When does the holiday start? Is it when you land at a foreign destination, or only when you’re sitting poolside with a cocktail in your hand or, more realistically, chasing kids round the water’s edge demented? Family holidays are SO relaxing. But holidays can apparently start at the airport, before you’ve even left your home city, which sounds like a fantastic time to start to me. Time off is a precious commodity so let the holiday feeling begin as soon as feasibly possible.
In June 2017 Aberdeen International Airport opened its new Northern Lights Lounge. The basic premise is that anyone can enter, they pay a fixed fee and once you’re settled in the rather lovely surroundings you can eat and drink whatever you like. Simple. No loyalty card, or frequent flier points necessary. The lounge can be used as a one off treat, or as regularly as desired. The lack of outright elitism appealed to me: my kids are as welcome in this lounge as any ‘v important suited exec’ proffering a ‘Gold card’.
The food and drink in the lounge is proudly local. An extensive whisky wall, craft beer from Aberdeen locals ‘Brewdog’, Gordon Castle gin, biscuits by Dean’s Shortbread and a range of local produce to create a mix of platters, savouries, sides and sweets. The pint-size mini pies and burgers were ideal for kids, and there were healthy options too, as well as slabs of carrot cake, Mackie’s ice-cream and a sweetie dispenser. Guests help themselves to soft drinks, quality coffee, wine and beer, and spirits are ordered at the bar. Even the toiletries in the washrooms are locally produced by a north east castle.
As we were welcomed at the lounge reception, with our three year old and two year in tow, we saw another mum with a five month old baby settling down for some R&R. There was a mix of passengers, both leisure and business travellers, and the lounge felt welcoming and inclusive. Our tots chose seats next to the panoramic views of the runway and merrily watched planes and helicopters taking off and landing to their hearts’ content, announcing loudly whenever a plane was in sight, just in case anyone else in the lounge hadn’t the observation skills to spot it. Such helpful little lads.
We had lunch in the lounge, sipping, nibbling and slurping over the course of an hour. The Scotch beef pies, ale chutney, beetroot and pumpkin seed salad, with puy lentils and chickpeas was far better fare than I usually experience at an airport. We continued to pop back and forth to the buffet until it was time for take-off. The flights aren’t announced but it’s easy enough to keep an eye on the screens blinking their ever-changing take-off information.
Dining in the Northern Lights lounge was as restful experience as it could be with two preschoolers in tow. The space is fresh and new, it looks and feels stylish without being stuffy, there’s ample seating, and modern decor in navy and geometrics. News was playing on the large screen television and people were chatting, basically there was a relaxed atmosphere and ambient noise. I hate taking children into venues where you can hear a pin drop, thankfully my kids’ shrieks of ‘Plane, Plane, Plane’ weren’t overly disturbing in the general chit chat. This simple but indulgent lunch set us up for our two flights, firstly to Heathrow, then transferring to Nice in the south of France, and got me in the holiday mood to boot.
Admittedly the big question is, is it worth it? Especially with kids? Basically children under 3 years of age are permitted free access to the lounge, adult tickets are £25 and children 3+ are charged at £15. I never like assuming anyone’s budget but if you want to treat yourself then these are reasonable sums for a civilised and tasty kick-start to a special break. But often people like to feel they’re getting their money’s worth, and that simply depends on how much you eat and how much/the value of what you drink. Personally I had two servings of food, a dessert, a coffee, a soft drink and a rather generous large glass of wine in lovely surroundings. Considering what I’d spend onboard an aircraft, or at an airport cafe, I felt it was a fair price. Obviously you can buy a ‘packed lunch’ style lunch from Boots far cheaper but that’s not comparing like with like. My three year old didn’t consume £15 of food, but you could argue he did leap about to potentially £15 worth of aircraft, as you have to count the value of the experience. My two year old (free) was obviously laughing his tiny socks off.
As a local it’s rewarding to see Aberdeen Airport showcasing North East suppliers. The organisers behind the lounge could have chosen to stock any quality produce but instead they’re working with Aberdonian chefs and producers to put forward a mixed Scottish menu.
This isn’t something I’d do for every trip but it is a treat, and I did find the experience welcoming for families. It would work well for a celebratory multi-generational family holiday with granny in tow. I also know it would be a great boost to a girly weekend away where (without sounding uncouth) you could make a little more of the bar – gin anyone? Naturally it would be a great perk on any work trip. Click here to find out more about tickets.
If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the ‘Follow’ box then click ‘Follow’ or join the conversation on Facebook. Tots2Travel received complimentary access for review purposes, and the tots were very thorough at spotting the planes. This is a review of the new lounge only rather than the overall airport. For any queries or opportunities please email email@example.com.