"Wait, you mean that I can use that oneworld business lounge with my Qantas business class ticket or frequent flyer card?"
That's a question we get very frequently at Australian Business Traveller, because the full extent of lounge access across the oneworld airline alliance is not well publicised for passengers who aren't 'in the know'.
And the answer is a fervent "Yes" -- you can use the lounge of any oneworld partner airline if you're flying on a oneworld airline and hold either a business class ticket or are a suitably high-tier frequent flyer. (Which means that even if you're stuck in the cheapest economy seat, your Qantas Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card will open the doors at some of the world's best airport lounges.)
This applies across all the oneworld member airlines: American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, JAL, LAN, Malev Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7.
And yes, you can get into another oneworld airline's lounge even if the airline you're flying has its own lounge.
One example: if you're flying Qantas through Singapore, you can use the Cathay Pacific lounge instead of the Qantas/BA joint lounges. We reckon the Cathay lounge is generally better, especially during the later evenings when the Qantas lounges get exceptionally busy due to the stop-over of Qantas and BA flights between Sydney and London.
Another situation for lounge-hopping: at London Heathrow you can pick the American Airlines, British Airways or Cathay Pacific lounges (again, we reckon the Cathay lounge is best, although the American lounge has astoundingly fast wifi).
How to get into any oneworld lounge
There are essentially three checks you need to satisfy to get into a oneworld airline's lounge:
- flying on a oneworld airline
- holding a same-day ticket
- suitable class of travel or frequent flyer status
Here's how you satisfy those requirements.
1. The oneworld airline requirement
The oneworld airline requirement is generally straightforward: you have to be flying on a oneworld airline the same day. But for Australian flights, it can be slightly tricky.
While Qantas will let you into its lounges if you're flying Jetstar, other oneworld airlines aren't under the same obligation. Jetstar's not a oneworld member.
However, this is enough of an unusual case that you may well be able to chance it -- especially if you are booked on a codeshare QF flight number for the Jetstar flight.
2. The same-day ticket requirement
The "same-day" part of the requirement is usually fine, but can lead to problems in certain unusual cases.
We've heard of examples where passengers crossing the international date line or multiple timezones have been denied access because their onward ticket wasn't the same day. Stick-in-the-mud agents can lack common sense and refuse you access.
The same-day rule can be especially frustrating if your flight departs in the very early hours of the morning, yet you turn up to the airport before midnight.
Example: If your British Airways flight from Mumbai to London leaves at 0245, you won't technically be allowed in the lounge until after midnight.
Remember "anytime access" privileges? Both Qantas and British Airways used to let Platinum cardholders into their own lounges at any time, even if not flying or flying a non-oneworld airline. But both airlines no longer offer this much-appreciated benefit to their best customers.
3. The class of travel or frequent flyer tier status requirement
The class of travel or frequent flyer status is reasonably straightforward. If you're in business, you get the business class lounge. If you're in first class you get the first class lounge if there is one; if not, you get the business class lounge.
If you're in economy or premium economy, you'll need to present a frequent flyer card that equates to either oneworld Sapphire (for business class lounges) or Emerald (for first class lounges) to get into the lounge.
If you're flying business class, you can get into the first class lounge if you have a oneworld Emerald card.
Qantas Gold is equivalent to oneworld Sapphire, while Qantas Platinum is equivalent to oneworld Emerald. Here's a full list of oneworld tiers broken down into member airline equivalents.
Usefully (and this isn't well known) you also have lounge access even if you don't have status and are flying domestically or within Europe on an economy ticket -- if your ticket connects to an oneworld business class ticket.
Example: Let's say you're connecting from Edinburgh to Sydney via Heathrow. Your domestic UK flight has no business class, but if you're travelling business class to Sydney you're allowed into the Edinburgh lounge as well as at Heathrow. (You're also allowed in anyway if you're a Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold or above.)
Exclusions, fine print, technicalities and gotchas
Arrivals lounges: these aren't included as a oneworld benefit. So if you want to use the American Airlines AArrivals lounge for a shower and some breakfast at Heathrow, you'll need to meet American Airlines' requirements for that lounge.
Contract lounges: these are often (though not always) excepted as well. These are the lounges that aren't owned by a oneworld airline, so the airline using them offers access to its business class passengers only. For example, the domestic lounge Qantas uses in Auckland isn't a Qantas lounge: it's the Akarana lounge. If you're a frequent flyer from another oneworld airline, you don't get in on the basis of your oneworld status.
Capacity constraints: if the lounge is too full (as decided by the attendant on the door) you might not be allowed in.
Qantas Club: we should probably mention here that being a paid member of the Qantas Club only entitles you to enter Qantas, British Airways and American Airlines lounges.
More information and further details
For the full details of what you're entitled to as a Qantas Frequent Flyer or Qantas Club member, head on over to Qantas' extensive Eligibility and Access pages.
You may find it helpful -- especially when travelling from airports that might not be used to seeing Qantas frequent flyers -- to know how precisely your Qantas status translates into other airlines' status.
If you're having problems with a lounge attendant letting into a lounge, or are curious which lounges you can enter at any particular airport, oneworld's lounge search function is particularly useful.