Do Sydney, Melbourne international airports need an arrivals lounge?

By David Flynn, May 30 2016
Do Sydney, Melbourne international airports need an arrivals lounge?

TALKING POINT | At Australian Business Traveller, we spend a lot of time in airport lounges.

If we’re not attending the official opening or getting an exclusive sneak peek at a shiny new lounge, we’re either waiting for a flight or counting down the hours between flights – just like you probably do.

One type of lounge which intrigues us – and which we make full use of, after long overnight flights and early morning landings – is the arrivals lounge.

Most commonly found at an airline’s home port, arrivals lounges let you refresh, refuel and generally get back on top of things before your first round of meetings – especially if you can’t check into your hotel room until noon or later.

(Our strategy: we call the hotel as soon as we land to see if an early check-in is available, based on occupancy the night before. If the room’s soon to be ready we usually head straight to the hotel; otherwise, the arrivals lounge comes to the rescue, and is a decent place to clock up an hour or two.)

Arrivals lounges don’t need to be extravagant – they’re not first class flagships, and they’re very much built to a singular purpose.

You can go from the compact but ticks-all-the-boxes approach of Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong arrivals lounge

… to the ‘breakfast, bath and spa’ of British Airways' Heathrow T5 arrivals lounge

... raise the business travel bar with the wet shave service of Etihad’s arrivals lounge at Abu Dhabi

… and even offer private rooms with beds and an ensuite bathroom, a la Zurich Airport’s Swiss arrivals lounge.

That said, the majority of airlines don’t bother with arrivals lounges – Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, for starters.

As it happens, Qantas considered building an arrivals lounge at Sydney Airport, as a follow-up to the opening of its international first class lounge in 2008 – but for various reasons, the Qantas Arrivals Lounge never eventuated.

Today, as an increasing number of business travellers have experienced arrivals lounges run by other airlines at other major airport around the world, we’re asking readers: are Sydney, and arguably Melbourne, missing out?

There’s perhaps less of an argument for a Sydney arrivals lounge than a Melbourne counterpart, considering the proximity and travel time between each airport and its parent CBD.

Then again, Hong Kong, Heathrow and Zurich airports are barely 20 minutes from ‘downtown’ by train (admittedly a dedicated ‘airport express’ train in the case of Hong Kong and Heathrow.)

Both airports have early morning waves of inbound flights from the USA and Europe, as well as shorter but still overnight flights from Asia. 

Do you think Sydney and Melbourne airports need an arrivals lounge; would you use it, or do you see inbound visitors in business class or first class using it?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

After a 14 hour flight from the Middle East or the US that arrives in the morning before a day at work, an arrivals lounge would be an absolute saviour. 

I think they'd be very appreciated.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

I agree. An arrivals lounge in SYD and MEL would be most welcome.

28 May 2016

Total posts 128

While having an arrivals lounge is nice, my experience is that not many people are going to pick Airline X over Airline Y just because they have an arrivals lounge. In Melbourne the longest nonstop flights are from DOH, DXB and LAX. QR is the only one serving DOH nonstop so there is no other option, EK and QF have the JV so they don’t compete. The long haul flight out of Melbourne where at least two airlines compete is LAX and not many people are going to pick QF over UA (or vice-versa) just because one has an arrivals lounge so it is not worth the costs for the airline.

In SYD where there is a touch more competition (especially on LAX flights) an arrivals lounge may be viable because there is more competition and the airlines need to differentiate themselves from one another.

TL;DR Not many people pick one airline over another because of an arrivals lounge and there is not enough long haul competition in Australia to make an arrivals lounge viable.

What does everyone else think ? :)


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1524

Agree – I would not bother. If I came home then I head directly to my very own bathroom and if I arrive to foreign city then go to hotel. Very few and in very limited circumstances will really appreciate arriving lounge. Moreover – even departure lounges in Melbourne are questionable value – we have close to none international transit here while lounges most vital in places like SIN, BKK and HKG where transit abundant and some have to kill quite a few hours. So even if I register full 2 hr before flight by time I pass security and immigration and get to the terminal I can spend only 30-45 min in lounge. Considering that there is no view from QF lounge and food is mediocre I rather came late to airport and get extra booze on the plane if I need to. Even domestic lounge in Sydney nicer and for sure far more useful than international one in Melbourne. Sad, but true.

28 May 2016

Total posts 128

The MEL QF business lounge is pretty sad- It would almost make more sense to turn it into a regional Qantas Club, just the bare basics, enought seats and decent internet. Add some more showers and give everyone meal vouchers so they can get something from the terminal shops. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Nov 2012

Total posts 6

As an aside EY have started charging for spa treatments in their Premium Lounge for J passengers

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 43

There are showers and space to change clothes on arrival in T1 Sydney and the CBD is so close that I doubt it would be viable to have airline specific Arrivals Lounge. Maybe a generic Plaza Premium or other such group could run one with agreements with the airlines, as to access, for a classier option. However in reality, there is less need.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 214

It would be welcome, certainly. Is it necessary? Objectively, no.

The inter-Asia flights are typically overnighters, thus you don't need an arrivals lounge to collapse in and recover. Most travellers sleep on these flights, and on arrival you haven't found yourself in a wildly different timezone.

Not enough ultra long-haul flights of any one particular alliance coming and going from USA / Middle East to warrant it (as opposed to LHR or HKG).

I can only see the provision of this service as loss-inducing for the airlines, because suddenly you've got every bloke (that previously had no major problem with a lack of arrivals lounge) ducking their heads in to take advantage of facilities they don't really need.

Not saying it wouldn't be nice... But there's not a wildly convincing argument to be made for having airlines construct them...

24 Apr 2013

Total posts 18

A single multi use one, airlines could utlise or paid as you need users would be good.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

31 Dec 2016

Total posts 5

I think an arrival lounge would be a great benefit - when I fly from LAX (or DFW) to Sydney, I usually have a few hours to kill before my connecting flight to MCY (where my parents live), and I wish there was lounge access available for that wait (I don't have status which would allow me to use a Qantas domestic lounge and my connecting flight is usually in JQ because of the lack of QF flights to MCY)

23 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

I would value an arrivals lounge. As a business traveler from the US, I lose a day traveling to Sydney, and often need to head straight to business meetings from airport. Stopping by the hotel adds time, and being able to get ready for the day at the airport would be very valuable. Also, when connecting to a domestic flight (like my upcoming flight to Canberra), I don't have a hotel that can be an alternative.

It wouldn't influence my choice of airline, but I would gladly pay a significant fee to have good showers and breakfast available on arrival.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Do Sydney, Melbourne international airports need an arrivals lounge?