Qantas international business class lounges to stay shut for 6 months

There's good news for Gold-grade frequent flyers, who can enjoy continue to enjoy access to Qantas' first class lounges.

By David Flynn, April 23 2021
Qantas international business class lounges to stay shut for 6 months

Qantas expects its premier international business class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne will remain closed for at least another six months, until the airline's proposed October 31 restart for the bulk of overseas flights.

That date remains circled in the calendar of Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, despite delays to the federal government's vaccination rollout, which had delivered only 670,000 doses at the end of March compared to the Prime Minister's original goal of having four million people vaccinated by the end of March.

"We haven’t walked away from October," Joyce says. "We are getting ready and still planning, and it’s our best guess at the end of October for the market to open up."

In the interim, Joyce expects that more NZ-style travel bubbles could be established with "countries in the region, especially in the Asia-Pacific, that have had a tight control on COVID."

"They give us market opportunities for Singapore, like Japan, markets like Taiwan for us to potentially open up," he suggests.

"But we're also actively looking at the Pacific Islands because there are really good opportunities in places like Fiji."

Joyce has previously suggested that the airline would consider launching flights to Taipei – a destination the airline abandoned some 20 years ago – to capitalise on quarantine-free travel between Australia and Taiwan.

Alan Joyce sees a bright future in travel bubbles.
Alan Joyce sees a bright future in travel bubbles.

So while Qantas' flagship first class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne opened their doors this week – and not just to the usual top-tier Platinum frequent flyers, but also to Gold card-holders and Qantas Club members – the neighbouring business lounges are likely to to be shuttered for some time.

"I don't think the business class lounges will reopen until more of our international network opens, hopefully at the end of October," Qantas' Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully tells Executive Traveller.

The majority of Qantas' international lounge visitors were carried on flights to Asia, the US and London, most of which in turn relied on the now-retired Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the double-decker Airbus A380 superjumbo – which the airline expects to be stood down until 2023-2024 – and the premium-heavy Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Qantas is baiting the Gold status hook with short-term access to its first class lounges.
Qantas is baiting the Gold status hook with short-term access to its first class lounges.

This also gives Qantas six months of opportunity to spark the ambition of Gold-grade frequent flyers and Qantas Club members to strive for Platinum status and continue enjoying the first class lounge after the business class lounges unlock their doors.

"If we can get our Gold members and Qantas Club members that normally go to the Business Lounge to have a taste of what the First Lounge experience is like," Tully tells Executive Traveller, "we expect they are going to be highly motivated (to stay there), so it's a great way for us to stimulate that demand for Platinum."

(To that end, we wouldn't be surprised to see another Double Status Credits promotion launched towards the end of this year, as another opportunity for Golds to level up to Platinum.)

The Qantas Singapore First Lounge.
The Qantas Singapore First Lounge.

And with an Australia-Singapore bubble back under discussion, it's likely the 240-seat Singapore First Lounge could fling open its doors for all lounge-worthy travellers while the larger 600-seat Singapore Business Lounge remains closed, Tully has previously indicated to Executive Traveller.

This would be Qantas putting its best foot forward for a return to the Lion City, along with right-sizing its lounge offering to suit Singapore's new role in the network – with undoubtedly fewer travellers for some time, and without the twice-daily Airbus A380 in transit between Sydney and London.

(Indeed, depending on demand it's possible that Qantas might restart the Kangaroo Route with only the Perth-London Boeing 787.)

Also read: Sampling the new Qantas first class lounge menu

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.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 316

Let me get in and say this before a hundred other people, I would LOVE to see Qantas use this time to give both the Sydney and Melbourne business lounges the overdue renovation they deserve. I think Sydney was supposed to have got one in 2019 but then this was put on hold because Qantas was considering opening an all-new business lounge at a new international pier down towards the cargo and transfer bus area.

Either way I can understand that Qantas needs to watch its pennies now, AJ said last week that international is burning $5m per week so not exactly the time to go and drop a million each in upgrading the SYD and MEL lounges, but all the same this would seem like the best time to do it because the lounges are closed and you won't be inconveniencing many passengers and international demand will return in a few years.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 952

The MEL Lounge was also proposed to move from the dungeon to above the new link between the D concourse and swing gates in Concourse C.  With the massive downturn in international travel and the likely slow growth back to 2019 levels over the next 5 years, I assume MEL has decided to put these proposed alterations on indefinite hold.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 316

I didn't know that! This would have been a great move for MEL, and it's not as if the first and business lounges are co-located as is the case at SYD.

I remember that too, I think it was reported that new SYD T1 pier was supposed to have room for one very large lounge on the upper level, Emirates and Qantas were both looking at this space, Emirates so that it could close its current Skywards lounge and relocate, Qantas to make a new business lounge. I wouldn't say this is off the cards for now because everyone says demand will come back to 2019 levels by 2024, but in the meantime who's got the money to either built that new pier or a new lounge?

Why does Japan keep getting a mention?

5K cases a day is not bubble worthy. Yet gets trotted out as a potential destination every time.

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

It depends how their vaccine rollout progresses. They may have 5k cases a day but in say 6 months time it could be a fraction of that.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1018

Unfortunately, Japan has less then 1% of the population with even a single dose and there is a high level of vaccine hesitancy in the country due to perceived problems with vaccines in general going back 40 years.

They also can't go into lockdowns like many western nations have done. The Japanese constitution blocks the government doing such things. They can only declare a state of emergency and "request" that people and companies follow their directions. They are now in their 3rd state of emergency for the prefectures around Tokyo and Osaka. They get it under control during the emergency declarations and the numbers and spread fall, then the emergency declaration ends and the numbers go up again. :(

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 500

David, it's been nearly 10 years since ET did a visit and review of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge @ LHR.  When travel resumes, surely you deserve a trip up there to do some research and report back?  I think it might help give QFF readers some perspective.  I could say so much more, but I think it'll be your comments/report that's needed here.  

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2516

Hi BT: let's first focus on getting back to being able to fly to London (one of my favourite cities in the world!) and then see what's possible in terms of reviews etc.

22 May 2011

Total posts 72

Anyone think Qantas would use the Sydney downtime to do the long awaited refurb the lounge?  I understand they’re trying to be cost conscious but on the other hand, Alan has just said they expect to shortly be more than 100% of precovid levels in some parts of the business Eg domestic.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 500

Given the logistical nightmare (of Tsunami proportions) of doing any capital works in an airport - compared to doing the same works in any other commercial or retail property/mall - your question has profound merit. I'm told by my QS the cost differential varies between 15% and 30%. 

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

October seems highly unlikely with the elimination strategy adopted in Australia.

If we were pursuing suppression we'd be talking about opening up to the UK before October. Case numbers and deaths are dropping over there and they are well on the way to suppression. However pursuing elimination we're probably looking at later than that unfortunately.

When international travel resumes I think it's certain that QF will do another double status credits promotion. Perhaps they will exclude the initial period as pent up demand would book for that anyway but after the initial surge in demand some incentives will help to get people to book.

If international travel is significantly further delayed then QF may need to consider a further status extension and/or a promo similar to a status challenge to let people level back up quickly that book and fly QF marketed and operated international flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 28

This is very sad. It's going to lead to exactly the same poor quality of service that was pervasive in domestic business lounges for many months from the end of last year until a few weeks ago as travel volumes increased and Qantas was painfully slow in responding to a lack of lounge capacity.  Between around November and early April, poor quality food and beverage offerings, 20-30 minute lines for food, instances of 0 seating capacity etc etc were the norm in Business Lounges in most capitals while people with bronze status and QC memberships and people with credit card vouchers hogged all of the lounge resources.

If Qantas is going renege on the tier separation and relative status benefits which it promises customers (and which form the basis of countless travel/revenue decisions), the least it should do is either: (1) provide Platinum members with some sort of other benefit/compensation; or (b) abandon any requirement for earned status credits while collapses the various status tiers.  It is completely unfair that Qantas requires Platinum members to earn twice as many status credits than Gold members (even at a reduced rate), if it is just going to turn around and offer Gold members the same benefits as Platinum. 

At best this kind of behaviour undermines confidence in Qantas' Frequent Flyer system, at worst it amounts to reneging on the clear terms which govern participation in the program. 


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