Virgin America First Class Passengers Can *Buy* lounge Access.. And Why They Should!

One Mile at a Time reports that Virgin America passengers flying paid first class from San Francisco can now use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse there.. for an additional $40.

Naturally, a move to charge folks flying in paid first class for lounge access will seem strange to many. But since most US airlines don’t offer lounge access for paid domestic first class tickets (Alaska Airlines is one exception), since the price of a one-way first class ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles isn’t especially high, and since the Virgin Clubhouse is a rather nice lounge by US standards, this seems more than reasonable to me.

I’ll be visiting the Virgin Clubhouse at Washington-Dulles for the first time in a few weeks, I understand that it’s rather underwhelming for a Virgin lounge but still the nicest on offer at Dulles. It has showers, a full menu, bar, Playstation, DVD library, computers, and dart board.

This will be my first visit to a Virgin Clubhouse. A well-regarded architect that I know described his recent visit to their flagship location at Heathrow thusly:

This place is too cool to describe – an architect’s dream of Platner, Eames, Corbusier and Austin Powers. Floating ceilings with indirect lighting, a sixty foot long bar with backlit onyx top, pool tables, flat screens, saunas, waiters and waitresses buzzing about taking your drink or food order wherever you sit. There is a spa with 4 very busy hairdressers.

Even if the San Francisco lounge is a far cry from Heathrow, it will still offer a proper meal and a nice place to relax prior to boarding. Certainly $40 isn’t crazy considering that American charges $50 for a day pass to its Admiral’s Club lounges and that only gets you access to .. an Admiral’s Club. No meal served there (except for those nasty sandwiches they will sell you).

The one downside to the Virgin Clubhouse in San Francisco – and this is a serious drawback – is that the lounge is ‘landside’ (i.e. prior to security) so passengers need to leave (a variable and somewhat unpredictable) amount of time to clear the TSA checkpoint.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, I think you mean to say the clubhouse is “landside” (prior to security), not “airside” (which would be behind security).

    Given what they offer, I agree the charge is more than reasonable in comparison to what others charge for daypasses.

    Then again, the SFO international terminal itself is rather nice, so I probably wouldn’t bother paying unless had a long layover (or delayed flight).

  2. The queues at SFO international terminal security are not too bad most of the day.

    Enjoy the clubhouse – I’m looking forward to my next visit to the one at JFK.

  3. There is no Virgin America lounge. It is a lie. There is a Virgin Atlantic lounge that Virgin America first class passangars can use. Problem is Virgin America does not fly at the same time as Virgin Atlantic. So, you guessed it, when you want to use the Virgin lounge it is closed. I am stuck at SFO, because I thought that I could use the lounge before boarding my red-eye to NY. Turns out it is closed in SFO for the night and will be closed In JFK when I get there. So no shower for me. Also, Virgin America’s staff could not be less helpful. I encountered some of the rudest, nastiest people when I tried to call and complain about this

  4. I have to agree with LAB after an 11 hour Singapore airlines flight, whose lounge in Hong Kong doesn’t have toilets let alone a shower, very dissapointing to learn Virgin America is pretty backwards when it comes to lookng after brand loyal travellers.

    Not only did the checkin girl laugh at me when I asked where the lounge is, she then asked me to pay for luggage! When I queried why would you charge a Virgin Australia Gold member for luggage she had no idea what I was talking about…or there was a reciprocal FF program….or possibly a land mass called Australia for that matter. In end she just wavied me on without payng….the path of least resistance.

    Anyway pretty underwhelming experience vastly improved by a great beer and a decent cobb salad at Lark Creek Grill…kudos

    The Hard Word

  5. I’m so happy to be part of passengers visiting the clubhouse, I can’t wait to wait for my flight in the comfort of a lounge.

  6. We’re flying SFO to JFK on Virgin America in April as full fare paying first class customers. I’ve never had to pay to use a lounge after paying considerably more for my seat. Not impressed.

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