You don't have to fly business to get VIP treatment

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Virgin Holidays is the first British tour operator to offer its customers a dedicated lounge. Kate Simon takes a look round

Todd, Will and Jack are overwhelmed – they're at risk of overdosing on fun. What first? Thrash Dad at table football? Thumb wars on PlayStation? Plane-spotting through the telescope? Or how about a romp around the soft-play area?

The three youngsters were among the first customers to test out Virgin Holidays' new V Room, which opened last Sunday at Gatwick Airport. The lounge is to be offered exclusively to Virgin Holidays customers – across the classes of travel – taking trips to Florida, Las Vegas and the Caribbean, and is the first such dedicated venue to be offered by a British tour operator.

The boys' mum, Susan Inglis, had paid £60 to gain access for her family of five – £15 per adult and £10 per child over three years – but felt it was "worth every penny". She said: "There's so much for the kids, they don't know what to do first. Plus we've got access to free food and drink and I can check my eBay."

The Inglis family were in the lounge staving off the boredom of a long delay to their flight to Barbados – they had only found out about the new facility at check in. But while passes can be obtained on the day – subject to availability – for such an eventuality, or just through sheertardiness, the purpose of the V Room is to offer added value to the Virgin Holidays product. The company hopes customers will buy into the idea at the point of booking their holidays.

Alison Smith, senior new business development manager for Virgin Holidays, sees the project, which the company has been working on for more than 18 months, as a valuable extra service that could keep customers coming back for more.

"We decided we needed to do something innovative – new and quirky – to make us stand out from our competitors and give our customers something with a loyalty factor to show them we value their custom," she said.

The V Room, which occupies a space on the fifth floor of the South Terminal that was once home to Continental Airlines' lounge, owes more than a nod to Virgin Atlantic's executive Clubhouses. The same designers, W1, have been employed to give the 7,340sq ft space, with dual-aspect views of the airfield, a characteristically funky look, with bold colours, bright murals and eyecatching decorative touches.

Up to 180 people can be hosted in the lounge, which is split into adult and child-friendly sections, with communal eating and seating available in between. At one end is the Tech Zone, equipped with table football, PlayStations and computer terminals, and the soft-play area. At the other is a quieter area with a bar, from which children are banned, where adults can browse through free magazines and access the internet in peace.

Deals with other brands have been an important part of the project, which has cost Virgin Holidays £2m. The decor of the soft-play area has a sea theme, with waves and marine creatures adorning the play furniture and Lego wall – its sponsor is the cruise line NCL. And a Twister mat in the corner forgoes the familiar brightly coloured spots for pictures of the attractions that can be enjoyed by buying access via the sponsor, Orlando FlexTicket. Even the smoothies on offer at the self-service buffet have been supplied by a brand – Innocent.

With Virgin's flights departing in the morning, the lounge is only open between 6.15am and 1pm daily – although it will remain open if a flight is delayed. So brunch foods are the order of the day, including pastries, bacon sandwiches, cereals and fresh fruit. The bar can provide that celebratory pre-flight glass of champagne, although all alcohol has to be paid for on top of the entrance fee.

So is this the shape of things to come?

Ms Smith isn't discounting the possibility of more V Rooms. "We've created a blueprint so if there's an opportunity to do it elsewhere we'll evaluate it," she said. And its competitors are closely watching the progress of the initiative, too.

Jo Clarkson, head of air products at Kuoni, sees it as a potential trend. "We're always looking at ways of enhancing the customer experience," she said. "We already offer our World Class customers access to the Servisair lounge on a complementary basis, which our other passengers can also book. We're not dismissing the idea [of an exclusive lounge] – we may consider it in the future."

A hidden benefit of buying a pass to the V Room is that it gives you access to the fast-track channel through security. Now that could be a real dealbreaker for travellers entering the airport scrum this summer.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate