Executive Traveller exclusive
With state borders coming down and summer holiday travel kicking into gear, Qantas will unlock the doors of most domestic airport lounges across Australia on December 2.
This will include the majority of Qantas Clubs, in many cases alongside those Business Lounges which are already open – such as Sydney, Brisbane and Perth – and Qantas Club lounges at the Gold Coast and Hobart, plus Qantas regional lounges in Devonport and Launceston.
At Melbourne, Qantas will unlock the doors of its Business Lounge, although at the time of writing the adjacent Qantas Club will remain shuttered due to government capacity restrictions on the number of guests at any venue.
Qantas Club-worthy passengers – such as Gold-grade frequent flyers and their Oneworld Sapphire counterparts – will be welcomed at the Business Lounge, which is usually the exclusive domain of business class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers.
"At Melbourne we’ll have to follow whatever restrictions are in place due to Covid-19," Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully tells Executive Traveller.
“With Victoria continuing to do a fantastic job containing the virus we’re hopeful that restrictions will continue to ease and we’ll be able to open our Melbourne Club lounge soon."
The invitation-only Qantas Chairman's Lounges at Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth are also scheduled to open in early December.
However, some regional Qantas lounges such as Darwin will reopen when there's sufficient demand, Qantas says, while ongoing terminal work at Rockhampton and Port Hedland is keeping the shutters down at those two locations.
The Federal Government is pressing all states and territories to drop their 'hard border' closures by Christmas, and has indicated a timetable for this will follow the next national cabinet meeting on November 13.
"As more of our customers return to the skies we’re delighted we can now re-open almost all of our lounges in time for Christmas," Tully enthuses.
"It’s another step towards returning the travel experience back to normal. It also means more of people can get back to work."
The new Qantas lounge experience
Visitors to Qantas' lounges will notice a markedly different experience from the pre-pandemic loungescape.
Gone are the days of self-serve buffets, snacks and drinks; the DIY toasted sandwich press and the pancake machine have also been packed away.
A sweeping overhaul of the food & drinks service, aimed at minimising contact and touchpoints under a new 'Covid-safe' model, has introduced a ‘serviced snacking station’ of cold dishes and light bites, with staff standing by to hand over your selection.
There's also a ‘tray-around service’ to bring several individually-plated dishes de jour to travellers at their seat.
Qantas says its aim is to always have one vegetarian and one gluten-free option in the tray-around selection, which also changes from late brunch through to supper.
During one of our recent visits to Qantas' Sydney Business Lounge the mid-morning tray-around menu offered a bacon and egg roll with tomato relish; a healthy breakfast bowl with hummus, tabouleh, charred cauliflower and a soft-boiled egg; and a tart of roasted field mushrooms, kale and cheese with tomato relish.
This personalised service, combined with an array of dishes which couldn’t be out of place at those favourite corner cafe, make for a pleasingly boutique club-like feel.