What Melbourne Airport’s T3 changes mean for Virgin Australia flyers

Big changes have been unveiled at Terminal 3, with elite Velocity members among the biggest winners.

By David Flynn, August 12 2022
What Melbourne Airport’s T3 changes mean for Virgin Australia flyers

Melbourne Airport’s ambitious plan to link Terminals 3 and 4 has finally come to fruition, and with it some significant changes for Virgin Australia passengers, including a removal of T3 security – funnelling all via T4 instead – and airside access to the lounge. 

The reconfiguration is a key element of the hub’s $30 million transformation, which the airport described as ‘an elevation to the traveller experience’. The project’s centrepiece is an indoor walkway linking the landside departure levels of Terminals 3 and 4.

Among the other enhancements are greater connectivity between the terminals, in addition to smart security technology, also seen at the Gold Coast and Sydney T3. This time-saving tech allows travellers to keep laptops, tablets and liquids in their bags.

Two extra security lanes have also opened to meet increased demand.

As part of the linkway, the Virgin Australia lounge is now located in the secure airside zone, meaning guests will be able to enjoy the facilities right up until boarding, rather than leaving in advance to make their way through security.

Premium screening has also re-opened for Platinum, Gold, Beyond and Business Class passengers from 5-10am weekdays.

Melbourne Airport says its T4 scanners halve the time it takes to go through security.
Melbourne Airport says its T4 scanners halve the time it takes to go through security.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus says the upgrade work – which also includes new amenities at T4 – was much needed, with the terminal receiving no significant works in over 20 years.

“One of the biggest pinch points for Virgin guests has been the security check points, and we expect this change will help improve the experience for passengers as they pass through screening,” Argus explains.

“A lack of space means expanding existing checkpoints to accommodate modern technology was not an option, but we think consolidating the screening operation results in a better outcome for passengers.

Here is a map of the new Departures process...

... and also the Arrivals.

Melbourne Airport says that “under the (T3) reconfiguration, domestic travellers will have more time to relax inside restaurants and retailers before boarding their flights.”

We’d suspect they’ll have less time if they have to walk from the T3 check in desks through to T4 for security screening and then walk back to T3 again – especially if their Virgin Australia flights are departing from the higher-numbered gates 7 through 10 at the top of the T3 pier.

One Melbourne-based frequent flyer told Executive Traveller that he expects that even with the T4-T3 walkway located behind security, that could come close to a 10-minute walk.

The new parents' room at T3.
The new parents' room at T3.

That said, there are several upgrades to love, including:

  • a more streamlined exit point in arrivals to “intuitively guide guests to outdoor transport options”
  • upgraded bathrooms at T3, which include all gender areas, adult change rooms, and assistance animal relief spaces
  • a parent’s room featuring “interactive full-length walls so children can play and stay entertained while their guardians tend to other needs.”

As previously advised to Executive Traveller by a Melbourne Airport spokesperson, Virgin passengers with only cabin bags should check in online or via the Virgin app and head straight to T4, while also pointing out that some Virgin flights depart from T4.

What about Virgin’s promised T3 Premium Entry?

Interestingly, many of these changes – including the inter-terminal walkway and the relocation of T3 security to T4 – were first announced in December 2017 in partnership with Virgin Australia, with work scheduled to begin in 2018 for completion by 2020.

However, those plans included a “kerbside Premium Entry for Virgin Australia’s Business Class guests and Platinum and Gold Velocity frequent flyers, including dedicated check-in, bag drop and security screening features and direct access to the Virgin Australia Lounge.”

Woods Bagot were the lead architects behind this original T3 re-development plan.
Woods Bagot were the lead architects behind this original T3 re-development plan.

This would replicate the kerbside Premium Entry facilities at Virgin’s Sydney and Brisbane domestic terminals, although both of those remain closed at the time of writing.

Contacted for comment, a Virgin Australia Group spokesman told Executive Traveller “our plans to deliver a Premium Entry at Melbourne Airport remain under review amid the global pandemic.”

“We are committed to working with airports to deliver the world-class Virgin Australia guest experience and we welcome Melbourne Airport’s investment in the Terminal 3 transformation.”

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

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.

13 Jun 2017

Total posts 1

This does seem a more logic step to take for lounge users. No more having to clear security from the lounge. So you can spend a bit more in the lounge once you clear security first. But should be a focus on a premium lane for gold / business class pax. Do we know if they are retaining the premium lane? 

KC
KC

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 31

Absolutely Amenen86.

I used it this morning and it’s a massive improvement. Firstly VA has instituted a Priority check in lane again. So security was incredibly quick. Then in front of you were all the T4 outlets. I grabbed a couple of sweet gifts at Brunettis and headed to the lounge. My flt was from gate 13 and for a change I didn’t need to allow 30+ minutes to make the flight.

So much smoother. And I bet the people connecting between flights at different fingerways will appreciate not re-clearing security. 

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 26

Yes, it's a bit more walking but it's much better having the lounge after security.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

Trying to visualise this David.  Bag Drop and Counter Check-in is still in T3-L1, then walk on L1 from T3 to T4 for Rapid Screening, then when airside walk either to T4 Pier, T3 Pier or T3 entrance to Virgin Lounge.  All end-of-trip bag claim in T3. 

What a pity that there isn't also some capacity for Self/Un-assisted Bag Drop in T4 (perhaps where Tiger Air once was) for pax arriving by taxi instead of T3.  Perhaps that will change in time.  I think this is a move in the right direction - and the exercise won't kill me.  

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 26

It doesn't seem to be that much of a walk - perhaps 250 metres from check in to the lounge via security so only a few minutes which you could gain back with the premium security lane. Then you don't have to risk long security queues after the lounge so you can finish that last beer or wine.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

You were right, David, it's no drama by any means.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1387

Seems great for people with Hand luggage only.

Check-in online, get dropped off at T4 and straight to the lounge or gate.

More of a walk if you need to check-in luggage in T3 first.

21 Jul 2020

Total posts 18

This sounds ok to me, I think Virgin needs to do 2 things to keep me using (I’m gold) 1 open more lounges, they don’t all have to be flash, just a spot with coffee a snack and wifi. 2 please bring back self serve toasties. My god the food is yuk at the moment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2022

Total posts 3

Agree, lounge food was very bland on recent trips. Need more hearty and warm options in winter. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 147

OK agreed that if you're a business traveller like most of us, and have checked in on line with hand luggage only then getting dropped off at terminal 4 might save time. If you're travelling with children, and checked luggage, or have mobility issues, this is going to be much slower.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1140

Not really.  The security checkpoint is at the northernmost point of T4 and you enter near the foodcourt so, if you want to give the kids something to eat before the flight, you are where you want to be.  You are now also airside so there is no risk of security delays as you head to the gate which was a real problem with T3 Concourse E previously. 

Admittedly the fundamental issues of T3 remain and they can't really be solved without  knockdown but MEL aren't showing any signs of spending the couple of billion required to rebuild the 50 year old terminal.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

Oh I'm pretty darn sure that T3 can be re-developed without a knock-down.  That Masterplan is, IMHO, not yet showing their full intentions.  The only, ONLY unclear issue is whether T1 gets done before T3 though logically, T3 (with a Premium Entry for Virgin's Business Class and Platinum fliers)  should be next cab off the rank.  We'll have a good idea by December (IMHO). 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1140

The issue is T3, apart from its age, needs to be knocked down to address the issues with T2.  A larger international terminal is desperately needed both landside and airside and that can only be achieved by extending the T2 footprint into what is currently T3.  There are plans for switch gates in the existing T1 and T3 to expand international gates but they do not address the issues with both landside check-in and arrivals hall in T2.  The master plan allows for a new VA terminal (T5) south of T4 and parallel to the now deferred second E-W runway.  Obviously this would have to be built prior to any demolition of T3.  

Given such a terminal would mean the terminal complex would extend well over one kilometre end-to-end, consideration would also need to be made for a automated people mover system between the terminals similar to the SIN Airtrain.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Nov 2021

Total posts 9

reeves35, you beat me to it 😂

12 Aug 2022

Total posts 1

flight arrived Wednesday evening Gate 11,

followed the "baggage collection" signage

only to arrive at Jetstar carousels

someone said go to T3

so a long walk to T3

collected luggage

then attempted to head to Virgin lounge

only to realise had to go thru security

and alot more walking, so abandoned the idea due shortage of time

T3 was so convenient just as it was, especially with lounge security

these changes are a huge step in wrong direction, 

and all about cutting costs and very inconsiderate to the travelling public

who in their right mind would visit an airport to shop?

('more time for shopping" comment)

Jetstar conditions at Virgin pricing

might have to return to Qantas

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

Will Qantas allow you to collect luggage from the carousel and then return to either lounge (with luggage in tow) at the back end of a domestic flight?  I know the Business Lounge is fine during off peak for a quick visit with Carry-on only.  

 I know I walk a lot further through the 'At Terminal' car park than I will inside between T3-T4-T3.   As a small business passenger, I'm just glad to be flying again (given 2020 and 2021). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Nov 2021

Total posts 9

Surprising they didn’t connect the T3 and T4 arrival halls at ground level and didn’t expand the current T3 check in towards T4. This assumes that the current T4 terminal will eventually be an expanded T3 for Virgin, with a new southern terminal for Jetstar and REX (new T4 or T5). All of this allows for an expansion of T2 (with the potential for ‘swing gates’, as has been suggested for T1).

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

23 May 2013

Total posts 45

Agreed Skynest101… don’t know why they didn’t just centralise everything where T4 currently is and then rename the whole space T3 with different piers… would be a lot less confusing 

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 66

The author should try researching the airport's marketing claims before repeating them. The new security screening machines are claimed to be "faster". Even though you keep your laptops in the bag it takes double the time to screen each bag and they are SLOWER not faster. To make things worse they take up a wider footprint which means you have fewer lanes. Staffing is not the reason for the long queues in T3 in Sydney. It is totally down to these new 'time saving' machines. It takes a second to get a laptop out of your bag and takes the screener about 20 seconds to view the images on the new scanners. There has to be an explanation for long queues. If every screening point is manned and open then it is not lack of staff.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2017

Total posts 80

I just experienced the new process.  I travel weekly and business class. Well this requirement now adds around 30 minutes extra if I want to use the lounge.  To be clear the security screening is actually slower with the new scanners.  Key reasons  - not enough staff to manage the flow as it has been designed to.  This is a bad move by Virgin.  In peak times they are down the street all of us! Further the Jetstar / Rex passengers are now in the mix.  WOW what an amazing premium experince

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 593

OK, so I went through this new arrangement last week, check-in luggage at T3, walked across to T4 for security check (which was a breeze compared to Brisbane Domestic!) and walked back to the Virgin Lounge.   Different, but not as intrusive as I first thought.  But the return check-in process at BNE Domestic on Friday afternoon circa 3:30pm was a nightmare.  Checked luggage joined a 4-fold que of travelers trying to get through the 2 security checkpoints.  It took 23 minutes.  If Virgin's Priority Lounge entry had been working I'd have gladly walked back out the door, turned left and the short trip to the Lounge Premium Entry door.  

C'mon Jayne, at least during peak times, please get that Lounge Premium Entrance working again.  Put one of those red, neon "Open" signs out front so we know where to go after luggage check-in.  Premium Entry should be open between 0600-0900 and 1500-1900.  

06 Sep 2022

Total posts 1

Old folk seem to have been completely forgotten in the design of Australian Terminals. Miles and miles of walking without any moving footpaths anywhere. Since Sydney installed their first in the late 80's early 90's not a single terminal has followed suit, yet they have been increasing the pedestrian traverse by a significant factor.

11 May 2020

Total posts 11

Came through here last week. Seamless trip through security, unlike the debacle that is Qantas Terminal 1. Didn't have to take laptop out (why is that still a thing with Qantas), really smooth, really quick, priority lane wasnt busier than the other lane as it frequently is with Qantas and was on the lounge 10mins after arriving at the airport, despite a full flight and more flights than were going from T1 that morning.

It really really confuses me why people are staying with Qantas... Stockholm Syndrome is the only explanation that makes sense...


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