Executive Traveller exclusive
Air New Zealand will reopen its international lounges at airports across New Zealand and Australia this month as the travel bubble between both counties comes into effect.
The Kiwi carrier has confirmed to Executive Traveller that the following international lounges will roll out the welcome mat to trans-Tasman flyers from April 19:
These have all been closed since late March 2020, when Air New Zealand – in common with many other airlines – pulled down the shutters at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
But with the debut of a COVID-safe travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand, international flights are back – and with them, the international lounges enjoyed by business class passengers, Airpoints Gold and Elite flyers and their Star Alliance Gold equivalents, and the airline's Koru club members.
So what's changed in the COVID lounge experience?
"We’ve already had a lot of practice with operating (domestic) lounges under different COVID Alert Level requirements," Air New Zealand's Senior Manager Global Lounges and Valet, Alison Swarbrick, tells Executive Traveller.
"So what the customers will see in our international lounges is increased cleaning measures especially around high use touch points like the entry pod, the iPads at the barista, door handles, fridge doors etc."
Swarbrick says that "although we are fortunate that many of the (lounge) team are able to return after being away, there will be some new faces" to greet travellers.
WiFi, check; coffee, double check
"We are also working closely with our internal stakeholders like the digital team who are making sure our systems are all operational from the lights to the WiFi and most importantly the coffee app."
There'll be COVID Tracer scan codes set up in each New Zealand lounge, and the equivalent Australian contact tracing codes at its Australian lounges.
In compliance with Australian regulations, those lounges will also see the self-serve buffet suspended: in its place will be what an ‘assisted serve’ model.
"Other than that everything else will feel relatively normal, bar the several thousand bottles of hand sanitiser that customers will see everywhere," Swarbrick laughs.
Things will be brighter on the New Zealand side of the bubble, especially at the flagship Auckland lounge, where the airline took advantage of the 13-month shutdown to refresh its busiest lounge with a fresh coat of paint, new tiles and planters... even the curtains have been dry-cleaned.
Travellers can look forward to a revamped menu, too, including an added wellness focus plus a wider range of vegan and gluten- and dairy-free offerings – although there'll still be plenty of 'comfort food', including tray-around tempters.
Swarbrick says they've been planning the reopening of international lounges "since before Christmas", as they knew the long-awaited bubble would eventually arise.
Air New Zealand's trans-Tasman reboot will see 19 routes serviced by up to 150 flights per week, ranging from its workhorse Airbus A320neo and A321neo jets to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.