According to Heathrow Airport, 32 million of the airport’s 78 million passengers passed through Terminal 5 last year, which also serves as the primary home to British Airways. Needless to say, during peak travel times it can get quite packed. In fact, the airline says on a typical weekday it offers between 550 and 650 flights and shuffles 90,000 passengers through T5 as it’s often referred to.
That means even its lounges – it operates a total of five at T5 – during peak times can get crowded. In fact, British Airways has two levels of first class lounges. Its Galleries First Lounge may sound like it is meant for first class passengers, but in fact while first class passengers on the airline are welcome there, it principally serves Gold level fliers in its frequent travel scheme called Executive Club and Emerald tier members of its Oneworld partners which include American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Japan Air Lines and Qatar Airways. Those travelers can use the Galleries First Lounge regardless of which class they are flying in, a nice perk and one of the reasons road warriors stay loyal to their airlines despite service snafus and delays.
British Airways doesn’t offer first class on all of its flights. Its first class cabin is reserved for long-haul international routes, and not even all of those destinations either. Over the years as companies have limited the number of executives who can fly in first class and airlines have rolled out business class seats that turn into beds, demand for first class has waned and in fact, many airlines have either reduced the number of first class seats they sell or done away with it completely.
United Airlines was the latest major airline to completely do away with a first class cabin on long-haul international flights doubling down on its new Polaris business class. Even Singapore Airlines, which offers one of the best first class cabins in the world and recently unveiled even more luxurious and private seating in its Suites Class, its version of a first class, only offers a business class cabin on its new ultra-long haul nonstop flights from Singapore to United States. When Qantas decided to launch nonstop flights between Australia’s western city of Perth and London, it also did so without a first class cabin. Airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa which are acclaimed for their first class service, including whisking customers to and from their flights across the tarmac in private sedans only offer their top end product on a minimal number of flights or have been cutting back on the routes where they offer it. On some of Air France’s long-haul fleet that does have first class seating, there are as few as four seats, although they come with curtains you can draw to create a private bedroom.
British Airways, on the other hand, has a more robust first-class business it would appear. It still has a first class cabin on the majority of its long-haul aircraft and while on its new Boeing 787s it has reduced the cabin to eight seats, many of its long-haul fleet has 14 to 18 first class seats packed in. In fact, in the space in a Boeing 747 where BA has 14 first class seats, Lufthansa has only eight.
With its home base a global capital for banking and finance as well as a home to many ultra high net worth families and their extended support teams, British Airways apparently still does a brisk business filling its first class cabin, which also serves as a perk for frequent travelers to upgrade or redeem free tickets.
While BA doesn’t offer the same luxuries as Singapore Airlines or Emirates will fully enclosed suites, and it doesn’t chauffer its first class passengers to their flights, it does operate a lounge called the Concorde Room. Originally established exclusively for passengers on the now-defunct supersonic jet, when BA moved from its old home on the other side of the runway in Terminal 4, while the fast bird was no longer flying, executives decided to retain the name and keep its purpose which had transitioned to exclusively serve BA’s first class customers and VIPs who are designated as Premiers. Premiers can be CEOs or travel managers frombig corporate customers.
More recently, BA has used the Concorde Room as a perk with its highest spending road warriors who can earn access even if they don’t fly first class. It takes the equivalent of 18 long-haul roundtrips in its Club World business class cabin in one year to crack open the doors.
If you do get access – via flying BA in first class and leaving from T5 or if you have arrived on BA in first class and are connecting onto one of its European flights departing T5 that only offer business class – Concorde Room offers a nice bar area, lounge seating and a dining area, as well as several cabanas, small private rooms with daybeds and showers. While it’s nice, in the world of luxurious lounges, there are many others that offer far more glamorous facilities.
While Concorde Room is a bit of a respite from the bedlam of T5, during busy periods you have to mill around searching for an area with some free seats, particularly if you don’t want to park yourself adjacent to a stranger. To get a table in the dining room often means a wait and the cabanas are booked up weeks in advance.
If you happen to get access to the Concorde Room and find it crowded, before you fret, head to the Board Room. You might not see it as it is tucked against a wall between the bar, the entrance to the cabanas and behind a service desk. The double door entrance is fairly nondescript and it’s easy to walk by it thinking that perhaps its an office or that you need to reserve it for private meetings.
In fact, if you are in the Concorde Room, you can access the Board Room. During my most recent three-hour layover while there were no tables in the dining room and the cabanas were all taken, I had the Board Room entirely to myself with one 20-minute exception. There is naturally a board-style table with a total of six seats, four that have computers and seem to never be used, perhaps a fact that even the boss has a tablet or laptop when they travel. There are also plentiful power points and until the most recent refresh, the chairs were actually converted seats from the retired Concorde fleet.
There is also floor to ceiling windows with views out onto some of those 90,000 people who flow through T5 daily. If you enter Concorde Room through the so-called magic door from the main terminal area, make a hard left as if you were going to the bar. If you come in via the main entrance, walk to the wall where you would go left to the toilets or right to the bar, turn right and the doors are on the wall to your left.
Once your there, you’ll find the attentive staff will come in to offer you a drink of your choice and a menu – for some reason they don’t seem to keep the menus there. In addition to the light options menus that are placed in the seating areas, you can order from the more extensive dining room menu.
A recent breakfast menu headlined with a Full English Breakfast, complete with a choice of fried, poached or scrambled free-range egg, British back bacon, Farmstead Lincolnshire pork sausage, black pudding, potato rosti, Portobello mushrooms, grilled vine tomato and baked beans. There was also California Eggs Benedict on toasted sourdough bread, American-style pancakes with sweet cured streaky bacon, mascarpone and maple syrup as well as Grilled Scottish Kippers, eggs with smoked salmon, toast and bagels, croissants and pastries, porridge oats, yogurts, fresh fruit salad and a variety of preserves.
While it’s not guaranteed you won’t have company, in a terminal serves 32 million passengers a year and an airline that processes 90,000 per day in that space, you don’t have to be a CEO or a member of the Royal Family to use the Board Room. You just need to be flying BA in first class and know it’s there.
This article originally appeared on Forbes