Wednesday, 7 May 2014

No.1 Traveller Airport Lounge at Gatwick South -Review

I am both unlucky and lucky in that my mum lives over 2000 miles away in Cyprus. Unlucky because we largely communicate through texts and internet video calls.

We don't get to have actual coffee and cake together, the kids only get virtual hugs and I try and share videos but it's not the same as actually seeing Grumpy as a shepherd in his first nativity.

But I'm also lucky as I have an excuse to fly out to Aphrodite's birthplace fairly frequently, sometimes with family but more often on my own.

Yiannis Klimataria Taverna, Mandri, Paphos, Cyprus

This year, as in previous years I had managed to save up enough points from my favourite supermarket to book myself a"free" flight from Gatwick to Paphos International Airport leaving on the first Bank Holiday weekend in May.

I like Gatwick Airport- I love browsing round the mini-mall in the south terminal and have picked up some bargains in my favourite stores in the past but when I'm done shopping I  hate the rows of seats where you more often than not end up squeezed between a family with tired and overexcited toddlers and some bloke stretched out trying to sleep. Opposite a tipsy bride with her hens.

But there is an alternative. A surprisingly reasonably priced alternative in the shape of airport lounges.

Once a privilege reserved for the rich and famous, there are lounges at just about all British airports now, with some tailored towards businessmen, or families, or lone travellers and couples wanting a more relaxing start to their trip.

I was invited to sample the comfort of the No. 1 Traveller Lounge upstairs after security at Gatwick South. Walking towards the entrance you already feel like a VIP - walking through the door you feel like you have entered an oasis of calm after the hustle and bustle of the departure area below.

The lounge is two-storey with a variety of seating areas ranging from comfy armchairs, Chesterfield sofas, small cafe-style tables and larger conference tables with electrical sockets everywhere! Ideal for a tech freak like me always panicking I'm going to run out of charge on my various gadgets.

No.1 Traveller Lounge Gatwick South, laptop and lunch

There are a couple of TV's upstairs which were showing BBC news during my visit, and piles of new magazines and newspapers to help yourself to whilst in the Lounge. Subtle music played quietly in the background.

I wandered around and came across the snack area. Food available varies depending what time of day you are there. I had just missed continental breakfast but found a good range of cheese and biscuits, salads, fruit and muffins and homebaked-style cookies.

There was a choice of fizzy drinks and orange and apple juice to help yourself and a fully stocked bar offering free wine, beer or spirits - all this and the option of a free hot meal (I chose a tasty cottage pie) is included in your entrance price which is around £25 depending when and where you book.

 I think the fact that all the food and drink included makes the price of the lounge unbelievable value! The pie was not huge, but perfectly adequate for a tasty lunch, particularly when you do as I did and have a side order of breadsticks and buttered crackers and a desert of muffin and cookies!

I would have easily spent that amount and more buying lunch and a drink in many of the food retailers at the airport  and I had the bonus of a runway view in comfortable seats with helpful and friendly staff and free unlimited wifi. There are even screens showing departure updates in the lounge- but no announcements so don't get too relaxed and forget to check your departure status!

No.1 Traveller Lounge Gatwick South - cottage pie from hot menu

No.1 Traveller can organise a variety of packages ranging from upgrading your lounge stay to include Champagne or a cocktail, entrance to their travel spa, bedrooms, chauffeur pickups from your home, a VIP fast-track service through the airport - and they have lounges all over the world.

In all it was a fabulous start to my trip - I got lots of work done, had lunch and a couple of drinks, watched a bit of TV and flicked through some glossy magazines and boarded my flight rested and relaxed.

Facilities and services vary from lounge to lounge - check out the No.1 Traveller website for details and to book or buy a gift card for someone special. Worth checking out too if you are already a member of a frequent flyer, dining or another lounge pass scheme - you might be entitled to free entry to No.1 Traveller Lounge with your card. (guaranteed entry can be reserved for a small charge)

Disclaimer: I was invited to visit No.1 Traveller Lounge free in return for this honest review. Views and opinions remain unbiased and my own.

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