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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:
- The last time I reviewed Virgin Atlantic’s London Heathrow Clubhouse was in 2011
- I flew Virgin Atlantic a couple of years ago from New York to London and had a nice flight, and especially loved the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK, which is one of my favorite lounges in the US
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.
We followed the signage towards the Upper Class Wing, which required taking an elevator up a level.
From there the signage was pretty clear, though we were basically entering the Upper Class Wing through the backside.
The facility is sleek, especially when you consider this is Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, which otherwise isn’t especially modern.
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.
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.
From there we followed the signage to departures, which required walking down the same hallway we entered through, and then turning left.
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.
Once through security we found ourselves going through the typical maze of duty free shops.
Then we followed the signage towards the “H Pier,” which is where the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is located.
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.
There’s an elevator to the Clubhouse, though we took the rather glitzy stairs to the Clubhouse instead.
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.
Also by the entrance were a selection of magazines and newspapers from around the globe.
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.
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.
Also near the bar are some communal tables with high-top seats.
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.
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.
There you have The Playground, which is basically a kid’s room.
Then there’s The Cinema, which is an area with a bunch of chairs and ottomans facing a large TV.
Then there’s a nifty area with some arcade games and a pool table.
Then there’s an area called The Den, which is meant to be a business center of sorts.
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).
Then one level up from Sky Lounge is The Garden, which is an outdoor terrace.
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).
We were a bit hungry after touring the lounge, so headed to The Brasserie to eat, which is the dining area of the lounge.
The lounge had a small breakfast buffet set up, with cold cuts, cereal, yogurt, croissants, etc.
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:
For reference, the all-day dining menu read as follows:
Of course the full bar menu was available all day, as you’d expect from Virgin Atlantic:
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.
For breakfast we had some mini donuts to start, which were tasty (though I found the sauce a bit odd-tasting).
Then I had the yogurt as my main course, which was excellent.
Tiffany’s niece had the breakfast burger, which she seemed to enjoy.
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.
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.
And the shower rooms are actually gorgeous, unlike the showers in another lounge at Heathrow which shall remain nameless.
Even the bathrooms are nice.
Anyway, our flight was scheduled to start boarding at around 11:15AM, so we headed towards our gate shortly before 11AM.
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.
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.
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.
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?