The Year of London
BY Matthew Breen
May 18 2012 8:00 AM ET
The Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at New York City's JFK Airport
Arrive in style via Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class service (VirginAtlantic.com). It’s hands-down the most stylish way to hop the pond. Sure, premium services are available on other airlines, but it seems that Virgin Atlantic, which recently unveiled its high-design new clubhouse at JFK, is having more fun doing it. The lounge has a gorgeous cloud-shaped bar, billiards table, club chairs, little cubbyhole hideaways, showers, Wi-Fi, and a full-service Bumble and Bumble spa offering hairstyling, facials, and massage. Full-fare food can be ordered at any seat in the lounge or in the brasserie.
A recent JFK-to-Heathrow flight in Upper Class featured immersive lie-flat pod seats, arranged in a herringbone pattern innovated by Virgin; seats are not, strictly speaking, next to or behind anyone. The footrests are fixed, so passengers can actually prop their feet up during takeoff and landing. Food and beverage service is nearly constant, and the dinner included an amuse-bouche, an appetizer, a main course, dessert (there was a nod to English cuisine with a sticky toffee pudding), a cheese cart, and a steady flow of cocktails, wine, and port. Some flights offer high tea as well. It’s a new service, and the cabin crew giggled their way through the tea, which involved assembling individual tier servers for the finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes. A staggering 68 films were available on the entertainment system, and flight attendants will help turn seats into lie-flat beds. Even prone, one can still view the entertainment system.
Those wishing to stretch out even further or chat with other passengers can visit the bar between Upper Class and Premium Economy. (A tip for work travelers: Premium Economy class seats are akin to other airlines’ business class seats, but the clever misnomer means that travelers can get away with buying an “economy” seat when their companies prohibit business class fares.) Heathrow features the flagship Virgin clubhouse, complete with Jacuzzi, and the Revivals Lounge at Heathrow makes showers and meals available to arriving passengers before they leave the airport. The Upper Class service also offers optional limousine transfers to and from the airport as well as expedited check-in and security screenings, making the whole your-door-to-London-hotel experience about as easy and pampered as it gets.