Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow

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For the return flight I was flying from London to San Francisco on Virgin Atlantic’s noon flight in Upper Class. I was actually flying home with Tiffany’s 15 year old niece (Tiffany and her husband were staying in Europe, and I was flying back to the US for a couple of days).

I was excited to fly Virgin Atlantic departing London again, both because I love Virgin Atlantic’s ground services, and because I love their onboard product:

Anyway, we arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at around 9:30AM, and tried to find the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing. This is Virgin Atlantic’s dedicated Upper Class check-in facility, which in theory you can be dropped off at directly. But we stupidly pulled up to the main terminal, so tried to find the check-in facility from there.

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Terminal 3 London Heathrow exterior

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Virgin Atlantic check-in London Heathrow

We followed the signage towards the Upper Class Wing, which required taking an elevator up a level.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing London Heathrow

From there the signage was pretty clear, though we were basically entering the Upper Class Wing through the backside.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing London Heathrow

The facility is sleek, especially when you consider this is Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, which otherwise isn’t especially modern.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing London Heathrow

There were a couple of check-in counters, though the associates at both desks were busy, so we had to wait a couple of minutes before we were helped.

We could have had a seat on one of the couches, though that seemed unnecessary given the short wait.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing seating London Heathrow

After a couple of minutes we were motioned over to a desk. The associate who helped us was super friendly, and issued our boarding passes within minutes.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing check-in London Heathrow

From there we followed the signage to departures, which required walking down the same hallway we entered through, and then turning left.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing London Heathrow

The Upper Class Wing has a single dedicated security checkpoint. In this case there was a bit of a queue, though it was still significantly shorter than any wait I’ve had at Terminal 5, even when flying British Airways first class.

Also, I’m not sure if this was a coincidence or not, but the security agents were actually friendly. My bag got pulled aside for additional screening, and the two agents apologized multiple times for having to toss some of my excess liquids. Typically when my bag is pulled aside for additional screening I’m treated as if my liquids are a life/death issue.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing security London Heathrow

Once through security we found ourselves going through the typical maze of duty free shops.

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Duty free shops Terminal 3 London Heathrow

Then we followed the signage towards the “H Pier,” which is where the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is located.

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Terminal 3 London Heathrow

This is the same pier where the American Admirals Club & Flagship Lounge is located. The American lounge is on the lower floor, while the Virgin Atlantic lounge is up a level.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse location London Heathrow

There’s an elevator to the Clubhouse, though we took the rather glitzy stairs to the Clubhouse instead.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse entrance London Heathrow

The agent who checked us in was friendly, as I find to be the case almost across the board at Virgin Atlantic. She confirmed our departure gate and offered to acquaint us with the basics of the Clubhouse.

Once inside the Clubhouse there’s a floorplan of the lounge, which shows you just how unique and spacious the lounge is.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse layout London Heathrow

Also by the entrance were a selection of magazines and newspapers from around the globe.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse newspapers London Heathrow

Anyway, the Clubhouse Heathrow is huge and stylish. While it tends to be quite busy, it doesn’t really feel full, given that there are so many different partitioned off seating areas.

Closest to the entrance is a general area for lounging, which leads up to the bar, which is the centerpiece of the lounge.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse bar London Heathrow

Then on the right of the lounge is the spa (more on that later), as well as some more seating. I especially love the circular seats which hang from the ceiling.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

Also near the bar are some communal tables with high-top seats.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

There are just so many different types of seating areas in the lounge, and they’re all so unique and well designed. It’s worth noting that no matter where in the lounge you’re seated, you should be approached by servers and offered food and drinks. So you don’t have to go to the bar to get an adult beverage, or to the restaurant to have a meal.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

On the left side of the lounge is even more seating, which tends to stay quite empty. I’m not sure why, as this is also where the more “themed” areas are located.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

There you have The Playground, which is basically a kid’s room.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse children’s area London Heathrow

Then there’s The Cinema, which is an area with a bunch of chairs and ottomans facing a large TV.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse entertainment area London Heathrow

Then there’s a nifty area with some arcade games and a pool table.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse pool table London Heathrow

Then there’s an area called The Den, which is meant to be a business center of sorts.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse seating London Heathrow

Then you have Sky Lounge, which is one level up from the rest of the lounge, and feels like a loft of sorts, with lots of natural light (which is one thing otherwise missing in the lounge, though at least there’s great mood lighting throughout).

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse upper level seating London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse upper level seating London Heathrow

Then one level up from Sky Lounge is The Garden, which is an outdoor terrace.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse garden London Heathrow

No one was using it, which is a shame, given what a beautiful day it was, and the great tarmac views from up there (even if they are a bit obstructed).

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse garden London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse garden London Heathrow

We were a bit hungry after touring the lounge, so headed to The Brasserie to eat, which is the dining area of the lounge.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse dining area London Heathrow

The lounge had a small breakfast buffet set up, with cold cuts, cereal, yogurt, croissants, etc.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse buffet London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse buffet London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse buffet London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse buffet London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse buffet London Heathrow

On top of that there’s an extensive a la carte menu. Since it was breakfast time when we were there, here’s the breakfast menu:

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For reference, the all-day dining menu read as follows:

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Of course the full bar menu was available all day, as you’d expect from Virgin Atlantic:

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I started off with a cappuccino and The Bramble. The cappuccino was fantastic, and I love The Bramble. It’s one of my favorite cocktails out there, and I’ve had more than my fair share at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in New York.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse breakfast London Heathrow — cappuccino and bramble

For breakfast we had some mini donuts to start, which were tasty (though I found the sauce a bit odd-tasting).

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse breakfast London Heathrow — mini doughnuts

Then I had the yogurt as my main course, which was excellent.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse breakfast London Heathrow — strawberry and chia seed yogurt pot

Tiffany’s niece had the breakfast burger, which she seemed to enjoy.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse breakfast London Heathrow — breakfast burger

We had also scheduled treatments at the spa in the lounge. Each guest receives one complimentary 15 minute treatment, so you can get something like a manicure, scalp massage, back massage, etc. The great thing is that it’s not at all tough to snag an appointment in this lounge, so typically you can get availability within an hour or so.

Compare that to British Airways, where as a first class passenger you have to make your appointment days in advance, or else you’ll risk having to wait hours before a treatment becomes available.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse spa London Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse salon London Heathrow

I decided to have a scalp massage, which was exceptional, while Tiffany’s niece had a manicure (this was her first time traveling in a premium cabin, so she was adorably blown away by the lounge in general, and especially about the fact that she could get her nails done at the airport).

The spa has some other cool features, like a hot tub and several shower rooms as well.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse hot tub London Heathrow

And the shower rooms are actually gorgeous, unlike the showers in another lounge at Heathrow which shall remain nameless.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse shower room London Heathrow

Even the bathrooms are nice.

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Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse bathroom London Heathrow

Anyway, our flight was scheduled to start boarding at around 11:15AM, so we headed towards our gate shortly before 11AM.

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Departures board London Heathrow Terminal 3

Our flight was departing from gate 21, which was a roughly 10 minute walk down a sterile hallway. I don’t think terminals get much more grim than the gate areas at Terminal 3.

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Walking to gate London Heathrow Terminal 3

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Walking to gate London Heathrow Terminal 3

Once at the gate there was a separate queue for Upper Class passengers, so our passports were checked and boarding passes scanned, at which point we found ourselves in the “holding pen” for the flight.

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Departure gate to San Francisco

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Departure gate to San Francisco

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Departure gate to San Francisco

The gate even had views of our gorgeous 747, which would be flying us to San Francisco. While the A380 is my favorite plane from a passenger comfort standpoint, nothing will ever compete with the grace and curves of the 747.

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Virgin Atlantic 747 taking us to San Francisco

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Virgin Atlantic 747 taking us to San Francisco

At around 11:15AM boarding was called, starting with Upper Class. I was excited about my first flight on a Virgin Atlantic 747!

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse bottom line

Virgin Atlantic never ceases to blow me away with their Clubhouses. The Clubhouse at Heathrow is stylish, has friendly staff, is spacious, and has a great vibe. And it’s “only” a business class lounge. I’d say other than the champagne selection, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse beats the British Airways Concorde Room in just about every way (and that lounge is exclusively for first class passengers).

On top of that, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Wing is an awesome concept which makes the airport arrival and security experience much more pleasant.

So I’d say Virgin Atlantic deserves the award for offering the best all around ground experience at Heathrow. The degree to which they put even British Airways’ first class ground services to shame is sort of astounding.

If you’ve visited the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. I do wish people would stop saying things like “it’s only a business class lounge”

    This is Virgin Upper Class the service is pitched as something more than business class and is often Thousands of pounds more than a comparable business class flight in BA or AA and as such you would expect better facilities and service.

    It has to be viewed in a class of its own somewhere between Business and First in my mind at which point the ground service and soft product on board still score highly but the hard product is very poor.

  2. Very impressive lounge for “biz” class usage. (What partner airlines are there in T3 to allow access? lol)

    This puts BA F lounge both in T3 and T5 to shame.
    (maybe BA’s wine and alcohol selection is better in F lounge.. there is still blue label if all wine fails..), and agree the showers look horrendous in BA side.

  3. When/if you review the flight, would love to hear about Tiffany’s niece’s impression being her first time in the front.

  4. After the raving review of VS at LHR comes the moment of truth: the flight itself!
    After some negative comments on FT and other fora, could you please shed light on the evidence of cost cutting on maintenance, cleaness, food quality and quantity, aminities, i will be flying them next week from (AMS-)LHR-LAX vv.

  5. The BA Galleries Club Lounge in T3 always makes me think of Margaret Rutherford in the V.I.P.s

  6. Can you access this lounge on a non Virgin Atlantic ticket or on a connecting ticket on another airline? It is a shame that Virgin pretty much only flies longhaul so you could only stop here on back to back long hauls or you are pretty much showing up to LHR early just to take advantage of the lounge. Am I missing something? It’s not like the LH FCT where you can intentionally build in a long connection.

  7. I apologize for the lack of commas in my previous post.

    I did some research and it looks like Delta DMs and PMs get in, even on Y flights. You could also book an DL J award ticket CDG, AMS, FCO, MXP-USA with a long layover.

  8. I’m a Oneworld guy, so usually fly BA — but last year, couldn’t pass up a great J fare on DL/VS, so gave it a try. I was blown away by the Virgin ground experience at LHR, as well. Our car did pull up to the secret gate where they have to buzz you in, but you drive right up to the Upper Class wing and someone is there waiting for you with your boarding passes as you exit your car. What a great first impression.

    And then I agree with everything you said about the Clubhouse — it’s fantastic. The pics don’t even do it justice, since the vibe in there is so relaxed yet lively. It feels civilized and refined. The antithesis of the BA lounges at LHR.

    Funny, though, that I spent a couple hours in the Clubhouse but never realized there were upper levels to it! I don’t know if the Skydeck and Garden are new since my visit or I just didn’t know they were there, but they look really cool. I guess I’ll have to fly VS again so I can check them out myself!

    The VS hard product on the flight itself isn’t the best, but they make up for it with great service and style. Just imagine what BA would be like if they could also provide great service and pizzazz on top of their somewhat-better hard product. One can only wish!

  9. Ok looking for a flight home from Europe in 2 months. When it comes down to flight do we come home on VS or BA First Class? I’m AMEX PLAT, Citi Prestige member doesn’t that get me into other lounges? Or where else can i come home from on what airlines Upper Level to ATL/DFW or IAH? HELP!! I really am about the experience!!

  10. Virgin used to market their Upper class as a “First class product at a Business class fare” and it was a very good product for a number of years.
    The First class reference was removed a good 15yrs ago,it was not living up to its hype!
    The size of the airline now and calibre of some crews lack of professionalism would not place Upper class in a “First class” quality.
    Virgins magical years are very much in the past now sadly.

  11. I’ll be flying VS in 2 months as well and I’ve read wonderful things about The Wing and their Clubhouse.
    I’m just wondering, I assume you kind of need to bring your own bathing suit if you want to enjoy the hot tub?
    I’ve flown many airline in C class, but this is one flight (especially the Wing and Clubhouse) I’m very much looking forward to!

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