When the Kenya Airways 787 arrived at the gate at OR Tambo International (JNB), I had about 55 minutes before the Air France flight to Paris was scheduled to begin boarding. Considering the time required for security and passport control, I didn’t have a lot of hope for visiting a lounge.
The lack of time wasn’t a huge disappointment because the Air France lounge that I’d visited years before at JNB was closed permanently. Passengers on SkyTeam airlines had to use the SLOW Lounge. I didn’t know much about that lounge. I figured I’d just skip it and get ready to board.
But on the way to the gate I caught a glimpse of a Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Virgin Atlantic has outstanding lounges. If this lounge was anything like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in London Heathrow and Hong Kong I fondly remembered from eight years ago, getting in would be worth it. The London Heathrow Clubhouse was comparable to a first class lounge in many ways. Security and passport control had been a lot faster than I anticipated.
So with a little extra time to kill, I popped the speed brakes and went up for a look see. In 2021, Plaza Premium, a leader in airport hospitality services with a worldwide network of lounges and other services, began managing Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse locations outside of the United Kingdom. I wondered if Plaza Premium was upholding Virgin Clubhouse standards.
The lounge is located airside (after security) on the mezzanine level above the international retail area.
Because Virgin Atlantic lounges are top of the class, they have gotten harder to get in over the years. According to the Virgin Atlantic website, entry is restricted to passengers on a Virgin Atlantic operated flight who are:
- travelling in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold members and PPS card holders
- Virgin Australia Velocity Club Gold card holders
- Virgin Australia Velocity Club Platinum card holders, or
- Virgin Australia Velocity The Club card holders.
So how did I get in? I didn’t fall into any of those categories. Initially, I tried to gain entry with status as a SkyTeam Elite Plus traveler on Air France. The agent at reception was unimpressed. As I started to walk away, he mentioned Amex Platinum card holders could get in. Bingo!
Thankfully, my card was in my wallet. I presented it to the agent and was ushered in. Nevertheless, I doubt that the Amex Platinum card issued in the U.S. is the card that actually provides access here. This situation was reminiscent of the Wonderful But Mysterious VIP Lounge BAC Credomatic in San Jose, Costa Rica where I gained entrance to the lounge through what was likely a case of credit card mistaken identity.
This lounge is an atypical Clubhouse in several ways. I’ve visited. It consists of a single rectangular room with a small loft. The parquet floor seemed to be the most distinctive design feature.
Although the lounge offers little private space, seating was very comfortable, electrical outlets were plentiful and the wifi worked well.
Most importantly, this lounge upheld the standard of culinary excellence established by larger and fancier Clubhouses. Wait staff delivered a menu shortly after I sat down. Food service is strictly a la carte. There was no buffet.
These are the lunch and dinner menus from the Virgin Atlantic website. There was an outstanding selection to choose from.
Staff also took orders for beverages or guests could sit at the bar.
The selection of beverages featured a choice of fine South African wine and beer.
Those who arrive before noon choose from a selection of breakfast delights.
I wanted to try a small plate, large plate and a desert but had time for only one. I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the ostrich fillet. I’d never tasted ostrich. This dish was described on the menu as Ostrich fillet butternut polenta, cranberry jus, ostrich biltong dust.
This ostrich fillet was probably the most flavorful, juiciest and tenderest steak I can recall having.
After the quick repast and a single malt scotch, I took a peek at one of the lounge showers on the way out. It was small but had all necessities required to freshen and recharge weary travelers before a long international flight.
While this small lounge lacked some of the facilities and services of other Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, the quality of the food and staff service equaled or exceeded the food and service of the vast majority of other business class lounges I’ve tried. Ordering food and beverages from an a la carte menu rather than a buffet not only enhanced the quality of the food, it also maximized the time I had with my laptop. I wish I’d had more time to spend in this Clubhouse and hope to have the chance to visit again.
Thanks for reading. If you have an interest, please view any of the other posts from the flights, nights, sights and lounges of a spectacular Kenya trip in May 2022.
Air France 777-300 Business Class Johannesburg, South Africa to Paris, France
Air France 787-9 Business Class Paris, France to Dallas, TX
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse – Johannesburg, South Africa
Air France Lounge Terminal 2E Hall K, Charles de Gaulle International Airport Paris