Saudi Heathrow
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah arrives at Heathrow, reported to be one of the foreign dignitaries arriving in the UK to receive the luxury VIP service Reuters

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spent more than £2m on VIP lounges at airport in just four years, new figures show.

The finances, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, show that the department spent £2.4m putting staff and guests up in luxury and exclusive airport lounges at home and abroad between 2010 and 2014.

Of that amount, the cost of the foreign secretary using the luxury lounges totalled more than £100,000 over the four years.

William Hague held the position from May 2010 until July this year when Philip Hammond took over the role.

The FCO noted in the documents released on Friday 3 October that the foreign secretary was the only staff member who used VIP facilities when travelling on business. It said the bulk of its spending on exclusive suites at airports was for visits by foreign heads of state and other dignitaries.

Chauffeured to the aircraft and a personal shopper

Between 2012 and 2014, £200,000 was paid out in just two instalments for two uses of the Royal Suite at Heathrow airport.

The FCO said in a statement: "In November 2012, we reviewed our position on the use of VIP suites and as a result moved away from party owning the Heathrow Royal Suite to becoming a contracted customer for private flights.

"This represented better values for money and greater freedom to use other facilities. Our contract with Heathrow Airport Limited costs the FCO £100,000 per annum, in return for 50 private flight movements with exclusive rights to the suite whenever required."

The figures show the overall spending by the FCO on using airport VIP lounges was almost halved in 2013/14 compared with the previous year.

It spent a total of £326,694 in the last year compared with more than £620,000 in 2012/13.

Heathrow is just one airport that offers luxury services and lounges to its most important travellers.

Its VIP website says departing guests enjoy an "oasis of calm" in a private lounge separate from the terminal building before being chauffeur driven directly to the aircraft.

"Whilst you unwind, our team will assist with immigration formalities and collect your luggage", the website reads. Other services include a "contemporary menu of simple light dishes and seasonal surprise additions" and a dedicated personal shopper.