Melbourne Airport plans to close security facilities at Terminal 3 – home to Virgin Australia – and force all travellers departing from T3 to walk to T4 for screening, before they head back to T3 to catch their flight.
It’s the sting in the tail of what the airport trumpets as a “Terminal 3 transformation” which “will completely elevate the traveller experience.”
The upsides of the $30 million project, which is due to be completed by mid-2022, are promised as:
- a new departures-level indoor walkway linking Terminals 3 and 4 for “greater connectivity between domestic terminals”
- a more streamlined exit point in arrivals to “intuitively guide guests to outdoor transport options”
- upgraded bathrooms at T3 which will include “all gender areas, adult change rooms and assistance animal relief spaces”
Also bound for T3 over the comparing years will be “several new iconic Melbourne dining venues and stores”, while already in place near gates 1 and 2 is a dedicated parents’ room featuring “interactive full-length walls so children can play and stay entertained while their guardians tend to other needs.”
But back to what the new T3 won’t have: its own security screening, come the middle of 2022.
“One of the most significant aspects of the T3 upgrade is the relocation of security screening moving from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4,” the airport says.
“In future, it will mean travellers use Terminal 4 for processing, which allows them to move through screening much faster compared to traditional screening lanes” due to T4’s modern 3D scanners, which allow travellers to keep laptops, tablets and liquids inside their carry-on bags.
Paradoxically, 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 checkin 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.
In addition to the new T3-T4 indoor walkway located before security, the current walkway between T3 and T4 past the Virgin Australia lounges will be opened up, with its own security checkpoint removed, to serve as the post-security or ‘airside’ connector.
“Overall, the modernisation and reconfiguration of the terminal will enable greater flow with Terminal 4,” says Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Lorie Argus, “and when security screening moves next year we encourage T3 guests to park in the T4 Car Park, as it’s a shorter walk to gate, especially without luggage.”
Speaking with Executive Traveller, a Melbourne Airport spokesperson added that Virgin Australia 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 flight 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.”
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.”