Athens & Paris For Dollars A Day. British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport

Welcome to my multi-part review of our summer vacation.  We spent 12 days abroad, predominately in Athens and Paris.  We did squeeze in about half a day in Amsterdam before heading home.  While I’m writing the series, I’m happy to answer any questions you have ahead of time.  We traveled in mid-July, so right in the middle of the Athens financial crisis.  Here’s most of what I expect to cover, including links to posts I’ve already completed:

  • Planning Our Summer Vacation!
  • British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport
  • US Airways Business Class from Philadelphia to Athens
  • Arion: A Luxury SPG Resort (Various Posts)
  • Flying From Athens To Paris
  • Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Disneyland Paris
  • A Study of Macaroons
  • Various Restaurant Reviews
  • Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam
  • Sheraton Schiphol Airport
  • US Airways Business Class from Amsterdam to Philadelphia

Upon arrival at Philadelphia airport we had some luggage to check.  The US Airways check-in counters were completely empty, not a single person in line (we were in the international check-in area).  I suspected I would have some trouble getting the bags checked since we were traveling with a family friend, Gabby, who we affectionately refer to as our oldest child (well, Michelle tries to pass her off as her sister sometimes, but doesn’t need to since my wife can already pass for a much younger woman than she is).  Gabby was on a separate reservation and I had a bit of trouble getting her checked in online.  The adults were ready to go, while our son was a bit absorbed in mom’s iPhone.

British Airways

I proceeded to the elite counter and the agent flatly told me, “You can’t check-in here.”  I showed her my Executive Platinum card and she replied, “You need to check-in at the kiosk and check your bags there.  If that doesn’t work, you can come back here and someone will try to help you.”  Based on her tone and the lack of anyone else in line, I suspected that if we came back, the someone was unlikely to be her.

We went to the self-service kiosks.  Lo and behold, we couldn’t get the bags checked, even after getting the assistance from a US Airways employee who was manning the kiosk area.  She directed me back to the desk we had just come from.  Since the only person standing there was the woman we had already spoken to, I shared with the floor supervisor manning the kiosks our earlier experience.  She expressed some frustration with her fellow employee and told us to come get her if we couldn’t make headway.

At the check-in counter, the woman we first spoke with took our documents without saying a word.  I indicated that I would like the bags checked under my record.  This is just a small “better safe than sorry” practice I use after being stuck with a bag problem when United checked a suitcase on my wife’s non-elite record, lost the suitcase and then tried to charge me a checked bag fee when I went to ask where the bag was.  A few minutes later she asked us to put our first checked bag on the scale.  As I saw her printing out the tags, I noticed that she had checked all of our bags on the reservation of Gabby, who was on her own with no elite status.  I politely asked her if she could check them under my record instead.

She pushed back and told me it was fine to check them under any passenger.  I didn’t want to push my luck but asked politely again.  With a fair bit more drama than necessary, she printed new tags as I asked.  A few minutes later we were on our way (though I wasn’t sure if our luggage was). It’s a short walk to an escalator and security and we were one of only a few people in line.  Once through security and in the concourse, it was a quick left-hand turn to get to the British Airways Galleries Club lounge.

The lounge doesn’t open until 3pm and our flight departure was just after 4pm, so it was going to be a quick stop anyways, and we were there a few minutes before the lounge open.  Just a couple hundred feet past the lounge was a children’s play area, so we hung out there for a bit. Airplane-themed, our kids were perfectly content there while I bought some extra bottled water for the flight.  When I came back, the kids were asking Michelle if we could get something to eat, so we took the short walk back to the British Airways lounge.

British Airways

Now, I do have oneworld Emerald status, but I’m the only one in my family.  I suspected that since we were traveling in business class, that BA wouldn’t let all 5 of us in, rather directing us to the Admirals Club a bit further down the terminal.  But, the lounge attendant was fine with all of us entering and even using the First Class side of the lounge.  I might have my lounge requirements wrong, but the lounge page on the OW site reflects my same understanding.  I wasn’t arguing too strenuously!

We had less than 30 minutes, so dinner in the lounge wasn’t in our future.  But, we did grab a copy of the menu and liked what we saw.  Scallops, risotto and a Meyer lemon tasting would have been just fine for me.

British Airways

Michelle ably found the champagne and we enjoyed a glass while the kids sipped on a Sprite (a treat they only get on vacation).  There were a half-dozen different wine choices out.

British Airways

British Airways

British Airways

The food display was ample enough for a quick snack, with tea sandwiches, cheese, fruit, hummus, some composed salads and bags of chips.  There were some candy and other snacks as well.

British Airways

There were a few different areas with soft seating and the restaurant ran along the back of the space.  There was also a small area in the back with a couple of new computers for those needing to work.  The lounge was quite compact, though considering the very few flights it serves the size was more than adequate.

British Airways

The business class side of the lounge was about 50% larger and had a few more people (we were the only ones on the First Class side).  There was plenty of space to spread out.

British Airways

There were similar food and wine options on the business class side.

British Airways

Both sides of the lounge appear to be ample for the amount of traffic that departs PHL.  British Airways only has one flight at a time throughout the evening and most folks traveling on US/AA who might have access probably don’t know that they have access to this lounge.  The Galleries lounge is certainly the best place to hang out in Philadelphia if you’re waiting to leave on a oneworld international flight.




  1. Nice review. I’ve been having problems with US airways baggage check staff lately and thought it was just me. I wonder if these people have jobs ending next month or something.
    Like the BA lounge review at PHL. I’ve walked past it a bunch of times on the way to the AA lounge and wondered what it was like inside.

    1. Dan, I don’t have a lot to compare it to since I rarely check bags and even more rarely check bags on US Airways. But, yeah, it was pretty bad. The lounge made up for it though. 🙂

      1. It’s just the PHL staff – quite a surly bunch in general. Though, I do love hearing the attitude when I finally arrive back in Philly after a long trip – kinda like “ahh, I’m home!”.

  2. Fair warning, the lounge dragons at this location (while amazingly friendly) will sometimes try to deny US/AA domestic passengers. I had to push back fairly hard on a BA (admittedly domestic) award ticket with BA Silver status to get in, even for the 30 minutes. US based BA Lounges pull the “space available” card regularly unfortunately. :-/

    1. Andy, not surprising given the size of the lounge. The BA lounge at IAD gets quite full at time but I’ve never heard of folks being denied access. So, maybe it just is the city of Brotherly Love.

      1. I’ve also read on Flyertalk it happens pretty regularly at ORD as well. I’m not often flying out of PHL late enough to use the BA lounge on a domestic ticket, so it could just be the small sample size, but definitely something to be aware of. Even the business BA lounge is way nicer than the AA lounges, although a little out the way.

        1. Andy, I don’t have any experience with the other lounges at PHL but I’ve got to agree the BA lounge has to be the best. I’ll have to try to access on a domestic ticket in the future and report back. Never been to the ORD lounge.

  3. I was in this lounge last week, and really liked it. I was traveling international business class on AA, and decided to try out the BA lounge. I also stopped in the AA Admirals Club just to get a comparison. BA’s wine & booze selection was much better than AA. At the Admirals Club, the only free stuff was cheap beer and house wine, you had to pay for everything else.
    BA offered a full bar and several wine selections at no cost.

  4. I have to agree with Andy above. The Lounge Dragons here can be pushy and not want you to enter EVEN with Emerald status. Unfortunately, because I was being lied to about the Emerald benefits of the agent, I got out the iPhone and started recorded what was being said. She asked me not to record her. I laid the phone down and she changed her tune and allowed me to enter. The lounge was NOT busy. I have always been welcomed into the IAD lounge – no questions asked.

    1. Nickster, definitely sounds like something that’s location specific. Before the merger, I recall that lounge was jointly operated between the two? Maybe that has something to do with it.

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