Qantas will open its all-new London lounge at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 tomorrow, Wednesday November 29 (UK time), and it’s the most impressive addition yet to Qantas’ international business class lounge network.
The elegant interiors are undeniably British and draw from a ‘London at twilight’ palette, with deep greens and rich blues throughout the furniture.
Warm-coloured timbers, stone and brass provide a nod the city’s historic architecture.
This is perhaps most evident in the marble finish, brass chandelier and quilted settees of the upper level cocktail bar, which evokes the cosy feel of a small private club.
Travellers can take in a view over the airfield while sipping a classy cocktail (or a wine or beer, with both Australian and European brands on offer).
There’s a second bar downstairs, and this is perhaps the lounge’s signature touch: it’s a gin bar stocked with over a dozen quality Australian and British brands.
Given that there few things more iconically British than a gin and tonic, this is Qantas’ ‘Aussie airline, London lounge’ philosophy writ small (and served with a wedge of lemon).
The bar showcases some of Australia’s top-shelf artisanal gins such as Victoria’s Four Pillars, Sullivans Cove Hobart No 4 single malt, Adelaide’s Green Ant and Brookie’s Byron Bay Dry Gin from the NSW north coast.
These stand alongside classics such as Beefeater, Hendricks and Tanqueray No 10 plus two Sipsmith blends, oriental-spiced Opihr and The Botanist Islay dry gin.
(And if you are having a gin and tonic, you'll be pleased to know that Fever Tree is the lounge's tonic water of choice.)
At both the downstairs and upstairs bars you can also sip a barista-pulled coffee – and as at the other Qantas international lounges, they serve a fine flat white.
The downstairs dining room has ample room for preflight nosh, with 23 of these tables for two...
... and five seats for solo dining at the bar.
There's a British influence on the seasonal à la carte menu: tuck into a ploughman’s platter or a pot pie…
… and finish up with scones served with jam and cream, accompanied by a cup of tea served in Royal Albert china.
If you want to get straight into ‘Feels like home’ mode there’s the familiar salt and pepper squid with green chilli sauce from the Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne.
However, in keeping with Qantas’ push towards ‘health and wellness’ ahead of those length flights back to Australia – including the non-stop London-Perth Boeing 787 Dreamliner service – there are also dishes such as brunch bowls with eggs, avocado and kale, and zucchini and haloumi fritters.
“It’s a long flight, so we’re taking a holistic approach to passenger wellbeing on and off the aircraft, and the new Heathrow lounge is an important part of that,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce explains.
Thankfully, this doesn't mean a ban on sweet treats and other 'comfort food'.
Simpler fare is available at a self-serve buffet with a selection of hot and cold meals.
This includes a breakfast spread to start the day...
... with an 'all-day' menu coming in around lunchtime through to when the lounge closes in the evening.
Other creature comforts include plentiful AC and USB outlets…
… six spacious showers suites with Aurora Spa amenities...
... a workzone, which includes this high bench with wireless printing...
... plus two rather small private rooms, which will likely be available for any traveller when they're not being used by VIPs.
If this all seems like rather a lot of lounge for just two Qantas flights a day, it's because the airline is geared for growth – starting with passengers of Terminal 3's other Oneworld airlines.
"Any (eligible) Oneworld passenger will have access to this lounge," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce tells Australian Business Traveller, "so if British Airways passengers prefer our lounge to the BA lounge they will be able to use it, and BA will be charged for that. JAL use the BA lounge at the moment but they'll probably use this one now."
Joyce also says that as other T3 airlines lacking their own lounge tender for lounge access "we'll be in the mix."
Qantas is also looking ahead to the start of non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London, made capable by ultra-long range jets such as the Boeing 777-8.
"We have two flights a day today, but we have four slots, with BA renting the other two," Joyce explains. "Eventually when we can fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne in 2022 we're going to use those slots so we’ll have four flights a day."
But what about first class?
Across both floors there’s seating for some 230 passengers, but there's a clear sticking point for some of Qantas’ most valued passengers – those flying first class on the daily Airbus A380s from London to Sydney and Melbourne.
Despite that first class traffic, the lounge doesn't have an exclusive first class zone: instead, it follows what Qantas calls a ‘premium lounge’ mode where everybody from first class to economy passengers with Gold frequent flyer status or Qantas Club membership muck in together.
However, there will be disappointingly few perks reserved for first class passengers – even fewer than at with the airline’s other single-class lounges in Hong Kong and Singapore where the list of benefits include Champagne and shirt pressing.
"There will be tables reserved for first class and Chairman's Lounge members," Joyce tells Australian Business Traveller. "The crew and airport staff know who's travelling and will reserve tables for them."
"There are two private rooms which will be available, and some other private seating areas (in the lounge) which will be reserved for them as well."
And that's it – so while Qantas' London lounge is a superb business class lounge, we expect many savvy first class passengers, along with Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers, will at the very least pop next door to check out Cathay Pacific's first class lounge.
Qantas passengers have previously been directed to the lounges of Oneworld partners British Airways, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines, and eligible travellers can continue to use those lounges, of course.
And it’s not an either-or choice – Qantas’ first class and business class passengers, along with Gold and Platinum-grade frequent flyers, can visit all of those lounges including the new Qantas lounge if they desire.
The lounge will be the starting point for the non-stop 17 hour trek from London to Perth on Qantas’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, as well as the daily QF2 Airbus A380 flight to Sydney via Singapore from late March when Qantas pulls the plug on its notion of a Dubai hub with partner Emirates.
The Qantas London Lounge is open daily from 8am to 8.30pm and welcomes a long list of travellers, including:
- first class and business class passengers on Qantas flights and those of Oneworld airlines departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, JAL, LATAM, Royal Jordanian and SriLankan Airlines)
- Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers (and one guest) and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents, on Qantas or Oneworld flights
- Qantas Club members (and one guest) on Qantas flights
- Holders of a Qantas Club lounge invitation who are on a Qantas flight
- Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold cardholders on Qantas flights