Qantas Singapore Lounge Woes – Too Many Passengers, Not Enough Space

In 2011, Qantas opened a new lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1. It was a single class premium lounge, replacing the separate first class and business class lounges it previously operated in Singapore, with British Airways. At the time, this made sense, because Qantas was no longer offering first class service to Singapore, instead routing its flights from Australia to London via Dubai, following its new relationship with Emirates.

The lounge has a capacity of 460 passengers, is open daily from 14:30 to 23:00, and is generally well regarded.

Singapore is a very important market for Qantas, with dozens of flights each week between Australia and Singapore, carrying thousands of business and leisure travellers.

Earlier this year, as part of a major network reshuffle, Qantas moved A380 flights back to Singapore, dropping the Dubai stopover instead.

This presented a big problem for Qantas.

The upgrading of three daily flights from Singapore to an A380 service (one to each of Melbourne, Sydney and London) meant that suddenly a lot more passengers have access to the Qantas Singapore lounge, and unlike Hong Kong or London Heathrow, Singapore is not a oneworld hub, so there are not a plethora of lounge options for passengers to choose from.

Compounding the situation is that most Qantas flights from Singapore depart within a few hours of each other during the 8pm to 11pm period. While the lounge remained quiet during the day, even with a large capacity, there were suddenly hundreds of passengers flooding into the Qantas lounge every evening.

First class passengers

Qantas operates a big 14 seat first class cabin on its A380, with three flights per day from Singapore. This means up to 42 first class passengers each day use the lounge. As it is technically a business class lounge, naturally these first class passengers are expecting more than the average oneworld Sapphire status member travelling economy will receive.

Qantas has done what it can to cater to these first class passengers, including:

  • a reserved seat in the dining area
  • real champagne
  • priority access to showers
  • shoe shine
  • shirt pressing service

I believe these services are also provided for Qantas Platinum One status members, which is the highest Qantas status that can actually be earned by flying.

This isn’t that much, especially compared to the wonderful experience Qantas first class passengers receive at Qantas first class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, where they can enjoy a detailed a la carte menu and complimentary spa treatments.

I imagine some passengers actually paying for a first class seat from Singapore to Australia or London may be disinclined to book with Qantas given the lounge situation, especially compared to the substantial offerings and schedules provided by Singapore Airlines on the same routes.

The incredible Qantas First lounge, Sydney

Qantas premium and oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status members do also have access to the nearby British Airways lounge in Singapore.

I don’t doubt Qantas would like to do more, but they have limited space they can work with, and using more of the lounge space for additional first class services reduces the space available for the rest of the lounge, which brings me to the second, even larger problem.

Restricting access

There are a huge number of passengers who have access to the Qantas Singapore lounge, from first class travellers and Qantas Chairman’s Lounge members (Qantas’ highest level, invitation only status), right down to those who have purchased an annual Qantas Club lounge membership, or have been given a one time use Qantas Club lounge pass as part of a credit card offer, or for reaching Qantas Silver status.

Qantas has managed to squeeze an additional 40 seats into the lounge, bringing its capacity up to 500 in total.

Ever since the A380 services were brought back to Singapore, Qantas has, during some peak times, been restricting access to some Qantas Club members and lounge pass passengers, and directing them instead to the nearby SATS Premier lounge, also in Terminal 1. Ben reviewed this lounge a few years ago, and while it is a Priority Pass lounge, he described it as ‘nothing to complain about.’

While the redirecting of some eligible passengers from the Qantas lounge to the SATS Premier Lounge has always been at the discretion of lounge staff, and of course dependent on the number of passengers in the Qantas lounge at that time, AusBT is now reporting that Qantas will redirect all Qantas Club and Qantas lounge pass holders to the SATS Lounge until at least September of this year.

I would expect this restriction to remain beyond September, while the lounge remains at its current size.

To compensate, those Qantas Club members who are redirected will have 5,000 Qantas Points given to them for their inconvenience. Those holding Qantas one time use lounge passes will still be redirected, but not have any Qantas points given to them as compensation.

SATS Premier Lounge, Singapore Terminal 1

Bottom line

Qantas is in a tough position here. The lounge is a victim of its own success.

The lounge was built at a time when Qantas was sending its largest planes to Dubai, not Singapore. Like Centurion Lounges in the US, airlines are usually very limited in the space available to them for building lounges, especially at premium airports like Singapore Changi.

Qantas has been creative in trying to deal with the two biggest problems with their Singapore lounge — insufficient facilities for first class passengers, and insufficient space for everyone else. If there is ever the ability to expand their lounge I have no doubt they will do so, and at least build a first class section.

Right now they can’t cater to first class passengers without further restricting those with paid Qantas Club memberships.

5,000 points (which I would value at around AUD$50) for a Qantas Club member is a fair amount to compensate, and as far as Priority Pass lounges go, the SATS lounge is pretty decent.

Have you experienced the Qantas Singapore lounge?

Comments

  1. The SIN Lounge is nothing but a zoo these days with the return of the A380.

    If you’re flying F on BA, it makes the Concorde Bar seem almost an oasis by comparison.

  2. One reason the dining facility in the lounge is so busy: several flights departing for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane around the same time, early evening. These are designated ‘supper’ flights, meaning that in J you get not much more than a toasted sandwich or a bowl of soup. Consequently people eat in the lounge; the food is varied and tasty.
    I enter here either as a J passenger or in Y as a QF PLT, O/W emerald. I would happily go to a different lounge for 5,000 points.
    In respect of Melbourne/Sydney F, you are engaging in hyperbole to describe them as “wonderful”, “incredible “. They are *OK* but the earth doesn’t move. They need to vary the menu a bit more. And they can be crowded, particularly Sydney for breakfast time flights.

  3. @ Paolo — the Qantas F lounges in Sydney and Melbourne are generally regarded as some of the best first class lounges in the world. They change the menu four times a year.

  4. Seconding @Anthony’s comment above. It’s nice to read a more pragmatic take on QF lounges. The hyperbolic rhetoric about the very nice but not earth shattering LAX QF First lounge gets tiring. We get it…they have calamari on the menu and a craft cocktails.

  5. Worth noting that part of the reason for this “temporary” restriction is that the 2nd daily Qantas SYD – SIN flight, is being changed from an A330 to A380 for a few months (at least for some days). So 4 x QF A380 departures from SIN.

    Not sure it’ll make much difference once it goes back to an A330, as the lounge can be crowded anyway and QF also announced a further 3 weekly A330 SYD – SIN service to start Dec. So the crowding will continue I suspect until expansion or F lounge appears.

  6. @James
    They are overrated. The menus staples don’t change: still the salt’n’pepper squid, the undercooked vegetables, the indifferent cheese selection, inadequate vegetarian/vegan choices. Service is slow, particularly in Sydney.
    The seats are ok, but there are no charging options at any of the seats; consequently phones/tablets need to go on the floor near a wall outlet.
    Staff are ok but there are too many swishing about looking important rather than doing anything.
    Those who rate it highly are too easily pleased, IMO; the suggestion that there’s something of fine dining about it is just risible: it’s cafe food , tarted up a bit and with fancy titles.
    Not in the same league as Cathay or SQ.

  7. I disagree that the Sydney lounge is incredible. The massages have been sacked back to 15 minutes and the service sucked both times I was there. If the service were good , I’d give it higher marks but I couldn’t wait to leave. I felt like a major incovencie.

  8. When I flew on BA A380 SIN-LHR last year, I preferred the Qantas lounge over the BA lounge (I’m a oneworld sapphire member so had access to both). I’ll admit I’m surprised they’re not telling oneworld sapphire/emerald members who are not flying Qantas to go to BA lounge instead, which is just a minute away.

  9. I’m guessing this is considered a temporary expedient until they can get direct SYD-LHR flights in place.

    Despite many of us claiming we prefer a stopover to an ultra long-haul, their non-stop PER-LHR flights are pretty much full according to staff (and I took QF9 and 10 last week – both chokka in all cabins).

    If non-stop SYD-LHR really is only two years away, I doubt and significant spending will be taking place in the Singapore lounge.

  10. I tend to agree with other commenters – the SYD F lounge is not THAT gret.

    Or perhaps I had been built up for something that would compete with the CX and LH F lounges and was disappointed.

    At any rate, I found it to be crowded, noisy and poorly kept. More on par with the Concorde Room, if that.

  11. Thanks for the informative article, even if it’s bad news (but you can’t really shoot the messenger, right?)

    There’s a late nght (23:45) Finnair flight to HEL, too. While AY directs their pax to some contract lounge, many choose to go to the QF lounge instead, as it’s far better. I wonder if QF still allows access to AY pax. I guess I’ll find out in October.

  12. Great article as always, James!

    I love reading those “works on paper” management figures, like 500 available seats. Like that’s ever going to work in a lounge. Increasing the seat count from 460 to 500 is not increasing capacity; it’s faking an increase on paper. These people are usually so far from reality that it’s almost laughable that they even get a say in these things.

    If there’s lounge capacity problems there’s two things you can do: restrict access or actually increase capacity by adding more space. It’s that simple. Lounges are not like airplanes, where every seat counts, though for some reason executives are treating them as such.

  13. Does anyone know how easy it is to transit in Singapore, flying Qatar from T3 but would like to try out the other oneworld lounges.

  14. Well I have 2 comments to make re this article. I was in the QF Singapore lounge 2 weeks ago and it wasn’t at capacity that afternoon/evening. For a business/first lounge the food offering was respectable, (outshines the BA T5 F Lounge) though the wine offering is below par imho. With regards the comments in here re the Sydney F lounge my last 2 experiences in there have been poor at best. Just last week I waited 25 minutes for my coffee & cooked breakfast when the eating area was half full, when I asked what was happening they said oh we appear to have lost the order! The service in the lounge is like the escalator to the gate…going down whilst hubris creeping into QF lately is going up and one of the reasons I prefer by a country mile to fly CX, who’s HK F lounges, whilst down on past service levels, are still way in front of the Sydney QF F lounge

  15. @ James

    Fact check:

    – QF SIN lounge re-opened in April 2013 (not 2011)
    – QF running 4x A380 ex SIN (2x Syd, MEL, LHR) not 3
    – there ARE several OneWorld lounges to choose from (QF, BA, CX, Dnata (Finnair and JAL)) – plus the EK lounge for QF pax
    – you cannot say how many first class passengers a day use the lounge based on total seats (only provide an upper estimate): not all those seats are taken by first class passengers

    QF DOES have theoretical options – for example, doing a deal with BA to enable first class pax to use the BA first lounge.

    Note also both paying first class and Platinum status customers have been turned away (according to the comments on AusBT).

  16. @Howard,
    Transiting in Changi is quite easy unless you’re flying in/out of T4. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are connected and you can walk between them. There is also a train that provides free shuttle service both airside and landside.

    If taking the train, budget 15-20 min to get to your gate. Walking will take more time, obviously.

  17. I was at QF SIN lounge last night from 8pm to 11.30pm and I’d say it was pretty normal. It was busy but it was nowhere close to being a ‘zoo’. Plenty of empty seats/tables throughout the lounge. Several ‘reserved’ tables at the end of the dining area near the showers were unused while i was there.

    If it was a zoo previously, I’m guessing the restriction works?

  18. Direct Syd-lhr? On a 777-8? When the oil is heading towards $150/bbl? Not gonna happen any time soon unfortunately.

  19. @Dean – it’s very easy. All the terminals at Changi are connected inside security except for the new Terminal 4.

  20. @ Woot

    The economics of all the new ultra long routes could change if fuel prices go too high (even Qantas’ new PER-LHR). But at the moment they work – hence the majority of the world’s top 10 longest flights having been introduced in the last couple of years.

    Airbus may be first off the blocks: their 359ULR flies later this year and requires what are described as “tweaks” to extend range. The 77X follows a year or so later.

    The key to this is that business people seem to prefer non-stop flights – and they’re the ones most likely to buy premium class tickets and, as with Qantas, pay a premium for non-stop flights. That’s why it’s so significant that the QF9/10 is absolutely full.

  21. @platy

    There is no CX lounge at T1. They have moved all their operations to T4 which is not close.

  22. Thanks James… as OW Emerald this lounge doesn’t really appeal for these very reasons.

    I was there a few weeks ago but opted for BA which was quieter and had champagne, albeit on request (although many FFs will say the QF food is much better!).

    I did wonder why, when they redid their lounges, QF and BA didn’t come up with some reinvented shared arrangement especially to be able to provide a lounge for premium members (as in a OW Emerald First tier) and somewhere exclusive for its First class and Chairman’s members (as BA does with the Concorde Room).

  23. This lounge is swamped with too many oneworld sapphires, such as James.

    I’m still curious what James’ bf looks like…sugar daddy maybe.

  24. Had the misfortune to travel First on Qantas from Sin/Mel two weeks ago, the Singapore Qantas Lounge has been aptly described as a Zoo. It is worse than a Domestic Qantas Club Lounge too many people all fighting to get food and drink. The small area set aside supposedly for First Class was full to the brim with families with children. You will note I said misfortune to travel on Qantas First , the soft product at best was very mediocre, the food that was being offered should make Neil Perry late of Rockpool ashamed his name is being used, The service from the FA,s was very clinical ,as a late night departure they just wanted to get the food service over as fast as possible , you even had to ask for s glass of wine!!. I travelled Lhr/Mel in Qantas First last Nov2017 and from that experience I should have known better than to book again. I have used Qantas for over 50 years and I personally think they are on a slippery slope which is a shame, there are certainly many better Airlines flying out of Sydney and Melbourne to chose from , For your info and for Qantas benefit I am a 74 Year old male . my Wife and I are still Mother and Father by my children (who are now relatively old ) and Nana & Papa by my Grandchildren and we are not gender challenged .

  25. James, before writing, you may want to have a look at the facts on flights as @platy mentions…

    If you arrive before 5 and settle in, not many issues. I took a shower, had food which was great, expresso martinis are also fantastic from the bar, and coffee was pretty damn good.

    But it does get really busy between 5 and 8. I had no issue as I had a seat and people were around with trolleys offering food.

    Let’s remember that QF’s golds and plats have also option to go to BA and EK. A pretty good lounge crawl, which I did. Although not as exciting as HKG.

  26. This is interesting:
    https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2018/07/09/british-airways-jfk-heathrow-route-is-worlds-most-lucrative/

    Of the top 10 most lucrative routes, 4 are domestic (Australia, Canada and 2 US trans-cons); of the remaining 6, no less than 5 are to/from LHR.

    And now we begin to see why BA is so fabulously profitable and doesn’t much care that most of us think its Club World offer is below-par…

    More relevant is the number of those routes that are very long-haul – LHR-Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance.

    Also intriguing to see both Emirates and Qatar making the list: I am frankly staggered that Qatar’s LHR route generates half a billion a year.

    Anyway, it all suggests that there might be money to be made from long-haul for some while yet, even given fuel cost increases.

  27. @The nice Paul

    I’m not staggered about QR, It all comes down to how BA Tier Points are earned.

    Flying QR say LHR-DOH-SIN R/T in J earns 560 Tier Points, BA LHR-SIN direct would be 280 Tier Points if memory serves me right about BA distance charts. BA GOLD is 1500 points?

    So lots of BA members trying to earn/keep status and choosing QR instead of BA. Better seats probably don’t hurt either.

  28. @ No name

    You honestly think that mileage running/ Tier Point running FF geeks have *any* significant impact on Qatar’s revenues out of LHR? Even if there were a lot of them, by definition they’d be looking for “bargains” and, therefore, relatively would make a smaller contribution to that half a billion dollars revenue.

    Though, not being a fan of overly hot Asian carriers, I often use Qatar for eastbound flights even with a stopover in Doha versus a non-stop flight (all those lovely air nozzles in Qsuites… ummmm…), and I had noticed the significant impact on my Tier Points account.

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