Inside Virgin Atlantic's funky Clubhouse lounge at New York JFK

By John Walton, March 13 2012
Inside Virgin Atlantic's funky Clubhouse lounge at New York JFK

Who doesn't love an amazing airport lounge? Now there's another great one to add to your must-visit list, with the opening of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at New York's JFK Airport.

The Clubhouse is a trans-Atlantic business travel hotspot for Virgin America and Singapore Airlines as well, and you even get access if you're a  Gold or Platinum member of Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme.

You'll find the Clubhouse in JFK's main "other airlines" international building, Terminal 4. It's after security, upstairs along the A pier, from where Virgin Atlantic flights usually depart.

That's a big improvement from its previous before-security lounge, where you had to gamble between nearly missing your flight by receiving an extra-special groping from the TSA screeners or standing around in the gate holding pen with nothing to do.

Designed by New Yorkers Hayes & James Slade, the Clubhouse is deeply, deeply cool in a Virgin-British meets New York-crazy kind of way.

Let's face it -- most transatlantic flights leave the Clubhouse in the evening, so the cloud-shaped cocktail bar that's the heart of the lounge is a justifiable centrepiece.

The chairs, sofas and person-sized nooks in the walls are all either design classics (we spot Saarinen and Eames in those snaps) or bespoke oddities. But those bespoke oddities are also useful: Virgin has included power points in the arms of some of the chairs.

This is not a staid, boring, corporate American-style lounge -- and frankly, if that's what you're after, you're probably not flying a Virgin airline.

And there's a pool table -- because, well, why not?

If you're hungry, you can order food anywhere in the lounge, but Virgin recommends the "brassiere dining area". We're fairly certain this is a typo rather than a dress code (or indeed an avant-garde cuisine previously unknown to travellers), but the airline is promising "a delicious selection of a la carte meals, desserts and fine wine".

Overdue for a decent haircut but no time to get snipped? Take advantage of the hair salon from legendary New York stylists Bumble and bumble, which frequent London visitors will know from the sister salon in the Heathrow Clubhouse. You'll find Bumble and bumble products in the showers too.

Virgin Atlantic -- which claims to have invented the first business class spa 21 years ago -- has stepped up its game again, with what it's spruiking as the first business class spa with aromatherapy oil massages from Dr Hauschka-trained masseurs.

Late arrivals beware: there's a cut-off for spa sessions 50 minutes before your flight.

Getting into the lounge requires at least one of the following:

  • Flying on: a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket from New York, a Singapore Airlines First or Suites class ticket from New York, a TAM First or Business class ticket from New York
  • Waving: a Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer Gold or Platinum card, a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club frequent flyer program Gold card, or a Singapore Airlines Solitaire PPS Card.

You can also fly Virgin America's First Class (domestic business) or Main Cabin Select extra-legroom economy, but there's a $35 fee.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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