We first reviewed the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK when it opened in 2012. The US$7 million Clubhouse was designed by Slade Architecture along with Virgin Atlantic’s in-house design team.
The lounge is located airside in JFK’s Terminal 4 beyond the TSA checkpoint, in the A-Concourse and above boarding gates A4 and A5.
Who can access?
Virgin Upper Class passengers and Flying Club Gold members. Each guest is also able to invite a friend.
From around three-and-a-half hours before the departure time of Virgin Atlantic flights.
What’s it like?
The reception is ethereally white and cleverly lit. It’s like a modern take on the pearly gates before entry into heaven.
Luckily, once over the threshold, the emphasis is firmly on glamorous, relaxed fun. When I visited the lounge at 6pm on a Tuesday, it was pleasantly quiet, which allowed me opportunity to ogle unhindered. The layout and furniture curve and flow, contributing to a retro feel that owes something to the swinging Sixties by way of a New York cocktail bar. A neutral palette of greys and off-white is lifted by furniture in Virgin’s signature red shades, while low pendant lighting enhances the clubby feel.
The scheme as a whole revolves around the raised bar area, which is sectioned off with a screen of vertical metal poles. These provide privacy without shutting out the light, of which there are ample levels thanks to the number of floor-to-ceiling windows. The sweeping marble bar is lined with high-backed stools – perfect for perching with one of the bespoke cocktails. Additional wow factor comes from a gleaming light installation on the ceiling and a huge, whimsical red ball sofa, which frames a games area complete with pool table.
Beside the bar is a mid-century-style lounge area with comfortable seats, some of the designs wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of 1960s space age cartoon The Jetsons. In the lower section is the dining area and a quiet section of the lounge from which you can enjoy views across the tarmac to Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Terminal Building beyond.
It’s not all play, though, and should you need to get some work done, you can do so in style at the internet bar and work area, where you’ll also find complimentary magazines, such as Business Traveller. Virgin has endeavoured to mix business with pleasure in the design here, thanks to features like the cosy pods in the wall, complete with reading lights, where you can recline.
A real highlight is the spa, where you can have a massage, beauty treatment or even an a pre-flight haircut using Dr Hauschka or Bumble & Bumble products. Some short treatments are complimentary and appointments are walk-in on the day, so there are no guarantees you’ll be squeezed in. I opted for a free Indian head massage, and was told that the next slot would be in 45 minutes. When I arrived for my massage there was some confusion over the agreed time but luckily they were still able to accommodate me. The masseuse was friendly and skilled and it was the perfect prelude to a long-haul flight.
Complimentary food and drink, including an a la carte menu, can be enjoyed anywhere in the lounge and a waiter service means you can sit back and relax. There is no self-service station.
After the massage, I opted to dine in the restaurant area, with its elegantly laid tables. The salt beef croquettes I selected as a starter were exemplary and the vegetable curry I followed it with tasty. Some of the dishes have been created in collaboration with trendy New York bar/eatery Employees Only.
Other facilities include well-equipped showers, which didn’t seem too busy on my visit, although I didn’t make use of them.
You’d be forgiven for entirely forgetting you are in an airport and not a Manhattan members club. Fun, glamorous and stylish with good service and food and a relaxed ambience. It was tempting to ignore the boarding calls for my flight and spend a little longer here. It looks like 2012’s standards have been kept up.