Which is the best Star Alliance lounge at Sydney Airport?

Business class travellers and frequent flyers can choose between two lounges – in fact, they can even visit both!

By David Flynn, July 5 2022
Which is the best Star Alliance lounge at Sydney Airport?

Nine Star Alliance airlines fly to Sydney, and two of those – Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines – maintain their own lounges, which in turn are available to any eligible Star Alliance passenger.

Thankfully, both the Air New Zealand Sydney International Lounge and Singapore Airlines Sydney SilverKris Business Class lounges are quite decent in their own right, as well as being very different – each is fairly cast in the brand image of its partner airline.

The Air New Zealand lounge is a spacious streamlined modern affair with a tended bar...

Air New Zealand's Sydney International Lounge.
Air New Zealand's Sydney International Lounge.

... while the Singapore Airlines lounge is a smaller, more intimate space with a softer, more relaxing vibe.

Singapore Airlines' Sydney SilverKris business lounge.
Singapore Airlines' Sydney SilverKris business lounge.

 

Star Alliance lounge access at Sydney Airport

The following Star Alliance member airlines fly to Sydney:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Air india
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines

Access to the Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines lounges is available to the following passengers on all of those Star Alliance airlines:

  • first class travellers
  • business class travellers
  • Star Alliance Gold-grade frequent flyers in economy or (where available) premium economy 

Most Star Alliance member airlines which don’t have their own lounge at Sydney Airport’s T1 international terminal – such as ANA, Air Canada and United Airlines – will direct eligible flyers to the Air New Zealand lounge, which is large enough to easily accommodate all those travellers.

Most Star Alliance airlines flying from Sydney direct travellers to the Air New Zealand lounge.
Most Star Alliance airlines flying from Sydney direct travellers to the Air New Zealand lounge.

(Note that Singapore Airlines also has a first class lounge, which is secreted away next to SQ’s business class lounge.) 

However, as savvy travellers including Executive Traveller readers are aware, you do have a choice.

Business class passengers and those with Gold status in the frequent flyer program of any Star Alliance member are entitled to use either lounge.

Business class passengers and Gold-grade frequent flyers on any Star Alliance member airline can visit either or both of the Sydney lounges.
Business class passengers and Gold-grade frequent flyers on any Star Alliance member airline can visit either or both of the Sydney lounges.

Indeed, they can flit between both lounges if the mood takes them – this isn’t an either/or decision (the only caveat is the lounge’s respective opening hours: in pre-Covid times, the Air New Zealand lounge was open until very late evening).

It certainly helps that these lounges are located literally next door to one another at Sydney T1’s southwest pier, which is home to gates 51-63 – an the escalator to both the Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines lounges is just behind the Starbucks kiosk.

The Singapore Airlines lounge is handily located right next to the Air New Zealand lounge.
The Singapore Airlines lounge is handily located right next to the Air New Zealand lounge.

Just show your boarding pass, and where relevant your airline’s frequent flyer membership card, at the lounge’s reception desk.

So how do these two Star Alliance lounges at Sydney Airport compare?

Food and drinks

Because food is such a subjective issue, we’re pleased to report that the Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines lounges have a very different take on pre-flight dining – and one of the two is certain to hit the spot.

This live cooking station is the centrepiece of Air New Zealand's lounge dining experience.
This live cooking station is the centrepiece of Air New Zealand's lounge dining experience.

The Air New Zealand lounge sports a live cooking station where of a morning you’re likely to see anything from freshly-made breakfast quesadillas to waffles, alongside standbys such as scrambled eggs and Kransky sausages (they’re something of an AirNZ signature), cereal, yoghurt, pastries and salads. There’s a definite leaning towards lighter healthy meals.

There’s a little less flair in the Singapore Airlines lounge, but the meals are heartier – especially in the mornings – and naturally nod towards Asian as well as Western palettes. This means you can choose between bacon, eggs and tomatoes, and an assortment of dim sum, chicken and sweetcorn soup, curries and more.

The Singapore Airlines lounge generally sports a wider variety of food than its AirNZ neighbour.
The Singapore Airlines lounge generally sports a wider variety of food than its AirNZ neighbour.

We also rate the extensive selection of salads, dips and cheeses as better for light snacking than at the neighbouring AirNZ lounge.

Plenty of light bite options at the Singapore Airlines lounge.
Plenty of light bite options at the Singapore Airlines lounge.

But on the drinks front, you can’t beat Air New Zealand’s tender bar or its friendly, knowledge staff.

The bar at the Air New Zealand lounge is a hit with travellers.
The bar at the Air New Zealand lounge is a hit with travellers.

This is a good example of why you might want to visit both lounges: enjoy a hearty meal at the Singapore Airlines lounge, then follow that with a drink or two at the Air New Zealand lounge. 

Coffee

Although Singapore Airlines recently added a barista cart to its dining area, we’d still say Air New Zealand had the edge when it comes to coffee.

Order up a barista-pulled coffee any way you like it at the Air New Zealand lounge.
Order up a barista-pulled coffee any way you like it at the Air New Zealand lounge.

A touchscreen tablet at the left side of the bar lets you order almost any style of coffee (bar an iced coffee, for some reason) with any type of milk, with the option of extra shots should you need an added kick.

WiFi

Internet access used to be the bane of the Singapore Airlines’ lounge, but a recent upgrade has resulted in a massive speed boost. When Executive Traveller visited both lounges last month we closed the following average download speeds

  • Air New Zealand lounge 10Mbps
  • Singapore Airlines lounge 260Mbps

Work

Head for the Singapore Airlines lounge if there’s work to be ploughed through before your flight. The ‘productivity pods’ offer a pleasing degree of privacy plus handy AC and USB outlets (plus there’s that super-fast WiFi on tap).

Grab one of these cosy 'productivity pods' at Singapore Airlines' Sydney lounge.
Grab one of these cosy 'productivity pods' at Singapore Airlines' Sydney lounge.

Air New Zealand favourites longer communal workbenches with less privacy.

Relax

The Singapore Airlines lounge tends to be quieter than its Air New Zealand counterpart, despite being one largely open space – but if you really want to unwind, head to the far right corner of the Air New Zealand lounge, where you’ll find a small ‘quiet zone’ wing with some banquette couches.

The little-known 'quiet corner' of the Air New Zealand lounge.
The little-known 'quiet corner' of the Air New Zealand lounge.

So which is Sydney Airport’s best Star Alliance lounge?

We’d rate the Singapore Airlines lounge for food, work and WiFi, with the Air New Zealand lounge for drinks (including coffee) and relaxing.

Executive Traveller readers: Which of these two Star Alliance lounges do you prefer, and why?

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 798

My pet hate is when airline staff don’t know there on rule book, post covid it seems to have gotten a lot worse with new staff and you can’t say one airline is better than other.

I've never had an issue with the front desk staff at either the SQ or NZ lounges not understanding access rules and being denied access to that lounge.

I'm SO relieved to see SQ has fixed its WiFi problems. I used to sit myself up in the corner of the SQ lounge closest to the NZ lounge and use the NZ lounge WiFi, but now the tables appear to have turned, NZ is pretty poor form at 10Mbps while SQ rocketing along at 200+Mbps!

Anyway, I would generally agree with this article, I always found SQ had a better spread of food, more 'substantial' as well as more variety. On the whole if I could visit just ONE of these lounges it would be SQ.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 238

Before COVID there were times when you didn't have a choice between these two lounges, eg the Air New Zealand lounge was open in the late evenings for ANA flights while the Singapore Airlines lounge was closed. But generally they're both open of an early morning through to the end of the day and that covers most Star Alliance flights ex-SYD. Having visited both lounges in the past I will generally just head for the Singapore Airlines lounge and settle myself there. The coffee cart is okay too, so I can't really be bothered to shift to the Air New Zealand lounge for much of any reason.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 90

So how does it work when you're flying on one airline but visit both lounges, does the airline have to pay for your extra lounge access?

The airline which runs the lounge is paid for every guest they admit, except for their own passengers of course. My understanding is that the airline pays if you're in business or first class, but the parent alliance pays if you are using your frequent flyer status.

So if you're flying on United for example, United pays AirNZ for you to visit the AirNZ lounge if you are in business class, but if you are a Gold frequent flyer in economy then Star Alliance pays. If you decided to visit the SQ lounge as well, then United or Star Alliance pays an additional fee to SQ for the use of their lounge.

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

Service class always precedes frequent flyer status in most circumstances. Unless: you are in LH C + Star Gold and you want to visit Senator Lounge, then Star Gold pays, or you fly Star Alliance business class and want to bring a guest, also Star Gold pays. 

If you are Star Gold traveling in C, it really depends on how the agent decide to bill. E.g. the agent scans your boarding pass, airline pays (which will mostly happen). You enter the lounge by swiping your gold card, Star Gold pays.

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

I remember passengers flying EVA Air in C were refused entry to AirNZ Lounge because EVA refused to pay NZ late night fee, but if you were Star Gold at the same time, you were fine.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 383

(For those wondering, 'C' is shorthand for business class, same as some people write it as 'J')

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 383

Having used both lounges the SQ lounge gets my vote, especially now that it has decent coffee and more than decent WiFi. It's more relaxing than the NZ lounge, not just because it generally has fewer people but the NZ lounge tends to 'echo' a lot too, all those hard surfaces. Honestly unless I had a hankering for a really great coffee or a cocktail or some other bar-served drink, I'm more than happy in the SQ lounge.


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