There are airport lounges, and then there’s the British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow. All my travelling life, I’ve wanted to step inside. It is, after all, one of the most exclusive lounges in the entire world. So exclusive, in fact, that it has its own exemption from oneworld’s overarching lounge access policies.

There’s an air about the Concorde Room that’s just so exciting. The name itself heralds back to one of the grandest highlights in aviation history. And here at Heathrow Terminal 5, it welcomes passengers flying on the same routes as Concorde previously traversed at supersonic speeds. That includes what’s now become the most premium and profitable air route on the planet, from Heathrow to New York JFK. And that’s exactly where I’m heading today – in row one.

I don’t mind that my flight will take closer to eight hours, rather than around three hours as in the days of Concorde. I’m in no hurry to leave the surrounds of luxury behind me. I’m so keen to soak it all up, in fact, that I arrive at Heathrow many hours before I really need to be here, allowing me to truly bask in the allure of the Concorde Room. Hey, after all these years, it’s my turn to visit. I’m going to take it all in.

For me, this is more exciting than any Qantas Chairman’s Lounge or Virgin Australia Beyond Lounge. I know, I’m spoiled, having spent plenty of time in both over the years to make that comparison. But this is Concorde. There just isn’t anything else like it. Today, I get to waltz on in. It’s a day to remember.

My first impressions of British Airways’ Concorde Room

If you haven’t yet made the connection, Concorde Room is British Airways’ very best lounge. You could go so far as saying it’s a space for the rich and famous to relax and mingle before traversing the globe at the front of the plane. There’s a real feeling that ‘you’ve made it’, just by getting past reception – and your fellow travellers are ready to welcome you into the club.

I’m only inside mere moments before discovering that to be true. Being my first visit, I stop to take an obligatory selfie at the big Concorde Room sign to mark the occasion. But a frequent Concorde Room guest stops in his tracks and offers to take the photo for me. ‘The feeling never gets old,’ he tells me.

Chris Chamberlin of Point Hacks at the Concorde Room in London
As it happens, I’d end up flying over a million miles before I’d get my first visit to the Concorde Room.

That convivial atmosphere continues at the bar, where I’m game enough to order a Marmite martini. A group of gentlemen nearby open a conversation about the drink and reinforce my decision. I then relax into a large sofa, and somebody asks if I wouldn’t mind their company at the other end, because this part of the lounge has the type of light they most prefer for reading. It’s a friendly place: almost like a private club.

For a lounge as exclusive as this, I’m pleasantly surprised though. The setting isn’t ostentatious, the people aren’t snobby, the vibe isn’t exceedingly ‘prim and proper’. It’s civilised, it’s calm… it’s the Concorde Room.

Finding British Airways’ secluded Concorde Room

Concorde Room is all about discretion, and that starts with check-in. If you have access to the Concorde Room, you can start your journey at British Airways’ First Wing at Heathrow. It’s a secluded check-in space nestled in the far corner of Terminal 5, which leads effortlessly through to a private security screening point. This is one of the world’s busiest airports, but here, there’s no queue. A jovial but professional security worker even helps me repack the items I’d separated into trays for screening. It’s anything but the ‘production line’ feeling more common of a big airport.

After security, you’ll emerge directly inside BA’s Galleries First Lounge. Don’t stop here – follow the arrows to the Concorde Room, which is forward and then to the left. Keep your boarding pass handy for a quick check at the proper Concorde Room door. It’s quite something to arrive inside BA’s most exclusive lounge without having taken a single step through the public departures area. It’s not unlike Qantas Premium Lounge Entry in Brisbane, in that respect.

Your other path towards the Concorde Room is less experientially exciting, but more historic. You can choose to clear security via the public fast-track facility instead. After exiting the X-ray, make a sharp right towards a subtle door at the end. Before The First Wing was built, this was Concorde Room’s main entrance. And even then, it was still just a discreet door, designed not to draw attention. Some travel insiders cheekily call this BA’s ‘£1 million door‘ or the ‘millionaires’ door‘.

Just note, for the next couple of months, the private security channel within The First Wing is closed for screening technology upgrades. For now, this fast-track path is currently the best alternative: but First Wing security should reopen around April or May, says BA. Check-in facilities at The First Wing remain in full swing.

Layout and seating

Most lounges are designed to (comfortably) squeeze in as many passengers as possible. That’s not a concern for Concorde Room, because there are only so many British Airways guests who can get past reception. Instead, BA adopts a literal ‘lounge room’ vibe here. It really makes the Concorde Room stand apart – well, even more so.

I’m here on a rainy Saturday afternoon. No doubt, that helps underscore the notion of kicking back. But even so, there are plenty of other travellers enjoying the space, yet it doesn’t feel ‘busy’ in the slightest. I can settle down on a sofa, relax into what feels like a poolside cabana on the terrace, sip a drink by the fireplace, lean back and enjoy airport views… the list goes on.

Speaking of the views, be sure to venture out and explore the terrace. It’s still indoors, but it brings a great sense of space. For me, it’s a big part of the Concorde Room experience – to the point that I spent half my time out here, and the other half in the ‘lounge room’ space. I’d highly recommend doing the same.

Putting the ‘Concorde’ into Concorde Room: literally

Here’s what really makes British Airways’ Concorde Room so special. It’s not just a name plastered at the door in an attempt to tug at heartstrings and memories. In many ways, it’s more of a Concorde museum. And my gosh, it’s fun to explore.

But before I do the full circuit, I make a beeline for the terrace. Really, where else in the world can you dine in a lounge while sitting right next to the literal nose of a Concorde? It’s probably no surprise, but I promptly grab the closest table and settle in.

After a nice lunch, it’s time to go exploring – and there’s a lot to see. There are tickets and boarding passes on display from Concorde flights, sure. And the expected flatware, glassware, cutlery and model planes, for good measure. But the displays here take an interesting turn, with items you probably weren’t expecting to see.

In one window, there’s a literal seatbelt from the Concorde – because, well, why not. Another display houses collectible Concorde-branded baggage tags, document sleeves, diaries and cufflinks. And for good measure, there’s limited edition Wedgwood commemorating the millennium, with Concorde after Concorde making a pattern around the object.

For me, it brings back memories of the time I was fortunate enough to have a private tour of BA’s record-breaking Concorde, G-BOAD. Sadly for me, somebody forgot to put fuel in the tanks that day… and hire the pilots and crew… and put the plane on a runway. But I jest. Whether you’ve ever stepped onto a Concorde or not, you’ll want to make time to explore the exhibits in the Concorde Room.

Food and beverage in the British Airways Concorde Room

An early arrival is helpful to explore the museum-like displays, but it’ll also give you plenty of time to enjoy a meal. If you’re in a rush, there’s a quick grab-and-go station out on the terrace. During my mid-afternoon visit, the self-serve stand is set for afternoon tea. Everything looks delicious, but I’m saving my appetite for the à la carte offerings.

Settling down by the Concorde’s nose, I can’t pass up a glass of Champagne to get things started. I peruse the wine list and see the hero is no ordinary drop. Today, it’s Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle. Technically, this wine is a ‘non-vintage’ (NV) – usually associated with lead-in Champagnes. But this NV is a blend of three different vintages: and in Australia, it sells for about $320 a bottle. Yes, that’s it, fill it to the top, kind waiter – thank you!

Since this visit, BA has now switched to Pommery Cuvée Louise Millésime 2006, which I haven’t yet sampled to compare. There’s also an English sparkling wine on the menu, but I save that opportunity for the flight ahead. Interestingly, there are other Champagnes available too, which don’t appear on the wine list. Ask a waiter for your alternatives, or stroll past the well-stocked Champagne bucket by the grab-and-go counter.

Lunch served Concorde-style

I’m well covered for Champagne, so perhaps, I should investigate my lunch options. The Concorde Room’s succinct menu caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. Quite happily for me, portions are on the small to medium side. This means I can try multiple dishes without overeating or wasting food – and in a way that leaves plenty of room for an inflight meal later on.

Now remember, this is British Airways’ best lounge, and the Concorde Room menu reflects that. For instance, I opt for the smoked salmon mousse to begin, and it’s faultless. There’s a beautifully smooth texture complemented by the crunchiness of fine beans and spring onion on top. Even the tableware could be at home on Concorde.

For the next course, I continue with the four-cheese ravioli. Served with tomato pesto, pine nuts and topped with a sprig of rocket, it goes well with my Champagne (I may have agreed to a top-up). I follow this with the sea bass, beautifully resting on a bed of cauliflower, spinach and chickpeas, circled by yoghurt and coriander oil. I’m sure to finish every bite.

Now, as much as I love a good sparkling – especially in the days of those bubbles being Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle – something sweeter will be a better pairing with dessert. I switch regions from Champagne to Bordeaux to devour a glass of the Chateau d’Arche Sauternes Grand Cru Classe 2015. With prominent hints of vanilla cream, it’s an excellent match to my scrumptious chocolate brownie, topped with espresso cream and caramelised corn flakes. Yum.

I should mention too, Concorde Room has two separate dining rooms. I find the tables out on the terrace the most inviting – not the least, because of the views and that Concorde nose. Otherwise, there’s a lineup of cosy booths nestled away: better for those planning a romantic meal, or simply in need of a little privacy. The menu here is the same as on the terrace.

There’s still time for a cocktail or two…

Another part of my ‘arrive very early’ strategy is that it gives a chance to explore the cocktail menu as well… while still being able to walk myself to the plane, ahem. I mentioned this earlier, but as my eyes gaze over the cocktail list, I can’t help but be drawn to the Marmite martini.

You just know that this will be a polarising drink. Even the menu reads, ‘you either love it or hate it’ – so I have to find out where I stand. For what it’s worth, I enjoy Vegemite – and don’t mind Marmite either when I travel. I’m also a gin drinker, and this martini is gin-based with dry vermouth and orange bitters. The verdict? Well, look… I finished it, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I don’t mind bitter drinks like a classic Negroni, but this was… in a different league.

Continuing with the gin focus though, I spot another that seems more to my taste: the ‘BA175’. Now, I may be jetting off on BA183 to JFK, but New York is also the destination of BA175. Hey, it’s close enough – order placed. This concoction is a more pleasant blend of Tanqueray No. Ten, apricot brandy, Champagne and a hint of pink grapefruit juice. I hope it’s still on the menu after the Champagne swap – I’ll just have to fly British Airways again for another visit to Concorde Room to find out!

Lounge amenities

British Airways’ Concorde Room has restrooms and showers, as you’d expect. There’s also free Wi-Fi, with downloads averaging 26Mbps during this visit, but uploads at a paltrier 4Mbps. But what you probably weren’t expecting is that this lounge has a sizeable bell on the bar counter, and there’s a tradition to it.

This is the Gordons Tree Bell, and it’s over 100 years old. It dates back to 1917, where it was used at British Airways’ Flying Boat base in Khartoum, Sudan. Back then, it would herald flights coming and going from the base. As legend has it, the bell was also rung the very second that British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA) merged to create what’s now British Airways.

And today, staff proudly ring the bell to mark BA’s first departure every morning, and again at night when the last flight commences boarding. I have to admit, that’s rather cool.

If you must get work done, there are a few office-like desks in a quiet corner. And speaking of desks, there’s a dedicated British Airways service hub inside the Concorde Room for any enquiries. I didn’t need to visit it today, but it’s an amenity I very much appreciated on a more recent journey through Heathrow. Stuck flying standby due to air traffic control disruptions, staff in the nearby Galleries First Lounge were able to work their magic and secure me a seat on a sold-out flight to make an at-risk connection on a separate ticket. I couldn’t have been happier.

Read more: My experience with oneworld’s little-known status perk, priority standby

It’s worth noting though, some of the Concorde Room’s previous features like the day spa and cabana suites are no longer available. Some frequent travellers bemoan these changes – and sure, it’d be nice if they were still here. But the lounge still has plenty to offer, especially for Concorde fans. In my book, that’s more interesting than a routine head and shoulder massage any day of the week.

Accessing the British Airways Concorde Room

As much as it’s fun to tease and share my great experience here, let’s talk about how you could soon be enjoying the same. Just be prepared – the guestlist is tight. Here’s who qualifies:

  • Passengers departing on or connecting onwards from British Airways First (+1 guest) at Heathrow Terminal 5.
  • Travellers with a British Airways Premier card departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 (+ guest/s).
  • British Airways’ Gold Guest List members departing on any oneworld flight from Terminal 5 (+1 guest).
  • American Airlines’ ConciergeKey members departing on any oneworld flight from Terminal 5 (+1 guest).

For context, AA ConciergeKey and BA Premier are these airlines’ invitation-only equivalents to the similarly-private Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. However, Chairman’s Lounge members have no access here – unless flying BA First, where it’s the cabin that gets them through the door.

As well, Gold Guest List is effectively BA’s version of Qantas Platinum One. So to put it simply, Concorde Room is the exclusive domain of British Airways’ highest of high flyers, those influential (or high-spending) enough to get invitation-only status, or those travelling in BA First – which is only sold on long-haul flights. It’s a very small club.

Boarding pass for travel in British Airways First
“I’m flying First Class, up in the sky…”

Remember too, Concorde Room is exempt from the usual oneworld lounge policies. You can’t rely on oneworld’s regular ‘connecting from First Class’ rule to get inside – unless it’s from BA First, which British Airways allows. And for clarity, a oneworld Emerald frequent flyer card like Qantas Platinum will also see you turned around at reception.

Frequent flyer points could be your path to the Concorde Room

For all the exclusivity around Concorde Room, here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter whether your flight in BA First is on a paid ticket or booked using frequent flyer points. As long as you’re flying BA First, you’re in the club – for that day, anyway. That’s exactly how I got inside.

Now I won’t pretend this is some kind of sneaky shortcut to experience Concorde Room for ‘free’, because it’s not. At the best of times, departing London attracts hefty Air Passenger Duty (APD) when you’re at the front of the plane. And on top of that, BA levies some weighty carrier charges as well. Even if you grab a reward seat on points, these costs are still due on top.

I secured my seat in BA First from London to New York by using 89,800 Qantas Points. But I also had to pay £551 (~AU$1,073) in total taxes, fees and carrier charges. For me, this was a ‘bucket list’ experience – something I’ve always wanted to do: both BA First across the Atlantic, and a day in the Concorde Room.

And you know what? If the opportunity came up, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. You only live once – and you can visit Concorde Room twice… or three times… or… well, clearly, now I’m hooked. At least I know now too, the Marmite martini is better left for others. Now, where’s the Champagne…

Also read: Inside the secret world of British Airways Premier

Feature image courtesy of British Airways. Other photography by Chris Chamberlin, who accessed the Concorde Room when travelling at his own expense.

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British Airways Concorde Room, London Heathrow was last modified: March 14th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin