Tried & Tested

Lounge review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Newark Liberty International Airport

22 Oct 2018 by Craig Bright
Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Newark Airport

Background

Virgin Atlantic has two lounges in New York; one at JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 and another at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal B. But while the latter may be the smaller (and slightly younger) of the two, it still offers a number of the airline’s signature services.

Opened back in 2012, the approximately 464-sqm Newark lounge formed part of a US$160 million investment that Virgin Atlantic put into its Upper Class offering.

As of this month, it also serves as the main port of call for business class passengers travelling on Singapore Airlines’ new 17.5-hour flight to Singapore – now the longest commercial route in the world and the reason for my particular visit on this occasion. A full review of my flight from Newark to Singapore can be read here.

Business Traveller also reviewed Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse at JFK Airport earlier this year.

Lounge review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, JFK New York, T4

Where is it?

Airside just beyond the TSA security checkpoint at Newark Airport’s Terminal B, opposite the British Airways Galleries Lounge. Signage is a little discreet and travellers will need to take a lift up to the lounge floor.

Who can access?

Travellers flying Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class (business) as well as Flying Club Gold members are able to access the lounge, though as mentioned the facility also serves as the business class lounge for business class passengers flying on Singapore Airlines’ new non-stop Singapore-New York service.

Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Newark Airport

What’s it like?

Bold. The design, like Virgin Atlantic’s other lounges, is one of the most flamboyant I’ve seen in an airline lounge with bright colours and funky furnishings. If the jet-black entrance didn’t make you feel like you were heading into a chic New York nightclub then the angular bar with its pyramid-shaped drinks rack surely will.

That is where the similarities to a night club end, however. The service and ambience inside the lounge are both calm and friendly. Staff at lounge entry desks can have a bit of a reputation for being cold and dismissive, their job being to bar entry to anyone without the necessary permit. Here, however, I was asked by one of the young gentlemen at the door whether I’d visited this lounge before and was summarily given an overview of the venue’s facilities, seating arrangement and even an estimation for when the announcement for my flight’s boarding was expected to take place.

The Clubhouse has a number of different seating options to choose from, running the gauntlet from dining-style tables and chairs…

Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Newark Airport

…to lounge chairs and coffee tables, long sofa seating…

Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Newark Airport

…and even individual sofas in their own vibrantly coloured alcoves.

Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Newark Airport

Only a few other people were in the lounge when I arrived at about 8.30 in the morning, making finding a seat perfectly easy. While the lounge did start to get busier closer to boarding time for my flight (10.15) it was never packed, though that’s not to say it doesn’t get crammed later in the day.

A quick note regarding the availability of power sockets at the lounge; there are some available at the sofas – they’re slightly hidden underneath the seat – though not at the coffee and dining tables. There also isn’t much in the way of dedicated work space, though an elevated area with a few seats and tables nearer the entrance is probably your best bet if you’re looking to get some work done. The lounge does also have its own wifi network, though I found it unreliable with pages often having difficulty loading and the signal even dropping out entirely on two different occasions on my phone and then my laptop.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Newark Airport

One definite service in the lounge’s favour is that Virgin Atlantic has eschewed buffet dining in favour of an all-table service. Shortly after I’d found my seat, I was approached by a member of staff and asked whether I wanted tea or coffee, as well as any food from the menu. The breakfast selection was reasonably diverse, encompassing full fry-up breakfasts, eggs benedict, sausage or bacon sandwiches, cereals, fruits, yoghurts and even congee.

It’s at this point I must state how gratifying it was to be served English breakfast tea in a teapot as well as find that the sausage and bacon in The Clubhouse British Breakfast were, indeed, British – at least in style.

The bacon was cooked such that it was crisp but not so much that it shattered like glass when you stuck a fork into it, as seems to be common stateside. That being said, some of the food was rather lukewarm rather than hot, thereby making one of the main benefits of table service versus buffet dining somewhat moot.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Newark Airport

Also on the F&B front, it is impossible to ignore the bar standing at the heart of the lounge, which is manned on multiple sides by a few different bar staff. The selection of drinks was varied – far more so than is displayed on the menu – with a range of spirits adorning the aforementioned pyramid-shaped drinks rack at the centre and local craft beer also available.

If you do get a drink at the bar, remember that this being the US it is still customary to leave a tip despite the drinks themselves being complimentary. A good rule of thumb if you’d like to avoid a faux pas is US$2 for more complex cocktails and US$1 for simple mixed drinks and other alcoholic beverages.

The lounge also offers a few other facilities, notably bathrooms with showers and a luggage rack, both located on your right when you enter the lounge.

Verdict

It’s not the largest lounge out there but it is cosy, casual and a fun space to spend a bit of time before a flight. The table service and manned bar are definite pluses and overall the lounge feels designed with leisure in mind, though travellers looking to get some work done may find the lounge a bit lacking.

Fast facts

  • Opening hours Four hours before Virgin Atlantic-operated flights
  • Location Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal B, airside past TSA checkpoint
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