Although airport lounge access is a valued perk of high-tier frequent flyer status, paid lounge memberships can make sense for less-regular flyers or those starting out on their business travel journey.
For example, attaining Qantas Gold can take as many as 35 return domestic trips a year on the shortest routes such as Sydney-Melbourne, booked on ‘Red e-Deal’ fares: that's 70 one-way flights, meaning 70 lost opportunities to visit a lounge, before the airline grants you Gold status and the complimentary lounge access that comes with it.
It's a similar situation with Virgin Australia, where travellers on the same Sydney-Melbourne corridor routes can find themselves taking as many as 36 return trips or 72 one-way flights to go for Gold on ‘Getaway’ economy tickets.
In some cases your travels will be spread across different airlines, meaning you won't fly regularly enough with a single airline and its partners to unlock complimentary lounge access.
Those are all good reasons to consider a paid lounge membership with Qantas or Virgin Australia.
Airport lounge membership prices
The standard charges for Qantas Club and Virgin Australia Lounge membership include a one-off joining fee and an annual membership fee. These rates are for Australian residents – international residents have lower charges.
|Airline (current status)||Joining Fee (AUD)||Membership Fee (AUD)|
|1 year||2 years||4 years|
|Qantas (Bronze, Silver)||$399||$540||$980||$1,850|
|Virgin Australia (Red)||$330||$420||-||-|
|Virgin Australia (Silver)||Waived||$300||-||-|
Discounted memberships can be obtained through corporate schemes – typically through your company or some private groups – however, for the sake of this article we'll focus on comparing the regular, public rates.
It's worth noting that Qantas occasionally runs a promotion on Qantas Club fees for new members, such as four years for the price of two or 40% off overall.
Virgin Australia also offers lifetime lounge memberships at $9,750 for most people or $6,750 for seniors above 60 years – and given the price tag, the joining fee is waived.
(Qantas Club stopped offering lifetime memberships in 2007 where the standard rate was roughly $4,200 per person, but existing memberships are still honoured.)
These lifetime memberships are valid for the holder's natural lifetime, or for the lifetime of the airline, whichever comes first: which Ansett Golden Wing lifetime members would have discovered the hard way, many years ago.
How many lounges can you access?
Qantas Club membership: 90+ lounges
Members of the Qantas Club have access to all domestic Qantas Clubs and Qantas International Business Lounges when flying on a Qantas or Jetstar flight number.
In airports that Qantas flies to but where the airline doesn't have its own-brand lounge, access to a partner airline or contract lounge is usually provided in its place, when taking a Qantas flight.
Altogether, Qantas Club members have access to more than 60 lounges worldwide when flying on a Qantas or Jetstar flight number. A full list can be viewed here.
But that's not all – Qantas Club members and a guest are also welcome at all American Airlines Admirals Club lounges when flying with AA, including domestically.
Emirates welcomes Qantas Club members at its Dubai Business Lounges when booked on a Qantas QF codeshare flight operated by Emirates, while Alaska Airlines opens up its lounges in Los Angeles, Seattle, Anchorage and Portland when flying on an Alaska flight and connecting to/from a Qantas-operated international flight.
Virgin Australia Lounge membership: 19 lounges
Compared to Qantas, Virgin Australia's lounge membership offerings are considerably more pared back.
Paid-up members have access only to lounges on domestic and trans-Tasman flights, and you could count the number of those locations on your fingers and toes: there are 12 Virgin-operated lounges within Australia (including two in Perth: T1 main and T2 regional) and one in Wellington.
Three partner lounges are found abroad in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown, as well as The House lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, and My Lounge in Brisbane: these, joined by Wellington, being available to paid lounge members when flying with Virgin Australia on a trans-Tasman flight.
Virgin Australia Lounge members are not offered lounge access when taking other Virgin Australia international flights, such as to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Fiji, Indonesia, and all other international destinations beyond New Zealand.
Other lounge membership benefits
Purchasing a Qantas Club membership gives a few more tangible perks beyond lounge access. This starts with priority check-in before all Qantas domestic and international flights.
In Brisbane, Premium Lounge Entry also welcomes Qantas Club passengers, with priority check-in facilities located within the same space.
There's the added option of checking-in at the lounge when flying with only cabin baggage, where last-minute points upgrades and flight changes (as permitted by fare rules) can also be requested at the lounge service desk.
Checked luggage allowance is boosted as well, from 1x 23kg to 1x 32kg on domestic flights, the same as Qantas Silver members. Internationally, you get an extra 12kg on top of your usual allowance for most destinations.
On flights to and from North and South America, it's one extra piece up to 23kg for economy or premium economy, with the allowance unchanged in business class and first class where the allowance is already 3x32kg.
When visiting a lounge, you can usually bring one adult guest in with you, as part of your membership.
For domestic Australian lounges, that guest doesn't have to be travelling (or, could be flying with a rival airline). For international lounges, they have to be on the same eligible flight as you. An Annual Guest Pass can be purchased for $350 a year, which lets you bring in a second guest to all Qantas Club lounges.
Qantas' policy on bringing children into lounges, over and above the one complimentary guest each member can bring, varies depending on the lounge:
|Lounge type||Adult Guests||Child age||Number of children allowed|
|Qantas owned and operated||1 included||0 to 3 years||No limit|
|4 to 17 years||Up to two children|
|18 years +||Counts as standard guest|
|American Airlines owned||1 included||Under 18 years||All children count as standard guests|
|Emirates operated||1 included||Under 18 years||All children count as standard guests|
|Partner/Associated Lounges||1 included||Varies||Varies, contact the lounge for clarification|
Virgin Australia Lounge membership
Virgin Australia's paid lounge membership is just that, without other benefits for the flight aside from being able to check-in at the lounge with hand luggage only, and processing of on-departure upgrades at the lounge service desk.
However, lifetime members do get to use Sydney and Brisbane's Premium Entry, which standard members don't.
Virgin Australia also lets lounge members bring in one adult guest, and a number of children depending on which lounge it is.
There isn't an option to buy an Annual Guest Pass, but extra guests can be brought into domestic lounges with complimentary passes (from Velocity Silver and eligible credit cards), or for $65 per person.
|Flight type||Adult guests||Child age||Number of children allowed|
|Domestic||1 included||0-4 years||No limit|
|4-17 years||Up to three children|
|18 years +||Counts as standard guest|
|Trans-Tasman||1 included||0-2 years||No limit|
|2-12 years||Up to two children|
|13 years +||Counts as standard guest|
Otherwise, the biggest difference between Qantas Club and Virgin Australia's own paid lounge membership is that Virgin Australia flyers can also access domestic airport lounges after their flight, whereas with Qantas, the member needs to have a same-day onward flight.
Some travellers use this as an opportunity to refresh with a quick coffee and snack before hitting the road, or as a place to get some work done before heading into the office or checking-in at their hotel, although this mainly applies to travellers with only carry-on baggage.
It's clear that Qantas Club packs a bigger punch than Virgin Australia's membership, owing to having more lounges in Australia and overseas, access to extra perks normally afforded to higher-tier frequent flyers, and access to select partner airline lounges with American Airlines, Emirates and Alaska Airlines prior to eligible flights.
Virgin Australia lounge membership is better suited to travellers who generally stick to domestic and trans-Tasman trips while flying through any of the 15 cities where the airline has lounge arrangements for paying members. That's especially true for Velocity Silver members, who only have to pay $300 a year.
Qantas vs Virgin Australia lounge membership
|Qantas Club||Virgin Australia Lounge
|Lounges in Australia||31 (domestic + international)||15 (domestic + international)|
|Lounges overseas||60+ including partners||4 in New Zealand|
|1-year typical cost||$939||$750 ($300 for Silver)|
|4-years typical cost||$2,249||$2,010 ($1,200 for Silver)|
|Lifetime membership||No longer for sale||$9,750 / $6,750 (seniors)|
|Eligible flights||QF or JQ/3K/BL/GK flights, plus AA flights for Admirals Club||VA-operated, domestic + trans-Tasman flights only|
|Free guests||1 adult + children (policy varies)||1 adult + 3 children (2 for trans-Tasman)|
|Flight benefits||Priority check-in, more luggage, request on-departure upgrades||Lounge check-in, request on-departure upgrades|
|On-arrival access||No||Yes, VA domestic lounges only|
|Lounge locations||See here||See here|
|How to join?||Join here||Join here|
Both Qantas and Velocity Gold frequent flyer tiers (and higher) offer much better lounge access for travellers, particularly when travelling with partner airlines, so it's worth aiming for them in the long run if you have lots of travel planned.
Qantas Gold is equal to Oneworld Sapphire, opening up hundreds more lounges and priority perks when flying on any Oneworld-operated flights. The Roo also offers Lifetime Gold or Platinum for members who collect enough status credits over the years, meaning free extended lounge access for life.
Velocity Gold also unlocks the lounge networks of Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Delta and more on eligible flights. While there is no lifetime status yet, Velocity's Gold and Platinum requirements year-on-year are lower in number than with Qantas: and with the addition of Family Pooling, it can be even easier to reach those elite tiers.