Helen and I recently upgraded from an American Express Gold card, to an American Express Platinum card. With this came a complimentary Priority Pass that provides us with access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world for free. I’ve been wanting a priority pass for some time now but struggled to justify the cost. However, with the benefits of upgrading to the platinum card from American Express, we found it to be worth it – for this year at least.
Which means we’re going to be doing A LOT of airport lounge reviews from different airports around the world. Airport lounges are in our opinion at least great value for money if you’re flying long haul or enjoy an alcoholic drink or two as a way to kick off your travels. Access to an airport lounge usually retails between £15 and £25 depending on the lounge you visit and different lounges offer different facilities and services.
In today’s review, we’re looking at the ASPIRE lounge Birmingham Airport. ASPIRE is one of the leading European airport lounge brands and works in conjunction with Swissport.
Where To Find The Aspire Lounge Birmingham
There are two ‘All Access’ airport lounges within Birmingham Airport. They are; The No1 Lounge and ASPIRE Lounge. Both of these airport lounges are located in the centre of the departures lounge.
The ASPIRE lounge Birmingham Airport is located just off the centre circle (after the duty-free) by Gates 1 – 20. The lounge is well signposted and we had no issues finding it.
Priority Pass Access
We originally tried to get into the No1 Birmingham Airport Lounge having done some research online this seemed like the better lounge of the two. However, upon arriving (6.30am on Wednesday) we were told that the lounge was fully booked. At this time, I’m not 100% sure whether or not we have the ability to pre-book airport lounge access in advance with our Priority Pass. This isn’t something we had access to as lounge club members.
So, we crossed our fingers and headed back across the haul round to the ASPIRE lounge. In contrast this lounge was only at around 10% of capacity at our time of entering (it did become full at around 9am – The majority of this seemed to be a TUI cruise as once their gate was announced we were just about the only ones left) we had no issues using our Priority Pass and gaining access to this particular Birmingham airport lounge.
The lounge is separated into three sections. The section at the far hand side of the lounge is home to three booths with access to a small TV fixed to the wall. From there you have a small selection of couples seats with a number of bar seats facing the wall. Ideal if you’re looking to get some work done.
Moving into the middle section of the ASPIRE Lounge at Birmingham Airport you’ll find the bar and self-service food area on the left-hand side. Adjacent you’ll find additional bar stools with roundtables on the right-hand side with a small view out onto a section of the runway.
The section of the lounge nearest to the reception and lounge entrance is split into two. There’s a slightly more secluded area. This is cordoned off from the remainder of the lounge by glass and ideal for small business meetings or to take calls. Outside of the glassed area but also by the reception area there is a small handful of seats and tables designed for parties of 2 and 4.
View from The Airport Lounge
The ASPIRE lounge benefits from having a direct view onto the taxiway and part of the runway. However, in my opinion, this has not been utilised in the slightest.
There’s a restrictive film on the majority of the windows obscuring the view and the window is only a half window (I’ve since been informed by ASPIRE that this is to prevent sun glare)
You’re very welcome, unfortunately the purpose of the dot film is to reduce the sun glare 😎
— Aspire Lounges ✈ (@airportlounges) February 15, 2018
Considering the departure lounge within Birmingham Airport has very little in the forms of views out onto the taxiway or runway of the airport until you are at your gate. I believe this could be heavily improved on and a great selling point to future guests of the lounge.
The seating within the ASPIRE airport lounge at Birmingham was relatively modern, clean and functional. Even when the lounge reached maximum capacity there was still some ability to move to one of the different seating arrangements should you wish to do so.
Catering / Bar
As our flight was a morning flight we had access to the breakfast selection within the Birmingham Airport Lounge ASPIRE. Breakfast is served from 4.30am until 11am and is self-serve – as is the rest of the bar.
The breakfast selection was made up of;
A small selection of major branded cereals
A number of small yoghurt pots
A couple of different pastries
Some mixed fruit
As well as a hot breakfast with; scrambled eggs, beans, bacon and sausages.
There were also bread buns if you wanted to make a breakfast sandwich
Something that did strike me was that there was no access to toast or a toaster. This simple addition could go a long way to providing more flexibility to the foods on offer.
The bar had a small selection of spirits, with beers and wines in the fridges below. There was also a small selection of soft drinks from the dispenser.
I was disappointed in this having previously received glass bottled fizzy drinks in other airport lounges around the world.
There were little to no facilities within the ASPIRE airport lounge at Birmingham. Even the toilets required you to leave the lounge and head over and down past the No1 Lounge. I found this to be highly inconvenient.
While the ASPIRE airport lounge at Birmingham boasts free WIFI it was painfully slow. On more than one occasion I found myself and others in the lounge tapping impatiently waiting for web pages to load. Downloads, uploads or streaming of any kind was pretty much impossible. I did temporarily try and switch to the Birmingham Airport WIFI, however, I found that this was just as bad.
A small investment into faster internet here has the potential to go a long way in improving the ASPIRE lounge service.
Being a self-service lounge the interaction with the staff at the ASPIRE lounge in Birmingham Airport was minimal. However, on all occasions, the staff were friendly, polite and courteous.
From what I could see of the No1 Airport Lounge at Birmingham Airport while trying to access and while passing to visit the bathroom it looked more professional and modern. Neither Helen nor I were happy enough with our experience at the ASPIRE lounge within Birmingham Airport to not try and visit the No1 lounge during our next visit.
In conclusion, small investments into infrastructure such as toilets, faster WIFI and bottled drinks would go a long way to bringing this particular airport lounge up to par with the others we’ve had the pleasure of visiting around the world.
Some small additions to this lounge could do wonders, unfortunately, until these additions are implemented I have a fear that ASPIRE lounges would be my second choice when visiting Birmingham Airport.