Qantas will begin soaring back into Australian skies this month, but its airport lounges won't be opening until July – and even then, it'll be a slow process.
A Qantas spokesman confirmed to Executive Traveller that domestic Qantas Club and Qantas Business lounges are expected to gradually open from July, as the airline ramps up to meet school holiday demand and towards 40% of its pre-pandemic flying capacity.
Even then, unlocking those lounge doors – which swung shut in late March – will be a staggered affair based on how many eligible travellers are booking flights on Qantas and in some cases Jetstar, which in turn could hinge on states such as Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania unbolting their border lockdown.
“We are gradually adding flights in June as demand levels increase (and) we can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
In cities with both a Qantas Club and a Qantas Business lounge, only one of those might open at first and roll out the welcome mat for all lounge-worthy passengers – although where the invitation-only Qantas Chairmans lounges fit into this remains to be seen.
Visitors will notice many changes to the loungescape, beginning with more space between seating to comply with social distancing requirements and avoid passengers clustering too close together.
The Qantas spokesman told Executive Traveller that furniture in the lounges will be moved around, along with "other temporary changes to facilitate physical distancing."
However, this will also mean a reduction in actual lounge capacity and the need to place limits on the number of passengers allowed into a lounge – which could see some lounges declared 'full' even with relatively low numbers, and other lounge-eligible passengers turned away.
Hand-sanitising stations will be placed near the entry and dotted around the lounge, while self-serve buffets will be replaced by pre-packaged meals and snacks.
Those measures are all part of Qantas' broader FlyWell program which encompasses a range of health measures on the ground and in the air, including issuing passengers with face masks and sanitiser wipes, and adopting sequential boarding and disembarking – although middle seats won't be blocked from sale.