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The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow

Posted by MJC. Filed under Editor's Picks

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

'60s Mod-inspired private sitting areas at the VA lounge (photo from www.ausbt.com.au)

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

The dining area at the VA lounge (photo from www.travel.nytimes.com)

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

Yes the VA lounge has a Jacuzzi (photo from www.adelto.co.uk)

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

The private driveway and entrance for VA Upper Class passengers

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

Even Virgin serves adobo! Their version is served with red cabbage

The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1The best airline lounge: The Clubhouse at Virgin Atlantic Heathrow 1

When Virgin Atlantic told us what time they were going to pick us up in North London for our flight back to New York, I thought they were cutting it too close. One needs to be at the airport at least three hours before the flight. As a veteran of economy traveling, this I know for sure. But I’ve done some first class traveling as well and submitted that they must know best, and they do indeed.

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class experience starts at the front door of your London residence. A private car (more like the SUVs celebrities prefer nowadays), picks you up at any point in the city and transports you to their new, exclusive terminal entrance in Heathrow. Gone are the days when you enter the airport where everyone else do – Virgin has their own private driveway that reminded me of ‘60s British Mod.

From thereon it is full service that is an airport’s equivalent of a five-star hotel. Porters take care of your luggage as you enter the lobby. A desk manned by the ground crew check you in the manner of a concierge. Weighing scales are remarkably invisible—the luggage is swept away from view instantly. We are ushered through x-ray security, which is normally the most harrowing part of the journey. That is not the case here. The procedure is so swift and stress-free I thought it didn’t almost happen.  We simply walked through without the indignation of having to take your shoes off, dumping carry-on bags and other belongings in plastic trays—and oh, don’t forget to take your watch and belt off—None of that! You pass through as you would a spa.

And yes, there is an actual spa, where you can take a shower or enjoy the relaxing heat of the sauna and Jacuzzi—if you have your swimsuit with you. Right next to it are massage rooms where appointments run for a maximum of half an hour, understandably. When you’re done and in need of a blow out, or a cut if you must, you can avail the services of not just any salon, but an actual Bumble & Bumble.

If you must have something before they interrupt your reverie to board, there are two buffets, one for light courses and the other for a heavier fare. After lounging and enjoying the Wi-Fi connection, soon we are called and we make our short walk into the jetway. We were then ushered into the Upper Class section, with the distinctive bar welcoming us. Champers are offered promptly, as if to apologize for waiting. 

Looking around the Upper Class cabin I still think that Virgin Atlantic’s dogtooth configuration is the best in the business. It is pleasing to the eye and gives you a sense of space where it is needed the most. Directly across your purple seat (Virgin’s trademark color) is a footstool that doubles as an extra chair. The table, when unfolded, comes directly between the seats and voila! You have a set-up for a date or a business meeting. That is exactly what my partner and I did. We requested for a dinner date and the staff set it up with white tablecloths for a three-course meal.

Then of course there is Virgin’s turn down service. Preposterous as it may sound they do serve like you are in a hotel and set your bed with white sheets and a white duvet. It’s such a pity the flight to New York is only 7 or 8 hours long. The wait time at the London lounge is actually cut in half, but ironically, it takes longer than that to sample all the services they have to offer. I tell myself that next time I do the Upper Class at Virgin, I should allot as much time as I would seeing London’s attractions. – Jesse Alvior

 Jesse Alvior is also the author of the blog www.besamestreet.com

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