Compared: Qantas Club vs Virgin Australia Lounge membership

Paid airport lounge membership with Qantas and Virgin Australia comes at vastly different price points, with benefits to match.

By Chris C., July 21 2021
Compared: Qantas Club vs Virgin Australia Lounge membership

With Qantas and Virgin Australia once again selling lounge access for new members, how does the Qantas Club compare with Virgin Australia Lounge membership?

Executive Traveller puts the two head-to-head in this 2021 comparison.

Qantas Club, Virgin Australia Lounge locations

The most important part of any airport lounge program is having facilities available in the places you’d use them most.

Virgin Australia has you covered at seven domestic airports, with domestic lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and on the Gold Coast.

Qantas, on the other hand, boasts a much broader lounge network with Qantas Clubs found in 24 domestic airports, although two of those locations (Port Hedland and Rockhampton) remain in long-term closure for airport redevelopment works, tightening the ‘airport tally’ to 22 airports for now.

As well, Qantas offers lounges for paying members in the international departures area of five Australian airports – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth T1 and Perth T3 – plus own-brand and partner lounges covering New Zealand’s four major international gateways.

That’s 33 lounges for Qantas Club members across Australia and New Zealand alone.

Qantas Club members also enjoy access to a wide variety of lounges overseas – pending international travel restrictions, of course – with partnerships extending to ‘associated lounges’, American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs, selected Alaska Airlines lounges, and the Emirates business lounges in Dubai.

Winner: With an Australian domestic lounge network more than three times the size of its rival – not to mention an extensive list of international lounges and partnered facilities across Australia, New Zealand, the United States and beyond – Qantas wins this round.

Price of Qantas Club, Virgin Australia Lounge membership

On the pricing front, here’s what you can expect to pay for a fresh Qantas Club or Virgin Australia Lounge card:

Airline vs cost

Qantas

Virgin Australia

Joining fee

$99

$0

One year

$600

$399

Two years

$1,100 ($550 p.a.)

-

Four years

$2,000 ($500 p.a.)

-

Lifetime (aged 18-59)

-

$9,750

Lifetime (aged 60+)

-

$6,750

Notably, Qantas Club memberships can be purchased in blocks of up to four years, whereas Virgin Australia Lounge memberships are sold on a yearly basis only, or for a lifetime.

For existing members extending their tenure in the travel club, the rates below apply instead.

Airline vs cost

Qantas

Virgin Australia

One year

$540

$399

Two years

$980 ($490 p.a.)

-

Four years

$1,850 ($462.50 p.a.)

-

(Annual Qantas Club membership costs are also waived for the airline’s top points earners, being Qantas Points Club Plus members – but that requires 350,000 Qantas Points earned from eligible transactions every year, keeping that benefit to a small subset of travellers.)

Winner: Looking purely at the numbers for paying cardholders, Virgin Australia takes this round with no joining fee for new members, and its annual rate being less than the best-discounted Qantas Club price per annum.

However, this assumes Virgin Australia’s lounge network suits your needs – if not, Qantas Club membership would deliver better bang for your buck, especially when the price difference can be as narrow as $63.50 per year between Qantas and Virgin for renewing members.

Access to Qantas Clubs, Virgin Australia Lounges

Sticking to Australia, both airlines grant lounge access to members flying on that ‘home’ airline – with Qantas Club members having lounge privileges when travelling with Jetstar, too – but each program does things differently when it comes to guests.

Qantas Club members can bring one adult guest, plus two children aged 4-17, and any kids aged 0-3.

Read: Your guide to flying Qantas with children

Those regularly travelling with a second adult guest can also buy a Qantas Club Annual Guest Card for $350/year, being in addition to the cost of a base Qantas Club membership.

Access prior to Jetstar flights will also appeal to some Qantas Club members, but at certain airports including Sydney and Melbourne, the lounge isn’t in the same terminal as those Jetstar flights.

Elsewhere, Qantas lounges may also not be open immediately prior to Jetstar departures, where opening hours are instead tailored to Qantas’ own flight schedules – making access for Jetstar flyers a 'nice to have where available' perk, but not a 'core' benefit.

Over at Virgin Australia, the airline's lounge members can bring one adult guest and any children aged 0-3 into the lounge, but with a higher limit of three kids aged 4-7 as well, versus two at Qantas.

Also read: Your guide to flying Virgin Australia with kids

Although Virgin doesn’t offer a product similar to the Qantas Club Annual Guest Card, adults who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for lounge access can pay $65 at the door, to enter the lounge.

Virgin Australia individual lounge membership also costs $399 per year – barely more than the $350 for a Qantas Club Annual Guest Card, which only grants an extra +1 to an existing member – meaning a regular adult flyer would do likely better with a Virgin Lounge membership at this price point.

Winner: While Qantas Club provides more flexibility for regular adult guests via the Annual Guest Card, the competitive price of standalone Virgin Australia Lounge membership – paired with the higher cap on children aged 4-17 and ability to pay a one-off fee for a one-off visit – puts this trophy in the Virgin Australia corner.

Qantas Club, Virgin Australia Lounge amenities

Across the Qantas Clubs and Virgin Australia lounges, you can expect complimentary food and beverages whenever you stop by.

The quality and variety can vary from lounge to lounge and may also differ between weekdays and weekends, making it impractical to compare the hospitality across 31 domestic locations in this short article.

Still, we’ll highlight that both airlines offer barista-made coffee throughout the day in lounges with this service, as well as alcohol from 12pm. WiFi can also be expected – but again, the experience can vary from one lounge to the next.

More broadly, Qantas has reopened the shower suites across its domestic lounge network, while Virgin Australia’s shower facilities remain closed.

Qantas has also long reopened its Premium Lounge Entry facility in Brisbane – offering a private security screening path for lounge-eligible flyers – yet Virgin Australia’s comparable Premium Entry services in Brisbane and Sydney have remained shuttered since March 2020.

(That said, even when it’s open, Virgin Australia doesn’t allow annual lounge members to use Premium Entry unless flying business class – only Lifetime Lounge cardholders have that privilege in economy, alongside Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers.)

Winner: Each traveller will have personal preferences as to which aspects of a lounge are important to them, so we’re not calling an overall winner in this category. However, those taking long flights and hoping to shower in the lounge, or to skip the security queues in Brisbane, will prefer Qantas at this point in time.

Extra benefits of Qantas Club, Virgin Australia Lounge

Virgin Australia Lounge membership is just that: access to Virgin Australia lounges prior to Virgin Australia flights, where available.

Qantas Club provides lounge access too, but takes that further with a suite of benefits often bundled with hard-earned frequent flyer status.

That starts with priority check-in, and a boosted baggage allowance on selected flights – such as Qantas domestic economy, where the standard 1x23kg limit is elevated to 1x32kg for Qantas Club.

On most Qantas international routes – including those to NZ – Qantas Club members can instead pack an extra 12kg over and above their ticketed allowance, with the same privilege also applying on Emirates where the ticketed allowance similarly follows the ‘weight system’.

Under the separate ‘piece system’ as used on flights to North and South America, Qantas Club members see the standard 1x32kg allowance in economy tripled to 3x32kg (a whopping 96kg in total), with the same applying in premium economy (up from 2x32kg as standard).

Both airlines allow travellers with lounge access to request points upgrades on the day of departure, while only Qantas adds priority standby and priority waitlist as additional benefits for lounge members.

Winner: With priority check-in, extra checked baggage on many flights, access to Brisbane’s Premium Lounge Entry as listed earlier and priority when attempting to grab a sold-out flight, Qantas is the clear winner here.

When you ‘earn’ lounge access from flying

What happens if you’re a member of an airport lounge but then reach Gold frequent flyer status, we hear you ask?

With Qantas, your existing (paid) Qantas Club membership is paused should you ascend to Gold – given that Gold members can access the same lounges, and more – and will resume automatically in the future, should your status return to Silver or Bronze.

That’s nothing short of expected given Qantas sells lounge memberships for up to four years at a time.

After all, a traveller would be mightily grumpy if they’d paid that hefty four-year fee, only to reach Gold as a result of spending even more money with the Roo, but find their paid lounge membership still ticking down in the background.

Virgin Australia, however, isn’t as generous – but aside from its Lifetime Lounge card, only sells membership one year at a time, which reduces any loss.

“Virgin Australia does not provide refunds or extensions as a result of paid Members becoming eligible for Lounge access by virtue of their status in the Velocity program,” the airline confirms.

Winner: Recognising and rewarding loyalty among lounge lizards, Qantas’ policy for unlocking elite status during a period of lounge membership is the clear victor.

Qantas Club vs Virgin Australia Lounge: the verdict

With Qantas Club members gaining access to a much larger network of lounges than Virgin Australia, as well as perks like priority check-in and additional checked baggage, it’s no surprise that Qantas Club sits superior to Virgin Australia Lounge membership.

Still, the latter is more affordably priced, and could be all you need if the airports you often traverse have lounge facilities available.

This would be true for those jetting from the Gold Coast or between most capital cities – Darwin and Hobart excluded – but may not be as suitable for travellers venturing to the regions, or to the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

That’s where Qantas Club has a distinct advantage, particularly as Australians continue to explore their own backyard: and hopefully soon again, the world beyond.

Also read: Qantas vs Virgin Australia vs Rex in business class

Chris C.

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1021

Is it me or are some of these articles on high rotation?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2585

This piece is brand new, written yesterday from scratch.

A good article, and as you mention these are very different programs. Virgin is just about the lounge access and nothing else, but Qantas has a lot of benefits beyond the lounge, it's almost like a program for frequent flyers who have just started flying a lot, or who are not flying often enough or on the more expensive tickets which might earn them Gold status. That alone makes Qantas Club better value, with international Qantas lounge access a bonus.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 10

Seems like this was sponsored by Qantas. If I look back pre-pandemic as a gold FF of both Qantas and Virgin the Virgin lounge offering was better.  I know you don't get this as a Virgin lounge member but going to the lounge after a flight was always a good perk. 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 360

'Sponsored by Qantas' just because it's accurate in pointing out that Qantas has many more lounges than Virgin, including around regional Australia and overseas, and comes with a lot of non-lounge benefits, so overall it's the superior program? Seems to me like you think it's 'sponsored' just because you disagree with the article's conclusion!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 527

The article canvassed all of the features of both lounges, and its for readers to determine which ones matter to themselves (that decision can't be abrogated).  As a regular pre-pandemic user of Virgin's lounges at CNS, BNE, SYD and MEL (occasionally ADL too), I agree the ability to access a lounge on arrival at the end of a flight was/is a huge benefit not mentioned, but Chris' comments pro Qantas are valid (even if some features were of little importance to me) and were hardly in the 'Sponsored by Qantas' basket.  I thought it was a fair and balanced article.  Thumbs-up from me.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2585

Just re: 'access on arrival' specifically: this wasn't covered here as it's not a benefit currently available to members of either lounge program, and of course, this is a comparison of the two programs as they stand for members today, not how they fared 18 months ago. Virgin Australia offered this perk pre-COVID, but is yet to bring it back (including for Velocity Gold and Platinum members).

Virgin's lounge membership is fine if you only fly between the capital cities and lounge access is all you want. I started doing more regional flying within Australia for work before Covid set in, and I really appreciated all the Qantas lounges in those regional ports. These days I'm doing less flying and more Zooming of course!

Hi Chris, well done on yet another informative article. Much appreciated.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 205

I mentioned the comparison in  ticket prices in J  - VA vs QF - as part of the lounge consideration, it was removed. I think the CURRENT ticket prices offered as a comparison is valid when comparing lounges- nobody uses a lounge only - they use the lounge when flying - and ticket prices are at drastically different levels in J on these carriers.

21 Jul 2021

Total posts 1

Great article Chris.

looked balanced and fair to me. Hard to argue with facts. I use both and that looks about right to me

Keep up good work

best regards


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