The airport hotel is not meant to be a thing of beauty, it is a place to lay your head. A comfortable bed dressed with clean sheets, a shower with the power to refresh, satellite TV in case the jetlag gets the better of you or to while away those hours before an early morning flight – these are the key essentials for business and leisure travellers alike.
Consequently, too many airport hotels think dated decor and beat-up furnishings will be excused. So the executive wing at the on-airport Hilton London Gatwick came as a pleasant surprise to this weary traveller as I dragged my case from the baggage hall in the south terminal on the wrong side of midnight.
Admittedly, I was thankful my luggage had wheels – the executive wing is quite a walk from the main lifts and my room, number 7447, was at the very end of the warren of corridors. But the airy glass walkway that connects the old quarters to the new lifted my spirits, and the swipe of a keycard revealed a spacious room where form had not been totally sacrificed for function.
Part of a rolling multi-million-pound refurbishment, the executive wing offers business and leisure guests an array of special services. The most useful of these is access to an executive lounge where you can check in and out between 6.30am and 10.30pm, gain free access to the internet and enjoy complementary continental breakfast and light refreshments. Plus you'll get free use of the LivingWell Express gym. The rooms themselves are more tastefully styled than your average airport hotel and just as functional, with sitting and desk areas. The bright clean bathrooms have powerful showers and the beds are very cosy.
The food and drink
As well as the free eats in the executive lounge, there's a 24-hour bar in the lobby (with Wi-Fi access), casual dining in the Garden Restaurant and Bar, and Amy's Restaurant for à la carte fare.
Children are welcome. Guests with limited mobility can access all areas and there are 10 rooms with special modifications. Hearing loop and Braille facilities are available.
Double rooms cost from £79 per night or £119 in the executive wing. The Time to Fly package offers a night's accommodation plus eight days' parking from £119; pay £40 to upgrade to the executive wing.
Hilton London Gatwick Airport, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport, West Sussex RH6 0LL (01293 518080; hilton.co.uk/gatwick).