Qantas Is Reopening Lounges, And I’m Impressed

Filed Under: Qantas

Qantas has long done a great job with lounges, and that trend is continuing even in the coronavirus era.

Airline lounges are starting to reopen

As the coronavirus pandemic started, many airlines started to close lounges for a couple of reasons:

  • Travel demand plummeted, so there wasn’t much demand for lounges
  • Updated protocols were needed in order to keep guests safe, since things like buffets and bars are no longer appropriate, and in some places are even banned

We’ve started to see some lounges reopen, with very different protocols than before. For example, in mid-May I wrote about the reopening of the Aspire Lounge Zurich, where a trolly will be rolled around with drinks and snacks, as if you’re on a plane.

Some American Airlines Admirals Clubs also reopened within the past week, with very limited offerings. The lounges are essentially offering guests snack boxes you might otherwise find for purchase in economy onboard a flight, as well as drinks from the bar in plastic cups.

Qantas Clubs start to reopen on July 1

Qantas lounges have been closed for over three months now. They first closed as of March 23, due to government restrictions that shut down most domestic and international flying.

Qantas will be opening 11 of 35 domestic lounges as of July 1, 2020, based on the relaxing of state-based restrictions and an increase in domestic capacity.

As you’d expect, some changes will be made to the lounge experience:

  • The number of guests will be capped to comply with state-specific restrictions on indoor gatherings
  • The food selection will be changed
  • Disposable coffee cups will be offered
  • There will be sanitizing stations and additional cleaning protocols

How are Qantas Clubs changing?

What should guests expect in terms of food & drinks at Qantas Clubs? There will be a hosted all-day snacking station, replacing the previous self serve buffet. In other words, you can still look at what’s on offer, but someone will handle the dishes for you.

If something like this were to be offered in the US you’d hope the food would be a lot less “exposed,” but then again, coronavirus is way more under control in Australia.

On top of that, staff will pass through the lounge with a tray service, including a selection of popular items, which will be change daily. This could include dishes like:

  • Roast field mushrooms, kale and cheese tarts with tomato relish
  • Bacon and egg rolls
  • Bacon, chili and parmesan frittatas
  • Blackberry cheesecakes
  • Carrot and pecan cakes with cream cheese frosting

A full bar (including wine, beer, fresh juice, etc.), along with a barista coffee station, will be available as usual. While coffee will be served in disposable cups, all other drinks will be served in glassware.

As Qantas’ Chief Customer Officer, Stephanie Tully, describes the changes to the lounge experience:

“This is a new world for everyone as we introduce and evolve our services to the new travel climate, but we’re very confident that we can make this work well for our people and our customers.

Some initiatives will become the norm while others such as capacity restrictions will ease as time goes on. We haven’t ruled out a return of the buffet, toastie and pancake maker in the future or the reintroduction of self-serve beverage stations when restrictions ease, in the meantime, we are hopeful Qantas customers will enjoy the extra personalised offering.”

Bottom line

Obviously it makes a lot of sense for precautions to be taken as lounges start to reopen, and I also recognize that it’s tough to perfect the process overnight.

That being said, Qantas’ lounge reopening plan really impresses me, because I feel like as a customer there aren’t really any compromises being made here. Heck, I prefer this to the old offerings. There’s still the same drink selection as before, there’s a staffed buffet with pre-plated food, and they pass around with substantial snacks as well.

That’s quite a contrast to American handing out snack boxes in Admirals Clubs and calling it a day (though in fairness, Admirals Clubs weren’t as good as Qantas Clubs before this all started, so I wouldn’t expect them to be as good after).

Are you as impressed by Qantas’ lounge reopening plan as I am?

Comments
  1. This news is made a bit redundant by the fact that MEL will not be receiving any flights ( all will be re-routed through other cities) because of a significant increase in COVID cases. 36 suburbs have returned to lockdown, and other states are not giving entry to visitors from Melbourne. This will push back the plans for restarting domestic aviation.

  2. Hi Paolo,

    Only international flights will be diverted, domestic remains normal operation.
    NSW and ACT are still open for Victorian visitors.

  3. I did a Qantas flight, Brisbane to Sydney 26 June at 10.30 am in business class. 1.5 hour flight with a superb crew and they served a delicious beef tenderloin lunch or warm salad. Lots of wine if you wanted it. No lounges but great experience. Makes American carriers look truly mean. Snack box on delta at 8.00pm anyone?

  4. Emirates just announced their lounge at DXB will reopen from tomorrow also. Similar waiter service, no buffet. Also their chauffeur drive in DXB will also return from tomorrow (1st July)

  5. @ Chris
    Victorians can’t travel to Queensland, South Aus, Tasmania , West Australia or NT. The Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, has asked Victorians not to visit Sydney or other parts of NSW ( and VV).
    The hope that domestic aviation would start to recover is now on hold, at least for the next few weeks.
    It was not unreasonable for QANTAS to look at reopening lounges; this MELBOURNE outbreak has taken everyone by surprise.

  6. My initial training was as a health care provider. We normally get away with conditions that are not sterile but most buffets are shocking. This is progress in a great direction.
    I really love the photos that so an oh so empty lounge with one client, probably an employee.

  7. Nothing special. This is exactly how Vegas has changed the buffets that are opening up. The buffet is setup and you are given a walk through but you order the items from your server, who brings the items to you.

  8. That’s right! Thank goodness we don’t need to mess around with face masks and plastic snack boxes in Australia, thanks to our good record in controlling the virus.

  9. @Paolo now that QLD has announced they are re-opening to all visitors on July 10, other than those from Victoria, that will be a huge boost to domestic tourism and aviation. NSW is the biggest source market for domestic tourism to QLD. Qantas & Jetstar flights are heavily booked in the days after this from NSW to QLD.

    @Richard face masks are not widely worn or needed in Australia. The virus is and has been well and truly suppressed here for sometime now, aside from a small spike in cases in Melbourne currently (due to the mismanagement of the state government there).

  10. The number of times I’ve seen kids pulling out dishes from a buffet, then sneezing.
    And of course they were shorter than the sneeze guard.

  11. @Paolo – it’s 10 suburbs, not 36. My hope is that it doesn’t get to your exaggerated number, but it’s anyone’s guess.

  12. @Jo145, no, @Paolo is correct – it’s 10 postcodes that cover 36 suburbs. @Paolo isn’t exaggerating, you are incorrect.

  13. It looks great and I’m impressed – congratulations for a seemingly job well done so far

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