by Lisa Agasee
Life these days seems to be all about rushing from A to B. When it comes to travelling, the need to save time and feel as though you have started your holiday before you even get to the airport is something of a luxury. Anything that enhances your complete holiday or business travel experience is a necessity, in my opinion. Full marks, therefore, to Virgin Atlantic, for throwing open the doors of its award-winning Upper Class ground service to passengers in all classes, with the launch of Guest List. Those booked in the Economy and Premium Economy cabins can now share the benefits enjoyed by Upper class travellers. It’s the perfect treat, because you’re worth it, or makes a unique honeymoon gift.
As I was travelling to New York for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t wait to experience the Guest List for myself.
My luxury travel experience began with the prompt arrival of Mike, my driver from Tristar Chauffeur Services. He was extremely courteous, even carrying my suitcase down from my 2nd floor flat, which I would normally have to struggle with on my own. I relaxed into the leather seats as we sped towards Heathrow. On arrival, instead of joining the throng of vehicles clamouring for a space outside the check-in areas, we diverted to a special entrance via a barrier which led to what resembled a private pod at the Upper Class Wing drop-off. A Virgin Atlantic hostess in customary red uniform was already waiting by the kerbside to meet me. I was ushered inside to a quiet waiting area reminiscent of a five star hotel, and invited to wait on a leather sofa while my speedy check-in was taken care of. Even my luggage got the Guest List treatment when it was tagged as Upper Class and whisked away, avoiding completely the usual stress of hauling it onto the scales and wishing I hadn’t packed all the extra shoes. On the contrary, the procedure was a pleasure. It was quick, effortless and hassle-free, with no queuing or waiting around. One of the things I dread most at airports is long lines waiting for security checks. Being zoomed through private fast-track security really made me feel like a VIP. I marvelled at how swift the whole process was. It cut my travelling time in half.
I was looking forward to spending as much pre-flight time as possible in the award- winning flagship Virgin Clubhouse for the ultimate pre-board experience. You can enter via a grand staircase or take the private lift (with its leather covered seat) up one floor to be welcomed at the concierge desk. I was then escorted into the inner sanctum. This being my first visit, I had a real head-swivelling moment as I wondered what to check out first.
The Clubhouse has been designed to resemble a private members’ club. With its cool, stylish décor, it certainly fits the description. There is no need to worry about being able to find somewhere to relax as there are more than enough seats to suit all shapes and sizes. Nor do you have to sit on top of your fellow passengers, you can enjoy your own space. A large open-plan area is filled with leather sofas, bucket chairs and sunken ’70s-style seating areas, where passengers tap away on their laptops and tablets, oblivious of the throng. One of the Lounge’s most impressive features is a fully-stocked, 14ft cocktail bar offering everything from classic beverages to classy cocktails. Beyond the bar lie private areas where you can send last-minute emails and surf the internet using Virgin’s complimentary Wifi service.
I headed straight for the informal Brasserie to sample some of the ‘lite bites’, as I never like to fly on a full stomach. I chose a basic fruit salad and a pear, stilton, walnut and chicory salad. There is also a hot and cold bar as well as a Deli offering a light new food alternative with fresh produce and daily specials with a 7 metre long marble clad table for diners.
From my table, I surveyed the rest of the lounge: the Den, with pool table and retro video games consoles; an entertainment area featuring state-of-the-art HD-TV system; The Office and Library, equipped with eight business stations, fax machines, telephones, printers, photocopiers and library with antique refectory table (which has been retained from the previous Clubhouse and which hailed originally from Sir Richard Branson’s house); the Spa, with pool, sauna, steam rooms and showers, and a poolside lounge, complete with ceiling-to-floor Japanese water wall flowing gently into the pool, helping passengers to relax even more. Treatments include facials, manicures and massage; the Playground, a children’s activity centre stocked with the latest games, toys and dedicated children’s television; and the piece-de-resistance of the Clubhouse: the Grey Goose Loft Bar, a hideaway mezzanine at the top of a white staircase serving world-class vodka cocktails where you can watch the planes take off through full width sloping windows under a dramatic skylight. You can even indulge your sweet tooth at the old fashioned sweet station for kids and adults alike.
At the far end of the lounge is a Bumble & Bumble hair salon, where you can even get a last-minute haircut before you board. I was escorted to the Dr Hauschka beauty room where I enjoyed a relaxing shoulder, neck and head massage by therapist Kerry. She offered me relaxing lavender or uplifting lemongrass oil to inhale (I chose the latter) before expertly kneading away the knots. As soon as the citrusy aroma filled my nostrils I began to perk up, and felt the early morning fatigue evaporate.
There is so much to do in the Clubhouse, you might not feel inclined to relax when you arrive. It is the kind of place where you can forget the outside world. It is well worth arriving at the airport extra early, just to try out the facilities.
I just had time to answer a few urgent emails before it was time to board. I simply headed for the gate, floated onto the aircraft, took my seat in Premium Economy, closed my eyes and relived my luxurious morning. Every girl needs to be on this Guest List.
Guest List is available at the following airports: London Gatwick, London Heathrow, New York JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington and San Francisco.
For further information or to book please visit Virgin Atlantic, log onto www.virginatlantic.com or call 0844 20 92 770.