Los Angeles (CA)
Los Angeles (LAX)
- Extensive cocktail bar
- Lack of work space
- Poor dining options
- No kids allowed
For as long as Virgin Australia has been flying out of Los Angeles, there's been an abject lack of international-grade lounge access for business class travellers and top-tier members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer program.
With the opening of Virgin America's Loft lounge at LAX, that's changed for the better – or has it?
Location & Impressions
The Loft is located in LAX Terminal 3, where Alaska Airlines' Boardroom lounge used to be – look for the staircase tucked away next to Starbucks.
Other than a Virgin Australia-branded 'Welcome' sign, there isn't anything else to give away the Loft's location, making it almost as well-hidden as Hogwarts!
Step through the doors and you'll see that Virgin America has gone for the same vibe as their A320 aircraft, with everything lit by deep purple mood lighting.
The layout of the lounge remains unchanged from its previous incarnation, however. There's an area up the back for watching TV, a bar area, and a long narrow section overlooking the tarmac outside.
One unique feature of the Loft is its controversial "no kids allowed" policy, with a ban on children under 12 years, although the rules are relaxed for Virgin Australia travellers.
If you're travelling in business class on Virgin Australia's daily service back to Australia, you'll be handed a Loft lounge pass when you check in at LAX.
Otherwise, your Velocity Gold or Platinum card will open the doors for yourself and one guest.
Failing that, you'll have to stump up US$40 for a single-entry pass to The Loft.
If you arrive at the Loft hoping to have a quick dinner before your flight back to Australia, you'll be severely disappointed.
The extent of what may be called 'substantial' food options fit entirely within a small fridge next to the bar – a selection of salads, wraps, small platters and sushi-like snacks.
It's disappointing that there isn't a single hot option in the loft – even Alaskan used to have a couple of soups back when they ran the lounge.
My recommendation: Double up on the Chocolate Chunk cookies... they're amazingly good.
Your options look a bit better for breakfast: there's a toaster with a few varieties of bread and bagels, and – miraculously – Vegemite, a welcome sight after I'd been in America for a few weeks!
The situation improves considerably if you're in the mood for a drink.
The bar's quite well stocked, with a bartender standing by to mix cocktails for you.
The Anchor Steam stands out as the best of the four beers on offer, but I went with what turned out to be a middle of the road Margarita.
Looking for somewhere to get some solid work done before your flight? You're pretty much out of luck.
There's not a single proper desk in sight throughout the entire lounge, so you'll need to make do with leaning over the coffee tables or perching your notebook on your lap.
Many of the tables have a hidden secret: the bases of the lamps come with a USB socket to keep your handheld gadgets charged.
If you want an actual power point rather than just a USB socket, head for the two-seater, high-sided sofas – each of the floor lamps next to them marks a section of wall where you'll find an AC socket.
Thankfully, the lounge WiFi is very fast - just grab a password from the front desk on your way in.
Want to tune out before your trip? There are a few private seating areas where you can tuck yourself away.
But I'd suggest the pick of the seats would have to be the long narrow section at the back of the lounge.
There's a bunch of lounge chairs and coffee tables, and the bar is close to hand.
The view of the tarmac outside is pretty hard to fault... well, at least it's a lot more interesting than anything else inside the lounge.
Launched with a lot of hype last year, Virgin America's Loft is their first effort at a bespoke lounge. But despite the funky design, it's closer to your typical American domestic lounge than a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse or the flagship Virgin Australia lounges.
The lack of suitable seating and workspace to attend to some last-minute work before your flight is a serious drawback for a business class lounge.
Add the dire food options and you've got all the ingredients of a missed opportunity for Virgin America, and a letdown for Virgin Australia's growing number of frequent fliers and business travellers.