Home Airlines Virgin Atlantic Flying Virgin Atlantic from Los Angeles? Here's what you need to know

Flying Virgin Atlantic from Los Angeles? Here’s what you need to know


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Following a 20 month hiatus, travel between the UK and the United States will be restarting on Monday (8 November) and if what we’re hearing is true, there will be a flood of people crossing the Atlantic in the coming weeks. If you’re one of those people and you plan on flying with Virgin Atlantic out of Los Angeles, the information in this post may useful.

The flights

Virgin is flying two flights a day between Los Angeles and London Heathrow on most days during the Winter season and with the exception of December, the second flight of the day is operated by Virgin’s A350-1000 which comes fitted with the new Upper Class suite and a new Premium Economy cabin.

The Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class cabin

If you’re flying in Business Class, the A350 is the aircraft to aim for. If you’re flying in Premium Economy, aim for the earlier flight as the Premium Economy cabin on the 787-9 offers considerably wider seats than the cabin on the Airbus. Economy Class is about the same on both aircraft as far as I can tell.

Check-in, security, and options at LAX

The Virgin Atlantic check-in desks are at LAX Terminal 2. The Terminal 2 check-in area is pretty long as it incorporates a lot of Delta desks so to avoid having to fight through terminal crowds to get to the Virgin Atlantic desks, enter the terminal through the doors under the Virgin Atlantic sign that hangs over the sidewalk.

Enter the terminal through the doors under the Virgin Atlantic sign

Before you can get to the check-in desks, there may be a gatekeeper present who will ask to see your passport, UK passenger locator form, and vaccination credentials. If anything is missing or wrong with any of your paperwork you will not be permitted to progress to the check-in desks – on my last trip, a US citizen was told that she would not be able to travel to the UK as a vaccinated person as she only had a photograph of a vaccination card (the actual card is needed to travel as a vaccinated person).

The last time I flew with Virgin out of LAX (a few days ago), I was flying Upper Class and there was no line for check-in.

Given that most of the UK appear to want to cross the Atlantic as soon as the US opens up, this is unlikely to be the case from 8 November onwards.

From the check-in desks, you will need to head to the right to get to the TSA checkpoints. All passengers initially enter through one lane but the lane soon divides into PreCheck and TSA General lines.

I have TSA PreCheck courtesy of my Global Entry membership so the time from the check-in desk to the TSA security agent who checked my passport was under 2 minutes and it took no more than 5 minutes to clear security.

The Virgin Atlantic check-in desks may be at LAX T2 but the aircraft actually departs from the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) which is accessed by an airside shuttle bus that departs from “Gate 21B”.

After you clear security at T2, it’s decision time.

  • If you have access to the Delta Sky Clubs in Terminal 2 you can wait there before catching the bus over to the Tom Bradley terminal.
  • If you have a credit card that gives you access to Amex Lounges, you can catch the bus to the Tom Bradley terminal and visit the Centurion Lounge there. The food and drinks on offer in the Centurion lounge will be of a higher standard than what you’ll find offered in the Delta Sky Club*
  • You can choose to find somewhere to sit and or eat in T2 and then catch the bus across to the Tom Bradley Terminal
  • You can choose to head over to the Tom Bradley Terminal straight away and make the most of the food and seating options over there

If you plan on staying in T2 to get a bite to eat or to visit the lounge, keep in mind that you need to leave enough time to catch the bus and get across to TBIT before you can board your flight.

If you don’t have access to any lounges, it will probably make the most sense to head over to the Tom Bradley terminal straight away – there’s a lot more seating over there than there is at Terminal 2 and just as many dining options.

*Right now, the Amex Centurion Lounge at LAX is closed for building work (which is strange considering how new the lounge is and how little use it has seen since it opened) but it may have reopened by the time you come to travel.

The Delta Sky Club

If you have access to the Delta Sky Club, head straight ahead after you clear security, and if you look to your right, you should see a green elevator (next to the restrooms) which will take you up to the level with the Delta Sky Clubs. If you reach a white staircase, you’ve gone too far for the elevator but you can use the staircase to get up to the level where the Sky Clubs are.

The view as you exit the TSA security checkpoint

Look for a bright green elevator to your right if you’re heading to the Sky Club.

If you reach these stairs, you’ve gone past the elevator for the Sky Club

There are two Delta Sky Clubs on Level 4 of Terminal 2. The one you should head to is across from where you exit the elevator. The one to avoid is on the same side of Level 4 as the elevator.

Head to the larger of the two Sky Clubs which is on the opposite side of the level that the elevator will take you to.

According to the agent on the door of the Sky Club on the same side of Level 4 as the elevator, that Sky Club is “smaller and worse” than the SkyClub on the opposite side so assuming the agent wasn’t lying, head to the larger Sky Club.

On my last visit, the larger Sky Club was busy so I didn’t get any pictures of the seating areas but it did get a few images of the food and drinks on offer.

Food-wise, don’t expect anything gourmet. These were the options on my last visit:

Hot

  • Cumin spiced black beans
  • White cheddar mac ‘n cheese
  • Pulled pork

Cold

  • Tuna salad (tuna mixed with mayo)
  • Hummus
  • Broccoli, tomato and cauliflower salad
  • A “classic” potato salad
  • Buffalo bleu cheese pasta salad
  • Apple, cranberry, walnut, and kale salad
  • Arugula, fennel, and garbanzo bean salad
  • Chicken teriyaki sandwiches
  • Turkey & Swiss cheese sandwiches
  • A selection of cubes cheeses and two types of cold meat

Desserts

  • Poundcake with raspberry sauce
  • Chocolate avocado chia pudding
  • Snickerdoodles

Drinks-wise, the Sky Club offers coffee, tea, and various sodas near the food service area…

….and you’ll find a bar in a separate area of the lounge.

All cutlery was individually wrapped in plastic and the plates were made of cardboard, but actual glassware was available for drinks.

The Sky Club has an impressive number of power outlets throughout, but be aware that all the main outlets are designed for US devices – make sure you bring an adapter with you if you plan on charging anything that cannot be charged via USB.

Masks are a requirement in the Sky Club and as signs placed all over the lounge will tell you, federal law requires that you wear one over your nose and mouth while you’re in the club unless you’re actively eating or drinking. This applies regardless of your vaccine status and a negative COVID test won’t exempt you either.

Getting the bus to the Tom Bradley Terminal

Gate 21B is accessed via a passageway right next to where you exit TSA. Turn right as soon as you’re through security and you should see it.

You may get the impression that the bus gate will be right there but it’s actually a little bit of a walk away.

First, you head up a ramp.

Then you walk along a wide hallway before descending down some escalators to the doors that lead outside to the bus.

It takes about 8 minutes to get from the doors of the Sky Club to the doors of the bus at a brisk walking pace (this includes time lost while waiting for the elevator down from the Sky Club level).

At the exit to the airport apron where the buses are, a member of airport staff will ask you which airline you’re flying with and will direct you to the bus you should take – be careful not to get in the wrong bus as there may be more than one bus waiting.

Buses depart Terminal 2 for TBIT frequently, and on my last trip I didn’t have to wait for the bus at all as there was one waiting when I got to the departure point and it left soon after I boarded. You can, however, expect to wait up to 10 minutes if you don’t get as lucky as I did.

The bus journey over to the Tom Bradley Terminal takes between 5 and 10 minutes depending on airport traffic.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

As I mentioned a little earlier, TBIT has a lot more seating than T2 so families should have no trouble finding space to sit and as a lot of the seats also have power outlets,…

…this is a good place to get devices charged before the flight.

Some of the bigger eateries like PF Changs are still closed at the Tom Bradley Terminal, but there’s a good-sized food court with multiple outlets where you can get something to eat.

If you still need to do some shopping, the Tom Bradley Terminal has a lot more to offer than Terminal 2.

As any Virgin Atlantic flight that you take from Los Angeles is going to be an overnight flight, it’s a good idea to get something to eat before you board the aircraft to give you a chance to settle down as quickly as possible once you’re on board so you can get as much sleep as possible.

Bottom Line

That’s just about all the important things that you need to know about flying out of LAX with Virgin Atlantic. The key thing is to remember that you check in a Terminal 2 and then catch a bus (airside) across to the Tom Bradley Terminal where you’ll board your flight.

If you have Centurion Lounge access and the lounge is open, that’s probably going to be the nicest place to wait for your flight. If you don’t have lounge access at all, you’ll find that the Tom Bradley Terminal offers considerably more spaces to sit than Terminal 2 as well as more dining and shopping options too.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Very useful article, thank you. I normally fly BA from LAX back home to LHR, but am booked with Virgin next April, so will bear the above in mind. The Centurion lounge may even be open by then!

  2. FYI, apparently barely a month after this article was written, it was rendered mostly obsolete. As of Dec 10, Virgin Atlantic moved (temporarily) to Terminal B at LAX, and made a deal to use the Star Alliance lounge there instead of the Delta Sky Club. Oddly, I found this mentioned on the ‘ala.aero’ website, with virtually no trace anywhere else, except the LAX website confirms it. My flight coming up in 8 days makes no mention of the Terminal yet. The Virgin site still brags about their awesome lounge in Terminal 2, which was permanently closed long ago. ALSO, sadly, the A350 was taken off the LA run entirely, at least through May 4th (when last I checked), so both of our long flights have been downgraded to the old business class (arguably the very worst for lie-flat seats, especially if you’re flying as a couple).

    From the hard-to-find mention I found: “With increasing numbers of Virgin Atlantic customers travelling to or from Los Angeles, the relocation from Terminal 2 to the well-appointed Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) is excellent timing to offer the most streamlined customer experience for everyone that flies with us from LAX. We’re also delighted to offer eligible loyalty customers access to the Star Alliance Lounge, thanks to our codeshare partner, Air New Zealand.”

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