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Virgin Atlantic hands over non-UK Clubhouses to Plaza Premium – and will jointly open new lounges

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Virgin Atlantic and Plaza Premium have announced this morning that Plaza Premium will be taking over the management of all Clubhouse lounges outside the UK.

This arrangement will begin on Monday when the Clubhouse lounge in New York JFK reopens. Here is our review of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge at London Heathrow which opened yesterday.

Plaza Premium will also take over responsibility for the Clubhouse lounges in Boston, San Francisco, Washington and Johannesburg as they reopen.

Virgin Atlantic outsources Clubhouse management Plaza Premium

In terms of branding, nothing will change. The lounges will remain as Clubhouses.

It is not clear if the lounges will be opened to the general public for cash or become part of the Plaza Premium lounge pass programme. Even if the lounges do join the main Plaza Premium network for much of the day, they may be reserved exclusively for Virgin Atlantic passengers in the hours before a departure. The San Francisco and Washington lounges previously had such a deal with Priority Pass.

I think that the lounges were currently managed by Sodexo. This move puts control in the hands of a lounge operator which also has the ability to drive new business via its Smart Traveller lounge pass, as well as being a higher quality operator.

There is some genuinely positive news in the announcement:

“Virgin Atlantic and Plaza Premium Lounge have also agreed on the co-development of lounges in other key hubs within the airline’s network. Details will be announced at due course.”

This opens up the prospect of Plaza Premium using the Clubhouse brand to create ‘pay per use’ lounges at airports served by Virgin Atlantic, with the airline becoming the core customer and lending its cache to the site.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said:

“We’re delighted to welcome customers back to our Clubhouse at New York JFK offering the signature Virgin Atlantic experience we know they have missed over the past 18 months. With the friendly faces of our Clubhouse team, enhanced health and safety measures at every touchpoint and our innovative food and beverage offering, we will ensure our customers fly safe and fly well.

We look forward to expanding our partnership with Plaza Premium Group to our Clubhouses in North America and South Africa. Our shared values of top-notch hospitality, the most hospitable teams in the industry, a pioneering mindset and dedication to innovation will ensure our customers enjoy every moment of their journey as travel restrictions begin to relax and demand for global travel returns fast.”

I don’t think that Virgin Atlantic passengers should be worried about this move. Plaza Premium has an excellent reputation for running high quality airport lounges, and if Virgin Atlantic was going to partner with anyone I would have wanted it to be Plaza.

It is also true that, with long haul premium cabin travel likely to be depressed for a number of years, an arrangement like this is far better for everyone than Virgin Atlantic deciding to close its overseas lounge network entirely.


HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (August 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):

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

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 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn 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.)

Comments (17)

  • Oh! Matron! says:

    Actually makes sense: Economies of scale where PP already have a presence.

    However: The beer selection in Boston is second to none. With the exception of the odd Sam Adams and assorted watery ****, it’s all local breweries, with the odd west coast IPA in there. It literally is the best thing about the lounge

  • A says:

    If they are now plaza premium, this should mean one can now access them with the platinum card, no?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      They are managed by rather than are one. So nope won’t work.

      I know some Cathay lounges are managed by Plaza Premium too.

      • A says:

        Doh…oh well, I will console myself with the lovely new Amex lounge at JFK next week instead of the clubhouse

    • Rob says:

      Potentially BUT it isn’t clear if Plaza will only be selling access off-peak outside Virgin flight times.

    • Sam says:

      I think the short answer is no, and I’m not sure if Plaza Premium has the right to sell access, they only manage the lounge and they don’t own the lounge. Virgin never really run the lounge themselves, they previously subcontracted the lounge management to Sodexo; it seems this is just a changeover from Sodexo to Plaza Premium and this is it.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Well you haven’t seen the terms of the agreement but it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of imagination to conceive of an agreement that generates some revenue for VS, especially at the moment, being attractive…

        • Sam says:

          The OP was asking whether the AMEX platinum card will be benefited from the new service agreement with Plaza Premium so it should be a no. It is possible Virgin opens up pay-for-visit access but it’s a different thing.

        • Sam says:

          If anything, I’d see it’s VS who’s getting the money from the pay-for-visit, not Plaza.

  • Sam G says:

    Some Clubhouses e.g. LAX did offer Priority Pass etc access during non-Virgin hours with a much reduced offering. This is a bit messy from a brand / expectation point of view so I imagine this tie up will offer something that works better

  • Sam says:

    I’d see this as an upgrade, Plaza Premium has a far higher reputation than Sodexo (who managed Virgin clubhouse before covid). A few years back when Sodexo took over the lounge management contract from Plaza Premium of Cathay Pacific lounges, Cathay was swamped with complaints regarding undercooked food and lack of readiness of waiter service. I’d assume there was some underlying issue about the contract with Sodexo or the terms offered by Plaza Premium was really attractive that made Virgin opt for a more premium provider.

    • Rosana says:

      Premium Plaza only have a reputation for running economy lounges, I’ve heard that they lost the contract for Cathay Pacific to Sodexo as there customer service scores dropped to unacceptable levels, Sodexo have a proven track record of running top locations eg virgin Clubhouse UK, Ascot racecourse etc

  • Kamil says:

    Virgin clubhouse in Hong Kong moved to PP when they closed their virgin clubhouse.

  • Dubious says:

    Genuine question, not trying to be a pedant:
    [“announced at due course.”]
    Is it normally ‘at’ or ‘in’ or can both work?

    • Dubious says:

      PS.
      Never been in a Virgin Atlantic lounge but that red Malteser sofa in the picture looks like it would be very easy to loose your passport and keys between the cushions! Can’t tell if it’s comfy or the opposite.

    • Prins Polo says:

      “in”

  • Olly says:

    Slightly o/t but I was in Heathrow T2 yesterday and tried and failed to get into the Plaza Premium lounge (which is the only one open currently). They wouldn’t accept my (TAP) star alliance gold, as apparently only valid when flying with a couple of eligible airlines now lounge key. They stated the only ones they were accepting were Amex platinum or Dragon Pass. So be warned if you’re attempting a lounge visit in the near future

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