Pelotons and planespotting: Inside the reopening of Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow Terminal 3 and refreshed Clubhouse
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After 450 long days of closure, London Heathrow’s Terminal 3 threw its doors open to the public once again on Thursday morning. On its first day back in its original home after a stint in Terminal 2, Virgin Atlantic had 11 passenger flights and eight cargo flights depart on Thursday from Terminal 3.
Not only was the terminal open again and passengers finally started to fill the departure halls, but there was also the return of what was already one of the best business-class lounges in the world: the Virgin Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse provides access to Upper Class passengers and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members, amongst others, and is back with some further exciting improvements. TPG’s Liam Spencer and I were invited along on Thursday to visit Virgin’s revamped flagship lounge.
We arrived via the Virgin Upper Class Wing, which includes a private check-in area with its own dropoff and entrance. After ogling at the giant plane models, we were whisked through security and into the main departure hall of Terminal 3.
Duty-free and other shops were all open again, but with few flights departing today, the usual bustle of this terminal wasn’t quite back.
It’s a short walk through the terminal to the area that houses a plethora of lounges, including TPG staff favorites the Qantas and Cathay Pacific lounges. The Virgin Clubhouse does hold a special allure, however.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and right away, it was exciting to see real passengers enjoying the Clubhouse. Adding to the buzz, there was a crew present shooting for the popular ITV show “Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport.” Keep an eye on future episodes to perhaps catch a glimpse of one of our team!
The Clubhouse has returned with a full food and beverage offering, and the deli bar is back. However, all ordering is via mobile by scanning a QR code placed on each table. In the usual cheeky Virgin Atlantic style, the QR codes tempt passengers with the instruction “Scan for Champagne.”
Other improvements to the Clubhouse include some swanky new furniture like the plush pink bar stools, an area for selfies that will rotate in theme and style and some fantastic digital imagery from Richard Branson’s space flight on the walls of the mezzanine by the pool table. My personal favorite spot in the lounge — the roof terrace with its fantastic views — is also back open.
There are still some further improvements to come. The Spa is not back quite yet and Virgin says it is finalizing a pop-up zone with a snooze area and other treats.
The real showstopper though is the addition of three Peloton bikes, all positioned with a perfect view over the tarmac. Clubhouse guests can now get their sweat on, watching Virgin Atlantic planes arrive and depart at the Terminal 3 gates, as well as watch over the runway and the Heathrow control tower.
The staff said that five passengers had used the Peloton bikes Thursday morning and later boarded the first flight out to JFK. Virgin said it is looking into providing clothing for those who fancy a last-minute workout and confirmed that the showers are already open.
The addition of the Peloton bikes is a fantastic step forward for the lounge, especially for passengers that might be transiting through Heathrow with a long layover. Having this sort of facility has put Virgin Atlantic ahead of the game in London and will hopefully encourage other airlines to further improve their airport offerings.
Virgin is hopeful that the opening up of transatlantic travel will secure its future. The Clubhouse would certainly see an influx of passengers if a travel corridor was to open up between the U.S. and the U.K.
Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Customer and Operating Officer Corneel Koster told TPG that the industry was frustrated by the flip-flopping of the U.K. government’s travel policies. He said with aviation making up 4.5% of GDP, it’s essential to rebuilding the economy.
Virgin is asking the government to add further countries to the green list, imploring the United States to allow Brits in and urging the government to fully open up travel for vaccinated customers traveling on low-risk routes to low-risk countries.
Overall, however, it’s a great step back to normality for Virgin Atlantic to return to its home in Heathrow Terminal 3. The airline utilized the downtime during the pandemic to refresh its already-great Clubhouse, which will offer travelers a top-notch flying experience.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.
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