I found the No1 Lounge at Gatwick's South Terminal a more pleasant place to stay than the terminal, which automatically awards it a higher rating than most contract lounges.
Earlier this week I had the chance to check out the No1 Lounge at London Gatwick’s South Terminal. No1 Lounges operate contract lounges at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Birmingham airports, which are accessible by airline invitation, Priority Pass/Lounge Key, or a pay-to-enter basis.
Here’s my review of my experience there, covering the lounge’s seating and ambience, food options, amenities, and more. Keep in mind that No1 also owns a lounge at Gatwick’s North Terminal, which I didn’t get to visit this time round.
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Access and Opening Hours
There are three general ways to access any No1 lounge:
- Pay to access from £34 (either on the day subject to availability, or in advance through the No1 Lounge website – surprisingly, slots don’t look wide open even when booking far in advance)
- Airline invitation – in the case of this specific lounge, airlines offering access to this lounge included Aer Lingus, airBaltic, Air Europa, Air Malta, Croatia Airlines, TAP Portugal and Turkish Airlines premium customers
- Priority Pass, Lounge Key, Dragonpass and Wexas cardholders (you can pre-book for £5 and receive “free” security access, which otherwise costs £5 anyway – otherwise cardholder entry is subject to availability)
Entry is typically granted three hours before your flight time, though I arrived before that and was allowed to enter. The lounge features “guaranteed delay cover”, which basically means they won’t kick you out after three hours if your flight is delayed.
This lounge is open from 4 AM to 8 PM – bear that in mind if you’ve got a nighttime departure.
My Experience Using The No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal
I arrived at Gatwick Airport at 1 PM ahead of a 5:10 PM Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul (I was uncertain of how chaotic travel was during the 2022 “revenge travel” season, and Turkish is advising passengers to arrive 4 hours before departure for international flights). There was no queue at the bag drop counter and Turkish Airlines business class comes with premium security, so I was through in less than 15 minutes after I got to the airport. Premium security can be purchased in advance for £5 or for £6 on-site subject to availability (some of No1’s packages also come with premium security access, but they’re always roughly equivalent to booking in advance directly with Gatwick Airport).
After passing security I made it past a duty-free maze, following the “lounges” signage.
Duty-Free Maze Gatwick Airport
Afterwards I found myself in the main departures hall.
Departures Area, Gatwick Airport South Terminal
As a side note, this was my first time departing out of Gatwick Airport, or being in the South Terminal for that matter. Gatwick Airport is fairly nice, and I was very impressed by the quick and painless security process. However two things stood out (for the wrong reasons): firstly the signage at the airport was clear but lacking, and I found myself having to look around quite often to find signage to anywhere that wasn’t a gate. However, much more problematically, there wasn’t a single departures board apart from at the main hall connecting the three gate “piers” together. I took a walk around the airport before my flight, and when gate information was posted I walked all the way from gate 20 to the main hall (by gate 11) only to find out that my departure gate was back at gate 20.
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Location
Gatwick Airport South Terminal’s retail outlets and lounges are all located within the main hall, with all lounges and some shops/restaurants located on an upper floor. I followed the signage and made my way upstairs.
Escalator and stairs to restaurants and lounges, Gatwick Airport South Terminal
I was able to find a sign pointing to the British Airways and No1 lounges, as well as the Clubrooms, which are also run by No1 (business class passengers typically do not have access to Clubrooms).
Entrance signage to No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal
There was a sign indicating that the lounge was at capacity, and cardholders (who hadn’t pre-booked) and walk-in guests could join a queue to enter the lounge. As an airline guest I was granted entry, so I made my way past a lounge agent and turned right past some stairs to enter the lounge.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Entrance
It’s worth noting that as a cardholder (at least with Priority Pass) this isn’t your only lounge option at Gatwick Airport – Priority Pass has three lounges at Gatwick Airport, and it seems like you can pay to access the Clubrooms as well.
The Clubrooms are a separate lounge operated by No1, located to the left of the entrance pictured above. They’re open from 6 AM until 2 PM, and feature a la carte dining. Clubroom entry typically costs £38 and comes with premium security – actually cheaper than general lounge access if you purchase premium security as an add-on – but availability is low, and you’ll have to book a couple of months in advance (I’m writing this on September 7th 2022, and a dummy booking for October 28th indicated that there was no Clubrooms availability). The a la carte menu doesn’t seem all that impressive – that being said, the space did look quieter and more premium-seeming, at least when I passed by. I certainly would pay favour paying £38 for Clubroom access over £39 for general lounge access and premium security, though do note that availability runs out quite quickly, and the Clubrooms lounge itself isn’t open for the latter half of the day.
Obviously this isn’t relevant if you’re accessing the No1 Lounge using an airline invitation, so back to the No1 lounge, which I actually visited…
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Seating and Atmosphere
Contract lounges aren’t the easiest to review, since the bar is set pretty low in terms of amenities, and lounges typically aim to allow as many people to enjoy a quieter space (and a limited food and amenity selection) as possible. I tend to think that if a lounge is more densely populated than an airport terminal, then it really isn’t serving its purpose. After all, I’m not reviewing the lounge contractor’s efforts, but rather the passenger experience, and it really does matter how populated a lounge is. At the same time I need to be careful not to base my review of a lounge purely on how packed it is – for example, I visited the Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver in February, found a quiet space to work, and still preferred the terminal over it.
In this case I was actually fairly impressed. While the lounge was fairly packed, it was airy, had lots of natural light, and featured a variety of seating (I wanted to wait until a quieter time to grab some photos of the lounge when I first arrived, but instead it just filled up over the course of my visit).
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Seating Options
Between the table/booth seating, comfortable armchairs, sofas, office chairs and other seating, I was happy to see such a large variety. Granted the lounge was so crowded that I never had much of a choice, but all of the seating was at least fairly comfortable. I also appreciated that there were numerous options to eat/park a laptop and work comfortably – nothing annoys me more than lounges that only have low tables.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Seating Options
There were some quieter alcoves. I couldn’t photograph them all since they were occupied, but below is a picture of the “library”, which featured some office space, as well as some comfortable armchairs.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Seating Alcove
A few seating options were marked as “reserved” – you’re allowed to make group bookings on the lounge’s website, where you’re guaranteed the ability to sit together (otherwise a luxury in a crowded lounge).
No1 touts that the lounge has good views of the tarmac, which I actually thought was a selling point (given that the airport doesn’t otherwise have many floor-to-ceiling windows, given how it’s laid out). Not only was there a great view of nearby parked aircraft, but you could see planes landing on runway 26L in the distance.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Tarmac Views
Not pictured is the landing Turkish Airlines 737 MAX that I not only mistook for an A321neo, but also pondered why the inbound aircraft for my flight had arrived over two hours early. Turns out I’d only forgotten that Turkish doesn’t only fly international flights out of Istanbul – this particular 737 MAX was flying in from beautiful, sunny Antalya.
My one criticism is that I wish there were a larger number of power ports, especially near the desk tables suitable for working. Even in the library, the power ports were UK-style and not universal, which I imagine would annoy some passengers returning home from London.
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Dining Options
The No1 lounge used to operate a small a-la-carte food menu for all guests, though that has been scrapped in the meantime. Instead there was a separate hot and cold food spread.
Contract lounge food is never exciting, though I thought in terms of food quality, this lounge’s food fared on the better end of things. A chickpea masala, vegetarian pasta dish, and hoisin chicken were available as hot options (not pictured below is some white basmati rice), and cold options included a very tasty quinoa salad.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Hot and Cold Food Spread
The lounge did feature a more extensive bar selection than most contract lounges I’ve visited. While there weren’t any cocktails on offer, all spirits, craft/bottle beers, wines and soft drinks were free, with only (Möet) champagne costing £8/glass.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal Bar
I was happy to see some craft beers available, and went for an IPA.
No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal IPA
Overall, the food selection is nothing to get too excited about, though I did think it was very good for a contract lounge. On further thought, the food was generally well-suited for buffet dining – an a-la-carte french toast or noodle soup is much more appealing than a buffet equivalent (since the above food items deteriorate in quality after sitting for a while), but I don’t actually see the appeal of ordering an a-la-carte chickpea masala over a self-serve option at the buffet.
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Facilities
The No1 lounge at Gatwick’s South Terminal features bathrooms, but no showers. I was also unable to photograph a sports room located within one of the lounge’s inner alcoves, as it was occupied.
WiFi at the lounge was free, though not the speediest. At best the speeds were about 13.80 Mbps down and 0.80 Mbps up, though this slowed down once the lounge got crowded. It wasn’t slow by any means, though not particularly impressive (I didn’t even bother logging into WiFi on my phone).
No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal Service
For a contract lounge, I was actually quite surprised at how involved service was. No, I wasn’t greeted by name or escorted to an empty seat, but empty plates were cleared very regularly, and the staff were friendly.
The staff at the lounge’s entrance seemed a little bit more tired and overworked, though given how varied the access requirements are as well as the need to control crowding within the lounge, I really don’t envy their job. I’ve learned that travellers are generally very hard to deal with.
Conclusion: No1 Lounge London Gatwick South Terminal
For a crowded contract lounge, the No1 lounge at Gatwick’s South Terminal does very well. As an airline invited guest, I actually felt that even at peak capacity this was a more pleasant place to spend time than the terminal. I took an opportunity to stretch my legs and go for a walk in the terminal about half an hour before boarding (since it was my first time leaving from Gatwick Airport), and learned that there’s not really a pleasant place for people to kill time there.
At the same time, I personally wouldn’t spend £34 to enter the lounge. If anything, I’d consider spending the extra £4 for Clubrooms access if I booked far enough in advance and my flight departed at an appropriate time – Clubrooms seems like a much more exclusive experience, even if the food menu doesn’t look all that great.
My biggest takeaway is that I’ll always prebook to get through premium security for an extra £5 when departing Gatwick Airport (if I don’t otherwise get it for free), at least if the experience is consistently as smooth as it was when I visited. £5 is not a lot to spend considering how much stress this saves ahead of travel. Gatwick Airport is a hub for low-cost airline travel, and having the confidence to arrive less than four hours before departure can be really valuable at peak times. Heathrow isn’t offering a similar service at the minute (and is always a hot mess), which actually adds significantly to the appeal of using Gatwick Airport.
Have you been to the No1 Lounge at Gatwick’s South Terminal? Is premium security always this smooth at Gatwick Airport?