Business Traveller reviews the new Gulf Air lounge at Heathrow T4, with facilities including showers, free wifi, a self-service buffet and views across the airport
Background Gulf Air’s new lounge at Heathrow has been three years in the making, with delays caused by management changes and restructuring within the airline.
Design consultancy firm James Park Associates were contracted back in 2008 to create the lounge, and while changes have inevitably had to be made to the specifications over time, a spokesperson said the company was happy it had essentially delivered the original brief, reflecting the carrier’s corporate identity and inspired by Bahrain’s history of pearl fishing.
The new design concept is set to be extended to the carrier’s lounges at its Bahrain base, with these facilities set to be revamped within the next six months, followed by Gulf Air’s lounge in Dubai.
Note that the review below is based on experiences at the launch event (see online news March 8), rather than a pre-flight visit. For more images of the lounge, both official and those taken by Business Traveller, click here.
Where is it? Next to gate 7 (opposite the WHSmith and World Duty Free stores), from where the majority of Gulf Air’s twice-daily flights depart. There is a large Gulf Air sign on the wall, along with one for Malaysia Airlines, which suggests that the two carriers are sharing the same lounge, when in fact MAS has its own lounge located above Gulf Air.
What’s it like? First impressions are of a light, airy lounge, both in terms of the natural light streaming in from floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runway, and the décor which mixes cream and sandy colours with the blue from the carrier’s livery.
There are also several “Dilmun seals” adorning the lounge walls, a nod to the ancient civilization of which the Fort of Bahrain Fort (or Qal`at al-Bahrain) is considered by UNESCO to have been the capital.
Facilities Walking in to the lounge there is a reception desk to the left with departure boards, and a locker room to the right for storing luggage. Past reception is a small business centre with three Mac computers (there is free wifi throughout the lounge), and off to the left are the toilet facilities, with stylish curved basins and mosaic tiling, and one shower cubicle in each of the male, female and disabled facilities.
Past the business centre there is an island bar with stool seating, serving soft and alcoholic drinks, including a signature Falcon Spirit cocktail which comes in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. There is also an Illy coffee counter, and when I visited on the day of the launch staff members were being taught how to make the perfect cup.
Past the bar there is lounge seating by the windows, which spread along two sides of the lounge and provide great views across to the BA World Cargo centre, Terminal 5, the control tower, the Heathrow East development, the runway, and of course gate 7, so guests will be able to see if the Gulf Air flight has arrived.
These seating areas also have open wardrobe-cum-lampstands for hanging coats. Away from the windows there are a couple of seating areas with flatscreen TVs, and sideboards with newspapers and magazines including the FT and Hello!
To the right of the bar is a smart dining area, with a bank of tables stretching along one long seating booth, and several separate table and chairs. Past these are two “family rooms” with lounge seating. There is also a prayer room, and baby changing facilities.
Food and drink To the far right of the lounge is the self-service buffet area, with an island counter and further units against the walls. I was there on launch day when the lounge was extremely busy with Gulf Air employees and journalists, but the food that I did try was of a good quality, especially the mini banoffee pies which were delicious.
According to Gulf Air the breakfast offering will include cereals, pastries, cheese and cold cuts, yoghurt, hot dishes such as omelette, sausages, baked beans and grilled tomatoes, fresh fruit and fresh juices.
The lunch and dinner menu consists of hot and cold snacks and mezze, salads, sandwiches and wraps, soups, “hot main dishes”, a selection of deserts, fruit salad and fresh fruits. There will also be an all-day dining menu which will be the same as lunch and dinner but without the hot main dishes.
It’s worth pointing out that Gulf Air’s twice-daily flights depart London at 0930 and 2150 – at present the lounge is only being used by Gulf Air, but the carrier has made no secret of the fact that they will look to share the lounge with other airlines “at suitable times of the day” to raise revenues, why is surely one of the reasons it has gone to the trouble of devising day-long menus.
Who can use it? The lounge is open from 0600 to 2230 daily, for all Platinum, Gold and Silver members of Gulf Air’s Frequent Flyer programme, and premium class ticket holders of Gulf Air’s codeshare partner airlines.
Verdict A stylish, modern lounge, with good food and beverage facilities, and excellent views across the airport.