How Virgin plans to upgrade its airport lounges

Elements of Virgin's Adelaide Lounge will flow through to the rest of the airline's lounge network.

By David Flynn, April 22 2021
How Virgin plans to upgrade its airport lounges

Virgin Australia intends to bring the fresh look of its new Adelaide lounge to the rest of the airline's domestic lounge network, but travellers should expect less a sweeping make-over than a measured make-better.

Instead of the existing lounges being gutted and rebuilt in Adelaide's image, a rolling refresh program will see "elements" of Adelaide dropped in place, says Virgin's General Manager of Product and Customer Experience, Sarah Adam.

"There will be elements that we'll be able to inject into our existing spaces as we go through our maintenance and refurbishment plan," Adam tells Executive Traveller.

"So as part of our yearly reviews of maintenance and refurbishment, we'll start to introduce elements of the Adelaide lounge across the rest of the network... where it makes sense that aesthetically we can make those changes."

Virgin Australia's new-look Adelaide Airport lounge.
Virgin Australia's new-look Adelaide Airport lounge.

First up could be simple touches such as more greenery.

"The greenery around the (Adelaide lounge) makes it feel a bit more welcoming, so that would be one of the obvious choices we would make," Adam says.

"In addition to that, potentially some of the soft furnishings that we have in the space."

Virgin Australia's new-look Adelaide Airport lounge.
Virgin Australia's new-look Adelaide Airport lounge.

Those chairs and couches signal the relaxed lifestyle vibe of Virgin's new-look lounge design, and stand in stark contrast to the previous lounge template created in 2010 by Sydney-based architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.

Virgin's 2010-era lounge design.
Virgin's 2010-era lounge design.

A decade apart, each design could not be more different – yet they both reflected different stages of Virgin Australia's evolution.

The TGZ lounges were as corporate as John Borghetti's hopes for the airline, and in their own way were a modern take on the Qantas Business Lounges which Borghetti launched as Qantas' Executive General Manager in mid-2008.

Virgin's 2010-era lounge design.
Virgin's 2010-era lounge design.

Today's Virgin Australia is far more casual, and with its natural palette and Hamptons touches, the new lounge look – developed by Brisbane's WMK Architecture – is arguably more beach than boardroom, "conveying a sense of informality and ease" says WMK director Russell Grady.

The Adelaide lounge is a singular showcase for the new Virgin: an initiative of former CEO Paul Scurrah, it was only weeks away from a planned April 2020 opening when that ribbon-cutting was suspended first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by the airline itself collapsing into administration.

For almost a year the lounge stood behind hoardings, snap-frozen in time, until some finishing work saw the red carpet finally rolled out in late February 2021.

A touch of Virgin Atlantic in the signage?
A touch of Virgin Atlantic in the signage?

And yet it's very much on brand for the airline now owned by Bain Capital and helmed by Jayne Hrdlicka.

Some touches – such as key signage – wouldn't be out of place at Virgin Atlantic, which shows how well-connected Virgin Australia 2.0 is to the Branson super-brand.

"We've had a real fun time, being quite playful with our signage," Adam says, adding that the lounge illustrates how the airline "is going back to what is uniquely Virgin."

"Again, it's that Virgin flair that we've tried to adapt, and where it makes sense to can transport some of those concepts to (other lounges), we will."

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 66

The Melbourne lounge never re-opened and we're still being directed to the (currently very overcrowded) "temporary" lounge (aka The Club). So Virgin has been working on the Melbourne lounge for five months and counting: surely this is indicative of a major rebuild rather than a relatively minor "rolling refresh"?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 316

As I understand it, the Melbourne lounge works are more about a lot of maintenance than giving it the Adelaide treatment.

I flew Qantas Business and Virgin Business this week, both lots of staff are awesome, Sydney Qantas lounge atmosphere is better, the Virgin toasted sandwich is a shock when you realise they put mustered on it. In flight meal VA was 1/2 a serve, Qantas give bottled water to premium Flyers. Seriously there talking about adding plants to lounges that doesn’t cost much money, they need to start marketing correctly be in the fight or their market share will go below 19%

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 952

I think complaining about mustard on a toasted sandwich may be the 2021 winner of First World Problems.

@reeves35

A typical comment that would be made by a GM at VA, just remember there are no prizes for 2nd place

07 Apr 2021

Total posts 3

You must be kidding surely - do you mean to say you don't put 'mustered' (sic) on a toastie? My word, I slather the stuff on! You simply don't know what you are missing.

23 Apr 2021

Total posts 1

I'd be happy to forgo the greenery and prefer to see the Cairns VA lounge reopen!

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 952

Yes, given the current boom in domestic travel, the decisions to close both Cairns and Darwin lounges may be seen as mistakes in hindsight.  

I assume they could re-lease these spaces if they changed their minds or third party lounge providers such as Plaza Premium could take them over and VA could pay on a per-person basis for their premium and high-status passengers. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 191

I think reeves35 is right, Bain could certainly offer the airport a reduced amount for leasing back Cairns because the airport is currently making no money out of it. The lounges ha already been fitted out and so all they really need to do is strike up a new contract with local sources for catering, and bring in some local lounge staff, and they'll probably be the ones who used to work there before it was closed!

Apart from that, not sure if Plaza Premium would consider it worthwhile but I would have thought the airport operator itself could have taken over the lounge and turned it into an independent premium lounge with a contract for Virgin plus pay-in for anybody else who wants to use it, including non-status QF passengers, Alliance etc.

18 Feb 2018

Total posts 10

I'm not a GM at VA - I can't help but smile - Great comment on the first world problem.....

It is when your allergic to mustered and they don’t ask if you have any allergies? Common practice at locations now is to follow the oversea model of asking if you have any allergies special now that all the buffets should be closed, except for Hayman Island.

07 Apr 2021

Total posts 3

I see, yes well it is true that non-allergy sufferers just never think of these things, we go through life throwing peanuts around like confetti (which is another thing on the banned list these days as well). Though I do get a degree of Hayfever from time-to-time. But surely back in the days of the bain-marie and communal toastie machine this must have been a risk for you? Placing your nice little ham-and-cheese down on the hotplate alongside my sloppy Dijon-aised croc-monsieur monster sambo?

@PonyRider

I’m amazed of the adaptation of Social Media Influencers into VA marketing, hard core flyers who are the core revenue 12 months of the year are only interested in what service they get from an airline. Media stunts won’t make it long term just short term advertising, life time gold, business lounges, free upgrades, bottled water, larger meals in business ( says me who normally doesn’t eat on planes), facial recognition entering lounges. I call it “doing the Boris”

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