Beaches and Mountains: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York, Swiss Business Lounge New York

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My friend was arriving on a United Premium Service flights just minutes after my flight was scheduled to arrive. Fortunately US Airways and United both use terminal 7 at JFK, so I just waited for him at his gate. Once he arrived we took the AirTrain over to terminal 4, where our Singapore Airlines flight would be departing from.

We had about six hours before our Singapore Airlines flight and Singapore check-in wouldn’t be opening for another three hours, so we headed straight to the Virgin Clubhouse.

At JFK, Singapore Airlines uses the Virgin Clubhouse for their first and business class passengers. In theory it’s a bit disappointing flying Singapore Airlines first class and only having access to a business class lounge, though as I discovered on my trip on Virgin Atlantic back in March, Virgin’s Clubhouses are better than your average business class lounge. I was actually quite looking forward to comparing the Virgin Clubhouse in New York to the one I experienced in San Francisco a few months earlier.

In terminal 4 all of the airline lounges are located landside. For the most part this is bad news since you have to leave the lounge early to leave plenty of time for clearing security. At the same time it meant we could easily use the lounge even without boarding passes.

The good thing about the Clubhouse is that they have a list of all Singapore Airlines passengers that are eligible for lounge access, so as long as your name is on the list you don’t need a boarding pass to enter.

The lounge is located on the second level across from the check-in area, right next to the Swiss lounge.


Terminal

At the entrance we were welcomed and given a tour and explanation of the lounge, which I felt was a nice touch.


Lounge entrance

The lounge is beautiful, with plenty of areas to sit, either for lounging, working, or eating.


Dining area


Lounging area


Bar


Bar

The tarmac views were spectacular, both of the gates and the runway.


Tarmac view

My one major complaint is that the lounge itself is “open air” and not separated from the rest of the terminal, meaning you hear all the announcements and noise from the terminal.


Terminal view from lounge

My friend and I both hadn’t eaten a whole lot that day so decided to have a meal in the Clubhouse as soon as possible so that it wouldn’t interfere with our dinner on Singapore Airlines several hours later.

We sat down at a table and within moments a cheery waitress introduced herself to us and explained the menu. I ordered a Diet Coke with lime.


Menu

The menu looked fantastic, so I went with a shrimp salad, mushroom quiche, and best of all, butterscotch dessert.


“Laughing Bird” shrimp salad


Wild mushroom quiche

Tandoori chicken


Butterscotch budino

The pace of the service was great and refills were constantly offered. I would assume it’s tough to find “good help” at JFK given that they probably don’t pay their servers especially well and working in the airport as a waitress isn’t all that desirable, though the service was spectacular. I left the waitress a tip (I didn’t feel pressured to, though she was just so professional that it felt right) and my Diet Coke wasn’t once less than half full over the next several hours. 😉

After lunch I tried to log onto the internet to get some work done, only to get this error message:


No comment…

It took a bit of help from one of the agents, though within about five minutes my internet was working just fine. Unfortunately the internet was incredibly slow, making it very tough to get any work done.

Around that time I decided to take a shower. The lounge boasts multiple spacious shower rooms featuring Bumble & Bumble products. The water pressure and temperature were also excellent.


Shower room

Overall the Clubhouse was awesome, much like the one in San Francisco. The service, food, and design of the lounge were all great. Comparing this lounge to San Francisco, I’d probably give San Francisco a slight advantage since the lounge is “enclosed,” meaning it’s much quieter and peaceful given the lack of terminal noise.

About two hours before departure we decided to head to Singapore Airlines check-in just to get a boarding pass reprint and ensure our bags were properly checked through.


Terminal 4 check-in


Singapore Airlines check-in

While there were long queues for economy, there was no one in the first class line.


First class check-in

The agent was friendly though had a puzzling expression on her face when I presented her with my handwritten baggage tag. After asking me some questions and making a few calls she assured me the bag would be checked through properly all the way to Bangkok.

Before she let us go she made us place our carry-ons on the scale. Singapore’s cabin baggage allowance is a measly 15 lbs. and suffice it to say we were both carrying substantially heavier bags. Believe it or not out of hundreds of segments in international first and business class, this was the first time I was ever asked to weigh my bag – and I’ve flown tons of airlines with very strict baggage policies.

Of course I wasn’t about to check my carry-on given how complicated the routing was, so as I placed it on the scale intentionally made it so only half of the bag was on the scale while the other half was hanging over. The agent didn’t bat an eyelash.

After that we had boarding passes in hand and decided to head to the Swiss lounge to see if they had faster wifi. Unfortunately we were only admitted to the business class lounge, though at least the wifi was faster, which is all we wanted.

The lounge was reasonably nice for a business class lounge. It wasn’t as nice as the Clubhouse and certainly wasn’t anywhere close to a first class lounge, though as far as business class lounges go, it was decent.


Swiss business class lounge


Swiss business class lounge seating


Swiss business class lounge

The lounge featured plenty of seating and a buffet with a variety of fresh items, like pasta, potatoes, fruit, desserts, etc.


Food spread


Food spread

About an hour before departure we decided to head towards security given that we were expecting long lines since many flights to Europe were leaving around the same time as our flight.

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Comments

  1. Lucky,

    You said, “After that we had boarding passes in hand and decided to head to the Swiss lounge to see if they had faster wifi. Unfortunately we were only admitted to the business class lounge, though at least the wifi was faster, which is all we wanted.”

    Was there a Swiss first class lounge that you were denied access to? If yes, how would that be possible since you were traveling *A F?

  2. I’m a little concerned about Virgin’s “B” letter grade by the NYC Health Department.

    If you’re curious, here’s a copy of the report from the 3/2011 surprise inspection …

    Violation points: 18

    Sanitary Violations
    1) Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation.
    2) Filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Filth flies include house flies, little house flies, blow flies, bottle flies and flesh flies. Food/refuse/sewage-associated flies include fruit flies, drain flies and Phorid flies.
    3) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.
    4) Other general violation.

    Administrative Violations
    1) Current valid permit, registration or other authorization to operate establishment not available.

    My colleagues have told me I’m quite the expert at the process (having been sitting at a restaurant while it was being shut down one afternoon).

  3. Do you know if VS gives a “fast track” type of pass to breeze through security? Or, do biz passengers not have to worry since they can use the biz class line?

  4. @Jim S – yes, there is an LX F side of the lounge. SQ must just have their agreement for F pax with the VS lounge only.

    @Lucky – gotta change your post about SQ C pax being allowed in the Clubhouse! Just doesn’t happen.

  5. You say: “My friend and I both hadn’t eaten a whole lot that day”. From reading this blog, I find that hard to believe.

  6. Couldn’t you have gotten into the Luftansa FC lounge? Or was it too far/in a different terminal?

  7. Eventually the JFK T4 lounges will be post-security. Sometime in the next year, they’re supposed to move the security check points closer to the check-in desks.

  8. “[…] I placed it on the scale intentionally made it so only half of the bag was on the scale while the other half was hanging over. The agent didn’t bat an eyelash.”
    Of course she didn’t bat an eyelash, the scale will show the exact same number.

    I mean, it’s not like half of the weight is going to disappear or anything. It’s simple physics — the downforce of the bag is equal to it’s weight in kilograms multiplied by 9,81m/s^2 (sorry, I’m used to SI units), and the force transferred to the scale is the same, even if it’s placed upside down, with 50% hanging outside et cetera. It has the same self-weight.

    The scale works by registering the force (don’t ask me how it registers it though), and divides it by 9,81 m/s^2 to find the weight.

    Now, if you were to place your knee or foot under the part sticking out, it would be another story — that would potentially reduce the force acting on the scale significantly.

  9. @Andy – LH is in a different terminal (T1), and is airside, unlike the landside lounges of T4 where SQ/LX are

  10. @ David — There is a business/first class security line, though when I was there it was longer than the coach line.

    @ Andy — Lufthansa restricts access to their first class lounges only to their own first class passengers and not passengers booked on other Star Alliance flights, unfortunately. It’s also in a different terminal.

    @ Henrik — Sorry, I wasn’t clear. At JFK the scale is in a casing of sorts. So if you place luggage on the edge of the scale, the weight is split between the outer casing (which isn’t weighed) and the scale. Make sense?

  11. The emirates lounge, air India lounge, have always been airside. They are building a new clubhouse also airside

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