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Wednesday
Sep122012

A tale of two Lounges and wow what a difference.

A tale of two Lounges and wow what a difference.

 

Recently I decided to use British Airways for a work trip I had scheduled for August. Normally I’m a United kind of guy but with the difficulties they’ve had with the merger with Continental I decided to skip them completely for this trip. All I’ve heard from my daily reading has pointed to a very downgraded experience now on United. Anyway, my work will foot the bill for Premium Economy if the international flight is more than three hours long and British Airways have a true Economy Plus product whereas United only offers a few more inches of leg room. Because I have status on OneWorld I would also get to use the British Airways lounges, in this case the Terraces lounges both at Washington Dulles and at London Heathrow.  This will be a review/comparing  these lounges with the United lounges.

 

Outbound

BA lounge- IAD

 I arrive at the entrance to the Terraces lounge in the new and nice terminal B at Washington Dulles after an uneventful check-in. Because I’m Sapphire in the OneWorld alliance I am allowed to use the business class check-in and priority security line, which makes it very easy and takes very little time to get to the lounge. You first have to take an elevator up to a little waiting area where there are a couple of smiling attendants offering to help. Once I’m sorted, I’m invited in. At all times the attendant was smiling and friendly.

The first thing I noticed as I walked through was the long floor- to-ceiling glassed-in wall overlooking the general concourse. You could see everyone coming into terminal B from this vantage point. The first 100 meters or so wasn’t very deep but you could walk by chairs overlooking the concourse until you got to a spot where it opened up. I proceeded to scoop up a seat that had just become vacant with a grand view for people watching as they shopped and ate down stairs.

Once I settled in I decided to have a look around. There is a main room that was located right behind my chair. In it was a rather longish island in the middle with all kinds of white wines to select from. It has bar stools on either side with plenty of room to get around it and it had a selection of glassware for your wine, water and juices that were located in a chilled area in the middle of the island. On either side of that on the walls were areas that housed the hard booze and some real food. There were finger sandwiches, soups, chips, fruit, cheeses and cracker along with desserts that I didn’t notice because they don’t usually interest me. They also had a nice full coffee bar. There were two servers/attendants working non-stop to makes sure it looked perfect and everything was clean and well presented. If you had been flying business class or first you would be invited to eat a full meal in the back dining area. The food looked quite good and would allow you to go straight to sleep on the plane and not have to stay up for dinner on such a short flight. It’s only 6 and ½ hours to London from Washington and some people like to sleep the whole way.  I stayed in my comfy chair for about an hour and a half trying the different wines before it was time to board the plane. All in all a very, very pleasant experience.

 

United Lounge-IAD

Check-in for a united flight is normally very uneventful which is the way I like it. Like getting to the BA lounges you will be taking a train to your terminal, United operates out of the ratty old “temporary” C terminal:  A far cry from the new B terminal BA flies out of. The United lounge is almost all the way to the end of the C concourse. You will need to turn left once the concourse gets near the end and opens up. Once inside you will see a rather large desk with three to four lounge attendants guarding the entrance to make sure no one who is not supposed to be there gets in. Some of my friends call them the lounge dragons. They act exactly like a dragon who is trying to protect their gold behind them.  Some say they’ve seen smoke coming out of their nostrils.

Once you’ve approached them with your boarding pass and your gold card you might be lucky to get a grunt of acknowledgment. They look over everything and begrudgingly will let you in if the rules say so. The experience checking in at this lounge compared to the BA one is night and day when it comes to friendliness and service.

Once inside you will notice a drabness that permeates the whole Lounge. It’s dark with worn seating. And it’s busy, busy, busy. Once you find a seat, if you can find a seat and get settled in, start looking around. Whereas BA’s lounge offers you a choice of pour-your-own refreshments, in the United lounge you have to go to the bar if you want anything stronger than a glass of water. The bar is staffed with more dragons, people who would rather be anywhere else but there at that moment serving YOU. Or that’s how it feels anyway. You also have a choice of the house booze for free (recent development, they used to charge) or you can pay and get something worth drinking. Mind you ten dollars for a smallish glass of wine is not my idea of a bargain. I will say that at least you have the choice to do this at the United lounge whereas in the BA you get the wine they put out, which in my opinion wasn’t particularly good and certainly not as good as they serve in London.  

On the food side, I wouldn’t even bother.  United puts out some wrapped cheeses made of god knows what with wrapped crackers. There might be some fruit, there might not. I think I’ve seen crudite once or twice.  That’s about it. Don’t expect and sandwiches or any such thing so if you’re hungry and want to sleep on the plane when it takes off you need to stop at one of the places to eat in C concourse or eat at home (I say, eat at home. Food at the C concourse isn’t that good)

Conclusion, the British Airways Terraces lounge beats the United club in all aspects, from cleanliness and pleasant atmosphere to good food and free drinks.  The people who work these clubs make all the difference in the word. BA has gone out of their way to hire nice pleasant people where it looks like United did the exact opposite.

Next post,  Lounges from London to Washington.

 

References (3)

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    AwardsBooker.com - Travel News from AwardsBooker.com - A tale of two Lounges and wow what a difference.
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    AwardsBooker.com - Travel News from AwardsBooker.com - A tale of two Lounges and wow what a difference.

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