Qantas’ Impressive Approach To Reopening International Lounges

Filed Under: Qantas

Qantas has been especially hard hit by the pandemic, given the extent to which Australia’s borders have been closed. It looks like some international travel will finally start to become a reality for Australians, as the country is launching a quarantine free travel bubble with New Zealand as of Monday, April 19, 2021.

I think it’s worth giving Qantas some credit for how it’s reopening international lounges, because there aren’t many airlines taking this approach.

Starting on Monday, Qantas will be launching flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, to New Zealand. We’re talking about a handful of flights each day from each airport, so you might think that Qantas won’t even bother reopening lounge, given how costly it is to operate them, and how few passengers will have access.

But nope, that’s not the approach Qantas is taking. Not only will Qantas be opening international lounges at all three airports, but the airline will be opening its flagship Qantas First Lounges in Melbourne and Sydney.

Qantas First Lounge Sydney

These lounges are typically reserved for international first class and oneworld Emerald passengers, but instead all customers eligible for lounge access will be directed to these lounges. This would include all business class passengers, as well as oneworld Sapphire members.

And it’s not just that the airline will physically be using the first class lounge space, but it’ll be offering many of the amenities that people have come to love about the lounges, including the a la carte dining experience designed by Neil Perry. This includes items like bircher muesli for breakfast, salt and pepper squid with green chilli dipping sauce for lunch and dinner, and the signature pavlova for dessert.

Qantas First Lounge pavlova

As Qantas CEO Alan Joyce describes the decision to open First Lounges first:

“If you’re making a comeback, you should do it in style. That’s why we’ve decided to open our First lounges ahead of our other lounges and give more of our customers the opportunity to experience them.”

Qantas First Lounge departures board

Bottom line

As Qantas starts to reopen international lounges, what an absolute treat that the airline is starting with its well regarded First Lounges. Not only are these physically among the nicest lounges, but the airline will be maintaining much of the service that customers are used to in these lounges, like a la carte dining.

Nowadays it’s a treat to find any lounge open, let alone to have access to better lounges than pre-coronavirus. Contrast this to the US — American has closed all of its Flagship Lounges and United has closed all of its Polaris Lounges, with no hint as to when they’ll reopen.

Anyone else love Qantas’ approach to reopening lounges?

  1. I believe Hong Kong is the same. Cathay Pacific only has The Wing First class opened, and it’s for all lounge eligible customers.

  2. “ I think it’s worth giving Qantas some credit for how it’s reopening international lounges, because I haven’t seen any other airlines take this approach.”

    I heard that ANA and/or JAL are using their F lounge in NRT and/or HND. Heard anything similar?

  3. Yeah I recently flew ANA from SYD to JFK transiting in HND, everyone eligible got to use the suites lounge which is normally for F passengers.

  4. Am I to understand these lounges in AU are to service flights between AU and NZ or all international departing flights? Are there any flights to AU from the US except to Sydney? I only flew to AU once in my life in 2000 for the Olympics when I was doing work for UPS and was very fortunate enough to have gotten into the pool that did work there since they were a sponsor.

    OT: I saw a lot of chatter in the DC area about the fact that on April 19th the last flight will depart Gate 35X from DCA (National). For those that don’t know, it is a most unusual gate in that instead of using a jet bridge that is now commonplace, you board a shuttle bus to ride out to a plane on the tarmac and walk up airstairs to the plane.

    I’ve never been through that gate. I can understand why some might find it a difficult experience. One of my first experiences on an airplane was in 1994, I flew into a small airport and boarded a DE Havilland Dash-8, via stairs as there were only about 12 of us boarding at the time. I was a teenager at the time so I was just happy for the adventure.

  5. I’m not sure there was an alternative: opening the international business lounge wasn’t really an option as it doesn’t have the set-up needed for table service…and the previous buffet arrangement would be hard to manage with the COVID restrictions; hence putting everyone in the F lounge , and spinning it as a generous gesture rather than pragmatism, is sensible.
    The food is very overrated: same tired old hipster crap they’ve been serving for years.

  6. Qatar has also closed their OW First and Business lounges, and now are directing all eligible (including Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire) to their Al Mourjan lounge.

    I flew through there in December and there were many excited OW elites in the lounge.

  7. Qantas has been doing a similar thing with the lounges in their domestic terminals. If they only open one, it’s the business lounge rather than the Qantas Club. This is what they did in Canberra when I flew last week, and in Sydney while I was in the Business lounge on the weekend they announced that the QF Club was closing and that guests were invited to the J Lounge. There was a pared back ‘buffet’ hot meal, but plated by staff rather than guests. They also had pre-plated cold options, espresso coffee, and the usual bar options served by a bartender rather than self service.

  8. “Contrast this to the US — American has closed all of its Flagship Lounges and United has closed all of its Polaris Lounges, with no hint as to when they’ll reopen.”

    You do understand that the Covid rate in Australia is effectively zero? When the US rate is lower, our lounges will be open just like Australia’s.

  9. I’m headed to NZ hopefully. Staying at the park Hyatt again hopefully! Looking forward to it!
    I agree it’s a cheaper option. For months they have only had the business lounge open for domestic. When I flew to Perth the other week they had both open but the business lounge was still full.

  10. The Qantas share price has doubled during the last 12 months. It has nearly reached pre covid highs again. The company has a primary aim to restore shareholder value.
    Some of the aircraft which used to fly international routes are used on domestic routes to meet increased demand from domestic holiday makers.
    In effect, the money Australians used to spend in other countries is now being spent here. I believe the situation is similar in USA where only some areas were dependent on international tourism, but most places enjoy robust domestic tourism.
    The departure taxes for international flights recently increased by $50approx. It is a new “security” tax, and flights out of the country are now quite expensive. Domestic flights are ridiculously cheap.

  11. Similarly BA have the First lounge open for all eligible first class passengers and the dining options have been roughly what you would expect in the Concorde Room, along with the Concorde Terrace (which we had to ourselves for a few hours last weekend).

    Also AA has opened the Flagship area at LAX a few weeks ago, though it’s currently operating as one big Admiral’s Club. The dining options are restricted, but are slightly better than normal Admiral’s club fare, and Avocado toast is back.

  12. @leoguam … yes i believe that’s true. I’m flying Sydney-Tokyo-Paris on JAL and its their first lounge that I will have access to, BUT the hours of the lounge opening is irregular. It changes everyday.

  13. @Paolo I love the ‘tired old hipster crap’ particularly when washed down with a choice of bubbles!

  14. @Colin
    Hipster food has a number of crucial elements, inter alia salt, sugar, lurid colour, exotic greenery with foreign names, and culinary foppery. Much of that is to make the consumers think they’re getting something special, when the reality is quite different. “Pairing” with wines is another part of the affectation and commonly seen in those ludicrous hipster joints, with their insane pricing ( another part of the spin/ mystique: if it’s outrageously expensive it must be wonderful, eg caviar)
    QANTAS has it all in spades, right down to that truly bizarre excuse for Pavlova, looking as it does like someone has left a Petrie dish to culture penicillin; I’m guessing it’s just cloyingly sweet fairy floss ( cotton candy) . Repulsive. But if people like it: fine, just don’t ‘talk it up’ as if it’s somehow fine dining….it’s cafe quality, at best.

  15. @Craig,

    the blurb I received from QF inferred that the lounges would be open for all eligible flights from early morning until the last QF/JQ flight to NZ. I haven’t looked at the timetables, but the last flights to NZ tend to leave between 6-7pm Aust Eastern Std Time, as they then land around midnight NZ Std Time.

    So any late evening flights by other oneworld operators or QF codeshares on Emirates won’t have access to the lounges.

  16. To all those interested in having the wool pulled over their eyes. Spin doctor Alan ak Joyce is being very choice about his first class lounge experience and how lavish the Qantas reopening of Sydney lounge is.
    But let’s take a closer look at what a wing & a prayer entails for Qantas internationally .
    1. First class seating on Qantas flights were restricted to the A380 aircraft and the 747-400 series as all 12 A380s languish on the ground in Victorville in downtown USA. All of its 747 fleet is retired Qantas has no opportunity for you to fly first class on it .
    I know you want more and here is the kicker , Qantas was about to renovate its Sydney International business class lounge for around 90 million dollars as its own managers of the lounge reported constant breakdown of equipment in their throwback to a 70’s RV movie.
    Given the size of the lounge and the multi million dollars it pays to SACL, the savings to Qantas ……well I’m sure you can figure it yourselves
    Using the first class also allows Qantas the need for only half of the ACCOR Pacific lounge staff who personally I know are underpaid and overworked.
    Mr Joyce you may be the same size as Michael J Fox but when it comes to being a spin doctor in a Spin City frankly you just crash and burn
    Happy landings

  17. @Craig the problem with DCA’s 35X wasn’t the bus ride to a plane or even the flight on a small plane.

    It was that for departures, 35X was massively overcrowded. People were asked to wait upstairs until their flight was called but sometimes you couldn’t hear the announcements causing missed flights. Downstairs was a packed zoo, boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. On arrival at 35X, you’d get to stand outside in the pouring rain, biting wind or searing heat waiting for your bag or stand on a bus with the doors wide open to heat or cold while everyone else waited for their luggage.

    I’ve been to many remote gates serviced by busses or by walking out to a small jet or turboprop and this was by far the most miserable experience. Most airports have some sort of shelter while you wait for a bag or the bus the gate checks and meet you at the terminal.

    And to be clear it wasn’t just second tier cities. You could come back from BOS or LGA and end up at this gate. The was nothing worse than getting redirected out there and 10pm on Friday night in the snow or rain when I was exhausted and ready to go home to sleep. Good riddance.

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