As a Chicago based traveler I oddly enough I haven’t spent much time in Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 5. That’s because only international flights on international carriers depart from this terminal. International flights on all US airlines and some international carriers on the other hand depart from the main concourse.
Luckily, the start my HKG over MLK trip I’d be flying nonstop on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong. This flight departs from Terminal 5 and needless to say I was excited. I was excited because I’d finally have time to explore the terminal and hopefully visit a few lounges found within the international terminal.
Specifically, I wanted to review the British Airways First Lounge. This is the lounge available to passengers with OneWorld Emerald elite status and those traveling in First Class with a OneWorld carrier.
Since I’ve had such positive experiences in other OneWorld First Class lounges I actually arrived at the airport a few hours early to guarantee that I’d have enough time to fully review this lounge. As it turns out, that was a bit of a mistake and I wish I would have spent more time visiting other lounges within the terminal.
Accessing The British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare
Passengers traveling in a OneWorld (British Airways or Cathay Pacific) First Class cabin have access to the British Airways First Lounge. Additionally, passengers who maintain OneWorld Emerald elite status have access to the lounge when flying in any cabin with a OneWorld carrier.
When I checked into my flight I was also given a lounge invitation to use the British Airways First Lounge. I was first given a mobile lounge invitation when I added my mobile boarding pass to my phone.
I was then given a paper lounge invitation when I retried a paper boarding card from the Cathay Pacific check-in desk. With boarding pass and lounge invitation in hand I proceeded through the security checkpoint and into the Terminal 5 departures hall.
The British Airways First Lounge is located within Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 near gate(s) M11 and M12. This is convenient as the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong departed from gate M14 which meant the lounge was on the way from the security check-in.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare Entrance
As I walked toward the lounge I was talking on the phone and nearly missed the entrance entirely. The entrance to the British Airways First Lounge isn’t much to look at. In fact, if it weren’t for the large pop-up signs displayed by the entrance I might have continued walking past.
Luckily though there are plenty of pop-up signs in front of the entrance to the lounge to direct eligible passengers inside.
Once I reached the entrance I pushed open the door to the lounge and immediately arrived at the check-in counter. The reception area of the lounge is quite small and as I waited to check-in I felt as though I was completely in the way of the other lounge guests either entering the lounge or walking from one end of the lounge to the other.
Once at the check-in counter I presented my boarding card and Cathay Pacific lounge invitation to the British Airways check-in agent. The agent reviewed my invitation and then directed me into the lounge.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare International
When I say lounge what I really mean is the hallway with a few chairs. As you past the check in counter you quickly realize just how small this “lounge” really is. The entire lounge is maybe 800 square feet and features approximately 30 chairs. When I visited the lounge the staff arranged the chairs into small 4 person seating areas. This seating arrangement was different than that presented in other photos online.
As I walked into the lounge there wasn’t a single available seat where the seat next to it was unoccupied. I eventually found a somewhat intimate seat directly next to the buffet (pictured below) which faced the windows.
There is additional seating to the right of the check in counter, but again the lounge is quite small and all of these seats were also occupied when I arrived.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare Treat Station
Located along the circular patrician which separates the check-in counter from the rest of the lounge is a compact treat station. This area featured several jars of cookies and other sweets for guests.
At the end of the treat station was an electric kettle and box of assorted teas. I suppose guests could prepare their own cups of tea, but there was no water in the kettle or water nearby the fill it up.
I personally found this treat station was a terrible use of space. The rounded wall makes this section of the lounge terrible congested. Perhaps if they eliminated this wall the space would feel larger, but you’d also lose the workstation for the check-in agent.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare Bar Area
Similar to the rest of the lounge as a whole, the bar in the British Airways First Lounge is also quite small. Although for it’s size, there were quite a few different types of liquor offered.
There were also a few different types of wine available to guests.
Then beneath the bar were two small refrigerators. The left refrigerator was full of a fairly wide variety of beers and bottled water. While the right refrigerator offered canned sodas, juices, and sparkling wines.
Located nearest the entrance to the lounge was a coffee machine capable of making standard and more complex coffee drinks.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare Buffet Bar
Located just beyond the bar area is a (semi-mobile) buffet card. I say the car is semi-mobile because I’ve noticed in other photos of this lounge that this cart isn’t always in the same location.
The cart features a few different food options for guests. There was an assortment of chips which are either in a jar or bagged along with a few apples, oranges, and bananas on the top shelf of the buffet line.
While beneath the chips were a few different types of sliders and raw vegetables. There was also a soup offered although it was not labeled so I have no idea what it was.
British Airways First Lounge Chicago O’Hare Restrooms
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the entire lounge were the restrooms. Within the lounge there are two single occupancy restrooms (designated for men and women). Within the restroom is a toilet and a sink.
Sure the restrooms were nice enough and clean, but I found it a bit surprisingly that the lounge did not offer shower facilities.
Overall I found the British Airways First Lounge at O’Hare disappointing. When I think of other First Class lounges I think of formal dining, premium Champagne, opulent shower facilities, and ample seating. This lounge however had none of those things. The space was small, the restrooms weren’t much better than those offered in the main terminal, and the food selections were limited.
The liquor selection offered by the lounge was disproportionally nice when compared to the rest of the lounge, but was nowhere near as nice as that offered in other First Class lounges.
Needless to say I expected much more from this lounge. For future flights I definitely won’t be going out of my way to visit this lounge. However, the lounges’ WiFi was just good enough to download two episodes of a show before my flight.
Where To Go Instead?
I wanted to add this section to my review because there are so many options to choose from. As a OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald connecting from an American Airlines flight, you could potentially use the newly renovated Admirals Club in Terminal 3. I’d recommend hanging out there during a long layover instead of making the trip to Terminal 5 and then waiting.
Additionally, within Terminal 5 are two Priority Pass lounges. Priority Pass members have access to the Air France Lounge and the Swissport lounge. While I didn’t have a chance to visit either one of these lounges, chances are they must be better than the British Airways First Lounge.