Whoever said that hell is other people had clearly never been in an airport. It’s airports that are the real hell, whether they’re filled with other people or not (and they always are, too, crammed with a teeming crush of unwashed masses). Adding insult to injury, we have to spend seemingly ever-expanding amounts of time in these places, required to arrive an hour, then two, and now three before our international flights. And that’s before the invariable delay. No quantity of duty free Champagne and cigarettes will ever make that okay.
We can, however, take both some solace and reasonable refuge in airlines’ top-class lounges, which these days seem to be constantly increasing in quality and quantity.
One of the latest landings in this field is Virgin’s new Upper Class Clubhouse at New York’s JFK, where a fleet of one-of-a-kind amenities make up for the myriad indignities perpetrated against us by rubber-gloved TSA personnel and other huddled airport masses yearning to breathe free. Here, the top five reasons the Clubhouse makes an early airport arrival advisable.
Designer Drinks on the House: Cocktails make everything better, whether you’re a nervous flier, someone who needs to give their Ambien a little extra help or just a social alcoholic. The bar at the Clubhouse does dozens of specialty drinks, many designed just for the JFK location, not least of all the Virgin Redhead—a potable of muddled raspberries, cassis, framboise, fresh lemon juice and Bombay Sapphire Gin topped with prosecco.
Haute Pub Grub: Maybe you missed The Breslin during your time in town or the wait at the Spotted Pig was too long for you to grab some gastropub fare to go. Fear not. Virgin’s spun out some novel takes on elevated Anglo classics that might even make April Bloomfield take notice. (The company’s corporate chef, Mark Murphy, hails from Michelin-starred Ockendon Manor.) The Brooklyn Steak and Ale Pie has proven most popular so far. Traditionally English with a New York twist, it’s made with Brooklyn Ale, baked in an enamel pie dish and, in a nod to the old English nursery rhyme, pierced with a ceramic blackbird that stares up at you from the flakey crust.
Swoon-Worthy Spa Services: We appreciate that air on planes is pressurized for our breathing pleasure, of course, but does it really have to be so dry? Even Virgin’s new Upper Class cabins haven’t managed to correct this problem, but the therapies created just for the JFK Clubhouse by Virgin and beauty brand Dr. Hauschka go a long way towards protecting your epidermis before you board. The perhaps-too-tweely-named “Radiant You” facial cleans, hydrates and and moisturizes in easy-to-manage express (15 minutes) or long (half hour) increments. You can book a treatment ahead of time, or just show up looking a mess and someone’s bound to take pity on you.
Blow Outs and Trim Ups: Virgin’s brought beloved brand Bumble and bumble to JFK as the only such salon in any Stateside lounge. Treatments here—the most popular combo includes a shampoo, hair treatment application and scalp massage—keep manes looking magnificent through even the most harrowing of transatlantic flights. (Otherwise, that dry plane air sucks the moisture out of your hair just as quickly as it does your skin.)
Conversation Nooks and Canoodling Corners: The New York-based firm Slade Architecture designed the 10,000-square-foot Clubhouse not just to be a lounge but to encourage lounging everywhere you look. There’s a sunken conversation pit-style seating in one area, more business-friendly booths in others and, perhaps best of all, a sofa in the so-called “Entertainment Zone” that looks like it’s made entirely of Virgin-red leather softballs. To sit (or lie down) here is to receive the DIY back massage of your life. But don’t get too comfortable, or you just might miss your flight. And while Upper Class passengers are entitled to free Virgin-organized ground transportation to the airport, they don’t get it back home just because they dozed off during boarding.