Stephanie Holmes visits the Escape Lounge for premium travellers at London Stansted Airport
The only premium lounge at London Stansted, the Escape Lounge is for Business Class passengers on all airlines, as well as those who pay for a lounge pass. If you're not in Business Class, you'll be paying around $60 for access, which you must pre-book online.
The greeting: Friendly and helpful — from all three staff members who greeted me. First, a man at the check-in desk welcomed me in and explained the lay of the lounge. There's a large general area for all passengers (them), then a sectioned-off area for Emirates passengers (us). As I walked to the Emirates area, another host welcomed me to the lounge, and showed me the buffet and the bar, before showing me to the velvet rope and another waiting host, who offered me a glass of champagne.
What's there: In the Emirates section, there was free-flowing champagne, a light snack buffet, tea, coffee and soft drinks, a dining area, or comfy winged armchairs with their own side tables. Elsewhere, there was a fully stocked bar, lots of seating, and hot and cold food options.
Who's there: As well as premium passengers and paying guests, the lounge also accepts passengers from DragonPass, Diners Club, Holiday Extras, Lounge Pass, Lounge Club, Lounge Key and Priority Pass, although access is subject to availability on the day of arrival.
Dress code: The FAQs on the Lounge section of Stansted Airport's website are very particular on dress, with restrictions on attire including no sportswear, team shirts, tracksuit bottoms or baseball caps. "Smart" shorts are allowed, but they — and skirts and dresses — must be of a "modest, reasonable length". This is an airport hub for Ryanair, so anyone travelling on a cheap flight to Europe for a stag/hen party should take note: No fancy dress allowed. And, perhaps as a nod to the airport's actual location (it's in Essex, not London), "guests will not be permitted to enter the lounge whilst using hair rollers or having hair rollers on show".
Anything for the kids: Children are allowed in the lounge, but there are no specific facilities for them.
Tech stuff: The free, password protected wi-fi was fast and unlimited. In the Emirates section, there were nowhere near enough plug sockets and charging ports.
Reading material: A small selection of local and international magazines and newspapers.
The view: Two walls of windows looked out to the terminal and the light rail shuttle train that travels between gates.
Eating and drinking: The food wasn't particularly inspiring — in the main lounge there was a vat of plain pasta, with a selection of sauces to slather on top, as well as salads, cakes, cheese and crackers. The Emirates area had hummus, babaganoush, and flatbreads, although the bread was a little stale.
Bathrooms: Not only is there no shower in the lounge, there are also no toilets. You have to exit the lounge, head back upstairs and — shock, horror — use the departure lounge's restrooms. Don't they know who we are?
Lounge atmosphere: It was pretty chilled on my visit but I can imagine it would get pretty lively when full.
Bottom line: Leave the hair rollers at home.