When Terminal 5 launches at Heathrow later this month, special services in the executive lounges for British Airways' premium passengers will include new spa suites managed by Elemis. But what if you're travelling in the back of the plane and haven't got the magic silver, gold or platinum card that will get you inside one of these new pleasuredomes?
It seems Jo(e) Public need not despair. We too can set aside a little "me time" before boarding the plane, because pre-holiday pampering is available to everyone at airports around the UK – you just have to know where to look.
There are signs that outlets providing quick-fix treatments could be a growing trend. But for now, the biggest choice is at Heathrow, Gatwick comes in a poor second, and Glasgow and Leeds Bradford stand out from the airports outside south-east England.
Terminal 1: Early February saw the launch of the Cocoon Beauty Sanctuary – a new departure for the run-of-the-mill offerings in the World Duty Free shopping area. The sleek stand-alone beauty store includes a Dermalogica treatment room offering facials to frazzled travellers. Prices from £15 for a 20-minute facial and treatments are on a walk-in basis, with booking to follow after a trial period. Outlets are planned for other terminals.
Urban Retreat opened its 5,000sq ft airside spa and salon last year to offer all passengers the chance to grab some premium pampering. The emphasis is on express holiday treatments, such as the Prepare to Fly Facial and Prepare to Fly Hair, both of which cost £15 for 15 minutes. Turn up and reserve a treatment and you get free entry to the lounge (open to all at £20), which allows access to a complimentary foot-reviving massage, relaxation chairs, refreshments and magazines. Urban Retreat (urbanretreat.co.uk) is next to Prêt à Manger and opens daily, from 8am to 8pm. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Give your tired eyes a lift at the Shu Uemura beauty counter within the World Duty Free shopping area, where trained beauticians apply Tokyo Lash Bar false eyelashes on a walk-up basis.
If you're having a bad hair day, head for the innovative HairPOD, a freestanding capsule of futuristic appearance, and get a new hairdo while you wait for your flight to be called. Stylists give quick, quality haircuts and excess hair is vacuumed away, so you won't be wearing a hair shirt all the way to your destination. A cut and blow-dry starts at £11. HairPOD is in the International Departures Lounge area at Gate 1, opposite the BA Business Lounge. But watch out – it moves.
The new British Airways hub, T5, opens on 27 March, but much of the retail detail is still under wraps. Yet even economy-class travellers have been promised a "whole new passenger experience". Apparently, the beauty counters in the airside shopping area will treat travellers to an "interactive and theatrical" approach, where free makeovers will be performed by international make-up artists, rather than by beauty counter staff.
North Terminal: If you're short on spends as well as time, you can revitalise your look by taking advantage of a free makeover at the Clinique and MAC beauty counters in the World Duty Free shopping area. Otherwise relaxation in this terminal is limited to coin-operated massage chairs around the terminal building.
The Clarins Studio offers a range of unisex treatments, from waxing and self-tans to massage and aromatherapy. But you'd better get in quickly, it is due to close in the coming months. Why? Because it tends to offer full-length treatments and the company has found that passengers no longer have enough time to indulge after clearing security. Consequently, the current most popular option is waxing (full leg, £23; 30 minutes) and the Fast-Track Face and Body Treatment (£26 for 45 minutes). Walk in on a first-come, first-served basis, or book in advance on 01293 507249. The Clarins Studio is a stand-alone outlet near the airside World Duty Free shopping area.
Leeds Bradford International Airport
Last year Ki 4 Health upgraded its treatment area and introduced new reflexology and massage therapies, as well as a treatment to help smokers to cope without the weed. Its popular Relax Me Now massage uses acupressure to boost energy, retune the body and calm the mind (from £5 for five minutes to £24.50 for 30 minutes). It doesn't involve using oils, so you can keep your clothes on. Open from Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 6.30pm, you'll find it on the first floor of the departure lounge. Just turn up, or book at ki4health .co.uk or on 0113 250 9696 ext 2386, or 07890 155969.
Nasty nails are easily rectified at the Manicure Lounge nail bar, also on the first floor of the departure lounge. This place specialises in express services but also offers a full range of treatments from tidy-ups to extensions. Prices start at £16.50 for the 15-minute Express Manicure, which includes a clean, shape, cuticle tidy and polish. Open from Monday to Friday, from 9.15am to 6.15pm, and Saturdays, from 9.15am to 2.15pm. (Days and hours are subject to change with flight schedules, so it's worth checking.) Just walk up or call 0113 391 3279.
Pampering possibilities here are limited. There is a locally run independent operation, Nails by Inspirations, which can be found in the landside departures area – just walk in to get your nails spruced up – and there's also Airside, the Relaxation Station, in the departure lounge area which offers a walk-in massage service.