Originally published in the June 2009 issue of The Advocate.
If i had to guess what purgatory is like?based solely on my experiences here on earth -- I?d skip over all references in religion and literature (sorry, Dante) and draw direct comparisons to the DMV, jury duty, and airport layovers. And while Iknow of no way to sidestep the hell that is standing in line for a driver?s license or waiting to see if you?ve been picked for a jury (short of breaking the law and/or shirking your duties as a responsible citizen), I?ve found the quickest way to heaven next time you?re stuck at London?s Heathrow Airport. It?s called the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
Virgin Atlantic has Clubhouses in 10 airports around the world (and shares first-class lounges with other airlines at 20 other airports), but there?s something uniquely spectacular about the 8,200-square-foot Heathrow space. It starts with the aesthetic?the same mid-century, space-age, swinger stylishness that the international carrier and its sister airline in the States, Virgin America, are known for. But as the dozens of caramel-colored Eames lounge chairs, Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs, and classic Eero Aarnio hanging Bubble chairs attest, this isn?t reproduction chic. No expense was spared in furnishing this space, and, unlike so many conference room?like first-class lounges, the Heathrow Clubhouse isn?t just equipped for conducting business while you wait for your next flight;it?s designed to make you forget that you?re at an airport altogether.
The delightful deception begins as soon as you park yourself in one of the seating areas, when you?re almost immediately greeted by a member of the waitstaff, who not only tells you how to connect to the complimentary Wi-Fi and points out the power outlets (American, even) next to almost every chair but also gives you the full menu of food options, which are also available (free of charge) in the Clubhouse?s full-service restaurant, the Brasserie, and the Cocktail Bar. If you?re on the run or just in the mood for something a bit more casual, check out the deli, where you can pick up a made-to-order sandwich or salad.