Looking back I see that although I have been through the Virgin Clubhouse lounge many times over the years, the reviews of the lounge (Clubhouse) have always been relatively short because I’ve concentrated on the flight, so this redresses the balance.
It’s a good time for a fresh look, since Delta has now completely co-located with Virgin in Terminal 3, and in addition, Virgin had just announced changes to its Flying Club loyalty programme which will affect the number of people eligible to get into this lounge.
Virgin is also in the process of refurbishing the lounge, with completion scheduled for spring 2017 – the carrier says that “small areas will be closed off section by section as we carry out refurbishment”, but has stressed that there will be no reduced capacity or closures during the refurbishment period.
Of course if you are flying Upper Class (Virgin’s business class) then it is worth making the effort to arrive a little early and enjoy the lounge – but for those aiming to gain admittance by earning it through loyalty (and booking a fair few flexible tickets in economy, premium economy and even occasionally Upper Class), is it worth the effort?
There’s a fair bit of preamble before you get the lounge, and all of it is pleasurable.
If you have a relatively expensive Upper Class ticket, a chauffeur drive may well drop you off at a private reception and check-in.
But assuming you arrive under your own steam (the Piccadilly Line in my case), you check-in downstairs at the Upper Class check-in, take the lift upstairs, and then scan your boarding card to open a door to take you through to this private reception area. From there the signs take you to a dedicated security area and then through to the main terminal. All of this is wonderful, and no matter how much you travel it still has to be one of the quickest ways of getting airside at Heathrow.
The lounge is Lounge H if you follow the signs, and is upstairs, accessed by a lovely set of open stairs (the style of which prepare you for the style of the lounge) or a lift taking you up one floor. If you walk up the stairs you’ll see the red illuminated strips on the stairs, and this is echoed in the red of the uniformed greeters at the top of the stairs, who invariably welcome you back to the lounge even if it’s been a while. In my case, having no status with Virgin, I was walked into the room and asked if I’d been before. I have, and so was left to my own devices.
The lounge has several different areas. You enter and immediately look down on the main central area. This is a very nightclub way of entering the room – with the windows below, magazines and newspapers on low tables and pale cream leather lounging chairs leading to the bar, which is long and which has countless premium brand liqueurs lined up for you to try.
To your left is an area to store bags, and in the old days get your shoes shined, I seem to remember. There’s a salad bar and restaurant to the left, with a large choice if you just want to have something quickly without sitting down for a full meal.
To the right is a desk where you can sort out tickets and onward travel, and then further along the spa. I had a treatment here (pre-booked) which was a shoulder massage – 15 minutes and very nice. I also took the opportunity to have a walk around. You can get a haircut here, or have a shower, a sauna, or relax in the spa bath.
Gradually as time went on the lounge emptied, and so I took the opportunity to take some photographs.
First off, here is the Library area.
I remember this used to have a big long wooden table. When it was removed I thought it might be to make space for more chairs, but as you can see, it’s probably the least busy area in the lounge.
I later learned that it belonged to Sir Richard Branson, and when Necker had the fire he then needed a replacement for the table that was lost in the fire, and that’s where the table has gone. I have never been to Necker, but I’ve worked at that table a few times. I suspect it’s the closest I will ever get to Sir Richard’s private island.
Here are some more pictures:
Yes, I don’t know why I took that picture.
Anyway, the stay in the lounge was pleasant, the staff helpful, the bar men seemingly auditioning for whichever one of us customers might also be a casting agent, and as the evening drew in and the remaining flights were called, I was joined by others from our group and a waitress served us all drinks.
The Clubhouse is a special place. It’s well thought out, very well designed, and has been refreshed several times without losing its character and ambience. Depending on your mood and whether you are travelling on your own or in a group there are places to sit, stand, drink or rest. If you get a chance to visit it, make the most of the experience – there are bigger lounges, but it is still one of the best in the world.