Is Virgin Atlantic's New Upgrade Service Right For You?

by  Alex Schechter | Jul 24, 2013
Virgin Atlantic Airways tailfin
Virgin Atlantic Airways tailfin / EdithRum/iStock

Nap. Read. Work. Eat. However you occupy your time at the airport, Virgin Atlantic has devised a new way to 'upgrade' your pre-flight experience. With its new "Guest List" package, Economy and Premium Economy passengers now have the option to pay extra for the same perks normally extended to Upper Class passengers.

The special treatment will cost you, though. On top of your airfare, rates for the "Guest List" package start at $384 – depending on how many chauffeurs you need...

That's right: private car service to and from the airport is included in the deal. Not bad at all, considering most of us lowly Economy passengers usually rely on subways and buses to get to the airport in a timely manner.

But chauffeur service is just the beginning for those who book the "Guest List" package: not only will a car transport you to the airport in style, but once you're there, you then breeze through security (private security channel at Heathrow; fast-track security in Gatwick, San Francisco, Boston and Wasington DC), have your bags checked as Upper Class, and then spend the next hour or two relaxing in one of Virgin's famed Clubhouses.

This is perhaps the most compelling reason for travelers to upgrade. Virgin has opened 7 Clubhouses in the US and UK , all of them featuring designer furniture, a bar, international newspapers and magazines, free food (the restaurant at Heathrow even serves something called "British tapas"), free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, the occasional spa, and plenty of cozy nooks to curl up in. Leaving could potentially prove difficult, especially because after all that that pampering, you still have to endure a trans-Atlantic flight in ho-hum Economy class (for actual Upper Class passengers, we assume the transition from lounge to airplane is less painful).

(It's worth noting the airline enforces a three-hour maximum limit on how long passengers can hang out in the Clubhouses. So if you do end up becoming Virgin's 'guest,' make sure to enjoy it while it lasts; once your three  hours are up, so too will Virgin's hospitality expire.)

The "Guest List" package is available to passengers flying in and out of London Heathrow, London Gatwick, New York JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, and San Francisco. Rates start at $384/passenger per car, though the package is only a one-way deal; so if you want to repeat all the fanciness on your return trip, you'll have to book it twice.

Meaning: if it's the Clubhouse, chauffeur, and fast track security you're after – and sitting in Economy won't come as a debilitating blow to your pride – then this package could be worth looking into. Even after booking a "Guest List" for both legs of your trip, plus your Economy airfare, that cost is likely to be several thousand dollars less than a full-blown Upper Class ticket. And if you stock up on food in the Clubhouse prior to boarding, you might be able to avoid the inferior Economy cuisine altogether.

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