Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
London-Heathrow | Terminal 3 | September 2016
The Clubhouse at London-Heathrow’s terminal 3 is award-winning. It consistently ranks as one of the best business class lounges in the world. In Skytrax’s 2016 “Top 10 Business Class Airline Lounges” rankings, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London-Heathrow sits at number four, nestled between lounges operated by some of the world’s best airlines including Singapore and Cathay Pacific. Featuring an in-house restaurant, deli, open bar, outdoor observation deck and a spa, the Clubhouse at London-Heathrow is unlike any airport lounge I had ever visited.
Not only does the lounge offer amenities that put Delta SkyClubs and American Flagship Lounges to shame, but access is highly restrictive. The only passengers that have access to the lounge are Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers and DeltaONE passengers. That’s the extent of the lounge’s access policy.
Needless to say, I hadn’t been this excited about waking up to get to the airport in months. I was so exhilarated about my visit to the lounge that I woke up at 4:00 am, arrived at Terminal 3 at 5:30 am for a flight that didn’t board until 9:00 am. The only thing keeping me from skipping the hotel altogether and heading straight to the Clubhouse the night before was that the lounge closes around 11 pm and doesn’t reopen until 6:30 am.
So, at 6:20 am I left Cafe Nero in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and made my way over to the lobby just outside the Clubhouse, eagerly awaiting the lounge’s opening. At 6:32 am, I sprinted into the lounge like a kid on Christmas morning. (Don’t you just love that cliche?!)
The Upper Class experience begins the second you arrive on site at London-Heathrow. All Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers are invited to use the Upper Class Wing located adjacent to Terminal 3. The Upper Class wing consists of a private drive, bell-hop service, private check-in, and check-in lounge. However, I’ll save details for the actual flight review. I arrived at the Upper Class Wing at 5:21 am London time, 9-minutes before opening. I checked in at which time I was informed that the Clubhouse didn’t open until 6:30 am.
Upon clearing security, I had about a half hour to kill until the Clubhouse opened. I spent that half hour airside at Terminal 3 sipping on a coffee from Nero’s Cafe.
At 6:15 am, I made my way over to the lobby just outside the lounge. There another eager passenger (also traveling on my flight) was waiting for the doors to open. The ten minutes I spent just outside the lounge was agonizing. These ten minutes were made even worse each time an employee arrived at the lounge as I caught a glimpse inside each time. Finally, at 6:32 am, the lounge attendant stepped into position and welcomed me into the lounge.
The lounge attendant was upbeat and professional, especially for 6:30 in the morning. The lounge attendant brought me into the lounge and went over the basics. She went over the amenities and provided me with the wi-fi password as well as a time for questions and answers. The last time I was given a thorough intro to an airline lounge was at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at New York-JFK.
The very first thing I did upon entering the lounge was to take a hard left into the main dining area (though you have the option to dine anywhere in the entire lounge). There I enjoyed a complimentary breakfast.
I chose the “Pancakes with Streaky Bacon,” however, I came dangerously close to going with a Full English breakfast. I say “dangerously” because I doubt that I would have enjoyed the Full English to the extent that I enjoyed my pancakes with bacon. The pancakes were cooked to perfection while the same goes for the bacon. My only complaint is the portion; it was a little on the small side. However, upon finishing my breakfast, my waitress asked if I’d like any other entrees.
To accompany my breakfast, I had a coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. An interesting tidbit: apparently double-cream means half-n’-half in England. I ordered my coffee with cream which confused the waitress. She asked if I wanted “double-cream” to which I responded, “no thanks, one’s fine.” I think she thought that one cream meant that I wanted milk, so, she brought milk. It was at this time that I connected the dots and finally asked for double-cream.
Once I finished my breakfast, I made my way over to the luggage storage and then to the Spa and Salon.
Getting a Haircut at an Airport
After I had stored my bags, I decided it would be best to visit the spa/hair salon to see what was available. The staff at the salon was very professional and quick to find me an opening for a haircut and styling. The stylist scheduled my trim/style for 7:15 am which was thirty minutes away, so I took a tour of the lounge until then.
At 7:10 am, I made my way back to the salon to check-in with the stylists assuming I still had five minutes left. To my surprise, they were ready, and I made my way over to the salon area. I was caught off guard when I sat down in the chair to get my hair styled. Part of me was back in my midwestern hometown at our local Hair Saloon for Men while part of me was in the luxurious airport lounge in London. I didn’t know if there was some special protocol I was supposed to follow or if I should just go with my normal routine. I soon became acclimated once I gave my stylist a rundown of what I wanted to be done with my hair.
My trim started off with a relaxing shampoo and scalp massage. All products from shampoo to styling creams are top-of-the-line salon brands including Bumble and Bumble. The salon is stocked with a wide variety of both male and female hair product.
Once my shampoo was complete, I made my way over to the stylist’s station. My hair isn’t unruly, and all I wanted was less than a half-inch off the sides, so the rest of the trim lasted under fifteen minutes. Once my hair was trimmed to perfection, my stylist offered me a selection of styling products. She then styled my hair perfectly.
The whole experience lasted under a half hour, and when it was done, I made my way back to main part of the Clubhouse.
A Tour of the Clubhouse
The Virgin Atlantic London-Heathrow Clubhouse is gigantic. The Clubhouse spans over 12,000 square feet and features two indoor levels and an outdoor observation deck on the third level. By comparison, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK is only 10,000 square feet. Virgin Atlantic manages to fit an expansive assortment of amenities in the Clubhouse. The deli and spa are only the beginning.
Central Lounge and Bar
Upon entry into the lounge, you immediately notice the lounges’ intimidating size. The bar (which spans nearly the entire length of the wall) puts the lounge’s sheer size into perspective. The first section of the lounge consists of very luxurious seating and lounge space. Among the chic seating is a smattering of Eams’ Chairs- those awesome upscale hipster chairs.
Adjacent to the central lounge space is the massive bar. The bar is stocked full of wines, brews, spirits, mixers, you name it- the Clubhouse has it. As is the Clubhouse norm, all liquor is included. Adjacent to the bar was a self-serve trolley of juice, cereal, and breakfast bread.
Yep, the Clubhouse features an in-house deli. The deli sits just to the left upon entering the lounge. The deli features various locally sourced cheeses, meats, and breads. In the morning, you’ll find a selection of breakfast pastries, salmon, yogurt, granola, and cereal. In the afternoon, you’ll find heartier meats, hot dogs, and trail mixes.
The library sits just next to the dining space and is sectioned off from the rest of the lounge. Within the library, you’ll find an assortment of books and other literature, a workstation, comfortable and quiet seating, and a massive Airbus a340 model aircraft.
The Media Room
The media room features a massive screen showing multiple programs from sports to CNN. Guests can use headphones to listen to the programming. There’s also some arcade games and a family room just adjacent to the big-screen.
Just above the Clubhouse sits a loft space. It’s a smaller, more naturally lit space featuring comfortable lounge seating and a communal table.
The Observation Deck
To get to the observation deck, you’ll have to walk a few flights of stairs or take the hilariously small lift up to level three. It’s the only space located on the Clubhouse’s third floor so it’s hard to miss. Outside, you’ll find outdoor seating and a few lounge chairs. It offers views of Terminal 3 and a glimpse of Terminal 5. Overall, it’s a must-see during your visit to the Clubhouse.
Behind the Bar
Just behind the bar sits a row of comfortable couches, lounge chairs, and traditional tables. It’s, in my opinion, the best place to relax when you’re not taking advantage of the Clubhouse’s vast selection of amenities. There’s view of the Terminal 3 apron and tons of natural lighting. There’s also quite a few power outlets and places to spread out. This space is also great for traveling with family, co-workers, or friends.
I spent maybe forty-five minutes soaking up the lounge from this space. I enjoyed some Prosecco, some OJ, a glass of Champagne, and a snack over these forty-five minutes. Additionally, I charged my cell phone and laptop ahead of the flight.
The Clubhouse Staff
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse closely resembles a small city. It’s complex, it’s large, it’s diverse, and it’s intricate. However, the gigantic size and diverse amenities don’t hamper the professionalism and quickness of the Clubhouse staff. From check-in to the moment I left, the Clubhouse staff was polite, speedy, and professional. My waitress, my stylist, and the bartender were phenomenal.
They made sure every guest’s glass was full and their stomachs fuller. Each Clubhouse team member presented themselves professionally and worked as a team. This is a far cry from many of the lounges in the United States.
The only thing I would change about the Clubhouse at London-Heathrow are the hours of operation. I say this because I wish I would have had more time to spend at the Clubhouse. I could only spend two and a half(ish) hours at the Clubhouse until my flight boarded. Two and a half hours is nowhere near enough time to enjoy the lounge.
However, over the twoish hours I did spend in the lounge, I experienced unparalleled service and amenities. It’s an experience I will never forget. From the fantastic breakfast to the amazing champagne, I can’t get over how unbelievable this lounge was. If you’re ever holding a ticket in Upper Class or DeltaONE, don’t miss out on this extraordinary experience.