Along with test driving the entire Upper Class experience on board Virgin Atlantic’s new A350, I also had the pleasure of making the most of their flagship lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport. Located in Terminal 3 airside, this is perhaps one of the best lounges in the world, and has a few hidden tricks up its sleeve too!
Accessing the lounge
After breezing through security, perhaps via the private Upper Class entrance, the lounge is an easy five minute stroll from the main terminal area. It’s located at lounge ‘H’ for hotel, if you’re following the signs. It’s right above the American Airlines’ Admirals Club.
As it so often the case, Virgin’s lounge is located upstairs at the airport. Clearly, this was necessary, seeing as it’s about the size of a couple of football fields. There are, of course, lifts to take you up too, but ascending the sweeping staircase towards the opulent lounge entrance is a grand experience if your case is not too heavy.
Once inside the lounge, the receptionist greeted me with warmth and smiles. She checked my boarding pass and, clearly noticing my dangling jaw and thereby assuming correctly I’d never been there before, she gave me a whistle stop tour of the lounge. While I like to explore, when you’ve been traveling for 4 hours already, knowing the location of the nearest restroom in a lounge of this size definitely helps!
The lounge itself
It’s hard to know where to begin describing this mega-lounge. Although it’s all open plan, it is neatly divided into different zones to allow for different needs and uses. For example, there are a couple of café style areas which are ideal for sitting down to a meal. The biggest one of these is in the middle of the main area, but there are also smaller, quieter dining areas off to the sides.
As well as this, there are a variety of more lounge-y type areas, including this gorgeous sunken sofa area, perfect for kicking back with a redhead or two (that’s a Virgin signature cocktail by the way, I am absolutely not advocating any funny business in the lounge).
Elsewhere you’ll find wingback chairs, low seating like in a lounge bar and proper high level bar stools so you can watch your mixologist shake up your drink.
One of my favorite areas by far is a kind of atrium bit on the far side of the lounge when you come in. Here, there are huge picture windows overlooking the apron, perfect for watching all the aircraft action. While there are some comfy low level sofas to enjoy, the absolute throne of a seat has to be the hanging ball chairs which dangle from the ceiling, giving you a spot on view of the tarmac.
Food and drink
There are plenty of options for eating and drinking, whether you want a proper meal, a quick snack, or just a few champagne cocktails to relax you for your flight.
To the left of the entrance is a deli counter, which has some gorgeous looking meats, cheeses and fresh produce on display. You are able to just walk up and ask for something if you wish, perfect for those with not much time before their flight. As it was morning, the deli also had a selection of cereals, yoghurt, pastries and other breakfast goodies.
The rest of the lounge is table service. Although the primary restaurant areas get swiftly served by waiting staff, you can pretty much flag down a member of staff from anywhere and get your meal brought to you.
As we were there early, breakfast was being served. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, I was there for the celebration flight and we were being tempted by a variety of canapes in a cordoned off area of the lounge, so I didn’t actually try anything. If I had, I would have totally tried an egg royale; I spotted some of these coming past on their way to tables, and they looked and smelled delightful.
Hot drinks were a fairly standard selection. It’s great to see an airline serving proper PG Tips in its lounge. As much as I like all those fancy teas, you can’t beat a good builders brew to get your day started. As well as tea and coffee, there was a wide range of Pukka herbal teas on offer too.
Of course, if you fancied something a little stronger, Virgin didn’t disappoint here either. Along with several pages of wines and spirits, the bar menu included a huge list of cocktail choices to kick start the day. As I’d been up since 3am, I figured the sun was pretty much over the yardarm, so I went for one of the aforementioned redheads. Or two. And a special A350 cake.
Great food and an expansive drinks list not enough for you? That’s OK, because there’s plenty more besides!
Upstairs in the Clubhouse, you’ll come to a mezzanine area which Virgin call the Loft Bar. Up here, you can request your own personalized cocktail, with absolutely anything you like in it.
Once you’ve had your drink mixed to your liking, where better to enjoy it than up on the roof!
Up another set of stairs, you’ll find the Secret English Garden. While it’s not all that secret or particularly garden-y, it does command an awesome view across the airport. From here, you can watch aircraft taking off, taxiing and generally going about their business. There are some comfy seats and it’s all very colorful and cool.
Back in the main area, to the right of the entrance, you’ll find a bunch of other fun things to do, namely a spa and a salon.
Unlike many airport lounges, there are a bunch of treatments in the spa which are actually complementary. For example, there’s a facial, a head and leg massage and nail treatments for both men and women all at the cost of nada. Some treatments do cost, but are very reasonably priced. For example, a seated back, neck and shoulder massage starts at just £16.
Similarly, the hair salon offers quick touch-ups for free. That’s for ladies and men, and includes things like a dry style, fringe trim (for ladies), beard trim (hopefully for men) and a neck tidy. Other services are available too, at a relatively reasonable cost.
In terms of availability, the salon didn’t seem too busy at all, and it would have been possible to walk straight in and sit at a chair. The spa was a little more active, but the lady on the desk advised it would be only a 15 minute wait for a massage or spa treatment and five minutes for nails. Considering how busy the lounge was when I was there, this was really quite amazing.
It’s big, it’s colorful and it’s inimitably Virgin. I loved my Clubhouse experience and would happily spend a lot more time there. In fact, that’s probably my main gripe about the lounge – it’s just so darn big! Every time I took a seat and thought I’d order a drink, I got anxious that I was missing some other nook or cranny, or a hidden facility yet to be discovered, and took off again (there is apparently a game room with a pool table – I only learned that after leaving and never did find it).
I guess if you’re a regular, it’s easier to find your preferred spot and to properly chill out before your flight. On the upside, it was super busy when I was there, and had the lounge been any smaller, it would have felt quite crowded. However, the sheer size of it meant that even with a couple of hundred people in there, there was still a quiet corner or two.
One of the things I liked best about the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow was the fact they call boarding right there in the lounge. The lounge staff coordinate with the gate crew, so that when your flight is called, you can leisurely make your way to the plane with no huge queue to wait in.
The Virgin Clubhouse can be accessed by any Virgin Upper Class or Delta One passenger, as well as Flying Club Gold members. Passengers with elite status from other associated airlines can also gain access, including Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion, Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum members as well as Singapore Airlines exclusive and Solitaire PPS members, as long as they are flying on either Delta or Virgin.
If you qualify, I can honestly say there is no better way to spend your pre-flight time at Heathrow. Arrive early, arrive hungry and enjoy!