Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouse lounge in Los Angeles is a little different from the norm: not only does it welcome the airline's Upper Class (business class) travellers and eligible frequent flyers jetting to London, it also welcomes passengers with Priority Pass and other lounge membership cards in the mornings, when Virgin Atlantic isn't using the lounge for its own guests.
It's a handy arrangement that benefits travellers and the airline alike, making use of the space in the hours it'd otherwise be closed, while giving Priority Pass members a lounge option in the mornings in Delta's biggest terminal at LAX, where many Aussie travellers would be connecting to onward flights after touching down in Los Angeles.
Australian Business Traveller stopped by the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse to experience what the lounge has to offer from both perspectives – one of a Priority Pass cardholder flying through in the morning, and the other of a Virgin Atlantic passenger travelling to London, to bring you this review.
Location & Impressions
You'll find this lounge after clearing security in Terminal 2, and walking straight ahead past the first duty-free shop.
Then, you'll spot a staircase literally in the middle of the walkway a little further along, or you can head upstairs using the Delta Sky Club lift. Yes, we know what you're thinking: this lift would be far more useful if it also mentioned the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse it takes you to on the same floor!
However, once you're upstairs, the Clubhouse entrance is more obvious...
... and when inside, you'll find a mostly-rectangular space, with plenty of natural light coming in throughout the day:
The lounge takes its design cues from the USA's west coast landscape and also incorporates artwork from both Californian and British artists...
... all while providing a variety of seating zones catering to relaxing, working and dining:
Although some construction work was taking place out on the tarmac, I didn't observe any construction noise here – instead, as an Aussie traveller, I couldn't help but notice a Qantas jumbo taking off on its morning service from Los Angeles to New York, given how clear the airside views are here...
... and when the weather is a little less foggy, it's also possible to just spot the Hollywood Sign, which the staff here helpfully pointed out:
The Clubhouse opens daily from 5am until 10:45am, and then again from 12:30pm until the last Virgin Atlantic flight of the day reaches the final stages of boarding, ahead of a departure at 8:45pm most days (6:30pm on Fridays).
When that boarding call came, I couldn't help but laugh – literally nobody moved from their seat, because they were still too busy enjoying the lounge's food, beverages and the atmosphere. It was only when the 'final call' was made that people started to pack up and head out: not a problem when the boarding gate is just below the lounge, so there's not far to walk.
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) passengers
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club prior to Virgin Atlantic flights (no access when flying Virgin Australia or Delta)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and UNIQ cardholders prior to Virgin Atlantic flights
- Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members flying trans-Atlantic with Virgin Atlantic
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold, PPS Club, Solitaire PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club Life guests prior to Virgin Atlantic flights
- Priority Pass, Lounge Key and Lounge Club members, along with Diners Club cardholders, between 5am and 10:45am daily when flying with any airline
Essentially, the lounge operates in two modes: 'Priority Pass mode' in the mornings when Virgin Atlantic doesn't have any of its own flights departing, and 'Virgin Atlantic mode' in the afternoons and evenings when it does.
This means a Priority Pass card won't get you access to the Clubhouse prior to a Virgin Atlantic flight, but could be useful for access when departing on other flights from the same terminal with airlines like Delta, Aer Lingus, Aeromexico and WestJet, particularly in the mornings after coming off a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, and continuing your journey elsewhere.
Still don't have access here? There's a Delta Sky Club across the hall which welcomes Velocity Gold and Platinum members and AMEX Platinum Charge Card holders flying with Delta, plus SkyTeam Elite Plus members when flying internationally with SkyTeam – and if you're flying with Virgin Australia, the Emirates Lounge awaits in the Tom Bradley Terminal, where your flight to Australia will depart.
If you hold frequent flyer status with Air New Zealand (such as Gold or Elite), just note that while you can access the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in San Francisco and London when flying with Virgin Atlantic, this privilege doesn't extend to the Clubhouse in Los Angeles.
As above, this lounge operates in two 'modes', and the difference between them is like chalk and cheese. Depending on when you're flying through, here's what the food and beverage offering is like.
'Priority Pass mode': 5am-10:45am
Stop by in the mornings and you'll find a relatively basic buffet spread...
... featuring Chobani yoghurts, one type of cereal (Corn Flakes), a toaster with bread, bagels and cream cheese nearby, a few pastries and some fruit...
... joined by filtered coffee, a selection of tea, soft drinks, wines, beers, juice and chilled water:
Here ends the morning dining options, so you won't find favourites like espresso coffee or hot food here – at least, when entering via Priority Pass or one of the other lounge programs.
'Virgin Atlantic mode': 12:30pm-close
Stop by later in the day before a Virgin Atlantic flight and the experience you'll have becomes more comparable to the first class lounges of many other airlines, with full à la carte dining, cocktail bartender service, barista-made coffee and more, with orders taken by waiters and served wherever you're sitting throughout the lounge.
You'll know the lounge is definitely in Virgin Atlantic mode when you can actually see the copper-lined bar, which is otherwise hidden behind the sheet (pictured above) during the morning service.
After stopping by in the morning, I returned later in the afternoon desperately in need of caffeine, so began with a nice latte:
That was later followed by the airline's signature Clubhouse cocktail: a Virgin Redhead, mixing bubbles with berry liqueurs, Bombay Sapphire Gin and fresh raspberries, which was delicious:
Settling in for dinner, I began the meal with some nice crispy squid with garlic aioli...
... followed by something a little healthier – the bamboo steamed salmon with Asian vegetables, chilli, soy and lime, which was lovely and fresh, paired with a glass of Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay from the Californian Central Coast:
It'd been a particularly busy day for me and I hadn't had a chance to eat lunch, so I also took the opportunity to indulge in a tasty Clubhouse burger with tomato chutney, cheese, lettuce, English mustard mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and chips with tomato sauce, with a glass of Seven Falls Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state, which went well with the beef:
I finished up with some amazing miso donuts with honey caramel sauce, and from the wine list, a glass of Mionetto Prosecco (the other sparkling options being Mumm Napa Brut Prestige and Lanson Black Label Champagne). I just wish this dish was served with cutlery, as it's very messy to eat, although a knife and fork were easily requested:
I liked that the portion size of each dish was also on the smaller side, which means you can enjoy a little food in the lounge before eating a proper meal on your Upper Class flight without spoiling your appetite, or you can order multiple courses to maximise your sleep on board, which I did – dozing for a solid eight hours until breakfast.
The formal dining area is at the far end of the lounge, with some tables lining the windows...
... others against the walls...
... a colourful booth area, which a group of travellers quickly took over upon entering the lounge...
... but again, you can order whatever you like from wherever you're sitting in the entire lounge, so if you just want to enjoy a drink and a nibble elsewhere, you'll find menus on your cocktail table or beside your seat:
The service here was excellent, and overall, this would have to be one of the best dining experiences you can have in a business class lounge – it's really more comparable to some of the world's better first class lounges, which is no easy achievement for an airline that doesn't actually have first class: instead, branding its business class service as 'Upper Class'.
Note that the star rating assigned to 'dining' for this review reflects the lounge in its true 'Virgin Atlantic mode', as Priority Pass access in the mornings is a nice extra for travellers who'd otherwise have no lounge access, but not the key Clubhouse experience.
If you need to get some work done, there are plenty of places to set up a laptop, such as in the dining room with AC power points accessible near many of the seats. Just keep your USA travel adaptor handy, as Australian and UK plugs don't work here, and most outlets don't provide USB power, either:
There are also long benches by the windows, which look like they have no access to power...
... but, if you go hunting underneath the table, you may spot a little opening...
... which, when viewed from the floor, reveals itself to be a power point. There's no sign to tell you it's there, not is it easy to locate and use. Power points along the actual desk surface would be far more practical, albeit less aesthetically pleasing.
Free wireless Internet is available throughout the lounge, but with two key problems. Firstly, the password for the service printed atop the dining menus at each table is actually incorrect, so you need to ask the staff what the correct password is, to get online.
Secondly, there's a known problem with the network here that after entering the correct password, many devices simply stop 'working' on the WiFi, returning errors whenever trying to browse to a web page.
The staff have a printed list of troubleshooting tasks to try and help you 'fix' devices that become stuck with this problem, but no amount of fixing would help my Microsoft Surface connect to the WiFi – which works just fine on literally every other lounge WiFi network I've ever tried – which is crazy.
The energy that Virgin Atlantic's IT team put into creating the troubleshooting list would be better-invested into actually fixing the problem, because ultimately, I wasn't able to connect my laptop to the WiFi to get work done, which, for such a basic amenity in a premium lounge, is a very big 'fail'.
(As a backup, I was able to get online by using my mobile phone as a 4G global roaming data hotspot, which my plan fortunately allows, but not all international travellers would have this option, and working WiFi in 2018 is just expected.)
Interestingly though, my iPhone had no problems connecting to the WiFi, on which I was able to measure download speeds of around 9.7Mbps and upload speeds of 9.9Mbps, although it wasn't possible to pass that connection through to my laptop, without using my own mobile data.
We'd also like to see some more USB power points in the lounge, which were only spotted tucked away at the bottom of some of the furniture:
Not all seats offer access to power, so keep your eyes peeled!
Remember how the dining options differ between 'Priority Pass mode' and 'Virgin Atlantic mode'? There are a few other subtle changes, too.
In the evenings ('Virgin Atlantic mode'), you'll find a selection of reading material available...
... but in the mornings ('Priority Pass mode'), you won't:
In the evenings, you'll find menus at every table, while in the mornings, you won't.
Fun fact: for those with a keen interest in design and colour, many of the darker, more premium-looking cushions are also hidden away in the mornings, replaced by others which are a little brighter for Priority Pass guests:
Of course, if you're flying solo and just want to relax before your flight, there's a space for that too:
Whether you're a lounge member or a Virgin Atlantic passenger, there are no showers here, which many travellers would appreciate prior to long overnight flights – although their absence is likely due to this lounge's relatively small footprint, as even the regular bathrooms here don't take up much space.
Virgin Atlantic's partnership with Delta does allow Upper Class passengers and both Delta and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club frequent flyers to access the nearby Delta Sky Club in the same terminal, where shower facilities are available for booking at the reception desk.
This isn't an option for Velocity frequent flyers travelling with Virgin Atlantic, or for Priority Pass cardholders, though, but it's a workaround to keep in mind if you're seated at the pointy end, as you can always return to the Clubhouse after freshening up in the Delta lounge.
Don't forget, if you're booked in Upper Class or have the appropriate Flying Club or Delta Medallion status, you can also visit the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge at Heathrow after your flight, which has showers a'plenty.
Overall, the LAX Clubhouse excels on the dining front, and we literally couldn't ask for more in that regard – but for guests trying to get work done, which describes a lot of business travellers, a few relatively small fixes would make for a much more productive stay.
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Virgin Atlantic.