Comparing Qantas Club and Virgin Australia Lounge memberships

Paid lounge membership with Qantas and Virgin Australia have vastly different price points and benefits.

By Brandon Loo, November 21 2019

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.

The Qantas London Lounge is open for Qantas Club members on a QF-coded flight.
The Qantas London Lounge is open for Qantas Club members on a QF-coded flight.

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.

Qantas Club members can only access partner lounges, such as Emirates Dubai Business Lounge, when on a QF-coded flight.
Qantas Club members can only access partner lounges, such as Emirates Dubai Business Lounge, when on a QF-coded 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.

The Virgin Australia Perth Lounge is one of its standard domestic lounges.
The Virgin Australia Perth Lounge is one of its standard domestic lounges.

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.

Melbourne's The House is open to VA Lounge Members flying to New Zealand.
Melbourne's The House is open to VA Lounge Members flying to New Zealand.

Also read: The House in Sydney, Melbourne open to Priority Pass

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

Qantas Club

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.

Waltz through a private check-in and security line before heading straight to the Qantas Club lounge.
Waltz through a private check-in and security line before heading straight to the Qantas Club lounge.

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 has an impressive Premium Entry in Brisbane, but it's only elite passengers and Lifetime Lounge members.
Virgin Australia also has an impressive Premium Entry in Brisbane, but it's only elite passengers and Lifetime Lounge members.

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.

Summary

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.

Read: Family Pooling is your shortcut to Velocity Gold status

Brandon Loo

Brandon divides his time between Perth and Launceston, with ample hours spent in airport lounges in between. He recently picked up photography and tries to capture the beauty of Tasmanian landscapes, aeroplane cabins and in-flight food, to varying degrees of success.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 17

Good comparison, Brandon! Qantas is easily the best value here and no wonder that the QC is a money-spinner for them, $400 sign-up fee alone. But like you say, if you are just doing domestic flying and mainly cap cities at that, then it's hard to justify Qantas Club over Virgin. As soon as you start flying overseas though, again mainly on Qantas, then Qantas Club really pays off due to the international lounge network, with a few partners as well.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 225

Mainly capital cities is right, Virgin are very poor in regional cities, they don't even have a lounge in a place the size of Townsville, for what they charge I think the Virgin membership is very overpriced.

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 92

Very comprehensive review and confirms without question QF has the vastly superior product .

25 Feb 2015

Total posts 25

I feel embarrassed to say I actually had no idea Virgin offers on arrival lounge access for its paid lounge members! I assume this also applies for gold and platinum too?

10 Jul 2018

Total posts 84

They certainly can, yes (up to 60 minutes post-flight technically).


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