Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse - Business Class lounges
NEWS: Virgin Atlantic has unveiled its new Clubhouse at New York-JFK Airport. The new space is inspired by the theme 'Understatedly Uptown, Unmistakably New York'. It has cost five million pounds to rebuild the 10,000 square feet facility at the Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse, inside Terminal 4 at New York JFK International Airport. Read the full story.
NEWS: Virgin Holidays v-room has opened at Manchester Airport. Separately Virgin Atlantic have changed the lounge access rules and now prevent access to the Virgin Clubhouse for Singapore Airlines Business and First Class passengers travelling on a Singapore Airlines flight.
Reviews and opinions on the Virgin Atlantic Premium Lounges - known as the Virgin Clubhouse - generally say "wow". They are among the best lounges in the world, and regularly win awards.
At other airports, Virgin uses communal facilites. In Barbados The Club Caribbean VIP Executive Lounge is available, Cape Town has The Premiere Lounge, Delhi The Clipper Lounge (Terminal 2), Grenada The Especiale Lounge, Havana The Elegante Salon, Lagos the ASL business class lounge, Las Vegas the First Class Lounge (adjacent to Gate 3). Manchester has The Escape Lounge, (First Floor, Airside), Miami, The Club America Lounge (Concourse E, 2nd floor - landside), and in Sydney there are the great facilities at the Air New Zealand Koru Club.
Mumbai uses The Clipper Lounge (Terminal 2A - Transit Level, after immigration control), Orlando the Delta Airlines Crown Room (Terminal B). Shanghai the First Class Lounge (by Gate 17). St. Lucia the Iyanola Executive Lounge, and in Sydney the Malaysia Airlines Golden lounge in Sydney (Terminal 1) for both Virgin Atlantic and V-Australia flights. Virgin Australia in Los Angeles has a brand new Virgin Lounge.
Virgin Atlantic clubhouse access is permitted to all clubhouses for Virgin Upper Class passengers, and flying club gold members on an economy ticket. There is no access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse with a regular Premium Economy ticket.
You can buy access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, but it is very expensive. If (and only if) you have booked a holiday directwith Virgin Holidays, you can pay for access to the clubhouse in London for £60. Alternately if you are on a regular Virgin Atlantic flight in economy or Premium Economy, you can buy a daypass to the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse for £240, as part of the Virgin Atlantic Guest List. Yes, that is correct, two hundred and fourty pounds, for three hours access. Full details are here.
There are other ways of getting access to the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse. Top teir members of the Frequent Flyer scheme - Gold Flying Club members - get access, as do Gold and Platinum members of the Velocity Virgin Australia scheme down under. UK American Express Centurion cardholders (a black card with numbers starting 3742) also gain entry.
If you fail on these counts, there is only one other alternative. Buy Upper Class. A full upgrade from economy to Upper only costs £595 at checkin for some destinations, although it is much, much more for others.
There used to be a one other way to get access - to travel on Singapore Airlines in Business or First Class, or have Singapore Airlines PPS membership or Gold Krisflyer status, however that lounge access method has been removed now that Singapore Airlines has sold half of Virgin Atlantic to Delta Airlines.
London Heathrow - LHR - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseTerminal 3 Open 0700-2230
Access for Upper Class passengers, Flyingclub Gold members, Virgin Australia Gold & Platinum members (if on Virgin in economy).
There is no longer any access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LHR T3 for Singapore Airlines First & Business Class passengers.However Renovations of the business centre in the Virgin Atlantic Airways London Heathrow Clubhouse are complete. The refectory table has been removed, and in its place there is now a full AVID suite, for DJs and singers to mix down tracks in the lounge. The compact suite offers the digital editing and mixing system Pro Tools.
The huge Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow is a delight - and one that is well worth while checking in several hours early for, to explore all the options.
That's not to say it's all great: the lounge can get packed, and it's also looking a little bit tired: after all, it's been open well over a decade. However a revamp is on the cards with the long awaited LHR Lounge Shuffle, and it'll be re-done in the latest Virgin corporate style.
To find the Virgin Atlantic LHR Clubhouse, either go to Virgin's new check in desks for Upper Class at Terminal 3, and take the lift to the right of check in, upwards, to where it meets the new Upper Class Wing walking route. Or take this, which means you can get from the complimentary chauffeur-driven car to the Clubhouse in one quick walk. Alas, this route just dumps you at the far left of security, and you have to walk through the tatty security hall, and the maze of duty free, before heading to the middle of the departure lounge, and then heading out past the seafood bar to the 'lounge corridor', turn right, and at the far end left, and along the dark service corridor almost to the AA lounge, before taking the superb staircase upwards, or take the very small lift (one of the world with a sofa!)
When you first arrive at the Heathrow Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse instead of just coming in, you walk up the Grand Staircase lit up by a chandelier adorned with Swarovski crystals, before presenting you boarding card at the red leather desk, just by the entrance of the lounge.
Once you are in you find the Virgin Clubhouse Heathrow is actually a little bit over the top, and is very much designed for the trendy wow factor. A Virgin Clubhouse Heathrow review always mentions the retro 60's look plus a more contemporary feel, which is immediately obvious as you arrive.
The different corners of the lounge really do offer different moods. Starting straight ahead of you is the leather-upholstered sofa lounge (all sofas have a flip open the centre armrests for power and data points for laptops) surrounding a 14-metre long cocktail bar. The quietest area of this is generally at the far right, and if you move up here you can also see on the right the poolside lounge, which has a floor to ceiling (yes, they teach water to defy gravity) Japanese waterfall which runs into the pool. Suspended from the ceiling are clear acrylic 'bubble' chairs. Perhaps usefully, with the sound of the water nearby, the toilets are on the right. Beyond this is the spa and pool, while over by the window is the Cowshed barber's shop. A narrow corridor runs behind the long cocktail bar, overlooking the gates, to near the Lodge which has a roaring log fire TV screen, and which is a sort of gathering place for those who want to chat: it has been described as having a convivial après-ski vibe.
Up the white marble stairway here, there is the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Grey Goose Loft Bar; there are sloping windows but you can't see much instead here the atmosphere is about the vodka. Alas, the former sleeping area here is no longer. Carry further on upstairs and there is the hidden gem if you need to make a quiet phone call: the Viewing Deck. No one else comes up here maybe thanks to the stench of the Jet A1 but there is a great view of the runway and setting sun from the patio style seating.
Back down the stairs, and further along, there is a huge TV screen, in The Den, which also has some retro video games consoles in the tables, a large billiards (pool/snooker) table, and rather oddly a children's rooms with toys, right at the far point of the lounge: oddly the place with the best view.
Carry on walking clockwise around the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse, and you come to The Office. Here there are (now rarely used) eight internet connected laptops, at workstations that have the famous Virgin Atlantic post-it notes and pencils. The old refectory table that was once here has gone back to Branson's home, and instead there is now more seating which is very private and the famous AVID suite. Carry on anti-clockwise, past more toilets, and you walk up a slope to the restaurant, with large (reservable) tables on the right, and smaller tables on the left. Finally, almost back at the entrance, there is the Deli, and an area where you can eat on a great white slab of marble overlooking the sofa lounge.
Food is far better than most airline lounges in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Heathrow with a dedicated brassiere and deli, offering either full five course sit down meals, or snacks you can take to your table.
There is a great Italian deli counter with plenty of cold cuts and cheeses where you can select what you want, including sandwiches, bagels, cold meats, seafood, salads and gherkins, plus a great selection of bread. Indeed, the only things they don't offer are olives. The Salmon eggs Benedict is highly recommended.
Alternately, you can book a table in the brassiere the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse restaurant - and be served anything from a snack to a full hot meal. There are small tables (with rather uncomfortable chairs) or more intimate and cosy raspberry-velour lined booths. The menu is a delight, having everything from a cooked breakfast or bangers and mash to the Club House Burger, lighter sandwiches and salads.
The centre of the Heathrow Virgin Clubhouse is the 14 metre long cocktail bar. Drinks are well catered for with a long list of Sparkling Wine cocktails. Again, nothing is self serve, but the bar does offer some superb cocktails. There is also an excellent wine list and Sparkling Wine (three types), plus plenty of beers.
The rack of bottles behind the bar is worthy of note: Virgin know their customers, and their customers like a drink, and as such Virgin never want to be caught short without the right spirit, and accordingly have a vast rack of virtually every one known to man.
One of the main entertainments in the lounge is "The Cowshed at the Clubhouse" which has a spa pool, sauna, steam rooms and showers. The full cowshed treatment is also available with a deep cleanse, wet shave and massage. Bumble and Bumble even offer haircuts and styling before your flight. Treatments can be booked in advance up to eight weeks ahead of departure, by calling 020 8897 5055 or email email@example.com.
If you want the complimentary Spa service, be sure to book in advance or you probably won't have the chance for a massage or any other treatment. However the circular hydro spa pool is generally free, as is the sauna are also available, plus the six steam-shower rooms, and a St. Tropez tanning booth.
There is "The Office and Library" with a private room with eight computers, fax machines, telephones, printers, photocopiers plus a library. There is free wifi in the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse Heathrow the password is in the menus on each table. In the office there is now a full AVID audio and video production suite, for DJs and singers to mix down tracks in the lounge. It is really little more than a desk, but it offers the digital editing and mixing system Pro Tools, and allows users to email or upload the track directly to the record company.
In the Den there is a large multiscreen TV, showing most footy and cricket games. There are plenty of newspapers but not many magazines on the table by reception as you walk in.
Paid access to the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse is now available but is very expensive. There are no cheap day passes, or even yearly membership schemes available. Premium Economy does not give entrance or access to the Virgin Clubhouse. If you want access, the only guaranteed way of getting into the Virgin Club at LHR is with a Business Class ticket, as a Flying Club Gold member, or (as the latest dodge which has a low threshold) Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum or Gold, or similar Virgin America card.
Recognising that there are many passengers who want paid Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse access, Virgin have now introduced the Virgin Atlantic Guest List, which is in effect a day pass to the Heathrow Virgin Clubhouse. The Virgin Atlantic clubhouse cost is no less than 240 pounds, where you also get a few other bits of the Virgin Upper Class ground treatment, like the free taxi to the airport in a chauffeur driven car, and an Upper Class bag tag to put on your bag.
London Gatwick - LGW - Virgin Atlantic V-RoomTerminal 3 Open 0500-2130
Access for any Virgin Holidays customer for £20 or free access with a Platinum (premium) hotel
There is of course a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Gatwick - but Virgin are rather sniffy about who uses that. Many leisure travellers off for a bucket and spade holiday asked to use the lounge - and Virgin have now obliged with the V-Room. Virgin Holidays customers flying from the airport to Orlando, Las Vegas and the Caribbean with Virgin Atlantic can buy entry to the V-Room. It costs twenty quid, and may well be worth it if you are in economy
It isn't quite up to the standard of the clubhouse, but it is pretty good. You get free food, WiFi, seating, newspapers, and a games room. What you don't get is a bar - if you fancy free drinks, the No1 lounge up the corridor might be better. And it is the corridors that define this lounge. It is up past the Harrods entrance, up in the lift, right (veer right say the signs) and down the long rather mucky corridor.
Once you are inside, the main room has vast floor to ceiling windows with a great view of the runway. There is a large seating area on the right by the bar, another one further in just for children, a dining room with tables and some benches, and at the far end a kids play area with strange high square metal chairs and a dark games room with computers, a TV on MTV and a Subbuteo table. Alas, this every v-room Gatwick review says this place gets packed by about midday: get there early and reserve a seat.
The food is great, particularly at breakfast time, before the main holiday flights leave. There is cereal, fruit, crossants, dougnuts, and pastries. Muffins are on strange plastic curved shelves. You can of course order a full English breakfasts from the hot counter right beside it (although in truth it is little more than a heated cabinet) - they also do a mean bacon butties. On the menu on the tables are also eggs Benedict, oatmeal and smoked salmon bagels made to order in the kitchen out the back.
Alas the bar isn't nearly as good, and you have to pay for all drinks. The Gatwick v-room bar may not look as fancy as a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse bar, but it's slick and it does the job: there's even Sparkling Wine, but at an eye-watering price.
There is free Wifi, and a couple of internet computers. Finally, check out the toilets. They have mirrored walls reflecting pictures of sandy beaches and the rainforest: where you're heading off to on your flight in fact.
New York - JFK - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseTerminal 4, airside Open 1400-2330
Access for Upper Class passengers, Gold Flying Club members, Velocity Gold. Access for Virgin America ($35, First Class only)
Virgin Atlantic's new Clubhouse at New York-JFK Airport is inspired by the theme 'Understatedly Uptown, Unmistakably New York', and you can see why it costs five million pounds to rebuild the 10,000 square feet JFK Clubhouse.
The lounge is big really big with more than double the space of the existing Clubhouse. As you walk in you are first struck by the walls, with curved shimmering stainless steel rods and walnut fins hanging from the ceiling creating lots of much smaller spaces within the lounge, while at the same time allowing you to see the whole area. On the ceiling are gold pods with down lights which soak up a lot of noise and vibration: a good idea considering most of the surfaces are reflective, including the polished hardwood floor. There isn't much of a view in the lounge, except at the far end where floor to ceiling windows give decent views of the runway. Alas most of Virgins flights leave after dark, so you won't get to see much of the view, unless you are here for the 6pm flight.
The seats are on the cutting edge of art, with quite a few of the strange four-way squashy seats, as well as some small patent-leather stools with low backs they scream achingly trendy, but there are woefully impractical. At most seats there are no places to put drinks, or indeed plug in a laptop. To complete the eye-popping look, there is a sofa made from red balls in the entertainment zone.
In the quiet corner of the JFK Clubhouse, passenger sized round cavities have been carved in the walls, lined with wool, with intimate lighting, in case you have had a hard day and you want to retreat into your own private zone.
Naturally, the heart of the the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK is the bar; it is mocked up as what Virgin call a 'sultry, uptown cocktail bar'. There is a resident mixologist (barman) who will pour cocktails. The range of spirits has to be seen to be believed: not only with your usual premium brands, but also with some more obscure bottles, including a large range from Mexico. There is also Sparkling Wine, and some of New Yorks microbrewery ales. Alas, if you're hunting for some beer from the UK, you may be out of luck.
Food is as you would expect good, but again there is no self-serve snackbar. Now, just as the bar is great if you've got plenty of time to wait and you don't mind hanging around for the butlers, if you are in a hurry this can be a real downside. The moral is, allow plenty of time. There are menus on all the tables, and there is a more formal brassiere area, with proper dining tables. Here, you can order a full five course meal á la carte. The desserts are especially good, as are the clubhouse burgers. There is a strong New York bent on the menu, including pork sliders, tin baked steak and Brooklyn Ale pie.
There are of course computers in the work area, with a meeting room with high-backed chairs. There is of course free wifi. There are also newspapers here, with a good set from the UK, including the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, but no Guardian or Independent.
There is one final delight in the lounge it has a Clubhouse Spa, with steam rooms. This is the first Virgin have offered outside of London. There is also the usual hairdresser, offered by New York City salon Bumble and Bumble: for haircuts you normally have to book in advance.
Finally, if you really want to embarrass yourself, you can slip into the usual Virgin Atlantic sleeper suit in the Clubhouse: you're given a hanger for your suit so you can carry it on board.
The new airside space has been designed by Slade Architecture in collaboration with the Virgin Atlantic in house design team.
Be warned that this lounge gets rammed to the gills at around 6pm when there plenty of people waiting for the late evening flights back to London. Occasionally, it is standing room only, which isn't a good look in a flagship lounge. Around Christmas and Easter peak times, you'll often find people sitting on the floor.
There is an obscure method of entry to the Clubhouse if you are on Virgin America in full, paid first class (not upgraded). You can buy a daypass for entry to the Virgin Atlantic New York Clubhouse for an extra fee of US$35 (payable at the Virgin America check in desk only, not at the lounge). bmi Diamond Club members have no access to this clubhouse only the LHR Terminal 3 clubhouse.
San Francisco - SFO - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseTerminal A, landside, lifts in corridor by museum 1500 - 1815 (1600 - 1915 on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday)
Access for Upper Class passengers, Gold Flying Club members, Velocity Gold. Access for Virgin America ($35, First Class only)
This clubhouse says it is "Very chic, very trendy, very Virgin", and so it is. The bright lights of the lounge shine out though floor to ceiling glazing and there are unrivalled views across the bay. The centrepieces of the lounge are the bar and coloured glass panels that move to create different atmospheres in the space. Five monitors display digital art in the lounge which showcase local talent.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in San Francisco is one of the best lounges in the world, without question. It even manages to slightly eclipse the master Clubhouse at Heathrow, but only just, and of course it doesn't have as many facilities or toys to play with. However for sheer subtle style, a great view, good food and an amazing bar, it wins hands down over many other airport lounges, and considering the lousy penny pinching quality of most US airline lounges, it stands head and shoulders over them, proving that while the US does many things well, it can't do airlines, and it certainly can't do airport lounges.
The lounge is airside, which is a bit of a pain, so you need to allow some extra time to get through security before the flight, and it is also in a funny location, up a corridor behind checkin, up in a very slow lift to the 5th floor, along the admin corridor, and it's there behind a metal shutter that rises on the dot of 3pm (or 4pm on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday).
The lounge often feels like a home away from home, plonked at the farthest part of the US, and with floor to ceiling windows that offer a great view of the airport and the distant Frisco hills. There are some blue and purple blinds over the windows, which give some parts of the lounge a lurid colour scheme, however they also help to keep the sun off.
As soon as you enter, the dining area is on your right, and the bar is on your left, then as you walk left there are vast red 1970s style chairs by the window, then further down there is an area with couches against the wall, and sofas overlooking the windows. On every table there are menus, and with the lounge rather overmanned with butlers, it doesn't take long before your order is taken, but it can take rather longer before your food arrives.
And it is that food that many people come for: pre-flight dining is well catered, with a three course menu that varies every month, although it does tend towards American tastes, with Clam Chowder, and Burgers appearing more often than you may like. There is no self serve buffet: everything has to be ordered at the counter.
The bar is equally a delight: again, nothing is self serve, but the bar does offer some superb cocktails (again, the menu changes monthly). There is also an excellent wine list (alas no Sparkling Wine, it is Sonoma Country Brut), and there are also some local beers such Anchor Steam, Corona, Samuel Adams, Amstel Light, Heineken and Widmer Hefewizen. The rack of bottles behind the bar is worthy of note: Virgin know their customers, and their customers like a drink, and as such Virgin never want to be caught short without the right spirit, and accordingly have a vast rack of virtually every one known to man.
Newspapers are just left on the window ledge, and can sometimes be hard to come by, as there are just two copies of all of the main UK papers, plus some local US papers. Magazines are good, and are left on a stack (again on the windowsill) but you can take them onto flights they all have stickers on saying "for use in the lounge only". There is everything from Conde Nast Traveller, to Wallpaper, the Spectator and the Economist.
There are just two computers in a small cubby hole next to reception, with a printer and a fax. They are fast and new, but some passengers tend to leave their children playing on the computers for hours before a flight, so it can be hard to get hold of one. Thankfully there is also free wifi. Next to the computers is the writing desk, with lots of Virgin logoed pens, pencils and paper. Alas, there aren't so many after a flight, as they do make very good souvenirs.
There are showers down the corridor next to the computers: ask at reception for a key and a towel.
The Virgin Clubhouse is also, technically, the lounge for Virgin America at San Francisco. With such a superb lounge on the premises you'd have thought that Virgin would shout about it from the rooftops, and indeed they do on the website, but when you get to the airport you'll be met with blank stares when you ask about it at check in, and the ground staff will try and direct you to the American Airlines club (Terminal 3, Pier E, halfway down the concourse across from gate 62).
There are two reasons for this: the Virgin America gates have now moved to Terminal 3, and it's a long 15 minute walk to the lounge, which is also airside, so you need to leave the lounge a long time before your flight to clear security. Add to that, the lounge is only open at 3pm (4pm on 3 days a week) so you can only get in on the late evening flights, and even then at best you'll only get 90 minutes in the lounge. And then, you can only buy access to the lounge if are in full, paid First Class, and you pay an extra $35 fee. Plus, you can't pay this fee at the lounge: you need to buy it at check in (but no one at check in will tell you this). Therefore, you need nerves of steel and an iron will to get into the San Francisco Virgin Clubhouse. Or, you could do what everyone else on Virgin America does, and just use the American Airlines lounge (pay a fee US$50 at the door), which is admitedly more expensive, and much worse quality.
Washington Dulles - IAD - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseTerminal A airside Open 1440 2200
Access for Upper Class passengers, Gold Flying Club members, Velocity Gold & Platinum. Day Pass on Virgin America US$35.
After the delights of other Clubhouses on the network, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Washington DC is, well, a bit underwhelming for Virgin Atlantic. It's in an old 1950s building, and Virgin have tried hard to keep that 1950s styling, but while the lounge is designed to fit in to the design of this classic fifties terminal, it does have a bit of a 'last decade, if not the one before' feeling.
Firstly, you have to find the Virgin Clubhouse Washington IAD, which is a bit of a trek. Check in at the wonderful 1960s building, and then descend into the bowels of the building for security, before taking the train to Terminal A, and walk all the way along the terminal concourse. The clubhouse is the small red door on the right hand side, about a third of a mile before the BA lounge, through which is a small reception desk.
The Washington Virgin Clubhouse lounge is small and compact: from the door you can see most of it: at least there is a great view of the gates, and the unique IAD gate transporters rushing past. The place looks a bit tired, but at least the furniture has had a revamp of late. There is a prized sofa in the far corner of the lounge, but if you miss out on this, there are some decent squashy armchairs arranged for couples, around small funky 1960s coffee tables, and standard lamps that wouldn't be out of place in Carnaby Street.
The strange combination structure as you walk in, housing the reception, bar, and stairs is because the Virgin Clubhouse Lounge Dulles Airport is on two levels: however the upper level is normally closed unless the lounge is crowded or reserved for VIPs such as the Harry entourage. It has a curving spiral staircase, and there is the famed Wurlitzer jukebox at the foot of the stairs: it features in most of the publicity about the lounge, but is rarely turned on. At the top are seats arranged in a great big curve.
Under the stairs and beside the bar there are dining tables, all of which have menus, and indeed there are also menus on most of the tables throughout the lounge. Watch a video of the Virgin Clubhouse Washington IAD.
Of course the bar in the Virgin Clubhouse Washington Dulles is excellent: you can take a seat at the bar in US style, or take your drinks to the sofas. There is a great wine selection which varies monthly typically with New World wines. The list is in the back of the menu. There are also some good beers but not as many as you'd think, and they are all US beers. The spirit selection behind the bar is also serviceable, but not as good as in San Francisco. Cocktails are in the menu too, but are basic bar offerings.
Food is however superb. There are the classic burgers and pasta, along with lighter starters: I generally have several starters and a dessert before a flight, which means you have room to eat on the plane.
There are computers in the lounge, with four desks in the far corner of the lounge, and two internet connected PCs: if you can see the screens that is: the sunshine tends to shine through the windows onto the screen. There is also free wifi in the lounge.
There are bathrooms in the lounge in the corridor behind the screen next to the sofa and one shower.
Hong Kong - HKG - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseAirside, up stairs between gate 36 and 60. Open 1600-2330
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Hong Kong is pretty good, but starting to look a little dated, with decor that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the Virgin Clubhouse brand: it is definitely 'old school' Virgin, and was opened in 2004, to launch the new flights to Australia, and designed by hlstudio.
The Hong Kong Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is definitely a bit of a trek from check in: it is right at the end of the terminal, about as long a walk as possible: after going through check in take the train (or a long walk down the long pier) to where most of the lounges are, between gate 36 and 60. You can see the lounge on the balcony, but you'll need to turn right and head between the shops. There is a lift by the Travelex, or take the stairs by gate 61.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Hong Kong is in a rather odd location, positioned on a V shaped balcony on the upper level of the terminal with a sweeping view across the runway framed by Lantau's neighbouring islands in the distance, and more closely by the end of the long main spine and pier of the terminal.
Wiggle around the screens, and there are two welcome podiums: one for Virgin Atlantic and one for Eva Air, who share the Virgin Hong Kong lounge, and use it just before the main Virgin flights taking up many of the 10 seats.
Because the lounge was built in two stages, around the airport's existing architecture, the Clubhouse is split into three distinct areas: the entrance & office, an open balcony and an interior cabin space. Once you are past reception, there is the main business centre on the right, and then a long walk along the balcony before you get virtually to the point at end of the triangle that is the Hong Kong Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Lounge. Here there is 'shelf' seating overlooking the view on the left, while on the right is the interior space with the bar, seats, and the cinema type seats.
Carry on to the lounge 'point' and there is the famous 'splat' table: look at it and you will understand the name. Turn right and there is the most comfortable seating in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Hong Kong business class lounge with racks of 2+2 seats overlooking the pier of the terminal, and with 1+1 seats on the inner area of the balcony. At the far end is the quiet area with three snooze couches, and the famous 'hedgerow': this area is designed as a garden, with calming green tones and a manicured English hedgerow up the wall; I kid you not.
Back in the main part of the lounge the centrepiece of the lounge is the bar opened in 2004 which has seats so you can enjoy what are called 'comforting and intimate with warm glowing tones'. I'll say it's warm: the airport's aircon doesn't reach here much, and it can get very hot. In the inner part of the lounge there is a large TV normally on BBC World with two circles of seats, behind which is a games and internet browsing area.
Food is pretty good in the Hong Kong Clubhouse, with menus handed out if you sit at a table: hang onto these, as the lounge staff whip them away as soon as you've made an order. There are usually four starters and four main courses, plus a full cooked English offered throughout the day (when the flight from Heathrow lands, onwards to Sydney, it is breakfast time in the UK). There are also some good desserts. Nibbles aren't listed, but you can have olives and crisps brought to the table by the waiters, who can be attentive: sometimes a little too attentive, and come up to you ever five minutes. There isn't a walk up snack bar as such, but inside beside the newspapers is a small tray of buns and sandwiches.
The bar is the main event in Virgin's Hong Kong Clubhouse: and what a bar. The only problem is getting to use it: if you approach the bar, the staff will come up to you and ask firmly if they can take your order and take it to your table. You have to be quite insistent to actually sit propping up the bar. There is a good selection of wine which is listed in the back pages of the menu and an amazing selection of sprits. Beer is good two, with a good crossover of UK and Australian varieties: here you can get Boags on the shelf side by side with London Pride.
Business facilities are a bit ad-hock, on desks in an alcove by the entrance, but there are three good laptops with fast internet, a photocopier, fax and phone facilities. Pencils, rubbers, and post-it notes are the same 'collectable' ones as in the London clubhouse.
By the bar is a very good newspaper rack (UK papers are two days old, Australian ones a day old), with plenty of magazines. At the inner side of the 'cabin' behind the TV is the strange internet station, with three monitors: press a button and you can play games, or connect to the net.
The wifi in the lounge is free (password is in the menu) and is better than Hong Kong airport's own wifi which you can also pick up.
There are two very good showers in the lounge, in the corridor behind the TV, and at the other end of the corridor decent bathrooms. Amenities are by Cowshed.
On the whole the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Hong Kong is very good, but a trifle dated. Food and drinks more than make up for this, but it can get packed, particularly when the UK and Australia flights cross over, at the same time as there is a packed or delayed Eva Air flight. It can be quietish when Virgin Checkin in Hong Kong opens at 4pm, but then by 5.50pm the Heathrow flight has arrived, there is an Eva Air flight at 6pm, and it all turns into a crescendo before the Sydney flight leaves at 7pm and finally the London flight goes at 10pm. Any delay on these three, and you have three full Airbus flights all trying to sit on top of each other.
Tokyo Narita - NRT - Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseTerminal 1 by gate 26 Open 0800-1130
Access for Upper Class passengers, Gold Flying Club members, Velocity Gold & Platinum.
Virgin Atlantic's new Narita Clubhouse now is just one large space, but there are some dividers to provide a little privacy, and there are a couple of rather odd sunken lounges with sofas, and a raised sun deck seating area which gets the most out of the natural light that floods into the lounge in the mornings. It also has great views of the airplanes.
A wacky part of the lounge is the series of high vertial screens with images that are supposed to give you extra 'visual experiences' as you move through the space: another one is the strange green vertical bars of bamboo that separate the areas.
The Tokyo Clubhouse also uses the same 'Welcome' system as used at Heathrow: it does actually work to let you know when the flight is boarding, but other than that is a bit pointless.
Food is pretty basic from the self-service snack station; at breakfast time there is cerial (such as cornflakes, in weird Japanese packets) & muffins, plus pastries, onigiri, vietnamese spring rolls, and fruit salad.
You can also order something from the kitchen if you want something more substantial: this is much better, with a full cooked English on offer, along with sausage and bacon rolls, and salmon with scrambled eggs.
There is just one bar; it is as you would expect very basic for a lounge that is only open at breakfast time.
There is a soft drinks machine, and a coffee machine too.
Bathrooms are in the lounge, but there are no showers.
The Tokyo Clubhouse offers new business facilities, with three fast new computers, a printer, and of course wifi throught the lounge. If you really need them there are old fashioned land line phones: they cost a fortune to call the UK.
One curiosity is there are also facilities to charge mobile phones and blackberries. Newspapers and magazines are good, with a decent selection from the UK.
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