LHR: London Heathrow Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
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. You could easily spend all day in here, starting with breakfast at the Deli, move onto the spa and sauna, have a swim(ish), followed by a haircut, a breath of fresh air on the balcony, game of pool, lunch in the restaurant, play a few video games, and then move onto the bar. Before a flight.
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 Classat 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 few lifts in 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.
FoodFood 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 gherkins and salads, plus a great selection of bread. Indeed, the only things they don’t offer are olives. There is good seafood - with a pint of prawns, spicy Spanish olives and chorizos. The Salmon eggs Benedict is highly recommended. Sandwiches, bagels, cold meats, seafood, salads, and special items are available at the Deli.
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.
Self-serve snacks and drinks are also available from a small counter at the Poolside Lounge at the Heathrow Virgin Clubhouse.
BarThe centre of the Heathrow Virgin Clubhouse is the 14 metre long cocktail bar. Drinksare well catered for with a long list of champagne cocktails. 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 and Champagne (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.
Bathrooms & SpaOne 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 - this can seem rather weird, having a snip while you look out through the window at the planes. 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.
Alas the antique refectory table (which originally came from Sir Richard Branson's house) is no longer there, and in its place 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. It is very rare to ever see anyone ever use it.
There is free wifi in the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse Heathrow – the password is in the menus on each table.
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.
AccessPaid access to the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse is now available –but it 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. The old dodge of using a bmi Gold card, or even a Singapore Airlines Krisflyer card or SQ Business Class ticket no longer works. Nope, 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 membership, 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 – as a basic starting price – and that is not a typo. It really is two hundred and forty pounds, for three hours of access, with an economy ticket. For £240 (rising to £1,200 for six people with a car at both ends of the journey) 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. But make no mistake – that at best is £50 worth. The rest of the cost is purely about buying access to the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse. For 240 quid, it might be better to splurge on booking your own cab, and buy one of the other payin lounges at Terminal 5, and spend the rest on Premium Economy. Mind you with a full upgrade from economy to Upper only costing £595 at LHR checkin (to some destinations), which does give access to the Virgin Clubhouse, even that might be better value.
However there used to be one other tempting alternative that gave access to the Clubhouse in economy. If you booked via Virgin Holidays, in economy, you used to be able to pay 60GBP to access the airport lounges: in theory that worked from Heathrow, but it was hard to buy unless you phoned Virgin Direct. Alas, with Virgin Holidays now only using Gatwick, and with the V-Room on offer there instead of the clubhouse, that option too is no longer available.
The Clubhouse is exclusive, with access really only for Upper Class, and Virgin Atlantic sure like to keep it that way.
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