With Qantas’ long-awaited London Heathrow airport lounge finally due to open in late November, the airline hopes its travellers will get that “Feels like home” vibe the moment they walk through the sliding doors.
But for Phil Capps, Qantas’ Head of Customer Product and Service, plenty of other lounges – both international and domestic – remain on the to-do list.
Sydney and Melbourne international lounges a “high priority”
Capps tells Australian Business Traveller that the Sydney and Melbourne international business lounges are “both on the high-priority list” for a make-over.
“We don't have any specific plans yet but certainly we know that we have grown considerably out of both of those ports. We need to be addressing both capacity and the age of those lounges as soon as we are able to.”
Also in the must-do queue are Qantas’ Auckland lounges, especially since the airline boosted flights from Melbourne and Brisbane following Emirates decision to spike its trans-Tasman superjumbo flights.
“Auckland is one of probably five locations around the world that are high priority for us to consider moving on,” Capps said on the sidelines of Qantas’ delivery event for its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
“The lounge has been operating in its current form for a while, and we've made some recent changes to our network that increased capacity through Auckland, so of course that's going to be a high priority for us.”
Tokyo likely to stay
Capps says that the Qantas lounge at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is likely to remain open following the addition of direct flights from Brisbane and Melbourne, rather than close the lounge and use the facilities of Oneworld partner JAL.
“We think it makes sense for us to maintain the Qantas lounge up in Tokyo,” he affirmed.
“We always look at the customer and commercial needs that we have, the opportunities we could exercise and what partner lounges are available in that port.”
“Then we stand back from that and say, ‘Okay, of all of those, what is the best outcome for our customers?’.”
“We consider our total airline lounge network – the regional lounges, domestic lounges and international lounges – at a very holistic level,” Capps reflects.
“The things that we consider are things like, from a competitive and a customer perspective, what do we need to act upon?”
“We have a look at the age of the lounges, our flight schedule and the capacity that's going through an airport, and the segmentation of our customer base on a particular route.”
“Then we look at the available capital envelope and make a prioritisation based on all of those elements.”
“So it’s a question really of when we make these decisions, but certainly we would love to be able to act on all of them (at once) if we could.”
Melbourne’s domestic lounge make-over
The numbers clearly stacked up for Melbourne’s domestic Business Lounge and Qantas Club, with work now underway on a total make-over which will stretch through until late 2018.
“Theoretically we could complete the build in maybe a third of the time if we wanted to, but you'd have to shut down the lounge completely for a long period,” Capps suggests.
“And particularly for our domestic customers the Qantas lounge offering is incredibly important, so you need to maintain an offering right throughout the build.”
“So our job also becomes one of managing the staging to have the greatest availability for all of our customers, whilst also completing an effective build in the shortest possible time. There are lots of moving parts to that.”
Changing travel trends
Part of any lounge make-over is making full use of the existing floorspace, which can often evolve to reflect the changing habits of business travellers.
“We always look at optimising existing capacity” Capps explains.
“For example, what's the configuration of a business zone? Do customers today use business in a different way? It used to be meeting rooms and work tables with desktop computers, now customers are more inclined to do work at their seat, as long as they have a desk and some charging facilities.”
“Things like bathrooms, showers and the rest of the amenities can also be configured to be really space-effective, as can seating.”
A good example are the new Melbourne domestic lounges, which will both see a boost in capacity without expanding the size of the lounges.
“We do as much as we can to get the best use out of our space, while maintaining things like privacy for customers, a sense of quiet and seamlessness, but also providing appropriate social zones.”
“We're really comfortable that the configuration and the layout of both the Qantas Club and the Business Lounge in Melbourne will be beyond what we've ever done before.”
“Every time we've built a new lounge, particularly in the domestic environment, we've set a new benchmark for ourselves. Perth really changed what the lounge experience would be, and Brisbane has done the same.”
David Flynn travelled to Seattle as a guest of Qantas