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Virgin America has joined its sister airlines in Australia and across the Atlantic in the "who can have the swankiest Virgin lounge" game, and its first move is the chic and stylish space it calls The Loft at Los Angeles LAX.
Even better, you can also use The Loft when heading back home across the Pacific. A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that business class passengers on VA flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — and Velocity Platinum/Gold frequent flyers heading to Australia or around the US — get in for free.
It's mood-lit, it's swish, it's got a modern menu and stylish mixed drinks… and it's a child-free zone: children under 12 are banned from The Loft, and under-18s are only allowed in with an adult.
Getting into The Loft lounge
The Loft sits upstairs after security in LAX Terminal 3, near the Virgin America gates – the same terminal that Virgin Australia uses for its flights from LA to Australia.
"Virgin Australia's Velocity Gold and Platinum members will have access to the LAX loft free of charge - they can present their card at the Virgin America Loft for access," Virgin America's PR manager Patricia Condon told to Australian Business Traveller today.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed this arrangement and also that the deal is, naturally enough, extended to VA business class passengers.
For everyone else there's a $40 door free when travelling on either airline (or on Virgin Atlantic, although it uses a different terminal).
Booked on a Virgin America domestic First Class leg as part of a Virgin Australia booking? You get in as well, but only if you've booked through Virgin Australia. If you've paid Virgin America for your First Class ticket, you'll have to stump up a further $40 for The Loft.
Virgin America's Elevate Gold and Silver members get an allocation of passes every year.
Inside the lounge, past the white staffer desk and opposite a glass art piece/wall, you'll find the area that Creative Director Jesse McMillin calls "the Recharge Space, a free-form organic arrangement of furniture".
However, we reckon business travellers will be looking for a "plonk yourself down, pull out your laptop, plug yourself in" arrangement of furniture — something that Virgin Australia does so well with its still-chic snaking power-point-and-desk-space bars, and which is missing here.
We're not entirely sure that these doubtlessly designer chairs are the most comfortable option, we can't spot any desks (or power points that aren't low down on the walls), and we're not confident that it's a good idea for two chairs to be sticking out (however organically) into the main pathway.
But they're certainly Virgin-stylish — as is that glass art/wall.
Inside, the lounge is a funky arrangement of red, purple, black and white that feels bang-on-brand, with a central bar (sorry, "Refresh Space") to pick up a drink and find yourself a spot to sit down.
The main seating area in the lounge edges up against floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the lounge with light during the daytime: perfect to reset your body clock or to just relax and watch the giant airport fishbowl go past outside.
And of course there's coloured mood lighting for the evenings, in Virgin's signature red and accent purple.
Many of the side tables have a hidden secret: the bases of the lamps come with a USB socket to keep your handheld gadgets charged.
Travellers familiar with the excellent Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse will be pleased to see the popular two-seater, high-sided sofas from that lounge making an appearance here, this time in a bright red.
If you want an actual power point rather than just a USB socket, these are probably your best option: each of those vertical standing lamps marks a section of wall with regular AC sockets.
And those are combination stools/side tables from Gehry, in case you were wondering.
Further up and further in you'll find more private seating areas to tuck yourself away. Don't miss your flight if you curl up for a snooze on the long L-shaped sofa.
There's also a dark TV area if the mood lighting gets a bit much.
Drinks in the lounge include a Lofty Libations artisanal cocktail selection, or "drinks menu" if you're not a lounge designer.
Among the six signature mixed drinks on offer is the "Virgintini" — firmly a Virgin beverage rather than a virgin beverage, with vodka and cranberry juice.
The VeeV à la Virgin (see what they did there?) sounds intriguing, based on the VeeV acai spirit.
If you like beer, Anchor Steam and Gordon Biersch Marzen are on offer, and if you don't like beer there's Bud Light.
For the less alcoholically inclined among us, there's also a welcome range of soft drinks, from cranberry, orange and pineapple juice to Powerade (why don't more airlines have isotonics in their lounges?) and Rockstar Recovery energy drinks.
Putting paid to the idea that people in LA never eat, you'll find a selection of continental-style lighter brekkie bites in the morning — handy if you're connecting from one of Virgin Australia's flights across the Pacific.
We're intrigued by the fresh fruit salad wrap. (No actual salad. Just fruit and yoghurt.)
The all-day side "Light Bites" side of the menu includes an impressive variety of sushi, wraps, salads and noodles that should please all palates.
If you're curious for more (or just love hearing designers talk about their stuff), check out this video clip:
The keenest lounge lizards can download a six minute, 600MB video clip for a closer and longer look.
Overall, The Loft is a happening kind of joint, but as business travellers we can't help but feel a little under-served. There's no real laptop-friendly area or recharging zone for your electronic kit, nor a business space to spread out and really get some work done.
And the designer chairs seem more designer than chair, if we're honest: with the exception of the big red sofas, they don't strike us as immediately laptop-on-knees comfortable.
What do you think — are you put off by the lack of a proper business area with proper power points? Or are you happy with chic chairs and USB sockets? We're keen to hear what the AusBT community thinks: sound off in a comment below.
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