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Ask the experts: VIP airport transfers and lounges

Our panel give advice on VIP airport transfers and lounge access that make those awkward flight departure times less painful

Ask the experts: VIP airport transfers and lounges
No.1 Traveller lounge, Gatwick. Image: No.1 Gatwick South

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QI’m flying long-haul a few times in the coming year, outbound from London at very awkward times for public transport. Can you recommend any VIP transfer and lounge access services that might make this process less painful?

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Gary Noakes, freelance travel writer: A long-haul economy flight isn’t fun, particularly after an early start, but you can at least make the trip to the airport and waiting there a bit more regal.

At Heathrow and Gatwick there are several independent lounges you can use, plus many firms that will drive you there in style. Some, such as No.1 Traveller, offer the full package of chauffeur transfers and lounges. An early-morning transfer to Heathrow from central London or Guildford is around £80. Fares to Gatwick from central London start at about £110. Another £20 upgrades you from a Mercedes E Class to an S Class, with wi-fi.

No.1 Traveller has lounges at Heathrow Terminal 3 plus both Gatwick terminals. Heathrow’s is £30 and Gatwick’s are £25 for three hours’ use and both are open well before the first flight. You can pay on the door, but it’s £5 extra. At an early hour, you probably won’t rush to the free bar, but it’s likely you’ll favour breakfast at the airport and this is included. There’s also wi-fi, showers, papers, a spa (at extra cost and not at Gatwick South), cinema and TV.

Another option is Plaza Premium Lounge, at Heathrow Terminals 4 and 2, where there’s a departures and arrivals facility. Entry for two hours is £35, which buys you food and drink, wi-fi and a shower. An hour to freshen up in the T2 arrivals lounge is £25. These are part of Plaza’s global network of 120 lounges, so may also be an option for the return leg.

There is also SkyTeam’s lounge, at Heathrow Terminal 4, open to visitors for around £29, with day beds, Clarins Wellness area and a PlayStation room. A more basic option in T3, the Swissport lounge, is £15. At Gatwick, the North Terminal also offers the Aspire Lounge and My Lounge, both around £16. The latter is by No.1 Traveller, but aimed at the leisure flier, so it’s more table football and doughnuts than CNN and canapes.

Covering most of these among 700 lounges worldwide is Priority Pass, whose £69 basic annual fee reduces each visit to £15. Finally, if you’re flying Virgin Atlantic in economy or premium economy, its Guest List package gives everything Upper Class passengers get on the ground, including a chauffeured car and access to Heathrow’s superlative Clubhouse. It starts at £240, but hey, you’re worth it.

Get in touch: If you’re in need of travel advice, email our team – inbox@natgeotraveller.co.uk

Published in the September 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)