Qantas has closed all of its airport lounges, following a directive from the Federal Government that all indoor 'social gathering places' – including cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, gyms and places of worship – shut down to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison expects the Covid-19 clampdown to last for a nominal six months.
"As a result of all the restrictions regarding congregating in public spaces, all Qantas operated lounges will be gradually closing today until further notice," a Qantas spokesman told Executive Traveller.
The airline will soon advise on how the closure will be handled for paying Qantas Club members.
PREVIOUS [March 19, 2020] Qantas will close all of its invitation-only Chairman's Lounges and Qantas Club lounges at many major airports around Australia as part of a dramatic downsizing of the airline's domestic network, which will see nationwide capacity cut by 60% and many regional routes suspended.
Qantas Business Lounges – normally the exclusive domain of business class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers – will become the default destination for all lounge-worthy passengers on domestic flights.
This expanded entry list will now include Gold-grade frequent flyers and Qantas Club members, as well as travellers with a Qantas Lounge pass invitation.
"We're closing down a lot of lounges domestically," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told journalists following this morning's announcement of an unprecedented shutdown of the airline's international network. "Chairman's Lounges will be closed, and Qantas Clubs will close where there is a Business Lounge."
Which Qantas Clubs are closing?
Qantas Clubs will lock their doors in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, with all passengers directed to the nearby and better-appointed Qantas Business Lounge.
Qantas Club lounges will remain open at Alice Springs, Adelaide, Cairns, Coolangatta, Darwin, Hobart and Townsville.
Qantas Regional Lounges will remain open at Broome, Coffs Harbour, Devonport, Emerald Gladstone, Launceston, Kalgoorlie Karratha, Mackay, Port Hedland, Rockhampton and Tamworth.
Qantas has yet to advise when the lounge closures will begin, but they will accompany sweeping changes to the domestic Qantas and Jetstar network detailed on the Qantas website.
As an indicator of the scope of these changes, and the coronavirus' stark impact on even domestic travel habits, flights on the Sydney-Melbourne corridor – previously ranked among the world's busiest air routes – will be reduced from 250 return services per week to under 90.
Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane return flights will be cut by two-thirds, while the number of transcontinental flights between the east and west coasts will be halved.
Qantas will also close its international first class and business lounges, both within Australia and overseas, from the end of March when the airline halts all overseas flying.
“The efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before," Joyce said.
"No airline in the world is immune to this, with the world’s leading carriers making deep cuts to flying schedules and jobs. Our strong balance sheet means we’ve entered this crisis in better shape than most and we’re taking action to make sure we can ride this out."
A free year of frequent flyer status
With most of Qantas' 13 million frequent flyers effectively grounded, all Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum One card-holders will see their status automatically extended for 12 months, preserving their perks through to as late as 2022 even if they don't set foot on an airplane.
The gratis status offer also encompasses members who have received a complimentary Gold membership, or complimentary Platinum membership from a Platinum One member.