Friday, July 19, 2013

Give Me a Richard Branson Lounge and I'm Happy

There was a major crisis at LAX, and the man causing it was going nowhere fast.
Virgin Atlantic, which has a spectacular lounge at Heathrow for Upper Class passengers travelling to LA, has always had to make do with Air New Zealand’s less than spectacular offering when travelling LA to London.
It is, however, managed by the wonderful manager Thierry, who beats everyone else hands down when it comes to airline customer care. It’s not his fault that ANZ catering has heard of nothing other than butternut squash soup, nor that their idea of a salad looks like the staple diet of an anorexic rabbit; he looks after the people – often making valuable introductions and forming friendships between passengers that, in my case, certainly, have continued for years.
But inferior as the ANZ lounge is to Virgin’s (quite why Virgin does not have one at LAX has never been fully explained to me), it is still the best of a bad bunch. So, imagine my surprise when, last week, I looked down at my Welcome card and saw that the “new” venue for Virgin passengers is now Air France.
The man in front of me was having none of it. He demanded to speak with Virgin. He demanded to speak with ANZ. They, alas, were having none of him. So I snuck up the stairs, went to the ANZ lounge, told them of my immense distress at this tragic turn of events, and hey presto, I was suddenly sitting all nice and cosy before another bowl of butternut squash soup. For all I know, Mr Angry is still at the check-in desk, shouting for Sir Richard himself.
It was harder to come back to the UK this time, as I confess to being very LA Loved Up. Having lived in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica – the former like the Rigor Mortis Saloon before the Grim reaper calls your name; the latter, beautiful sunsets but might as well be Wales for all of its proximity to any action – I decided to move. To West Hollywood. And I love it.
I am The Only Straight in the Village. Well, pretty much so, and I feel incredibly safe. It’s a lot more lively at night, and several UK friends are within walking distance of my rather gorgeous apartment, which is not only a darn sight more upmarket than my Beverly Hills one (honestly – someone should really give those landlords a lesson in the meaning of “high spec”) but a darn sight cheaper.
So, it was hard to leave it, although obviously, I am pleased to be seeing friends and family. My first stop was Denise Welch’s wedding in Portugal (I was almost The Only Straight in the Wedding, too); after Cardiff and London, I am off to Marbella to interview Eva Longoria – and I am literally palpitating with excitement over that. I might invite her round for tea when we are both back in LA, although I suspect Danish pastries are not high on her list of afternoon treats.
And so to the UK weather. Dear Lord. Are the Brits ever satisfied? The last few times I’ve returned home, they banged on endlessly about how long the winter was, how cold they were, how they would never see sun again. And now, here they are in the middle of a heat-wave, and it’s oh dear, will this awful sunshine never end, blah blah blah.
And now there’s a whole new breed, who love the sun, but don’t like people who don’t; so while one group moans about the weather, the other people are moaning about the people moaning about the weather: the Second Degree Moaners.
So far, I’ve spent just half an hour in the pub garden with them, as I am sitting indoors catching up on all the US TV I crave when I leave LA.
I’ve had to change my flight to fit in my interview with Eva (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it) and at least I’ll have the Virgin lounge on this leg of the journey on my way back. This time, though, it’s a one-way ticket. That Air France lounge will just have to wait. 

Come on, Sir Richard, get building! Your passengers need you. 

More than that, they need your lounges.

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