Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses Cut Plaza Premium Access

The Virgin Atlantic & Plaza Premium partnership

In mid-2021, it was announced that most Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in the United States would start to be managed by Plaza Premium. Presumably this decision was motivated by a couple of factors:

  • It’s more efficient to have a company that specializes in lounges managing and staffing the lounge, rather than an airline trying to do it on its own
  • Plaza Premium could help with better monetizing Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, since there’s quite a bit of money to be made with lounges, especially in conjunction with premium credit cards

Up until recently, we saw all five Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in the United States offer access to non-Virgin Atlantic passengers through Plaza Premium, including the ones in:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington (IAD)

For those not familiar, Plaza Premium has a partnership with American Express and Capital One, meaning that those with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) could access these lounges.

What’s interesting is that this access wasn’t just offered at times when the lounge would otherwise be empty, but rather access was offered at the same time that Virgin Atlantic passengers would have access, including during peak evening hours.

Well, that’s now changing…

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses are managed by Plaza Premium

Plaza Premium loses access to US Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses

While Plaza Premium will continue to manage Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, those with Plaza Premium lounge access will no longer have access to most of these lounges:

  • The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) no longer offer access to Plaza Premium guests effective immediately
  • As of February 28, 2023, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in San Francisco (SFO) and Washington (IAD) will no longer offer access to Plaza Premium guests
  • That leaves the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Newark (EWR) as the only lounge that continue to be part of the Plaza Premium network

Not coincidentally, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t even fly to Newark anymore, so that Clubhouse is exclusively used as a contract lounge by other airlines. That also explains why the lounge continues to be part of Plaza Premium.

This really is a big disappointment for those with Plaza Premium lounge access. Plaza Premium lounges are much higher quality than other contract lounges, and the group has a lot of awesome lounges outside the United States. However, in the United States, Plaza Premium only has two of its own lounges, in Dallas (DFW) and Orlando (MCO).

So prior to this change, Plaza Premium guests had access to a total of seven lounges in the United States, while that number has now been reduced to three.

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Boston no longer offers Plaza Premium access

What’s the motivation for this policy change?

We can only speculate as to the motivation for this change, though I think it’s not too hard to make sense of what’s going on here. Virgin Atlantic presumably liked the revenue of having additional guests in its lounges, though I have to imagine it started to diminish the experience for Virgin Atlantic passengers too much.

Clubhouses aren’t huge, and when everyone with an Amex Platinum or Capital One Venture X has access to these lounges, it creates a tricky situation. It’s my understanding that some Clubhouses were starting to consistently turn away Plaza Premium guests certain hours of the day, and at some point that just makes it hard to manage expectations.

I mean, just look at the queues we regularly see at the Delta Sky Club JFK, and think about the fact that most of those people have Amex Platinums, and could also access the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

Back in the day, some Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses belonged to Priority Pass, but they were only open to those guests during hours where the lounge would otherwise be closed. It seems to me like that would be the correct play here, as it would allow Virgin Atlantic to maximize revenue while maintaining the experience for Virgin Atlantic guests.

Why not open these Clubhouses at hours where they’re currently closed, and open them up to Plaza Premium access then? That seems like a win-win.

Bottom line

Plaza Premium guests (including those with the Amex Platinum and Capital One Venture X) are losing access to most Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses. The BOS and JFK Clubhouses are no longer accessible via Plaza Premium, and the IAD and SFO Clubhouses will no longer be accessible via Plaza Premium as of February 28, 2023. That means that only the EWR Clubhouse continues to offer access through Plaza Premium.

While Plaza Premium continues to manage Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in the United States, I’m not surprised to see this change. I’m sure Virgin Atlantic appreciated the extra revenue, though I would imagine this all caused some crowding issues.

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