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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse was located across from the Emirates Lounge and Air India Maharaja Lounge.
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.
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).
There were “private” couches and a bar with iMacs.
Then there was a massive circular seating area next to a billiards table.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
After one (or four) glasses of champagne I headed over to the Clubhouse Spa.
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.
They featured featured Bumble & Bumble hair products and Dr. Hauschka skincare products.
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.
While not relevant for this visit, the breakfast menu read as follows:
And the daytime menu read as follows:
And the wine and cocktail list read as follows:
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.
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.
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.
For the main course I had the salmon fillet, which was light and tasty.
My friend had the burger as his main.
For dessert I had the apple cinnamon cobbler, which was served with vanilla ice cream.
Clearly we weren’t thinking clearly at this point, because after all that food we still ordered a cheese plate for giggles.
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!
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:
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!