operating the airports, having the lounge be crowded shouldn’t be a surprise to a seasoned traveler like you. Surly staff, however, shouldn’t be encountered…regardless of the weather.

  19. “Crowded as could be”?

    From the pics you took, it seems as if there were 3 or 4 available seats for every person.

    Also, you seemed to have gotten a table for lunch without problem.

    Padding comments with hyperbole diminishes the credibility of your other complaints (which upon first reading seem quite legitimate).

  20. I’m not surprised one bit with Lucky’s assessment of this piece of crap lounge that only brewer would love.
    In fact, BA sucks for it’s ridiculous YQ surcharge, and UK sucks even more for it’s stupid APD tax crap.
    That’s why you will never see me in UK, and I am happy to spend my money elsewhere in Europe.

  21. Well, it’s been 2 years since I was there, but thankfully, my experience was different. Very serene, decent food, nice service. As someone said earlier, your experience seems to mirror Gary’s.

  22. I finally made it to the EXP and was excited to try the Concorde room (or whatever it is we get access as Emerald) earlier this month. I always ended up on the third floor on the regular Galleries Cluband was super, super excited to now be able to turn left in the 2nd floor. Like a boss. An Emerald BOSS.

    —————–

    Sucked. Packed beyond believe. Food barely an upgrade from the ham sandwiches upstairs. Showers pretty much the same.
    I mean, there’s only so much Champagne and Cava I can drink before 9am. And actually, if you ask for some while upstairs (in the Champagne-less Galleries), you’ll get it.

    To be honest I may stick with the lame Sapphire-access Galleries if next time I visit the place is packed.

  23. @ Romsdeals — I didn’t get one since I was just there for a couple of hours, though I have some pics which I’ll include in the trip report.

  24. @ BrewerSEA — Interesting. I found I couldn’t connect with the employees on any level. They were cold as the snow outside to me…

    @ Todd — Yep, you’re allowed one guest, so should have no problem getting them in.

    @ Frequent flier — I’d rather eat snack mix and be treated like a human being than be served mediocre food and booze and be treated like dirt.

    @ oleg — That turned out to be the reality, but shouldn’t the Concorde Room be nicer than Galleries First?

  25. 1) You didn’t start your post with the “I have a rough life” disclaimer or whatever you call it. Sorry the Concorde Lounge wasn’t up to snuff.

    2) I like how you’ve been ending your posts with things like: “Have you visited the Concorde Room? What was your experience like?” When did you turn into The Points Guy?

  26. Lucky I think you should send this entire thread over to BA and see if they do anything about it. I’ve heard from my grandparents (who fly British all the time to India) that the on ground experience has become horrid. Probably why they always go on Lufthansa F now instead of BA. No taxes on awards too 🙂

  27. Sorry to hear about your experience there. It’s been a year or so since I’ve been to the CCR, but I generally found it decent enough. Ok, I did have some truly awful food (potted shrimp – it sounded so typically British I had to give it a look), but they generally have some very interesting and sometimes outstanding wine and champagne selections. I found the mezzanine overlooking the terminal and apron more relaxing than the bustle in the CCR itself, with widely spaced seats offering a bit more tranquility. (And opportunity to commune with the full scale horse lamp).

  28. Great report. For this I could save my money and miles from flying BA F, and have an item removed from my bucket list.

    I hate being interrogated by airport security concerning photography of areas other than sensitive ones like security and immigration facilities. For they mostly speak without respect if not rude, presume passengers as potential criminals, and most importantly what they are prohibiting has nothing much to do with security but to show their existence, arrogance, and tyrannically abuse their’s authority over the general public as a security personnel.

    I had a similar occasion at Singapore Changi where I took a photo of the aircraft I would be travelling on when walking down the air bridge, followed by a security who approached and instructed me to delete it. The only difference from your experience is that she suddenly and unnaturally wished me “have a nice day” at the end after learning I would be in business class, instead of your provoking “you better not restore that photo.”, which is adding fuel to the fire. (Well…install Dropbox in smartphone, any photo taken would be uploaded almost instantly).

    If air-side of Changi (or almost any other airport) is that security sensitive, all glasses should be made frosted instead of transparent in first place. My best bet is people working in airports do not want anyone or anything be photographed and used as complaint evidence, so in your case her phrase should read “it’s a (job) security policy but has nothing to do with (public) security.”

    I would rather be travelling in Y, missing all the lounge experience than being dumped negative emotions from those who doesn’t respect others and their own job, which would affect me for days. Trust me or not, the nicest person I have met during my recent trips is a toilet janitor. Nobody else from Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines could defeat her.

  29. “I’d rather eat snack mix and be treated like a human being than be served mediocre food and booze and be treated like dirt.”
    Time for domestic travel and review several lounges in the US.

  30. Jackie, the airport security is nothing to do with British Airways. This is an airport authority issue and whilst i agree its disgusting, there is nothing that BA could do about it. Just remember there at little Hitlers at US security too. You’re missing a great expierience taking BA First off your bucket list

    Sam/Michael, i think your anti-british comments are pretty f’ing rude. it works both ways, so we’ll be glad you dont set foot in the UK too!

    guys i know we can only talk about our own experiences (mine being amazed by the CCR every time i’ve been), but if you’ve really had THAT bad an experience, please report it. Although T5 is owned and managed by BAA (not BA!), you should report matter likes this to the carrier (BA) so they can take this up with the airport owners.

  31. Gordon simpson, yes I am aware of that BA could do nothing much with the BAA security. I did not draw a clear line between the two in my previous comment and hence sorry for the confusion. Having said that, I could not tolerate the attitude of staff described in the writing, I would prefer to stay away than ruin my day. One bad thing for having good memory is I cannot let go and forget unpleasant things easily, so I try to avoid them at all cost.

    US is probably more terrible, and therefore I have no intention travelling to the United States despite I eagerly want to go to the Boeing plant tour.

    I do look forward the service level of CCR will be back to where it is supposed to be, and it will be on my bucket list again.

  32. I haven’t yet had access to the CCR but I’ve found Galleries First at LHR T3 to be quite pleasant. Never as crowded as in T5, and the staff have bent over backwards to be helpful (perhaps the consequence of boredom). Champagne bar, buffet or table service, no complaints.

  33. If I could add my 2 cents / 1.26p here, perhaps they have an ongoing issue with paparazzi, autograph hunters etc trying to take photos of VIPs outside the CCR and therefore try to dissuade photo taking in general. One time I was in Miami Beach, taking a photo of a new condo building that was under construction (I’m a Realtor). A rent-a-cop approached me and ordered me to delete the photo, even though I was standing on the sidewalk on public land. In your case, unless there is a written policy prohibiting photos, I would perhaps thank the security officer for their concern but let them know that I’ll be continuing on my way and would be happy to speak with an actual police officer should I have broken the law in any way. The only risk in doing so could be retaliatory conduct that could cause you to miss your flight. Perhaps the officer thought you were trying to get a candid photo of Susan Boyle. Despite this, there was still no excuse for the service failure within the CCR. I have a better customer service experience in my local Chili’s than what you described. Hopefully some BA brass will read your post and take corrective action.

  34. Guess it may have to do with expectations… I usually don’t expect much out of European hospitality. *Especially* after experiencing Asian hospitality.

  35. My experience was that the normal F Lounge (for one world emerald) has better service than concorde room. I felt the same way about the dining area and the waitress (at the dining area) inside the concorde room. While some other waiter were quite nice. The register agents were also nice. I think you just had a bad luck on the day that had delay hence too packed. I also like the Patio area of the normal F Lounge more than concorde room one.

  36. Oh I forgot to mention. Even at the top Lounge sometimes there are days when you ran into some bad agents too. One time I was in Munich LH FCL and was asked that taking pictures is not allowed. .. She meant… anywhere in the lounge (when it was empty that day)!!! which was completely impossible (since on the same day the Frankfurt FCL/FCT agents offered that they take pics for me without me asking). She tried to come up with stupid reasons and all. That one experience made me avoid flying through Munich.. I should actually open my mind and try it there again though.

  37. I, too, have found the service in the CCR to be abysmal. Last time I had an F-flight on BA LHR-JFK I reserved a cabana through YouFirst. It was like a bathroom with a daybed. I rang 3 times before I finally got someone to come take my food order. I’m flying BA F again in April and based on my last visit and your report am keeping my expectations quite low.

  38. Sorry to hear of your experience. I love the Concorde lounge, do you not agree it is so far head and shoulders above any US carrier lounge or *A lounge? Yes, many Emirates lounges are better, but the Emirates business lounge at Dubai is much worse in terms of crowds and food.

    My wife and I visited last April, had delicious ahi salads and good champagne, the staff could not have been better. I guess timing is everything.

    Next time maybe try the BA Galleries lounge which always has a decent selection of food including a freezer with mini ice cream cups.

  39. I’ve just found this post as I was looking for feedback on the JFK CCR that I’ll be visiting in a few weeks. I’ve used the LHR T5 CCR a few times and although much better than many lounges, has suffered from some cost reduction.

    I think I met the same sister of Carol Beer before also. This time on the Elemis Spa side entrance of the LHT CCR.

    The security comment is interesting as I’ve observed that the LHR T5 security staff like to make life unnecessarily unpleasant for all. One poor chap following me through “fast track” security, questioned why his toothpaste was confiscated. A bad idea because the Transport Police were called and he was offloaded.

    Finally if ever you think an aspect of BA is poor, call their 0800 123 111 number and choose the feedback option. It appears to make a difference and you get compensated if something is really bad.

  40. Was there last week..the food was not good. The waiter asked me ” what do you want”..had to show my boarding pass whenever walking back to CCR, just like Ben described. The shower was dirty and the whole facility was crowded. The Virgin Atlantic’s Club House at T3 is way much better!!!

  41. After a warm welcome at the entrance I had a very nice and quiet experience. Appearantly all nice and well educated people in the lounge today. Service was impeccable, staff very friendly. Bathrooms spic and span. Of course I could have thrown a few napkins on the floor before making pictures (there are plenty clean napkins available) but that would not have done justice to BA. I have seen many lounges around the world, maybe this is not the most impressive one of all but it sure is quiet, stylish and feels like home away from home.

  42. I have visited the CCR on several occasions, and your experience sounds about right. At breakfast they have a difficult time keeping up with the influx of pax and their breakfast orders, so flagging down a server can be a challenge. The attendant at the lounge entrance isn’t necessarily rude, but they are usually devoid of any sign of human warmth or personality. Before my first visit, I expected an atmosphere of quiet elegance. Sometimes its just plain messy and crowded. Last time I was there I used the cabana, then headed across the hall to the regular first class lounge so I could find a quiet seat overlooking the tarmac. Its a nice lounge, but dont go out of your way to get there.

  43. I was there on Dec 13 for 7hrs and had a great experience. Staff was attentive, filled my glass without me having to ask and I got a table at once. After a few hours a friend arrived whom I guested and we sat down for dinner. We asked for a corner table, which they setup within minutes. We had great service and they refilled our glasses there as well, without having to ask.

    Overall, I had a great expeience. But, as others have mentioned, the Galleries First lounge on T3 is really good as well. Same food as in the CCR and not crowded at all. At maxmimum maybe 15 people when I’ve been there.

  44. @concorde02
    That is correct. MUC FCL does not allow photography, FRA FCT is fine.
    They also have different catering.

  45. I use the Galleries First Lounge weekly and the CCR occasionally.

    Sad to say but the reason the staff are so inhuman, generally, is they’re minimum wage, almost exclusively not British, by origin (and I mean no offence to them by this comment). But it’s not how much or how little they earn, but the way in which most people treat them in these lounges.

    Sorry this might jar with a few on here, but the one thing that you notice in any Lounge, but the more exclusive, the more pronounced this feeling gets, and that is one of profound ‘self-importance’ from the clientele. Not only are many people very, very self important, but they are also very cold and demanding of the ‘servers’.

    Having been brought up properly, in Scotland, I always, say please and thank-you. I always make I contact and I try and create some empathy.

    I’d imagine that working in the CCR day after day, dealing with arrogant or ignorant, self important, ‘frequent flyers’, who are by definition very transient, must be wearing.

    I tend to find that wherever I am in the world, that common courtesy, a smile, eye contact and treating people as equals works fine.

  46. For me, FlyingScotsman hits the nail on the head. Having witnessed the rudeness of one passenger towards staff at the Elemis staff (he was horrified that he would have to wait for a shower), I have to say that I quite enjoyed hearing the staff member respond to him in a pretty blunt manner. Sometimes people need to be reminded that having top tier Executive Club membership doesn’t automatically make them a top tier human being.

    With so many people flying routinely as part of their job, vast numbers of people have the requisite Executive Club status to use the Concorde Lounge. Inevitably this results in the crowded environment somebody else likened to a zoo at times. Lots of bodies using the couches like beds tends to give the place a fairly untidy appearance at busy times – but I think these problems are attributable to passengers setting low standards of behaviour for themselves, more than being anything staff and management of the Concorde Lounge can be blamed for.

  47. Typing this from the Concorde Lounge….disaster!

    I have not flown with BA for around 9 months using mainly Emirates. The experience today pushes me to say Emirates is now my airline of choice and BA have blown it.

    Took 40 minutes for breakfast to arrive. The waiter was very apologetic which I accepted, things sometimes go wrong.

    After breakfast we ordered drinks which never arrived. We tried again and took 20minutes to arrive. Perhaps I should have sent yhe waiters who were all chatting and looking on there phones at the end of the bar an email as it appeared they were more interested in there phones

    I wont fly BA again they have blown it after 10 years of being gold.

    If this is the flagship lounge sell your ba shares.

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