PHOTO TOUR: Inside Virgin Atlantic's redesigned Newark Clubhouse

By John Walton, November 16 2012

Virgin Atlantic's newly revamped Clubhouse business class lounge at New York's Newark Airport is certain to wow travellers with its fantastic bar, array of seating choices and laptop-friendly side tables.

The one thing it doesn't have: windows. The Clubhouse is a fully enclosed space within the terminal, with nary a view to the tarmac or the open skies beyond.

This could have resulted in a depressing cave, yet the airline has transformed this into a hip parlour.

The focus of the Clubhouse is the angular mirrored bar that looks like something out of science fiction.

Here's what that looked like in the design concept stages:

On one side you'll find a well-stocked black-topped bar, seating five passengers on high stools.

On the other three sides it's all seating, with artistically-arranged red and clear bottles on the back sides of the bar.

"Think SoHo boutiques, Tribeca lofts, NoHo coffee shops," says Virgin on Twitter, explaining the look and feel it's going for. 

This throws down the gauntlet to other airlines with windowless interior lounges, and proves they don't have to be dreary corporate holes in shades of beige.

Appropriately enough for a lounge where most flights depart in the evenings, there's a chic brown and red sofa seating area that feels like an upmarket lounge bar where you'd while away the night.

And top marks for providing side tables here: these look very laptop-plus-drink friendly.

As with Virgin Atlantic's other lounges, the variety of seating options is a big plus.

Business travellers appreciate when airlines provide a choice of spots to plonk themselves -- whether with a laptop, e-reader or simply a cold glass of something.

Check out the ceilings too: clever lighting and shadow makes it feel less like a boring box.

You'll find the lounge in Newark's Terminal B, after security and close to Virgin's gates.

After the lounge: AusBT reviews Virgin Atlantic's next-generation Upper Class Dream Suite business seat — and then we get up close and personal with the new seat and its design team.

Virgin Atlantic challenges your airline to design better

Even if Newark isn't on your business travel radar any time soon, the new Clubhouse provides a challenge to other airlines working with relatively small windowless internal spaces inside terminals.

Most business travellers will have encountered one of these dismal spaces and given up, heading outside to the main terminal.

Melbourne Airport has several windowless lounges, including the uninspiring Singapore Airlines space.

But Virgin has made the most of its Newark space constraints with its clubby, intimate choice of decor and fittings.

It's a complete contrast to the airline's New York JFK Clubhouse on the other side of the city -- an incredibly light lounge with windows on either side.

Different space, different design language -- but it could still only be a Virgin lounge.

The JFK and Newark lounges also share designers: New York's Slade Architecture and Virgin Atlantic's design team headed up by Luke Miles. 

Check out Australian Business Traveller's JFK Clubhouse review to see what we mean!

Will other airlines rise to Virgin Atlantic's challenge? We certainly hope so.

Want more fantastic design? We've got you covered with picture-laden AusBT photo tours:

And for the very latest, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton
John Walton

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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