Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to the Virgin Atlantic Lounge policy I describe below as apartheid. I now realize that the use of that word was not in good taste. Therefore, I have updated this story to avoid any confusion. I recently visited the Apartheid Museum in South Africa and the word was on my mind, but it was not constructive to even imply a link between the Virgin Atlantic policy and the policies of the South African state from 1948 until 1994. Thanks all for holding me accountable.
Those who gain entry by credit card are now second-class citizens at the Virgin Atlantic Lounge in Washington Dulles. Hopefully, this is a fluke and not a sign of things to come in the chain of Virgin lounges outside of London run by Plaza Premium.
Second Class Citizenship For Credit Card Guests In Virgin Atlantic Lounge
I specifically chose the Virgin Atlantic Lounge (via my Capital One Venture X card) because of its a la carte menu, which I was looking forward to after skipping breakfast and lunch.
After checking into the lounge, I headed over to the restaurant and had a seat. I asked one of the staff members if there was a menu and she responded that there was only a buffet (and a very limited buffet at that…).
Others seated around me were being served food from the kitchen and I cannot imagine Virgin Atlantic suddenly deciding it would no longer offer menus in its lounges.
I had a QR code from a previous visit and pulled it up. Sure enough, the menu. I put in my table number, ordered a soup, salad, and plant-based burger and submitted my order.
It promptly arrived, with the same lounge staff member saying, “Oh, I didn’t know you were flying on Virgin today.” I told her I was not. Then she asked me how I ordered food and I said that I had the QR code. She responded that about a month ago the lounge eliminated a la carte dining for those entering via American Express or Plaza Premium…
Treating certain guests as second-class citizens at the same time in the same lounge is not only annoying, but pretty devious considering Plaza Premium sells one-time access to this lounge and specifically praises the a la carte menu:
Passengers who don’t know better might also walk away disgusted at Virgin Atlantic, which reflects poorly upon their brand as well.
It’s one thing to say that a la carte dining is only available during certain hours, but it is quite another thing to cheapen out on credit card guests, something so many of us, unfortunately, predicted when Plaza Premium took over management of these lounges.
I’m tempted to share the QR code here and encourage everyone to order off the menu, but I’m going to reach out to Plaza Premium first. It isn’t clear if this is an IAD-only policy or will apply across the Virgin Atlantic lounge network operated by Priority Pass.
p.s. The food was very good…
Your British colonial experience started early, right in the lounge. Puts you in the right frame of mind as you travel to proclaim fealty to the British monarchy.
To be fair though they didn’t discriminate based on your skin color so that takes away a little from it. Or maybe that is progress? Truth be told colonial British loved rich people of all colors. They were capitalists through and through and only hated poor people. In that respect not much has changed in the US or UK.
Waiting eagerly for you to share the code.
You are not a credit to your parents.
This maybe the dumbest thing written on all of the internet today!
While I understand that clickbait is part of your job description, simply acknowledging that your comparison of being denied legit access to a Beyond Burger to the policies of the South African government does not make it appropriate. What an outrageous, obnoxious, entitled lack of self-awareness.
If you want to write a piece saying that it’s sucks that Priority Pass access attains different treatment than someone flying on VS, great. Go for it. Legit piece of info. But suggesting that the practice shares literally anything with government led oppression is just stupid.
Pro tip: for future articles, try to avoid comparing premium economy to the holocaust.
The article has been updated. But apartheid is a general term. In what possible context could I use the word “holocaust” except to mean “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale” (whether Jewish or not) concerning air travel?
Well, based on your history and need for attention ,I wouldn’t be surprised to see you refer to the devaluation of miles as a Holocaust on benefits. “The Holocaust of SkyMiles.”
You might be surprised.
No way in hell that will happen
Another moron ‘journalist’ who cant even write.
It seems to me that cardholder access to Virgin clubs is on borrowed time. Virgin clearly wants to prioritize its own passengers
And thank God. If you pay for business class it extremely sucks to be over run with folks waving some dumb credit card demanding the same service. Ridiculous.
Coming soon: Review of the Apartheid bathrooms at your local sports venues: men to the left, women to the right.
More correctly: rich people in suites get the bidets while the peasants get the troughs…..
Suits, not suites….
People dressed in suits and seated in suites.
If you felt the need to clarify from the outset your use of the word, then perhaps you could have chosen better.
Matthew, I’d agree with this – other words would have suited.
It did always seem almost too good to be true when airlines would generously throw (a la carte dining) money at partner airlines’ passengers. I totally agree that Plaza Premium shouldn’t advertise it, but I do feel like there’s something “right” about an airline prioritising their own guests first when budget is tight. Of course there’s something to be said about investing in a good “look” for other passengers without much experience of Virgin Atlantic (since they’d get a little taster in the lounge after getting in, based on their AmEx/Priority Pass membership), though I wouldn’t be ticked off by a lounge that suggested that this wasn’t a priority at the moment.
Then realistically they should have the lounge leave the pass programs.
The pass program pays the lounge for your visit. It’s why you have guest fees etc.
If the fee (on average) does not cover the product offering then the fee needs to go up or leave.
Option three seems to he reduce service but clearly market the reduced service.
Fair points Pete and Alvin.
Thw struggle is real…
The, not thw.
Waah! Waah! Waah!
The nazis didn’t create the swastika but there’s a reason you don’t see people using it these days. Using apartheid in this post is beyond appalling.
Why are you like this?
This is a deeply tasteless article. Sponsors of this blog should take notice of what content appears next to their brands.
I would encourage Matthew to apologize for and learn from this mistake.
A little too strong of a term there ain’t it, chief? Oh I forgot, we’re in an era where mere political disagreement is literally nazism and racism.
Perhaps though the bigger crime is you ordering a plant-based burger… yuck 😛
Plant based burgers are great tasting !! What’s wrong with you ? I agree with you on this article as a poorly written one.I just came back from U.K. And everywhere I had plant based burgers including KFC & McDonald’s were super tasty !! I love Monty’s here in L.A.! I also flew w/ Virgin Atlantic. I’ve read some articles saying that they limited hrs.of non upper class ,or non elite passenger’s uses of their lounge at JFK & I belive LHT as well.
Matt, let’s be honest. No one uses the term apartheid to refer to anything else but the racist policy of the South African Government to keep racial groups separated. Your analogy does not fit and falls flat. Just admit it.
It was an attempt at witty click bait, but not a good one.
Extremely disappointing. I loved that lounge when I few virgin and was planning on visiting in a few weeks when i fly TAP. Guess not
Agree with others that the use of the word “apartheid” is unnecessary and inaccurate.
On the issue of PP holders being treated differently… I pretty much expect this whenever I see I have access to an airline branded lounge (and not a contract lounge) with PP. If I see I have Virgin Clubhouse access with PP, I first 1) check the hours with the assumption that it will be so restricted as to not be of use 2) that my access will be in hours without Virgin flights and with a severely reduced food offering and 3) even if 1 and 2 apply, then capacity controls will prevent my entry.
Shameless misappropriation of a hugely emotive term to attract ‘clicks.’ Didn’t read your article beyond the clarifier you found the need to provide. Won’t bother reading any of your other articles either. Can’t bear being ‘duped’
Thanks for reading, Tim.
Respect to you for responding and changing your wording.
Oh Mr sensitivities! Britain conquered those colonies far and square! Want reparations?
Win your own darn rebellion!
Like the USA did over a couple hundred years ago….
Genocidal behavior in the lounge also if they served meat.
Also slavery on full display in the lounge as attendants were forced to serve other richer people
Second class yes, “apartheid”?
come on – enough of the melodrama
Sounded more like a Sunday column.
Then the mealy mouthed “apology” followed by “but I visited a museum about it so look at me.”
Let me help you please everyone:
“An earlier versions of this article used the term ‘apartheid,’ which has hurtful racial connotations that I did not consider when I wrote it. I try to be an inclusive writer and do not mean to bring these weighty issues into my writing about travel. I apologize to all the readers I hurt through my use of this term and to South Africa, a country still grappling with the legacy of hurt this policy created. I recommit myself to being more considerate about the terms I use in the future. Thank you all for your readership and for holding me to account as a responsible writer.”
But maybe writing something that doesn’t quip about being “technically correct” would be too hurtful to your ego?
The headline is both factually incorrect and wrong. You found out for sure there was no Apartheid in the lounge when you ordered off the al-a-carte menu and no one showed up to beat, imprison or kill you.
Sorry, I didn’t mean incorrect and wrong. I meant indefensible.
Again, it’s fair to call my use of the word as being in poor taste, but that word is not confined to racial apartheid in South Africa.
The only other time I have seen the word used is with regards to how tbe Israelis treat the Palestinians. Where else has it been used?
Matthew, I like your blog a lot and respect you as a writer, but your choice of words here constitute a profound lack of awareness and example of bad judgement.
I note that you have not responded to any of the criticisms further up in the comments.
It is fine to make mistakes. But the decent thing to do is rephrase and apologize.
Hi Matt, I’ve been queuing for the Queen and then heading to LGW to catch a flight. I will respond.
Growing up in a traditional Xhosa family in the 1970s, I experienced the effects of apartheid first hand. In response to economic and social discrimination, I led regular protests in my neighborhood in Emnyameni to bring light to this abhorrent institution. Eventually I was arrested and imprisoned, following a kangaroo court trial, for conspiring to overthrow the state. To equate these horrific experiences with the inability to order from the a la carte menu in an airport lounge is not only an insult to me, but it is an insult to the millions of South Africans who suffered for so many years under this racist system premised upon hate and segregation.
Matthew’s reply to his use of appalling, insulting language: “You can’t please everyone.” You gotta crack a few eggs if you’re gonna run a blog.
@Fantastico: Stay tuned for my upcoming trip report from South Africa. And concerning your struggle, I salute you for your perseverance to create a more just society.
Even so, I insist the word “apartheid” is not linked exclusively to the struggle in South Africa, just as the word “holocaust” is not linked exclusively to the Jewish Holocaust. Please note I understand your anger and out of respect for you and others, I updated the post to take the focus off the controversial word and better focus on the lounge policy. At its root, the word still just means apart in Afrikaans.
By that rationale, “holocaust” just means a burnt offering. You say elsewhere that “context matters, and yet you’re ignoring the entire historical context of this word.
In a future blog post, we’ll see the n-word used, with the explanation that you’re all overreacting because it’s just derived from the Spanish word for “black,” so what’s the big deal guys?
I thought it was pretty obvious that VS was only letting in cardholders in the afternoon to make some money while they stopped flying from IAD in the pandemic. Before then, they limited cardholders to the morning, when they were a good option for UA regional flights out of the A gates. I always thought this was too good to last for long. I don’t agree on the impossible burger, though. I don’t think it tastes good at all.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the nearby AF lounge also cut back on card user entry as travel returns. Though I was kind of surprised to see how deserted Dulles was earlier today, so maybe the summer rush is over.
Being told that you’re not invited to dinner and then finding the QR code and ordering anyway because you find this unfair is a quintessential “American in the UK” experience. Not sure about any of the other cultural references here.
The opposite of apartheid is slavery where groups who don’t want to be together nor consent to be together are forced together by government coercion. All these groups from Blacks to Gays say they hate White Christian folk but they want to enslave us in their company and leech off everything we built in the history of the world.
We have seen what happens when a group that built absolutely nothing in history except rap music and Jazz takes over voting in a country they didn’t build and create: from the jewel of the world to a rape capital with low marks in every aspect. South Africa used to be a leader in everything from medicine like the first heart transplant to agriculture. They kicked out White farmers in the 1990s and now the country has food production problems.
The White leaders of South Africa and police and military who let it happen committed treason against the White South Africans by not dividing South Africa into two and moving to Cape Town which could have been a country for White South Africans to be safe, prosperous, and not be raped and murdered by those attacking farmers.
Wow, you really hate black people…
@Matthew, how are any number of my comments “awaiting moderation” while this racist hogwash is allowed?
Excellent article. I appreciate the concise and clear description of the situation. Resist the pressure from others on this blog to self-censor. Speak freely and bravely, my friend!
That being said, I think all lounges are losing some of their value due to what you just described, along with overcrowding.
Gonna go out on a limb here, well done virgin!!! Wouldn’t this go some way in sorting out the overcrowded lounges we have at the moment
Club ATL is even worse. Credit card/Priority pass customers have to wait in a virtual queue for over an hour at times. Airline customers (British I think?) are ushered right in. The food is only buffet for all and not very god either.
I found the same as LGW today for Plaza Premium and Number One lounges.
There’s a cordoned off area to the left when you enter that The Club, I believe; BA, QR, TK, and possibly LH reserves solely for these F/J passengers, and that these airlines pay to reserve that area.
Lounges in ATL, save SC’s, for the world’s busiest airport is horribly lacking.
The Club at ATL is a nightmare.
Either you are so unaware that you thought this was ok make the comparison to apartheid, or you knew it was not ok but did it for clicks and engagement. Either way it’s a bad look.
Never apologize Matthew, it only makes the mob feel like they won and makes them want more. They will never stop when good people give in to them.
You said it, so stand by it.
The apartheid policy in South Africa is a very important to me. This post became a distraction.
If you want this post to stop being “distracting,” stop being a politician who needs to provide some quip about being “technically correct.” You used the wrong word, you hurt people, own it and help us, your readers, to move on.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines apartheid as: “ in the past in South Africa, a system under which people of different races were kept separate by law, and white people were given more political rights and educational and other advantages.”
Webster’s defines it primarily as “ racial segregation; specifically : a former policy of segregation and political, social, and economic discrimination against the nonwhite majority in the Republic of South Africa” and secondarily as “segregation” without qualifiers.
But the primary intention and tone the term has taken on today is explicitly racial. To defend your use of the term here is to say you’re in favor of “apartheid” for your previous posts defending having your kids sit in economy while you sit in business (economic segregation) and for any post you make that supports delineating elites and standard travelers. This is an incorrect usage, but it would be, by your own argument, “technically correct.”
Words have meanings, and those meanings change. A “holocaust” used to be a niche theological term for a burnt offering, but now is a wider term for a massacre in unfathomable ways. Similarly, “apartheid” has an undeniably racial and unjust overtone. Apologize in an unqualified manner and we’re happy to move on.
Maga moron for sure
Policies change. It usually sucks for the customer, but they do (and btw didn’t you write another article about how overcrowded lounges have become lately and that possibly card holder’s access should/could be limited as a solution?). If Plaza Premium isn’t informed about this change or is misinforming buyers of their own lounge pass, then people should take it up with them, not the airline responsible for the operation of the lounge. It probably would have been more straightforward if they’d removed access for such card holders all together. If you had been denied access all together, you’d probably have written an article about how your Venture X is losing (some of) its value, rather than focus on the lounge experience itself.
Now, if I understand it correctly (since there’s no direct mention in your article), even though you violated the new policy by using your “bypass” QR code, you still weren’t charged for the meal you weren’t entitled to!
I would have praised that lounge staff (after certainly having thanked them with all my heart personally) for not “escalating” your violation and for putting your travel experience first and their own rules second!
I don’t care what you compare it to, they did you a solid one there!
Btw can you imagine a staff member (perhaps a Nazi? ) either bringing you the bill or kicking you out or even suing you for what you did?
Ok guys, enough is enough!! Let’s just stick to how much United really sucks and partnering with them was a mistake on EK’s part. Also, on how we must get rid of Kirby as CEO, Kirby has to leave. Period. Have a great weekend you guys. #KIRBYHASTOGO.
Credit card company miss sells card benefits and gullible consumer blames innocent 3rd party supplier. There, I fixed your headline for you you’re welcome!
Wow i’m surprised they let you keep ordering! Reminds me of when I was in the AC business lounge on a J award ticket, apart(heid) from the real J customers upstairs!
Thank you for writing about this! It seems lounges are trying more and more, shall we say, short cuts and changes off the cuff. It gets so far up my skin. Especially as you say they tout this and that to get you in or signed up. Nothing of changes on websites/apps, just “oh guess what” after you perhaps have planned a trip with a stopover specifically to use such amenities. Please let us know their response, and i believe we should mobilize an info forum or whatnot so travellers can have current info, and to shame such lounge practices.
Second class citizens pfft why is it the people who get paid to write always have the vocabulary of a 6th grader?
“Even if technically correct”. Wow, you’re still missing the point.
“Even if technically correct”. Wow, you’re still missing the point. Why is it so hard to acknowledge a really dumb and obvious mistake?
Meanwhile… walks upto any of food / drink concession in the A / B gates, gets served straightaway, finds quiet corner and enjoys a nice dinner while y’all bitchin about Lounge access First world problems huh…
Well, looks like Matt got what he wanted, lots of clicks and comments. Mission accomplished, I guess?
You are wrong that “apartheid” is a generally used term that is “technically correct” here; even if there were a general use of the term, it specifies actual segregation, which is not at all what occurred in this lounge experience.
Your revision should have been an unequivocal apology, but no matter. I am trying to wrap my head around the hubris and entitlement required to claim—and repeat after revision—that you were being treated as a “second-class citizen” while sitting in a private, access-controlled airport lounge, which the vast majority of travelers will never enjoy in their lifetimes, because the food offerings were less than you expected.
Many pieces have been written in the last couple years about lounge overcrowding due to premium credit-card customers and pay-per-visit customers. It is no secret the airlines that run their own branded lounges prioritize their own paying passengers—particularly those spending exorbitant premiums for business and first class. But I am unaware of any opinion pieces until now that had the audacity to compare their authors’ disappointment with food options to genuine world injustices and societal inequities. It’s utterly preposterous.
Delete and rethink this post. And if you really wish to tell a helpful and credible account, communicate with the airline first to get their full explanation before writing your own histrionic personal tale of victimization over a buffet.
So what’s next? Complaining that they don’t let you into the F lounge with an Eco ticket? Is it really that hard to understand that airlines just might value their own premium cabin passengers and frequent flyers a bit more than some random guy with PP on his credit card?
Even if your poor choice of words were to be ignored, the comparison completely bombs: Apartheid was based on something outside of the person’s control. Can’t change the color of your skin. You, on the other hand are perfectly capable of obtaining status or buying a Biz ticket on VA but you decided to have the cake and eat it and now you’re butt hurt because you hit a brick wall.
Sorry but not sorry.
I believe that as passenger airline travel increases in the coming dozen years the airport lounges/clubs will eventually go back to being what they were originally intended as, exclusive places for those who regularly travel first class or business/2nd class on that particular airline. If you don’t have a confirmed 1st class or 2nd class seat assignment on a departing or arriving flight of that particular airline, within 12 hours of presenting at the bouncer’s desk, you won’t be admitted. No more credit card only admittance. No more “partner” airline only admittance. No more ” high frequent flyer” points admittance, especially to those who gain points by buying lots of daily needs household stuff on a credit cards. No more gaining access by flying 3rd class/economy 104 times per year. The airport concession “stores” in the terminals are for those people. The airlines will tell those people to buy a high priced oatmeal cookie and a high priced bottle of high pulp percentage juice, stand up by the gate window, eat your snack, and be “satisfied”. Those policies might eventually significantly reduce the probability of legitimate 1st class or 2nd class airline travelers encountering long lines to use overcrowded clubs/lounges and of having to deal with overcrowded clubs/lounges. Average 3rd class/economy/coach passengers and airport visitors will have to survive consuming concession stand foods and beverages, using consession book/magazine stores, concession restaurants, and consession sleep pods.
Sad, but not surprising. First of all VS lounges outside of LHR are I think now all operated by Plaza Premium. It’s totally fine in my book because of the following reasons:
1) any lounge with good food and credit card access becomes a zoo, and yes the food is good but searching for a free (much less cleaned) table is stressful as is queuing for the buffet when it offers good food (e.g. Centurion lounges). I want a lounge to be uncrowded and quiet not a zoo.
2) the economics of this as @Matthew pointed out were never going to work. Yes, Plaza Premium is likely getting a premium over what Priority Pass charges from American Express and Capital One for select credit card holders, but ultimately I imagine that this may be a interim solution while the parent of Plaza Premium markets its own Dragon Pass (already happening in Canada where they run lounges at many major airports).
Everyone yearns for the days when their Platinum card got them into lounges with multiple airlines. Well guess what the food and drink offerings were terrible back then. I think that’s what we ultimately need to go back to with paid menus for good food. It will keep the “eat for free/drink for free” crowd out and allow for a high quality lounge experience.
Your suggestion for paid menus sounds reasonable to me. I could see possibly complimentary hot water with complimentary individual tea bags and individual packets of sugar.
I don’t believe that we will see credit card access go away. Economics drives this.
Both VS and AF at IAD during the pandemic expanded PP/Amex Plat because they simply did not have enough of their own flyers to support their lounge. VS was not even flying out of IAD until right before this summer. The pandemic is over, but they still seem a little addicted to the additional money. But eventually, if full and not offering a good experience to their own flyers, I think these IAD lounges will restrict back PP/Amex to the way they were before the pandemic. (TK restricted only based on space available, not times, but I often saw long lines outside it.) It is important to many airlines at IAD that they have a good lounge as a branding measure if they want to sell business class international tickets. (Even UA with the Polaris lounge was forced to recognize that.) But they can easily restrict cardholders to certain periods that won’t affect their flyers and still pick up some additional cash. Like BA at IAD, which only allowed PP before 2 and offered little food and beverage before then, but if you were flying Club World in the evenings was a great lounge.
By the way, Admirals lounges offer a paid food menu. I hardly ever seen anyone do so, and I have never heard of it being very good.
I read this after you updated the article, but in the comments with your responses are strange. Some are clearly from before your correction, others are from after looking at the time stamps. Why is this the hill you want to die on? It doesn’t matter if you are “technically” correct in the definition, it comes across as someone not taking responsibility. It just boggles my mind you still are acting like you are in the right. Nobody uses that word in any context outside of it being used to describe the dark period in South Africa.
Hi Matthew. I visited this lounge at IAD yesterday through my Capital One Venture X card, and the agent provided me a QR code. I asked her if the code is provided for AMEX Platinum card holders as well, and she said “yes, we provide the code to all guests, including guests who access the lounge through credit cards.” I ordered Prosecco, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream without any problems for free via the code. I’m not sure if the policy changed back or something, but this is the current situation as of September 26, 2022.
Good news. Hopefully they read my story.
This is an all new LOW for you Matthew. It is Oct. 2 and this article is still being posted online. YOU DONT EVEN KNOW WHAT A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN FEELS LIKE. YOU ARE THE MOST ENITELED PERSON ON THE INTERNET!!! PLEASE GROW UP . I bet your wife & kids miss you sinse your always gone. Always jetting off to the best places. Always needing to be treated like your above everyone!
Hi Matthew. Nice to see this blog entry receiving all these clicks, including the clicks from the nasty idiots and those who profess to not read your blog, must be good for business. Stop apologizing, you’ve apologized and revised/edited enough, to err* is human. Kudos to you for leaving all the overly nasty and critical comments (instead of deleting them). Excellent reply “thanks for reading”, sarcasm unknown.
(*Except for doctors.)
I am at the lounge in JFK. they said because of full flights they were not accepting Venture X cardholders. is that part of the agreement? mind you, I went at 2pm, when they opened…when no one was there…and they were already denying me access. had to show them my Delta One boarding pass