Qantas opens ‘pop-up’ international transit lounge at Darwin

There’s a new top end transit experience during the stopover of Qantas’ Kangaroo Route flights.

By David Flynn, October 27 2021
Qantas opens ‘pop-up’ international transit lounge at Darwin

Qantas will open a 'pop up' international lounge at Darwin Airport from November 1 to cater for passengers in transit on its flagship Kangaroo Route flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London.

The airline has revealed it will take over Darwin Airport's Catalina Lounge for the next six months, during which time the top-end city will stand in for both Singapore and Perth as the stopover on these direct Boeing 787 flights between Australia and the UK.

Read more: Qantas to skip Singapore, fly Sydney & Melbourne to London via Darwin

With room for around 100 guests, Qantas will roll out the welcome mat to the following travellers on QF1/QF2 (Sydney-London) and QF9/QF10 (Melbourne-London):

  • Business class passengers
  • Platinum One, Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers
  • Qantas Club members
  • Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members
Qantas will turn Darwin Airport's Catalina lounge into a dedicated space for its transit passengers.
Qantas will turn Darwin Airport's Catalina lounge into a dedicated space for its transit passengers.

While the Qantas' Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner carries 236 passengers, the layout of the Catalina Lounge offers scope for Qantas to increase its capacity by adding more seating as needed, with the ability to plan ahead to a large extent based on the frequent flyer status of travellers on each flight.

However, Qantas won't unlock the doors to its London lounge until flights ramp up in December – in the meantime, it says eligible passengers on QF2 to Sydney and QF10 to Melbourne will be able to visit the British Airways lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3.

What’s on offer at the Qantas pop-up lounge?

Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully says the airline's aim is to deliver that familiar Qantas lounge experience during the 90 minute stopover.

"We know that spending time in our lounges is one of the most enjoyable parts of the travel experience," she says.

"Given the relatively brief transit time of 90 minutes, our focus will be on offering a comfortable space for customers to stretch their legs, enjoy a brunch or light supper and to refresh before their onward journey."

Travellers can top up with a signature welcome mocktail dubbed 'Top End Lemonade', and grab a bit at the serviced buffet, which will feature menus tailored to suit the time of day and drawing on "local culinary influences such as a Darwin markets-inspired Asian style soup".

Premium Australian wines, beers and non-alcoholic drinks will also be available, along with comfortable seating and handy AC powerpoints to recharge your tech in transit.

Due to Western Australia's ongoing border closure, Qantas says it expects to reroute both the Sydney-London and Melbourne-London flights via Darwin "until at least April 2022."


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 728

Smart move The Catalina Lounge was closed down and is owned by the Darwin Airport, this is just another nail in the coffin for WA. Did I see an article elsewhere stating WA won't reopen to Victoria or NSW till at least June 2022?

Yes. This 'Pop Up' for 6 months sure has the sound of permanence around it.


24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1035

Am I right in saying that the article implies that Qantas Club members are excluded from access to the new DRW lounge unless they are travelling in J class or have Gold status or greater?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2579

Hi Reeves35 – nope, Qantas Club access to the Catalina Lounge will be regardless of travel class or QFF status, same as applies to international business and 'premium' lounges.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 60

This is a bold and sensible move by Qantas.

Let's be honest, while the Pandemic continues to rage we should probably all look at non-stop travel only between countries A and B without transiting Country C.

Many of us are going to test positive before, during and after international flights. It's one thing being a positive case at your origin or destination, but who wants to be stuck at a transit point?

I would have thought that Darwin (and probably Perth from around Easter) Airports should end up doing unprecedented business on the Kangaroo Route over the next year or two. So they need appropriate facilities like this lounge.

17 Feb 2020

Total posts 12

Anyone travelling to Europe will have to go through a transit hub, whether it be Heathrow, Dubai, Singapore etc.

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 19

NT are welcoming Qantas with open arms, I’d say ditch WA altogether. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 25

Except that 60% of Qantas' PER-LHR passengers commence their journey from WA, so it's unlikely Qantas would ditch a highly profitable route simply because of a 3-6 month delay in being able to reactivate it.

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 11

I regularly see Qantas use the term "Premium Australian Wines".

It would be great if they started offering those in their DRW to Melbourne business class cabins !

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 27

"local culinary influences such as a Darwin markets-inspired Asian style soup"

Really Qantas? Sounds like a bureaucrat from Canberra wrote that. In the Top End we call it laksa! 

And the Darwin market versions of this spicy Malaysian noodle soup are delicious. Darwin laksa tragics have it (sweating) for breakfast. Looking forward to the Qantas take on it.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1266

Yep. No Laksa in Canberra.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

05 Nov 2014

Total posts 60

People criticise Western Australia's policies while ignoring that Singapore detains you - at your own expense - if you test positive on arrival or 72 hours prior to departure.

But to me that uncertainty about flying via transit points presents Qantas with a huge opportunity to fly to London, Paris and Rome not just out of Darwin and Perth, but also to roll out a rough (and ready within 4 months) version of Project Sunrise right now.

We all know that the 777-200LR costs more to fly than the 787-9 and that the A340-500 is vastly more expensive to operate than the A330. But almost all of both are parked now, and could probably fly from the East Coast to London and New York in a premium-heavy configuration.

I reckon that for the next couple of years - as a doctor, I'm arguing that the pandemic will last at least that long - you could charge a huge premium for non-stop services from Sydney and Melbourne to London. And there are unwanted 77L and 345 aircraft out there which would cost virtually nothing to acquire.

100% agree that Sunrise-type nonstop flights will have a LOT of appeal after Covid.  It's funny, a lot of the people who dismissed the idea before Covid based on spending 18 hours in a metal tube, "would rather break my journey and stretch my legs, visit the lounge etc" will probably now be keen to go straight from A to B if they feel 'safe' in that 'hermetically-sealed' environment of the airplane. Would be interesting to see Qantas fast-track a Sunrise Boeing 777-200LR, I reckon it could actually be pretty popular!

UA *Gold Lifetime

18 Dec 2015

Total posts 6

Any word on whether SYD-DRW or DRW-LHR or VV will be available for sale as independent sectors or stopovers ?? 

I think I read an earlier report that DRW-LHR and LHR-DRW could be sold on their own but not the domestic SYD-DRW leg.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 27

Yes, DRW-LHR and LHR-DRW sectors are being sold (on QF 9/10 but not 1/2), and not domestic sectors DRW to/from SYD and MEL. I know someone who has booked PER-DRW-LHR.

Quarantine arrangements for international arrivals in Darwin have yet to be streamlined, however. They've just started a domestic home/AirBnB trial using the WA GtoG app and frequent testing.  For overseas arrivals for now, however, it's still Hotel Howard Springs for 14 days. It may stay that way until the NT hits 90% fully vaccinated, the same as SA, Tasmania and Queensland.


09 May 2020

Total posts 512

Didn’t have much experience with DRW’s QF international lounge but I did remember DRW international departure process is like BKK, where you think you have gone through the security checks/body scan and then you walk up and turn around the corner and there’s another security luggage and body scan before the custom point (or was it after?).

Probably going to be a real experience to the uninitiated departing from DRW but probably not for those in QF transit 

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 379

There's going to be a lot of unfamiliar experiences with travel that people are going to have to accept. Darwin, or pretty much any airport they travel to/from.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 27

That's correct. Departing internationally from Darwin landside, you first need to go though domestic security (which BTW is high tech 100 per cent body scan and no need to remove laptops from bags) and then through international older-style security before immigration. AFAIK, there's no requirement for rescreening of international transit passengers. The arrangements are similar to Qantas Perth Terminal 3 for international departures.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Jul 2017

Total posts 4

How would one go about booking a premium economy seat on these flights when only travelling domestically? 

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