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In common with most corporates (and especially for grunts like me), my employer’s travel policy is focused much more on the cheapest possible price than whether there is lie flat seating, what brand of champagne is served, or how many tier points an employee can earn. For this reason, on a recent trip to Ireland I was compelled to fly in Aer Lingus’ economy cabin (as it happens, that is the only cabin on the A320 operated LHR-SNN flight!).
To help prepare myself for the trauma of travelling in such a lack of style, I decided to use up one of my two annual Lounge Club visits that I receive with my American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card. As the flight was at 11:05AM, and I had some work to do on arrival, I decided I should probably just drink coffee, rather than my usual lounge tactics!
Entry was relatively painless with a swift swipe of the Lounge Club at the reception desk followed by a grunt and nod of the head to the left, which I interpreted as “Thank you sir, you will find everything you desire to my left, and just around the corner”. I was also handed a slip of paper with the WiFi details on, which would likely be very useful for overseas visitors perhaps wanted a last check-in on Facebook, a tweet or to catch up on the latest InsideFlyer.co.uk articles before boarding their flight.
You will have seen the library photos last month, when we gave away two passes to the Plaza Premium lounge, and I am happy to report, it actually looks like that in real life.
This is the entrance area, the bar is to the left (I think it was open, but it was like 9:30AM and this wasn’t a holiday!). While it looks very nice, I didn’t see anyone use this area in the time I was there. If you were meeting a large group, this would be the ideal place to do it, though, as you wouldn’t miss anyone entering the lounge if you sat here.
To the right, is the dining area;
Fairly practical for eating, in a school canteen kind of way, with a buffet counter (to the right of this area)
During my visit there was a typical hotel-type buffet breakfast with hot options,
- Scrambled Egg
- Hash Browns
Also some cold options;
- Fruit (Grapefruit, orange segments)
- Cold meats
I can’t say any of it was great, just about acceptable.
Coffee was pretty good, from a bean to cup machine. There was also a self-serve fridge with cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta and Chang Thai beer.
There were other more relaxed seating areas, as well as some higher tables with power outlets where a few folks were plugged in working on their laptops. The whole lounge was actually fairly quiet, which is probably down to mid-morning on a Monday not really being peak travel time.
For entertainment, there was a VERY limited magazine selection (yes, just those two little shelves under the TV). Sky News was on this TV, just below the flight details screen. There were no audible flight announcements, and this was made clear with a sign on entrance to the lounge.
The bathroom was very nicely appointed, well maintained and clean, as you can see in the above photo.
Overall, the positives probably outweigh the negatives.
- General feeling of a quality facility with furnishing and fixtures
- Seemed to have ample capacity (at least when I visited)
- Good coffee on offer
- Well maintained bathrooms
- Broad choice of food
- Clean areas for serving and eating food
- Food regularly topped up
- Not great quality of food on this visit
- Poor selection of reading material
It was a strange experience to be in an airport lounge, and not trying to drink my body weight in gin & tonic, but it did give an interesting new perspective. I’d be interested to see what the food options are like later in the day, so if you have visited during the afternoon or evening, or indeed if I just had bad luck and the breakfast is usually excellent, please comment below.
In summary, I was happy to use up one of my two lounge club visits from my American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card. The lounge certainly beats sitting around in the terminal’s public areas for an hour or so. Would I have been happy if I’d paid real money for this visit? Probably not, but then if I had I’d have probably eaten a lot more and had a cheeky beer or two to ensure I got my money’s worth which probably says more about me than it does about the lounge!