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Odd things happening with Virgin Atlantic’s US Clubhouses – new management? mergers?

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Something seems to be ‘up’ with the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse network in the United States.

This seems to be linked to Virgin Atlantic’s membership of SkyTeam, which is expected to go live this week, and the contract that Plaza Premium signed a couple of years ago to manage all of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses outside Heathrow.

Here is a guess at what is going on.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK entrance

When Virgin Atlantic handed over the running of its Clubhouses to Plaza Premium, joining SkyTeam wasn’t on the table. The lounges in the United States were empty for much of the day when no Virgin Atlantic flights were operating. By letting Plaza Premium manage the spaces, they could be monetised as third party lounges during the quiet hours.

However, once Virgin Atlantic decided to join SkyTeam, the game changed in two ways:

  • anyone flying with any SkyTeam airline would be able to enter a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which meant that there would no longer be any ‘quiet hours’ for Plaza Premium to monetise
  • there are some airports with multiple lounges run by SkyTeam airlines, and there could be the potential to rationalise these

What do we know so far?

A rival lounge operator is advertising for Virgin lounge staff

Sodexo, the catering group, is advertising for staff to work at various Virgin Atlantic lounges in the Unted States. This adds credibility to the idea that Plaza Premium has lost its management contract.

Three of the four US Clubhouses are closed or closing

Several Virgin Atlantic lounges are closed or are closing (see the Clubhouse page of the Virgin Atlantic website):

  • San Francisco is already ‘temporarily closed’
  • Washington DC will be ‘temporarily closed’ from 28th February
  • Boston will be ‘temporarily closed’ from 28th February
  • Johannesburg will be ‘temporarily closed’ from 28th February

The New York JFK Clubhouse is operating as normal.

Virgin Atlantic New York Clubhouse lounge

Plaza Premium’s website says that it is no longer runnning New York JFK

Whilst the Plaza Premium website is still selling passes for the Virgin Clubhouse at New York JFK (photo above), it states that “This lounge is owned and managed by a third party“.

There are not similar comments against the other US lounges, but these lounges will be closed from Tuesday anyway.

The SkyTeam website shows other closures at Virgin Atlantic airports

If you look at the SkyTeam lounge directory:

  • San Francisco – the Delta Sky Club and the Air France lounge are ‘temporarily closed’
  • Washington DC – no changes, the Air France lounge is open
  • Boston – the Air France lounge is ‘temporarily closed’

Conclusion

Well, what can we conclude?

It seems fairly clear that Sodexo is taking over management from Plaza Premium – potentially when they reopen – but it isn’t clear if we will see lounge mergers amongst Virgin Atlantic and the other SkyTeam airlines at Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco.

The Johannesburg Clubhouse should be safe because there is no existing SkyTeam lounge there – SkyTeam airlines seem to use third party lounges.

Let’s see what the week brings, given that Virgin Atlantic should be a SkyTeam member by Friday.

Big hat-tip to V-Flyer forum members who dug out much of information above – I have simply pulled it all together.


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Comments (20)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • WaynedP says:

    Am returning JNB to LHR on tonight’s VS450 so will presumably be among the last to pass through JNB lounge before it closes tomorrow and will see what I can glean first hand from the ground.

  • Andrew J says:

    “anyone flying with any SkyTeam airline would be able to enter a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which meant that there would no longer be any ‘quiet hours’ for Plaza Premium to monetise”

    I thought you said that wasn’t going to be the case Rob? Or has that now changed and the Clubhouses will be fully integrated into the ST lounge network?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      My guess (and everything is a guess currently) that the LHR lounge will be special cased and not part of the SkyTeam network otherwise it will be full of shorthaul AF/KLM passengers. For lounge provision this was a massive downgrade for AF/KLM passengers when they moved to T3 as they no longer had the SkyTeam lounge which used to be in T4. Virgin should provide an alternative facility for SkyTeam flyers if it wants to get out of lounge obligations at LHR but where would a new lounge go? Qantas are already planning a separate F lounge.

      A few months ago there was supposed to be some exciting news about the BA lounge space in T3 but things have gone quiet with that.

    • Rob says:

      Not the case in London, but London was never outsourced.

  • Erico1875 says:

    Is that the same Sodexo who run prisons in UK?

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      And some pretty bad workplace canteens

    • lumma says:

      And got a ton of money from the government to run some of the COVID testing sites

    • Simon says:

      Sodexo are the lowest of low cost operators. You would never appoint them if you cared about quality.

      • PeteM says:

        I have seen Sodexo run high quality catering operations, mostly in France. But yes, they are generally fairly awful…

    • Super Secret Stuff says:

      Yes and overworked staff and running facilities into or near the ground seem to be part of there business plan.

  • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

    What to do if you’re a status/pointy end passenger at SFO? Delta and AF fly from entirely separate terminals so if AF lounge is closed it’s not like the passengers can pop in next door to a Delta alternative. Odd since that AF/KLM lounge at SFO is very intensively used prior to their departures; and with a La Premiere cabin (cough….row) on the SFO route I can’t imagine those passengers are being left to fend for themselves in the terminal.

    • Nick says:

      Aren’t all the terminals connected airside at SFO? Certainly access to the Centurion in T3F is available from the International terminal because I’ve done it.

      • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

        No; that’s the one thar is connected by airside walkway but the others are not

  • Mark says:

    Mmmm. Was looking forward to trying out the IAD lounge in May. Looks like it will be the Air France-KLM Lounge now.

    Will be interesting to see if the LHR lounge is “opened up” it’s busy enough as it is!

    • Panda Mick says:

      Don’t think that you’ll be slumming it in an AF / KLM lounge. The KLM lounge ay AMS (or at least, once of them) is lovely and makes Galleries look quite poor in comparison.

      What is especially lovely is all the Delft (I wish I’d kept mine) houses on the way up the escalator….

      Sorry, drifted off there. AF and KLM are excellent…

    • memesweeper says:

      The IAD lounge had a much better menu than the average lounge, but it’s not a great space. It wouldn’t be a huge loss if it goes for good.

  • Chris W says:

    Virgin need a second lounge in LHR T3. Surely they have been planning for this?

    • AL says:

      Is there much space? You’ve got at least four Oneworld lounges (CX, BA, AA, QF), the Clubhouse, the Centurion lounge and two paid lounges (an Aspire and a something else). There’s probably things I’m missing, too.

      I agree they need to do something – but where?

  • WaynedP says:

    Currently enjoying Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Johannesburg Airport.

    Food is superb (just as it was in the LHR T3 Clubhouse last week) and service leaves nothing to be desired.

    Spoke with one of the two staff at entrance counter both wearing red Virgin Atlantic uniforms about “rumoured closure” of lounge and was emphatically reassured that it’s only a very temporary closure of one week for refurbishment and business as usual upon reopening.

    Of course staff on the ground may or may not be fully informed, and when I queried whether it really will be only one week for a full refurbishment there was a concession that it might drag on a bit longer, but only days, not weeks.

    And I was told that they will be open to receive guests tomorrow night (28th).

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