Though still cheaper than the cost of a day pass to an Admirals Club or really any other mainline carrier lounge, it’s been interesting to watch the recent changes to admission policies and amenities for both eleVAte members with status and everyone else at Virgin America’s lounge at LAX, The Loft. Upside for regular ol’ people passing through: They dropped the admission price from $40 to $30. Downside for eleVAte Silver level members: They took away the annual allotment of two free passes and it’s now $15 to get in every time. It is, however, a welcome change to see Gold members granted free access at all times. Maybe one day I’ll log enough flights to move up a tier. A gecko can dream.
At first glance, it looks like they’re making a real effort to get more people to walk into the front door and enjoy the Loft experience. While not a particularly large space, the Loft is dressed attractively like a mid-twenties urban lady out for a night at the city’s most popular nightclub. The seating is cozy and there are plenty of windows facing the North runways of LAX for anyone who wants to get in a bit of planespotting. It’s often fairly quiet and relaxed inside, providing a welcome escape from the somewhat loud and cavernous space that is the main T3 boarding area.
The hidden added cost though, is that they’ve added rather loft-y prices for food and beverages that fall outside the realm of wine, beer, and basic bar snacks. Cocktails run $12 on average and anything above a light snack costs about the same. Now if you happen to regularly dine out in West Hollywood or Manhattan, those prices may not shock you as much as they would other people. But it ends up making quite a pricey lounge experience compared to what Virgin America offers in SFO or IAD via the lounges of their sister airline, Virgin Atlantic, for $40 & $45, respectively. It’s almost as if they’re trying to discourage people from eating before they get on the plane. The reality is likely to be that either A: Too few people were actually eating all the complementary food they kept on hand; or B: Too many people were eating all he complementary food they kept on hand. Either way, they were losing money and had to change things up. It’s more than a little unfortunate.
As a Silver member, paying $15 was absolutely worth it to have a few beers while I waited for my delayed flight to SFO to board on a recent visit. It was certainly cheaper than hanging out at Gladstones, since I didn’t want something to eat beyond mixed nuts on this particular occasion. But I witnessed repeated disappointment of guests coming into the lounge only to discover that the view and unlimited beer were the only perks to paying $30 because the Loft had run out of wine. The bartender was even telling people to ask the front desk for their money back. A few people did begrudgingly order $12 bloody marys since they couldn’t have the mimosa they were looking forward too.
So is a visit to the Loft still worth it? It all depends on what you want. If you’re hungry and hoping to toss back a few fingers of Glenfiddich before your flight, I’d say think carefully about whether you’re getting your money’s worth. But if you have time on your hands and a love of simpler libations (or even just coffee) in your heart, then you’ll certainly have an overall better time than you would at any of your food court options downstairs.
And if R.C. is working the bar when you stop by, tell her I said hi.