Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK Airport

Introduction
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK Airport
Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class New York to London
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ERSTE Premier Lounge Prague Airport
Czech Airlines Business Class Prague to Rome
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Alitalia A330 Magnifica Class (Business Class) Rome to Boston


I arrived at JFK Terminal 8 at around 3PM and waited for my friend that was arriving just a few minutes later from Dallas. This would leave us a really long connection since we were only departing New York at 10:35PM. Since our connecting tickets were on separate records we figured we were better off safe than sorry, rather than planning a tight connection. After all, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse isn’t a bad place to kill some time.

From Terminal 8 we took the Air Train to Terminal 4 together, which is where Virgin Atlantic departs from. As far as terminals at JFK go, Terminal 4 is definitely one of the nicest, with an especially impressive check-in area.

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New York JFK Terminal 4

Virgin Atlantic’s check-in counters are at the far end of the terminal, and the Upper Class check-in counters were the ones closest to the doors.

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Virgin Atlantic New York JFK check-in

There was no queue at Upper Class check-in, and the agent checking us in was friendly. She was shocked we arrived so early for VS10, the late night departure, and asked if we wanted to take an earlier flight instead. We were fine sticking to the flight we had, since it was operated by an A330-300 featuring the new Upper Class Suites. While I wasn’t convinced the new product is better than the old one, I did want the chance to review it. Besides, we had a connection to Edinburgh at 4PM the following day, and if I have to wait for a long time I’d rather it be before a redeye and not after.

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Virgin Atlantic New York JFK Upper Class check-in

Check-in got a bit tricky when the agent asked me to place my bag on the scale. European airlines are often strict about the carry-on weight allowance, though lucky for me I’ve mastered the art of “minimizing” carry-on weight using my patented two step process:

Step 1: Place your bag only partly on the scale
Step 2: Place your foot under the bag so it’s supporting some of the weight

It works like a charm every time, and if done properly, cuts the weight of the bag in half. However, this lady was on to me… or so I thought. I placed my bag on the scale, and she said “can you put it on the middle of the scale please?” So I did, and still awkwardly placed my foot under it. At this point she said “you do realize I’m just trying to put a carry-on tag on it, right? I’m not trying to weigh it.” I was embarrassed, though we both got a good laugh out of it.

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Virgin Atlantic New York JFK Upper Class check-in

The security queue for Terminal 4 was rather long, including the premium line. Within about 20 minutes we were through, and we turned left towards the part of the terminal that Virgin Atlantic leaves from, and also where their Clubhouse is located.

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JFK Terminal 4 lounge signage

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JFK Terminal 4 airside

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JFK Terminal 4 tarmac

I was really excited to check out the new JFK Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. I had visited the old Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK a few years back, which was located landside. It was a really nice lounge, so I was excited to see if the new Clubhouse was even better.

The new lounge is located on the second floor of the terminal, between gates A4 and A5.

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JFK Terminal 4 airside

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JFK Terminal 4 lounge stairs

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse was located across from the Emirates Lounge and Air India Maharaja Lounge.

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Air India and Emirates lounges

We were quickly checked in at the lounge and informed that our inbound flight was delayed, so our new scheduled departure time would be 11:30PM, about an hour later than scheduled. That worked for me, since it meant our layover at Heathrow wouldn’t be quite as long.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York entrance

The Clubhouse itself was gorgeous. It was stylish and spacious, and had a variety of seating areas so you could really sit in any kind of an “environment” you wanted to.

There were lounge chairs with “cocoons,” which were comfortable for laying down in (as I later discovered the hard way).

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

There were “private” couches and a bar with iMacs.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

Then there was a massive circular seating area next to a billiards table.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York seating

And then there was a nice bar with plenty of seating. I’m not usually once for sitting at bars, but this one was pretty snazzy.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York bar

I quickly noted that the lounge was serving Lanson Black Label champagne, the same that Virgin Atlantic serves in Upper Class. That’s a really solid champagne for a business class lounge, in my opinion.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York champagne selection

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York champagne selection

Then at the far end of the lounge was the dining area. Ultimately you can eat anywhere in the lounge, though given what a long layover we had it was nice to get a bit of a change of scenery in the lounge.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York dining area

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York dining area

Anyway, we decided to take a seat near the entrance and order some champagne to kick off the trip. Devina approached us as soon as we sat down and offered us something to drink. She presented us with the menu and asked us if we wanted anything to eat. We said we’d eat in the restaurant later, so she suggested maybe having some crisps. Later I discovered that these “crisps” were in fact coming out of a bag of Lay’s. 😉

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York champagne

After one (or four) glasses of champagne I headed over to the Clubhouse Spa.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Spa New York

As an Upper Class passenger you get one complimentary treatment. They offer everything from haircuts to massages to facials. For anyone interested, here are the menus for the services they offer:

It’s worth noting that in addition to the complimentary treatment you get as an Upper Class passenger, you also have the option of purchasing an add-on treatment. Compared to treatment prices at other airport spas, the cost is actually rather reasonable, in my opinion. For example, a 30 minute add-on treatment was $30-40.

The timing of this layover was perfect because I was desperately in need of a haircut, so I booked one of those. Janet was available and cut my hair, and couldn’t have been awesomer.

I mean, I got my hair cut while drinking champagne and having direct views over the tarmac. Does life really get any better than that?

It’s worth noting that near the spa they also had several shower rooms, which were spacious.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York shower room

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York shower room

They featured featured Bumble & Bumble hair products and Dr. Hauschka skincare products.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York shower room toiletries

After getting my hairs did we headed over to the restaurant for dinner. Once seated Karen introduced herself and said she’d be helping us out with dinner.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York dining room

While not relevant for this visit, the breakfast menu read as follows:

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And the daytime menu read as follows:

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And the wine and cocktail list read as follows:

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I appreciated the fact that Karen also showed us the menu for our flight from New York to London, so we could decide what or how much we wanted to eat. The menu for the flight didn’t look especially appetizing (or extensive), so we figured we’d have a “real” dinner in the restaurant.

After another glass of Lanson we switched to cocktails, and I asked Karen to surprise me, which she did.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York dinner drinks

Karen was awesome and encouraged us to try as much as we wanted. In the interest of full disclosure we perhaps had a few too many drinks prior to dinner, so were rather hungry.

We started with a tomato, blistered red pepper, and mozzarella flatbread, which was tasty.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York flatbread

I was going to order the tandoori salmon salad from the tapas menu as my main, but Karen said it was a small portion and suggested having it as an appetizer. Meanwhile my friend ordered some chicken wings.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York chicken wings and tandoori salmon salad

For the main course I had the salmon fillet, which was light and tasty.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York herb roasted salmon fillet

My friend had the burger as his main.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York burger

For dessert I had the apple cinnamon cobbler, which was served with vanilla ice cream.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York apple cinnamon cobbler

Clearly we weren’t thinking clearly at this point, because after all that food we still ordered a cheese plate for giggles.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York cheese board

After dinner we headed over to the bar, where we met Aris, the best bartender at any airport anywhere ever. One of his colleagues said he makes a mean lemon drop, so I ordered one of those. It didn’t disappoint. If anyone passes through the Clubhouse soon, order a lemon drop and send Aris my regards!

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York lemon drop

Prior to dinner when I got my haircut I had booked an add-on 30 minute massage in the spa for 8PM. Evelyn, the masseuse, was awesome.

Pro tip: Get a massage before consuming more drinks than you can count. Especially if the massage is given on one of those massage chairs where you face down and put your face through the “hole.” Doesn’t end well. Fortunately Evelyn was a great sport.

I wasn’t feeling too well after dinner and the massage, so headed back to the area where we first sat down when we arrived at the lounge. I decided to lay down for a bit, and next thing I knew it was 11:15PM and they were on the final boarding call for our flight to London.

While I was feeling a bit frazzled, I’ve gotta say that it’s tough to beat three hours of sleep before a redeye — woohoo!

On the plus side, I can say (I think) I walked to the gate with more grace than this guy:

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Virgin Atlantic departure gate JFK

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Virgin Atlantic departure gate JFK

Bottom line

Despite consuming an excessive amount of alcohol (the first time I drank in weeks, for the record), I had an amazing time. The Clubhouse is physically a gorgeous lounge, but it’s really the people that make it awesome. Karen, Aris, and Devina in the lounge were awesome, as were Evelyn and Janet in the spa. If you pass through and see any of them, please tell them Ben said hi (I think I embarrassed myself sufficiently so that they won’t forget me). 😉

The funny thing is that before I ever flew Virgin Atlantic (several years back) I always assumed they were style over substance. But I’ve found them to be one of the few airlines that has both style — in the form of an incredibly fun vibe — and substance.

It’s kind of funny when you compare the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse to the lounges British Airways offers. The British Airways Galleries Lounge JFK doesn’t even begin to compare, and even the British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow (which is their first class lounge) isn’t half as enjoyable as the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow or JFK, in my opinion.

It’s the people that make this place, and I can’t wait to return!

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Lucky what us your sense on tipping in a setting like this? Being located in the US should you tip similar to a comparable meal at a restaurant?

  2. Agreed, the lounge is insanely good.

    Was on the AM Virgin flight a couple of weeks before this, and ordered the Eggs Benedict. Which I also later tried at the Galleries First in LHR. Definitely *much* better at the VS lounge, something was off about the ones at Heathrow.

    Unfortunately didn’t spend much time in the VS JFK lounge due to the ridiculous security (I forgot about the secret downstairs security) times but even so had an awesome experience too

  3. @ Josh G. — I don’t think there’s any obligation to, but personally I do. For example, I tipped the person serving us most of the time $20.

  4. So, Lucky, best lounge in the US? Or at least, best business class lounge?

    “I appreciated the fact that Karen also showed us the menu for our flight from New York to London, so we could decide what or how much we wanted to eat. The menu for the flight didn’t look especially appetizing (or extensive), so we figured we’d have a “real” dinner in the restaurant.”

    Considering how 1) they’ve cut back on options and total amount of food on their transatlantic meals from the East coast (dinner and breakfast) and 2) they encourage their Upper Class passengers to eat in the lounge anyway, this is good advice for anyone flying out of the East coast on VS.

  5. Wow, someone drinks a lot! Clubhouse looks awesome, except for the loo – looks more like a lav at a school or museum!

  6. I love your reviews. Thank so much for posting them! I’ve been reading your blog for years! Thanks for all the time and travel tips.
    Your tip on hand carry cracks me up, and funny I use that sometimes.
    But in Asia they usually do it at the security, and they take you bag completely and weighs them, which was annoying.

    can’t wait to continue reading your reviews!

  7. Glad to see you enjoy it as much as I do. I prefer the late night flight, and will often head to JFK when the Clubhouse opens in the afternoon and while away a day enjoying the atmosphere (and the bubbles) and the views.

    One note: Delta passengers also have access to this lounge now in certain circumstances. (Though I’m not sure which — I’ll ask @Delta on Twitter.) I redeemed VA points for a DL J flight to LHR in the spring and the Clubhouse comes up as one of the lounges I’m entitled to use.

  8. Ah, Ben, you crack me up!! It sounds like you had an awesome time made the most of starting the trip off with a bang. And yes, you really should never get a massage after drinking. I am a bit surprised they let you. Did your friend take a nap too, I take it? Otherwise, I am assuming your friend would have woke you up to board? If you find yourself in that situation in the future, set your phone alarm. I have used that to save me many times!

  9. You know that AT&T commercial with the kids in the classroom and that guy asks that little girl, “Are you competing for the cutest kid and what place she’s in?” And she replies, “kindergarten.” That’s adorable and so are you in this report. I love that you can make fun of yourself.

  10. Looks nice, but the food options/actual food pics are just ok IMO. Then again UC is more business class than first. I think the food in the IAD BA First Class Lounge was phenomenal and far better than the options above. Just my two cents.

  11. @ Katie — Nope, he was awake. Unlike me he has the ability to maintain a buzz vs. going “over the top.” He was about to wake me up as well, but apparently wanted to let me sleep as long as possible.

  12. Hi Lucky, thanks for great and funny review. How would you rank this lounge compared to the Star Alliance lounge at LAX? If you haven’t visited it yet, do you have any plans to do so? Keep up the great work!

  13. @ Karl — Sadly haven’t yet been to the Star Alliance lounge at LAX, though have plans to check it out in next couple of months. Curious to compare!

  14. Ben, question related to JFK airport. I am arriving in T8, and connecting to another flight in T8, can I use the lounge in T4 given I have to clear security when moving from one terminal to another? Thanks.

  15. Totally agree that staff at JFK club house really shines! They are generally considerate, polite and willing to go extra miles for you. And this is the only lounge the staff will remember my name every time when I come back. My only complaint was at JFK Upper Class check-in, exactly the same location of the third picture you took. The staff told me “no picture” when I tried to snap photo. It was Nov 2013. Do you know why?

  16. love the trick with the shoe under the scale! we used it at KTM when flying with our springer spaniel dog (about 11kg/25 pounds) – she wound up weighing 4 kilos! the lovely Nepalis thought it was the greatest joke in the world and shouted to the whole airport that this dog only weighed 4 kg!

  17. I would have never thought a lounge that nice could exist in North America. Astonishingly good for a business class lounge and holds it own as a first class lounge.

  18. Love your tricks. Love the drunk guy you tube video. Can any AMEX or Priority Pass Holder use the Virgin Lounge? (I’m obviously a newbie)….

  19. Looking at flying over from Heathrow in June and then back from JFK about a month later. Early morning flight from Heathrow but on the way back we’ve got quite a bit of time in JFK. We are flying Virgin and I am a member of their rewards club but sadly as students my partner and I are only flying economy. Do you know if we can buy day passes for the lounge? I know I’ve bought day passes in Sydney with V Australia, but not sure about Virgin Atlantic.

  20. I was in this lounge last week. Not as impressed as you are. I found out the salon services are booked up much of the time. I had a long layover so thought my wife could use a service. However as a Singapore Air customer I heard no access to these services. Only Virgin Upper Class access. Ok fine. I had a 3.5 hour layover. The showers were busy non stop. No sign in sheet whatsoever. I never found access even though I checked them at least 10 times or more. I did not want to stand around that area. That system is not great. This place was really crowded. After a few flights left it did thin out a bit, but still no shower for me. The menu was pretty vast and I thought the food was ok. For me the Amex Centurion clubs is hands down the best us based airline clubs. Although the food choices in Las Vegas seem to be pretty weird IMHO.

  21. Perhaps a silly question, but was there a charge for the food and beverage? I was very disappointed to find that the Virgin Clubhouse at LAX charges for everything except a couple of complimentary beer/wine selections and pub mix.

  22. @ Jorge — There’s no charge. Are you sure you’re not referring to the Virgin America Loft rather than the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse? All food and drinks in Clubhouses should be free.

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