Melbourne to remove Terminal 3 security, forcing all passengers via T4

Big changes are planned for Melbourne's Terminal 3, and frequent flyers may not agree they are for the better...

By David Flynn, August 2 2021
Melbourne to remove Terminal 3 security, forcing all passengers via T4

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.”

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

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.

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.

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.

Check in for your T3 flight at T4? Sure, because that makes sense...
Check in for your T3 flight at T4? Sure, because that makes sense...

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.”

The original plan for T3 included private security screening and direct lounge access for Virgin Australia's premium passengers.
The original plan for T3 included private security screening and direct lounge access for Virgin Australia's premium passengers.

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.”

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.

10 May 2021

Total posts 2

Wow, instead of spin doctors we have professors of spin doing the messaging for this one. Sounds like it'll be a complete mess.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 370

This surely has to be a joke... How could this possibly be a good thing for passengers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 352

April Fools Day was four months ago. They can't be serious...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Feb 2020

Total posts 4

Won't be flying Virgin out of MEL if this is in place 

13 May 2015

Total posts 23

Gosh, that’s very dramatic!

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 304

The ultimate "enhancement!"

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 370

Reading from the Qantas "enhancement" playbook?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 124

This has to be a joke right? So if going for a while you'd be parking in the long term car park which is close to T4, then you catch the bus to T3 for check in, then you walk 10 mins back to T4 for screening, then walk another 7-10 mins on the internal walkway back to T3 for your flight? You'd have to arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight! Not to mention the parents having to drag young kids all that way, or the mobility impaired or elderly who walking this 17-20 minute round trip who could find this very difficult.  What a stupid plan. 

The only reason to use T3 for checkin would be if you had luggage, if you are flying with just cabin bags then you would checkin online and go straight to T4. It's still a detour of course, and last time I used T4 there was no priority lane open so everyone joins the same long queue, so honestly, any time which Melbourne Airport says you might 'save' due to the faster 3D scanners you will spend standing in that long queue to get to those scanners.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 954

It would be disappointing if the Premium security screening leading to the Lounge has been deleted.  Given terminal refits are rare events, you'd think you'd take every opportunity to get it as good as possible.

In many ways. I still think refitting the 50 year old T3 is fairly short-sighted anyway.  T2 is severely restricted space wise, particularly landside and rebuilding T3 as an extended international terminal and building a new terminal (T5) south of T4 for VA would have seemed smarter decisions.  Obviously Covid has meant international will be OK for the next few years but in 2030 I think we'll look back at this as a missed opportunity.

26 May 2016

Total posts 17

pardon my ignorance. If I fly with bags, i'll need to check in normally at t4 walk ten plus minutes to t3 wait to go through security then walk back to t4. 

why not just upgrade the security at t4 

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 370

other way round

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

All in all I suspect this would work better if Virgin moved its check-in across to T3 and Melbourne Airport rebranded T3 as an extension of T4 and renumbered the gates accordingly. But yes, this is definitely the time for Virgin to press ahead with its Premium Entry at T3 as this would really offer a benefit to business class passengers and Velocity Gold and Platinum members.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

So . . . if I've understood this correctly, Virgin check-in will be moved to T4, screening will be at T4, and pax will then need to walk (internally, but airside) back to any flights departing T3 or to use the lounge back at T3.  With all that T3 space currently used by Virgin for check-in no longer needed, it could then be converted to a smaller point for check-in and screening for the far fewer J-class and Platinum (ONLY) pax with direct and immediate air-side access to the Lounge?  

If that were to occur, it would be a boon for Business class and Platinum pax.  Meanwhile, Velocity Gold (and down) and non-Business would need to enter, check-in and screen via T4 and then commute across to T3 for bubbles and/or  T3 departures.   

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 68

No, I think your understanding is awry. David states in the article: "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."

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

My God QFWP, I think you're right !!  This must be sheer joy to AJ's ears.  Who in their right mind would bother to fly Virgin from/to MEL with all that mucking around, I certainly won't.  It would make more senses to swap Jetstar (from T4 to T3) and Virgin (T3 to T4), but there will need to be more aero-bridges installed at T4 for Virgin.  

After all, Jetstar pax are far more likely to want to connect with Qantas if those airlines were at least under the one cover (which currently they are not).   MEL Airport Corp needs better facilities design and management people.  What a mess they're making of this.  

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

I don't think Qantas would want to relocate Jetstar from T4 and make life easier for Virgin unless the move cost Qantas absolutely nothing, not a cent, and in fact came with clear financial benefits. Honestly, best case would be for Virgin to relocate to T4 at least for check-in, and set up a priority lane to security which acts as a shortcut so that business class, Golds and Platinums can jump the queue. Virgin can still keep flying from T3 and keep its lounges there of course.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 68

The issue is more leaving MEL, nothing changes coming into MEL. As I said in a separate comment below, this will mean I'll fly home (MEL/BNE) with QF, unless the schedules and cost are too significant a negative factor, thus definitely music to AJ's ears. I'm Plat with VA and Gold with QF, will probably stay that way with my expected flights in next 12 months (COVID notwithstanding) as I only get to MEL generally 2-3 times a year.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

Boeing-Tragic, there's no suggestion that VA will relocate check-in to T4, which is what makes this a problem. It would make absolute sense for VA to relocate their check-in to T4 but it seems that VA will stay in T3.

In which case Virgin really should press on with those old plans to open a 'Premium Entry' at T3 but also include facility for checked bags, because the SYD and BNE Premium Entry lanes used to be only for carry-on bags. If Virgin offered this, basically a mini check-in area with its own bag drop and security that was only for business class, Golds and Platinums, this would absolutely be a major factor in Virgin keeping many of those customers instead of losing them to Qantas.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 88

Well with only two security lanes at T3 they get very crowded very quickly but seems to me that Virgin should just move its entire check-in to T4, at least now the Virgin lounge will effectively be airside because the only way to get into it will be coming from T4 after going through security.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 954

The Lounge won't effectively be airside, it will actually be airside.

Apart from being a fairly downmarket experience, the T4 check-in hall was cluttered with Jetstar and Tiger.  It would not fit Virgin in the ex-Tiger space.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

I wonder if you meant to say "cluttered with Jetstar and T-Rex airline pax" ?

Look, Melbourne Airport is 100% correct in saying that going through security at T4 will be faster than T3. There are more security lanes at T4 than T3 plus not having to stop to take out laptops and LAGS and then repack them again is going to be a time-saver. It's just that checking in at T3 if you have bags, then going to T4 and then back to T3 seems a bit convoluted and as some here have also observed, not great for the elderly or those with mobility issues. But even if T4 security is faster, I think the walk from T3 to T4 and back to T3 will seem longer and almost pointless because you are back-tracking.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 431

The fact that the executives can somehow “justify” the amalgamation of security screening of 2 terminals into one site at one end of one terminal suggest that they are seriously looking for ways to save money and free up retail space. 

One mega screening area is often a disaster since it just takes a few slow pax at various part of the line to cause a jam. 

They don’t work well and making T3 pax walk to T4 for screening then back to T3 is almost like some mad scientist playing with lab mice in a maze game and see what happens in an experiment.

And once you lose the security space to retail or lounge or office, you ain’t getting them back!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2011

Total posts 43

They're just making sure they retain their third world airport status.  The place is a dump and they take pride in making it worse with every new redevelopment.  If only we could get Changi in to manage it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 72

Here Here. By far the worst Airport in the modern world.

Tav
Tav

20 Oct 2020

Total posts 10

I’m sure that funnelling all pax via the T4 shopping area had nothing to do with this decision… Nor seeking to drive higher utilisation of the T4 car park to create parking capacity at T2/T1. Happily it’s all about “completely elevating the customer experience” so we’ve got that to look forward to. 

This is mildly ok if you travel without bags - but most of all it shows we need more effective regulation of monopolies such as Melbourne Airport.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 795

"all gender areas" in bathrooms? Hopefully they keep separate male/female toilets as well. 

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 149

What an absolute disaster!  T4 is miles from anywhere and a vanishingly small number of people use it for connecting flights.  

Every single VA passenger will be significantly inconvenienced by this.  

It beggars belief that anyone could have thought it through and decided it was a good idea.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 97

Simple solution: avoid the airlines that utilise both T 3 and 4. Simple choice?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 72

Its an absolute Joy to see Aus Pacific Airports haemorrhage major dough during COVID, couldnt happen to a better bunch of folks. Latest cost cutting is to pump Bain enthusiasts through the unwashed terminal. Happy days. Karma comes to those who gouge in the good times 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 68

Well if that's the case, Virgin have lost me flying out of MEL, unless I'm transiting. I'll just fly home on Qantas and keep my status ticking along on both. The walk time from T3 to T4 security and back to T3 significant reduces any saving from the "reduced time" spent in security. I never had any issues with accessing the airside premium lane through security - probably because all my flight out of MEL were 7pm or later. Seems some of the QF "enhancement" team must have moved to VA :o

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Feb 2017

Total posts 6

Melbourne Airport needs to hire a Customer Experience expert. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2011

Total posts 43

Why?  He/she might suggest things not in Melbourne Airport's best interests.  They're not going to listen, so why add another salary to the payroll and dilute profits.  Customer experience and customer satisfaction are not on their agenda.  It's not as though we can take our business elsewhere and they know it.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 88

Sadly I have to agree, Melbourne Airport knows what it can get away with and probably have a good idea of what people are willing to put up with. And don't forget, we are not their 'customers' as much as the airlines are, so it will really come down to if Virgin accepts this. You'd think they would have been told about this by Melbourne Airport in advance and so now it's up to Virgin or rather Bain to decide if they reckon it's worth spending the money to relocate checkin to T4 or to open a Premium Entry at T3, unless they are going to press Melbourne Airport for the cost of that.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

Great article David, you've firmly planted the 'Tom-cat' amongst the pigeons, and we're all chirping loudly.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Feb 2014

Total posts 11

I regularly fly with Virgin and due to my training check in my road bike.  So this means I will have to check in at T3 then head to oversize and then go to T4 to go through security only to head back to T3 to get to the lounge.  Will fly Qantas instead as will be much easier.   Shame as I like flying Virgin.  Oh well Plat freq flyer with both and makes it easier to fly with QF

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 318

That's exactly it, Peter. A lot of people only think about checked luggage as being big bags for families going on holidays but there are plenty of people who need checked luggage either for work-related reasons or because it's part of their travel habit, like your training bike. This is why Virgin needs to add that Premium Entry to T3 and include luggage check facilities.

security seems to have gone a bit crazy as well. Had a roll of sticky tape taken off me, as they said I might have used it to tie someone up. I said don't be silly, I'd use my belt for that which was fine by them. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 52

Clearly the Scott Morrison school of enhancement!

11 Jan 2017

Total posts 5

For a wider understanding, consider this ...

1) Virgin doesn't want to fund, partly or fully, the cost of manning (peopling .. being woke lol) security in T3

2) Melbourne Airport no doubt wants to save on costs and probably this is the leading point to understand

3) Qantas just laughs because what they offer as a benefit (own terminal) and it is, means a significant financial competitive advantage against its rivals .. Virgin and Rex .. to match. This comes from the school of what is not reported, the so-called elephant in the room which is kill the competition.

4) If Bain & Co think for one moment Virgin travellers of the top and slightly middle group are going to enjoy this T3-T4-T3 journey, I suspect they will see in time drop off of those of us who pay more than the bottom 'buy now special' fare. I might not be a Qantas supporter in th epast 10 years but I am happy to make the transition as service drops on Virgin (Rex you listening?) ... There you go, bain gain goes to nope, not the V but to Qantas. 

5) Lastly Melbourne has an attitude problem (and has always been a horrible experience in my opinion). Sydney can make the blood boil at times but note like Melbourne and as for Brisbane, they just lost their soul and started charging for everything. All people deserve a pleasent experience given they are the only option in town, not just corporates self-focused on their own importance in life. We the little people, not all hillbillies or deploreables don't need to be herded like sheep. Canberra, think fast rail, think now.

So for now, Melbourne will do what it does and Virgin will lose pax if we choose to walk, no not to T4 dummy, to the cafe for a latte becaue we now have loads of time to enjoy one. Qantas will be on the hard stuff, sipping champs as Bain & Co exit, probably around 2027. Makes one think, do I jump now or wait for Virgin to die.

Can I just say, hats off to ET for this story. I haven't seen it anywhere else, not even in The Age which you expect would be right on top of it. It must be hard to keep ET running at a time like this but the fact that they still write stories every day is to be commended. I know not everybody agrees with every story but this is the sort of stuff which keeps us frequent flyers really informed.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

Ka-ching!  Here-Here to that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 68

David and Chris know a couple of people in the industry, LostInTransit ;-) and not known them to get it wrong.

That's what keeps us coming back and drives advertising $ to the site, allowing them to get paid. It's sometimes a thankless task in the social media side of the airline industry ;-) but they do a great job.

02 Jun 2017

Total posts 4

How did the convenience and efficiency of a travellator not get the nod ahead of a walkway between T3 and T4?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

That would have required nimble, forward thinking and strategic planning, not what Australia Pacific Airports (Melbourne) Ltd - 18% owned by NSW Treasury and AMP (27%) - have a proven record of doing, which begs the question "who's behind the wheel" there at APAM ?  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 23

Wow.  So glad I stuck with Qantas.  I had considered changing to Virgin but this is absolutely ridiculous. 

So, is check in in 3, then walk to 4 and back after security.  

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 49

I suspect a motivation is to clear some more kerbside space for international drop-off.

Also, a single queue outperforms multiple smaller ones that add up to the same capacity.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

I'm curious to learn why Virgin's Check-in can't be moved from T3 to that area in T4 that was being used by Tiger Air.  


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Melbourne to remove Terminal 3 security, forcing all passengers via T4