Virgin America has just opened their first lounge at LAX, named the “Virgin America Loft.” The lounge is in terminal three and the former Alaska Airlines Board Room. It’s open daily from 6AM till 11:30PM. This lounge seems to be an attempt to replicate the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse concept (I’ve reviewed the ones in London, New York, and San Francisco), which is impressive for a domestic airline.
The lounge features free wifi, food, and drinks. Per Virgin America’s website, here’s the food menu in the lounge:
And the drink menu:
The lounge looks awesome (especially for a domestic one), doesn’t it? But I think it’s also where Virgin America completely misses the boat, which seems to happen often with them. Much like their planes, they’ll have the shiniest, nicest domestic airline lounge, without a system behind it that makes sense. Let me explain.
There are two ways to get access. You can purchase a day pass for $40 if you’re flying on Virgin America, or Virgin America Elevate Gold members receive threee passes annually, while Silver members receive two passes annually. That’s it.
I recently status matched to Vigin America Elevate Gold, so got a free lounge pass invitation via email:
The thing they apparently don’t get is that you can’t build a lounge around one day passes, especially for a domestic airline. Aside from visiting the lounge for the novelty factor, how many people arrive at an airport early enough so that it’s worth paying $40 for lounge access? I’d need at least a two hour layover in order for it to be remotely worthwhile to pay that, and given that Virgin America doesn’t have many connecting passengers in Los Angeles (a lot more go through San Francisco), I’m not sure who shows up over three hours before departure for a domestic flight.
They could have added value to the lounge for premium passengers by maybe giving paid first class transcon passengers access so that they can somewhat compete with American, Delta, and United on the Los Angeles to New York route. Or they should join a program like Priority Pass, where they can at least get some extra revenue out of the lounge. Or they should actually sell memberships, as that’s something that would likely drive a lot more loyalty among business travelers. You don’t just want lounge access when you get to the airport way early, but I think the real value in lounges for frequent flyers is the ability to catch up on email in a quiet environment for 15-20 minutes before boarding. And it actually drives loyalty to the airline, since if you pay for a membership you actually want to fly the airline so you get value out of it.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh and some of this stuff is in the works. Then again, given that they’ve yet to turn a profit maybe their current model is indeed how they plan on keeping it, which wouldn’t surprise me.