Virgin America has just opened their first lounge at LAX, named the “Virgin America Loft.” The lounge is in terminal three and the former Alaska Airlines Board Room. It’s open daily from 6AM till 11:30PM. This lounge seems to be an attempt to replicate the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse concept (I’ve reviewed the ones in London, New York, and San Francisco), which is impressive for a domestic airline.

The lounge features free wifi, food, and drinks. Per Virgin America’s website, here’s the food menu in the lounge:

And the drink menu:

The lounge looks awesome (especially for a domestic one), doesn’t it? But I think it’s also where Virgin America completely misses the boat, which seems to happen often with them. Much like their planes, they’ll have the shiniest, nicest domestic airline lounge, without a system behind it that makes sense. Let me explain.

There are two ways to get access. You can purchase a day pass for $40 if you’re flying on Virgin America, or Virgin America Elevate Gold members receive threee passes annually, while Silver members receive two passes annually. That’s it.

I recently status matched to Vigin America Elevate Gold, so got a free lounge pass invitation via email:

The thing they apparently don’t get is that you can’t build a lounge around one day passes, especially for a domestic airline. Aside from visiting the lounge for the novelty factor, how many people arrive at an airport early enough so that it’s worth paying $40 for lounge access? I’d need at least a two hour layover in order for it to be remotely worthwhile to pay that, and given that Virgin America doesn’t have many connecting passengers in Los Angeles (a lot more go through San Francisco), I’m not sure who shows up over three hours before departure for a domestic flight.

They could have added value to the lounge for premium passengers by maybe giving paid first class transcon passengers access so that they can somewhat compete with American, Delta, and United on the Los Angeles to New York route. Or they should join a program like Priority Pass, where they can at least get some extra revenue out of the lounge. Or they should actually sell memberships, as that’s something that would likely drive a lot more loyalty among business travelers. You don’t just want lounge access when you get to the airport way early, but I think the real value in lounges for frequent flyers is the ability to catch up on email in a quiet environment for 15-20 minutes before boarding. And it actually drives loyalty to the airline, since if you pay for a membership you actually want to fly the airline so you get value out of it.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh and some of this stuff is in the works. Then again, given that they’ve yet to turn a profit maybe their current model is indeed how they plan on keeping it, which wouldn’t surprise me.

  1. December 13th, 2012 at 1:08 am

    David said,

    Ben, how’s this for perhaps making Virgin America frequent flyers feel a tad p*ssed on and passed over: Gold and Platinum members of Virgin Australia’s Velocity frequent flyer scheme get access to The Loft free of charge – no passes, no $40, just flash the plastic if you’re flying with either VA or VX and in you go! Virgin America PR confirmed that with us today (see http://www.ausbt.com.au/photo-tour-inside-virgin-america-s-swanky-new-loft-lounge-at-lax).

  2. December 13th, 2012 at 2:39 am

    BrewerSEA said,

    I’ll try to use my new VX Gold one-use at the tail-end of an upcoming SEA-LAX VX flight I’ve booked, but I still have DJ gold as a soft-landing from the platinum they matched me to last year so will have access whenever I’m flying ex-LAX on VX (probably once more…or never).

  3. December 13th, 2012 at 3:43 am

    David said,

    So it’s really a combined VX/VA lounge that serves a function as an international business lounge that some domestic passengers can use. That sounds like a viable business model.

    At the end of the day, VX is a “new age” carrier along the lines of what VA used to be. They don’t want to offer a real elite program – it isn’t part of their being. This lounge is just an extra that they get to run to provide a suitable lounge to VA while driving some ancillary revenue.

  4. December 13th, 2012 at 5:22 am

    points loverrrrrrr said,

    All – For clarification, will I be able to access this lounge if flying Virgin Australia in Biz – but without any status? (I believe that previously Virgin Australia used a contract lounge that didn’t look that impressive). Thanks!

  5. December 13th, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Golfingboy said,

    A large chunk of the revenue will come from Virgin Australia Business Class passengers and elites. When AS operated the Boardroom, they had a contract with DJ.

    The lounge is pretty small, but I think they will eventually include full fare F customers for lounge admission once they have a better idea of the daily usage.

  6. December 13th, 2012 at 7:56 am

    JW said,

    The lounge was the old Alaska One in T3 at LAX, now it was Virgin Australia and has been re-signaged just to be Virgin America (although I don’t know why they didn’t just call it Virgin in general). Is there access to this via any other non-First/Business Australia or Paid/Day Pass America?

  7. December 13th, 2012 at 7:56 am

    JW said,

    And also, what is Virgin’s policy on Million Mile members of AA and status matching that to any of there levels?

  8. December 13th, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Kris Ziel said,

    If I have a few hour layover at LAX, could I buy a fully refundable ticket on VX, get into the lounge (VX Silver from status match), and cancel the ticket once in the lounge? Not familiar with other airline’s policies on cancellation after checkin.

  9. December 13th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    lucky said,

    @ JW — They should status match million miler at whatever your lifetime status level is.

    @ Kris Ziel — The canceling after check-in thing shouldn’t be an issue, though if I’m not mistaken Virgin America doesn’t have traditionally refundable tickets. Instead refundable tickets simply post as a credit. Though I could be wrong.

  10. December 13th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    lucky said,

    @ points loverrrrrrr — You should be able to. I wasn’t initially aware that this is also a Virgin Australia lounge. Makes a lot more sense now.

  11. January 11th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    John said,

    Using the lounge today before a VA flight to Sydney. Very crowded with few seats available and some actually standing. At one point the attendants were walking aound asking for available seats. The food selection is better than most domestic lounges in the form of pre packaged salads and sushi. I also have not been able to connect to the internet which I think is due to the current volume of use. This could be a great space if it were bigger or weren’t so crowded.

  12. January 13th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Faye said,

    Visits the Lounge to check it out today, they are at capacity and no room to sit. Nice lounge, but way way too small. Food selection is excellent.

  13. August 11th, 2013 at 3:31 am

    Miguel Sanchez said,

    The VA lounge is crap…at least for those of us traveling internationally (was there for a Virgin Australia flight), basically an empty room with not enough chairs, a bar and a big screen tv. Walk on over to the Emirates lounge to see what’s what.

  14. January 23rd, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Thrifty Tourist said,

    Virgin America took your advice. They now accept priority pass members!

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