Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses Now Managed By Plaza Premium

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses Now Managed By Plaza Premium

13

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a management change happening for Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses outside of the UK. These have historically been some of the best business class lounges out there. There’s now an interesting update, which has some practical implications.

Plaza Premium takes over Virgin Atlantic lounges

Virgin Atlantic and Plaza Premium have a new partnership, whereby Plaza Premium has taken over management of Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses outside the United Kingdom, “under the guidance of the Virgin Atlantic team.”

Specifically:

  • The New York (JFK) Clubhouse has reopened and is now managed by Plaza Premium
  • Plaza Premium will also manage Clubhouses in Boston (BOS), San Francisco (SFO), Washington (IAD), and Johannesburg (JNB), once they reopen
  • Clubhouses in the United Kingdom (including the flagship Heathrow Clubhouse, which recently reopened) will continue to be managed directly by Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic promises that “customers will continue to enjoy the Clubhouse experience they know and love,” and that “Plaza Premium group will bring a wealth of experience to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse offering.”

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Boston (BOS)

Is this change a big deal?

On the surface this change doesn’t sound good to me, at least for Virgin Atlantic passengers who are eligible for lounge access:

  • Presumably Virgin Atlantic handed over management of Clubhouses either to cut costs or to maximize revenue from the lounges, and that’s typically not good for the guest experience
  • Historically I’ve found that Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses have had exceptionally friendly service, and one wonders if that will be the case when the whole lounge management is handed over to another company
  • Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses have offered excellent a la carte dining and cocktails, so I worry that there may be significant cost cutting there
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses offer a la carte dining

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK opens to Plaza Premium

It was clear from the beginning that one potential play here could involve trying to maximize revenue from non-Virgin Atlantic customers. Historically we’ve seen some Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses join Priority Pass during non-peak hours (this is separate from Plaza Premium, and the two companies have mostly cut ties), with a reduced food & drink selection. Since many Clubhouses have only historically been open for a few hours per day, this allowed some additional revenue at times when lounges would otherwise be closed and empty.

Well, there’s an update on that front. As of August 1, 2021, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK has joined Plaza Premium. Obviously the lounge has already been managed by Plaza Premium for a couple of weeks, but as of today it’s formally part of the Plaza Premium network. A few things to note:

  • The lounge is accessible through Plaza Premium daily from 4:30AM until 8:00AM, and from 2:30PM until 9:30PM, which overlaps with when Virgin Atlantic guests can use the lounge
  • Plaza Premium is selling lounge access over these times; the Amex Platinum also offers access to Plaza Premium lounges for free (with one guest), and I’m working on explicitly confirming that this applies to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse as well (I don’t yet see the lounge listed on Amex’s Global Lounge Collection site, but it often takes a while for that to update)
  • Plaza Premium guests enjoy all of the same amenities as other guests, including a la carte dining, cocktails, etc.

So yeah, this is a pretty major development. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is opening to non-Virgin Atlantic guests not during off-peak hours, but rather during peak hours. The lounge is either about to be severely overcrowded, or serious capacity controls will need to be put into place.

Then again, for those who get in when not flying Virgin Atlantic, well, they should be in for a treat.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York (JFK)

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses outside of the UK are now being managed by Plaza Premium. Given how good these lounges have historically been, I can’t help but be a bit worried about the implications of this on the guest experience.

So far the JFK Clubhouse is the only one that’s open, and it looks like that’s now starting to open to Plaza Premium guests, possibly even those with the Amex Platinum. What’s interesting is that this access is being granted at the same time as Virgin Atlantic flights, rather than when the lounge would otherwise be closed.

What do you make of this Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Plaza Premium development?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Pat

    Hopefully Virgin Atlantic monitor lounge utilisation as a result of these changes. People ultimately do pay money to fly a specific airlines like Virgin Atlantic for the inflight and pre-flight experience. If business class and high status passengers get a mediocre / poor pre-flight experience, they may shift business elsewhere. Frankly I was unimpressed with the IAD lounge about 1.5 years ago. It was a poor setup a d cramped compared to other int'l carrier...

    Hopefully Virgin Atlantic monitor lounge utilisation as a result of these changes. People ultimately do pay money to fly a specific airlines like Virgin Atlantic for the inflight and pre-flight experience. If business class and high status passengers get a mediocre / poor pre-flight experience, they may shift business elsewhere. Frankly I was unimpressed with the IAD lounge about 1.5 years ago. It was a poor setup a d cramped compared to other int'l carrier lounges at IAD. Not sure if it was managed by Virgin Atlantic then or outsourced.

  2. Paul

    I think this will be a downgrade in quality. Cathay replaced Plaza Premium when customers complained about quality.

  3. Raymond

    My personal favorite is still the clubhouse at London Heathrow. Outside of the UK, the clubhouse experience is rather underwhelming.
    LAX is at the bottom of the line up.

  4. hartd8

    The Virgin Lounges used to be great for the Food choices and the Champagne

  5. ChrisC

    I picked a random date.

    Cost is $68.58 on the Plaza Premium website for 3 hour maximum visit

  6. Weymar Osborne

    I don't necessarily think that this is indicative of downgrades to the passenger experience. VS can presumably save some money by handing over management to a company that already have lots of lounges and take advantage of efficiencies of their staff and management network rather than having to have their own staff just for a few locations. Honestly, I'm surprised with they bother with lounges in the US at all since New York and Boston...

    I don't necessarily think that this is indicative of downgrades to the passenger experience. VS can presumably save some money by handing over management to a company that already have lots of lounges and take advantage of efficiencies of their staff and management network rather than having to have their own staff just for a few locations. Honestly, I'm surprised with they bother with lounges in the US at all since New York and Boston are both Delta Hubs with nice SkyClubs and San Francisco and Washington both have Air-France/KLM lounges

    1. Eskimo

      I assume you've never been inside a Virgin Atlantic clubhouse before and assumes lounges are similar.
      Your last sentence is like comparing Alaska Airlines First Class with Emirates First Class.

  7. INS Vikrant

    Plaza premium lounges suck because of Priority Pass / volume.

    May not be so bad without PP.

    1. Eskimo

      Play your part to society.
      Why don't you stop using PP lounges forever, so others can have some extra space to enjoy them.

    2. INS Vikrant

      Eskimo - do your part to society by doing these.

Featured Comments Load all 13 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Paul

I think this will be a downgrade in quality. Cathay replaced Plaza Premium when customers complained about quality.

Pat

Hopefully Virgin Atlantic monitor lounge utilisation as a result of these changes. People ultimately do pay money to fly a specific airlines like Virgin Atlantic for the inflight and pre-flight experience. If business class and high status passengers get a mediocre / poor pre-flight experience, they may shift business elsewhere. Frankly I was unimpressed with the IAD lounge about 1.5 years ago. It was a poor setup a d cramped compared to other int'l carrier lounges at IAD. Not sure if it was managed by Virgin Atlantic then or outsourced.

Joe

Lax is now a Delta SC

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