2023 has seen Qantas pilloried for reporting record profits amidst claims of profiteering, alongside shortfalls in customer service – but the airline is charting a new course in 2024, which it promises will deliver material improvements in the passenger experience.
It’s a year which will be bookended by the debut of its next generation fleet – starting with the Airbus A220 and closing with the first Airbus A321XLR – but the biggest changes will take place on the ground as an $100m investment in the airline’s lounge network kicks off.
We’ve mapped out what business and first class passengers, frequent flyers and Qantas Club members can expect to see.
Of course, as much as Qantas and its passengers alike are eager to see this roadmap become reality, none of this can be considered as set in stone: for now, Qantas is only saying that we can expect a series of updates across the new year.
But based on what we know, here’s the shape of the Qantas loungescape over the coming 12 months, and beyond…
Qantas Sydney Domestic Business lounge
Let’s get this one out of the way: there are no plans for a much-needed makeover, let alone a more measured refresh, of Sydney’s Qantas Domestic Business Lounge and its neighbouring Qantas Club at Terminal 3.
That’s despite this being the airline’s busiest domestic business class lounge and what should be the flagship of the Australian network.
Those three business lounges also adopted a contemporary locally-influenced design along with lounge-specific dining option such as Melbourne’s Asian-themed Spice Bar and Perth’s pizza ovens, which have become signature components of the Qantas business lounge experience.
Qantas Sydney International Business lounge
Thankfully, across the tarmac at Terminal 1, Qantas’ Sydney international business class lounge is slated for a “complete refurbishment and expansion” beginning in 2024.
The airline is reactivating a pre-pandemic plan – albeit one first promised for 2018-2019 – to deliver the transformation the Flying Kangaroo’s business travellers and Gold-grade frequent flyers have long been waiting for.
Initial plans laid out “a completely new design” to be developed by Qantas designer David Caon – which we rate as a plus, because we’re fans of his clean, fresh and understated aesthetic – in collaboration with Australian architecture firm Bates Smart.
At the time, Qantas cited key goals of delivering “ample space, privacy and ambience,” with a centrepiece being “a new signature (Neil Perry) dining experience.”
Speaking with Executive Traveller earlier this year, Qantas’ Executive Manager of Product & Service Phil Capps said the Caon design will remain the foundation of Sydney’s makeover “but we also want to take an opportunity to look at that with fresh eyes.”
“Obviously the network’s a little bit different, the shape of the schedule’s a little bit different, and we’ve had some other lounge programmes develop and evolve in the meantime... so we can incorporate a fresh perspective” into the lounge’s evolution.
The lounge’s capacity will grow by 40% “to more than 600 seats” through a combination of expansion and better use of the current footprint.
“There are opportunities to expand the floor plan beyond its current footprint, plus there is an opportunity to optimise all of the services – the bathrooms, the kitchen and back of house,” Capps noted.
However, this “full redesign and rebuild from scratch” is no simple task – Qantas had slated initial work to commence in early 2024 “with completion of stage one estimated by early 2025” while
The overall project and timeline was “pending confirmation of Sydney Airport terminal upgrade plans.”
(And no, we don’t know exactly what ‘stage one’ is or how many stages there will be, but expect the lounge to be partitioned and closed in phases so that it can remain operational while work progresses.)
Qantas Melbourne International Business lounge
In news to cheer regular visitors to what’s colloquially nicknamed ‘the dungeon’, 2024 will also see Melbourne’s Qantas international business class lounge embark on what the airline describes as “a full internal refresh and a new signature food and beverage concept.”
The lounge will expand into the space previously occupied by the Cathay Pacific lounge, allowing an 30% increase in capacity “to accommodate future passenger growth” – no doubt with an eye towards new routes including non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London and New York from 2026.
“We’re taking the opportunity to expand that footprint and do a full interior refresh as well,” Capps explained.
As with its Sydney sibling, the redevelopment work will be carried out in stages from 2024 while the lounge remains open throughout the upgrade process, with Qantas has yet to forecast when the project will be completed.
“It’s a big challenge,” Capps told Executive Traveller.
“The positive thing with both of those (lounges) is the actual space is quite large today,, so we can still accommodate quite a large number of customers, even when sections of the lounge are progressively closed off or hoarded off for the works.”
Qantas Adelaide Domestic Business lounge
Qantas plans to elevate Adelaide to the ranks of other Australian capital cities in 2024 with a dedicated business class lounge.
While preparations have been going on behind the scenes and out of sight of passengers over the past few months, Executive Traveller understands actual construction is due to commence in the not-too-distant future.
This overhaul of the Adelaide lounge precinct will deliver a dedicated Qantas Adelaide Domestic Business lounge for business class passengers along with Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers.
There’ll be seating for 190 travellers, with local South Australian food and wine tipped to feature heavily in the dining menu and even the lounge’s “design inspiration”.
The Qantas Business lounge is understood to be located next to the Qantas Club, which is also in line for what Qantas terms a “full upgrade”; also in line for renovations is the Adelaide Chairman’s Lounge.
Qantas Auckland International lounge
As previously reported, the separate Qantas business class and first class lounges at Auckland will be merged into a single ‘premium lounge’ for all passengers, from Qantas Club members through to top-tier Gold and Platinum frequent flyers plus the VIPs of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge program.
By expanding its footprint into adjacent space at the airport, the new-look Qantas Auckland International Lounge will see an increase in total capacity from 244 to 340 seats.
Qantas promises visitors to the Auckland lounge can look forward to not only “a new dining experience” featuring the best of NZ food and wine, but “a number of features specifically tailored for long haul travel,” considering Auckland’s new role as the jumping off point for non-stop Qantas flights to New York.
The renovation will be carried out in stages, beginning with removing the wall between the current business class and first class lounges, along with expanding the combined space.
“The first part of the works will be the expansion” Capps told Executive Traveller, “because we can get access to that part of the terminal early.”
“We want to maximise access to the existing lounge space before the rebuild and refurbishment happens.”
At the time of writing, the new-look Qantas Auckland International lounge isn’t likely to fully emerge until the end of 2024.
“You can take an accelerated approach, but that means you need to close down more of the lounge than what you’d otherwise do,” Capps noted at the time, “or you can take a slightly longer approach and make sure that we can preserve as much access as we can.”
Designed by David Caon and Akin Atelier – the same team that shaped the superb Qantas Singapore First Lounge – the larger luxe-themed Auckland lounge will be lighter, brighter and full of greenery.
“Everything from the choice of material for the reception desk, the flooring, the carpets, the timbers, will all be reflective of the simple natural beauty of New Zealand,” Capps says.
Stripping out drab browns and black marble in favour of a fresh spa-like aesthetic, the upgraded hangout sports soothing cream walls and blonde timbers, white marble counters and olive green bench seats reminiscent of the Red Roo’s A380 upper deck lounge.
An impressive L-shaped bar will fill one corner, its shelves lined with wine bottles and glassware, with a barista coffee station also ready to help passengers caffeinate before the flight.
Circular coffee tables flanked by kalamata olive-brown and cream lounges create an informal social area alongside the bar, while various tables for groups, duos and solo travellers give added dining flexibility to suit your mood.
High stools facing a green wall span either side of a self-service drink and snack station nearby, and on the far side of the room, a buffet counter sure to be filled with hot and cold options.
Broome, Port Hedland Qantas Regional Lounges
Two new Qantas Regional Lounges will also spring up in the north-west corner of WA in 2024.
Broome is set to receive a brand new Qantas Regional Lounge which will double the capacity of the existing Qantas Broome Regional Lounge to around 100 seats, in line with what Qantas describes as “consistently strong demand from premium leisure travellers to the destination.”
The nearby mining mecca of Port Hedland will also see its own Qantas Regional Lounge redeveloped as part of a broader terminal upgrade, quadrupling in size to 120 guests to cater for the growing FIFO market.
And beyond 2024...
Two more Qantas lounges are in the longer-term works, and they couldn’t be any more different.
As previously reported, Qantas has tagged “a brand new Hobart Qantas Club” which will be significantly larger than today’s lounge in the Tassie capital.
But there’s no date attached to the project, which the airline merely says will be delivered “in line with the overall terminal redevelopment” taking place as part of Hobart Airport’s latest Master Plan released in 2022.
Meanwhile, London is in line for a Qantas first class lounge by the time the first non-stop Project Sunrise flights between Sydney and London take wing at the end of 2025.
Due to a squeeze for space at Heathrow Terminal 3, the Qantas London First lounge will be located in a different part of T3 to the current Qantas London Lounge (which will subsequently be rebranded as a Qantas Business Lounge when the new Qantas London First Lounge opens its doors).
The all-new Qantas London First Lounge is expected to combine “sweeping views of the airfield” with a focus on wellbeing features and an unrivalled dining experience.”
Qantas also hopes to offer direct boarding from the lounge onto an awaiting Qantas jet, with Qantas exec Capps telling Executive Traveller “that’s one of the options we'd really love to explore further.”
“It’s technically possible in Heathrow and that's something customers really value – it makes that transition from the lounge to the aircraft that much more seamless. So those are the kind of experiences we're looking to explore.”
Of course, like other Qantas First lounges, entry won’t be exclusive to passengers who’ve booked one of the six first class suites on those long-legged A350s.
Joining them in the Qantas London First Lounge will be top-tier Qantas Platinum and Platinum one-grade frequent flyers (and their Oneworld Emerald equivalents on partners such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Finnair) plus of course those invitation-only members of the elite Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
(Cathay Pacific’s London First lounge, handily located next door to the Qantas lounge, is currently a popular go-to for savvy Qantas Platinums.)
And there’s little doubt Qantas will need the extra room afforded by this new lounge.
In addition to those non-stop flights from London to Sydney and Melbourne, its two London lounges will also host travellers headed to Perth as well as Sydney via Singapore.