Reviews

Review: Air New Zealand, Star Alliance lounge: Sydney Airport

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, May 27 2015
Air New Zealand, Star Alliance lounge: Sydney Airport
Country

Australia

City

Sydney

Airport

Sydney - Kingsford Smith

Alliance

Star Alliance

Airline

Air New Zealand

Cabin-class

Business

Notes
The Good
  • Manned cocktail and espresso bar
  • Different zones for different moods
  • Private lounge for NZ Elite Priority One
The Bad
  • No separate space for Star Alliance first class passengers
The Unexpected
  • Power points and more power points
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

Offering guests a full cocktail bar, power points galore and a 'food theatre' station manned by trained chefs, Air New Zealand's Sydney Airport lounge ticks all of the boxes for the airline's business class passengers.

It's also the new haven for Virgin Australia's own pointy-end travellers, its Velocity Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum members and also Star Alliance Gold cardholders, so step inside as we reveal what awaits in Sydney Airport's newest lounge.

Location & Impressions

Follow the signs to Gates 50-63 to find Air New Zealand's new lounge – it's one level above the departure concourse and adjacent to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge.

Inside, it can only be described as a vast improvement over both the previous 'full' lounge and the temporary facility that took its place for the past six months.

The space is bright, airy and modern, with different zones to suit different needs and moods.

Also a standout against the temporary lounge: natural sunlight – well, sometimes – and tarmac views.

Access

Air New Zealand's door list in Sydney is quite extensive – if you're on it, you're in.

Business class and first class passengers of:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Virgin Australia
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Sichuan Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines

Elite frequent flyers:

  • Air New Zealand Airpoints Gold, Elite and Elite Priority One before Star Alliance and Virgin Australia flights
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club before Virgin Australia, Air NZ, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines flights
  • Other Star Alliance Gold cardholders before Star Alliance flights (excludes Virgin Australia)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum plus Etihad Guest Silver and Gold prior to Etihad flight EY455 when booked in economy

Paid lounge users:

  • Air New Zealand Koru Club guests before Air NZ flights or NZ codeshares on Virgin Australia trans-Tasman flights
  • Air New Zealand passengers in economy travelling on a Works Deluxe fare, but only on flights booked before June 17 2015
  • Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members prior to any Star Alliance flight
  • United Club cardholders ahead of any Star Alliance flight
  • Virgin Australia Lounge members before Virgin Australia flights to New Zealand only, but including codeshares on Air NZ
  • Single entry passes can be bought for $55 per person for visits under four hours or $85 for longer stays for passengers of any airline

Exceptions and notes:

  • SkyTeam frequent flyers in economy on Delta flights can instead use the SkyTeam Lounge
  • Passengers on Virgin Australia's Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights instead use the Etihad Sydney Lounge, as can guests on EY451
  • Singapore Airlines passengers can also use the adjacent SQ SilverKris lounge

VIPs

There's also a 'lounge within the lounge' for Air New Zealand's Elite Priority One members – if that's you, you'll find it on your left as you pass the service desk.

Much like the Qantas Chairman's Lounge and Virgin Australia's The Club Lounge, we expect its biggest drawcard is privacy, followed closely by networking, and peace and quiet when trying to get some work done.

Dining

If you were hoping to see the somewhat-iconic hot dog cart in the new lounge, you'll be disappointed – although Air New Zealand staff haven't ruled out its seasonal return from time to time.

Replacing it: food and beverage that transforms what was previously a rather humdrum selection into arguably one of the best of any international business class lounge in Australia.

For starters, the salad bar is both fresh and comprehensive...

... as is the range of mini-treats and grab-and-go items, which we're happy to see are relatively healthy.

There's also a good selection of fruits and cheeses along with tasty hot mains such as chicken, beef and rice...

... and chef specials from the nearby 'food theatre' station such as freshly-shucked oysters and both pork and vegetarian dumplings:

That all comes together to form quite a scrumptious lunch that's a definite step up from your typical toasted sandwich or soup of the day:

Want something to drink? Wander over to the manned cocktail bar...

... offering guests impressive views of the afternoon sunset:

There's all-day espresso coffee available, which can be ordered via the supplied iPad or the Air New Zealand app on your own iPhone or Android smartphone...

... and as an advantage for time-poor travellers, the app also gives you an ETA on that cuppa so that you're not standing around waiting when you could be working or grabbing something to eat.

If you return a few minutes after your time, don't stress – your coffee will be waiting at the bar.

You can choose either a take-away cup or a café-style mug or glass

Then there's the alcohol... forget about pouring your own drinks: here you'll find skilled cocktail bartenders to do that for you.

We asked one at random to mix up an Espresso Martini on what was their first day on the job, and they didn't bat an eyelid – top marks for cocktail knowledge, presentation and taste.

As it turns out, the lounge's signature cocktail is a variant on that – a Kiwi Martini, which was also quite good.

You'll too find self-serve spirits and an automated coffee machine over near the 'business end' of the lounge if you're in a rush or you'd prefer to free pour your shots.

Work

Wherever you sit, there's a good chance you'll be able to plug in and recharge your laptop, tablet or smartphone as AC and USB power points are everywhere.

For more serious work, head to the far end of the lounge and its long laptop table...

... or set up camp near the bar and plug in there:

For something more casual, look to the chairs with black cocktail tables in between...

... or to the 'quiet zone' – also at the far end of the lounge – which too has power points in between the seats.

Fast wireless Internet blankets the lounge, and during our visit we were able to achieve download speeds of around 15mbps, uploads of 12mbps and ping speeds of just 1ms, which beats many home-based Internet connections.

As with any connection, expect that to slow down during peak times – but even speeds of just 1mbps would at the very least be usable for basic tasks such as emailing and web browsing.

Relax

Travelling on your own time? Perch yourself in one of the comfy violet-coloured booths where you'll find AC power points – although not USB outlets – in the skirting board underneath...

... or in one of 13 other seating types – most of which come with either a snack table, a foot stool or both:

You'll find these all throughout the lounge, so go for a wander to see what's vacant – whether that's the plush chairs aside artwork commemorating Air New Zealand's 75th anniversary...

... or over by the patterned wall, which we're told says "hello" in 44 different languages if you join the dots:

Young children can relax in their own treehouse-inspired room which a) has adjacent seating so that parents can keep an eye on their young ones while enjoying some 'me time', and b) has a closing door to limit the noise impact on other travellers. Nice one, Air New Zealand.

Also not forgotten: private shower suites with attached bathrooms and mirrors, with towels and amenities provided.

With so much on offer from beginning to end, one of the only things absent is an Island Dining-style 'dish of the day' as you'd find in the Qantas Business Lounge or the à la carte service of the Etihad Lounge.

There's also no separate space or service differentiation for Star Alliance first class passengers – but as far as business class lounges go, this one's still worth arriving early for.

Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Air New Zealand.

Also read: American Express Sydney Airport lounge review

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

upperdeck

upperdeck

30 Dec 2014

Total posts 9

Chris,

Can I ask if paid entry requires the potential lounger to be fying on a Star Alliance flight? Do you need to pay for children also? Thanks...

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

You can buy a single-use pass at the door when flying on any airline – you don't need to be flying with Air NZ, Star Alliance or one of the named airlines above.

Air NZ's published rules on children don't mention how this is handled for guests paying to enter its lounges, so for this you'll need to contact Air NZ directly.

roby

roby

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 64

Why are Delta still using this lounge now that they have a rather high profile SkyTeam branded lounge open? 

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

Delta's flights tend to use the gates in the pier in which the Air NZ lounge is located, which is at the opposite end of the terminal from the SkyTeam lounge.

Thus, Delta's business class passengers have access because this lounge is much more convenient when it comes time to board, while frequent flyers in economy still have access to the SkyTeam lounge.

(If a Delta business class passenger particularly wanted to use the SkyTeam lounge instead, that shouldn't be a problem.)

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 521

The lack of a separate First Class Lounge is hardly surprising given NZ does not offer First Class.  I assume the most elite travellers will be more than happy with the Elite Priority Area.  First Class pax on other Star airlines will probably head to SQ's lounge if a separate area is of great importance to them.

Overall I think the lounge looks stunningly good.  It also seems that NZ and VA are styling their lounges so they are discernably different but similar enough that mutual pax know the products are similar and related. 

tazza0712

tazza0712

27 May 2015

Total posts 24

What time does the lounge open? Travelling VA1 to LAX in a few weeks time and excited to try out the new lounge before the 9.50am departure. 

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

You'll have plenty of time – the Air NZ website shows 6am, but depending on flight schedules it can open as early as 5am (remembering of course that with the curfew, flights can depart from 6am).

If check-in opens three hours prior to your VA flight, you'll have plenty of time to relax!

otternz

otternz

04 Mar 2015

Total posts 16

0600 until 2130

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

You omitted that Velocty Platinum members can use the lounge when flying on Hawaiian Airlines.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

Thanks for the pick-up – we've confirmed this with Virgin Australia and have amended the access list above.

(As it happens, Velocity Gold can also stop by prior to Hawaiian Airlines flights, so we've included that too.)

Michael Kao

Michael Kao

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 336

Is this open already? I have a trip coming up with Asiana J, although it got downgraded to angle seat :( at least I got something to look forward to. 

I also have a trip coming up with TG F next Feb. Would you recommend SQ's first class lounge or this one?

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

Yes, the lounge opened to the public on Saturday.

SQ's first class lounge in Sydney is also newly-renovated, so why not visit both and choose a favourite?

Libertyscott

Libertyscott

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 150

What a vast improvement, and it bodes well for Auckland and Brisbane, both of which are rather dire at the moment. Hopefully one can also pour your own wine, not just have it limited to what the bar offers, as it can be quite good fun to do a bit of tasting of the range of wines.  I'm a little sceptical that oysters will be commonplace (NZ does have a habit of raising the bar briefly in the hype of things, then quietly economising), but it does seem to indicate a serious attempt to rival Qantas at one of NZ's most important foreign airports.  Much better to have an exceptionally good business class lounge than to have a mediocre one, and then a smaller first one, although the test will be at peak times.

My only criticism is the continued lack of sockets that take plugs from outside Australasia, given that quite a few passengers are coming from the US, Europe and elsewhere.  Yes, everyone is used to bringing adaptors, but it isn't that difficult to install such sockets.

DrTGanguly

DrTGanguly

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2011

Total posts 185

Very good for a business class lounge. It does raise the issue of what does Platinum or equivalent top tier status really get you away from your airlines top ports these days.  This lounge and the Qantas Hong Kong/Singapore lounges give gold level members and often many paid up lounge members acess to lounges so vastly superior to the first class lounges of 10 years ago.

In lounges like this Platinum's dont get anymore than paid members.  I guess the flipside is that when carriers do go to the effort of putting in a First Class lounge you get award wining restraunt service, day spas, plenty of space and top shelf booze.  

henrus

henrus

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

And now for Brisbane?

aviation

aviation

18 Mar 2014

Total posts 91

Scheduled for later this year.

smithrhy

smithrhy

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Oct 2014

Total posts 19

One other point to note.  Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers can instead opt to use the SQ KrisFlyer lounge before any Star Alliance flight, travelling in any class.  I've put several friends on to this - never been a problem and it's as per Star Alliance rules.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2924

Indeed they can (as can United Club, Maple Leaf Club...) – we opted not to detail SQ lounge access as the review was for the NZ lounge. SQ's lounge was mentioned to make it clear that while SQ passengers could access the NZ lounge if they wanted to, SQ too has its own lounge in Sydney.

devilish

devilish

06 Jan 2015

Total posts 71

Very Impressive looking,

Does anyone know if a paid up VA lounge member can access the lounge if on an NZ ticketed service?

smithrhy

smithrhy

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Oct 2014

Total posts 19

No.  It must be a VA ticketed service, operated by either Air NZ or VA.  If you book on Air NZ, no access unfortunately for paid VA lounge member.

rg

rg

24 Mar 2014

Total posts 14

travelling VA syd/akl/syd in y, does etihad gold get you into star alliance or etihad lounge in syd?


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