WHERE IS IT? Within the Sofitel hotel at Gatwick’s North Terminal, attached to the terminal building by a covered walkway. Passengers should follow the signs for the hotel on arrival and, once inside the lobby, walk across to the far side and take the glass lift down one floor to the lounge. It is slightly strange having to pass through a hotel to get to an airport arrivals lounge, but regular passengers will be used to this as the new lounge replaces the previous arrival facilities within the hotel, which were located on the first floor for Delta passengers, and the seventh floor for British Airways customers.
WHO CAN USE IT? BA and Emirates (at time of press – see note*) business and first class passengers, and Delta Business Elite customers. There is a possibility that other airlines may be added to the list in the future, including Continental, which has recently moved all its Gatwick departures to the North terminal, although at present its arrivals continue to come into the South terminal (where Continental has its own lounge). Opening Hours are 5am to 1pm daily.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Exiting the lift, passengers arrive at the reception area to their left, and then pass through into the bright, airy lounge. The window area and glass lift into the lounge are actually an extension to the original Sofitel building, replacing an outdoor water feature, and the main relaxation area (complete with imitation open fire) is located on what was once the hotel’s swimming pool. The décor is smart and simple, with black, grey and beige being the predominant colour scheme, along with burgundy leather sofas. When I used the lounge at around 10am it was almost empty – the busiest hours are from 6am to 10am, coinciding with most of the arrivals for the three airlines.
LOUNGE FACILITIES There are four main areas to the lounge – a sofa relaxation area with the open fire, a breakfast bar, a seating area in the window space, and a separate business room. The breakfast bar offers a wide range of continental fare (although there is no cooked breakfast option, which is a shame), and there is a coffee machine and fridge with juices, soft drinks, etc. There are various complimentary magazines laid out on tables in the window seating area, including business titles such as The Economist and Business Traveller, and a flatscreen TV on the wall. The computer room has a handful of wired internet connections (complimentary – wifi is available in the lounge through Intertouch although this is chargeable), a bank of computers connected to the internet and a printer, and several telephones offering free local calls.
WASHROOM FACILITIES There are 19 individual washrooms or “cabanas” located behind the reception area. The rooms are very generous in size and compare favourably with facilities I have used before such as the Virgin Revivals lounge at Heathrow. They are spotlessly clean, and equipped with a power shower, toilet, basin area with Keiji amenities, luggage stand, and a double-sided service hatch on the door into which visitors can place shirts or suits for them to be pressed while they freshen up.
OTHER SERVICES Visitors using the lounge have access to the hotel’s gym through a separate entrance accessed by a keycard from reception. Those arriving on an early-morning flight and staying that night at the Sofitel can also take advantage of “Sunrise check-in”, allowing visitors to effectively check-in while in the lounge and leave their luggage there while they go to a meeting or appointment. Once their room is available luggage will be transferred, meaning that guests simply need to collect their room key when they return later in the day. In addition, lounge visitors are entitled to a voucher offering 10 per cent off accommodation rates, which can either be used for that stay, or at any point over the next 12 months.
VERDICT An arrivals lounge can often be of more use to business passengers than a departure lounge, as it gives those on their way to meetings directly from the airport the chance to change, shower, have breakfast and generally recover from their flight. Given this, the new Gatwick lounge is a welcome addition, particularly considering the limited arrivals facilities previously available at the hotel. The cabanas provide plenty of space to get changed and sort out luggage on arrival, and the lounge area is bright enough to wake anyone up after a long flight.
CONTACT International Arrivals Lounge, Sofitel London Gatwick Airport; tel +44 (0)1293 555 128; for more details email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Note: Update March 2011 – Emirates passengers no longer use these facilities