Rhys and I were at Heathrow Terminal 3 today to celebrate the reopening of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, and indeed the reopening of the entire terminal, after 450 days.
Virgin and its partner Delta are the first two airlines to move back.
I was expecting the lounge to be empty, so it was a pleasant surprise to arrive and find it bustling before a couple of flights got called. The airline is running 11 passenger flights and eight cargo flights from Heathrow today.
The Upper Class Wing has also reopened for drive through check-in as you can see – I got dropped off there:
Your car drops you outside a reception area where Virgin staff can check you in.
Inside the lounge, things are pretty much as they were. The Clubhouse has always been primarily table service. You can either order food and drink via an app, as you can in the British Airways lounges, or give your order to a waiter – although the waiter will still scan the QR code on your behalf using his own device and input your details.
It is just a few seconds walk to a dedicated security lane, from where you emerge to join the main security area in Terminal 3. The only snag is that you then have quite a trot across the terminal to the Clubhouse.
There was no ‘at bar’ service today but Virgin is hoping to get the bar stools out from next Monday.
Let’s play ‘spot the influences’. Here is a ‘neon and foliage’ display similar to the one outside the Kimpton hotel in Amsterdam:
Next we have homage to Bob Bob Ricard:
The deli bar is up and running but you now need to order for delivery to your table.
The Clubhouse spa has gone
Here is the key bit of news for regular users – the spa has gone. Not necessarily gone for good, but gone for now.
It has been replaced by a number of Peloton bikes as you can see here:
Peloton isn’t my thing but apparently people were using them today. I think people will take the opportunity to see what the hype is about in a non-sales environment.
There is also a relaxation area under construction by the showers and steam room, which will contain sleep pods amongst other things.
The Virgin team was insistent that the spa could return if they found a suitable operator, but the time was not right.
Elsewhere in the lounge the rooftop area is open, as is the mezzanine level with the pool table in the bottom picture:
What about the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Manchester Airport?
The other bit of news is about Manchester. As we covered yesterday, the Terminal 2 extension has opened at Manchester Airport.
Virgin Atlantic will be restarting flights from Manchester next month starting with three weekly services to Barbados.
There will be a Clubhouse lounge in the Terminal 2 extension. It has apparently been structurally finished but not furnished. There is no plan to open it until 2022 when there will be the passenger volume to justify it.
The good news is that Virgin Atlantic passengers will be able to use the brand new 1903 Lounge in Terminal 2. 1903 is the premium airport-operated lounge brand – cash entry starts at £32.50 – and I was very impressed by my visit to the original 1903 Lounge in Terminal 3 a few years ago.
Whilst the 1903 Lounge won’t be a Clubhouse, I don’t think passengers will be short changed. It will be a HUGE improvement on the awful Escape Plus lounge previously used by Virgin Atlantic passengers.
(As an aside, we had an interesting chat about airport lounges. Virgin believes that third party lounges are coming under pressure as airports up their game in terms of food and drink outlets. Where is the value in paying for a lounge if you can get a better meal for less money in the terminal?)
There was a real spring in the step of the Virgin Atlantic team today. As one person explained it to me, they liked Terminal 2 but it was beginning to feel like overstaying a visit to your in-laws. The lounge team were also delighted to be back, having been furloughed for almost 450 days.
If you have been putting off booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class because of the lack of Clubhouse access, drive through check-in and the arrivals lounge – which has also reopened, although I didn’t see it – then you no longer have any excuses.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points:
Until 2nd November 2021, there is a special offer on The Platinum Card from American Express.
You will receive a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points which converts into 60,000 Virgin Points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)