Qantas reopens Sydney, Melbourne international business lounges

It’s a mix of good and not-so-good news for lounge-worthy overseas flyers on Qantas and its partner airlines.

By David Flynn, March 14 2022
Qantas reopens Sydney, Melbourne international business lounges

Qantas will reopen its international business class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne on March 27 as overseas travel continues to make a steady recovery.

The same date will also see a relaunch of Qantas’ Airbus A380 first class – initially on the Sydney-Los Angeles route, with Sydney-London to follow in June – as the Qantas International First Lounges return to their full pre-pandemic state.

Since November 2021, the Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges have served as the airline’s only international lounges in each city, which meant the frosted doors of the airline’s flagship lounges swung open to business class travellers, Gold-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers and Qantas Club members, along with the usual Platinum and Platinum One-tier frequent flyers.

This was the same approach used during the short-lived Australia-New Zealand travel bubble of mid-2021 – and as Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at the time, “if you’re making a comeback, you should do it in style.”

“That’s why we’ve decided to open our First lounges ahead of our other lounges and give more of our customers the opportunity to experience them.”

And while that experience didn’t include standard First Lounge indulgences such as the pampering day spa or the extensive food and drinks roster of the lounge’s à la carte restaurant, the pared-back menu of what Qantas temporarily dubbed its Premium Lounge remained a massive upgrade from what the Business Lounges usually offered.

The same can be said for the design and overall condition of First Lounges themselves, with their dated business class siblings still in dire need of a make-over even before the pandemic upended everything.

Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully tells Executive Traveller she expects that “having enjoyed a taste of the First Lounge experience”, many Gold-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers will now strive for Platinum status.

On the score, there’s little doubt that should Qantas unleash a Double Status Credits promotion in the near future it will prove exceptionally popular – although Platinums and Platinum Ones can breathe easy, as their status is now locked in as far as December 2023 provided they book just one Qantas flight.

That said, Tully tells Executive Traveller the Sydney and Melbourne International Business Lounges will see their own refreshed Neil Perry seasonal menu.

Upsides for some travellers

As part of this return to normality, Qantas complimentary lounges passes will once again be accepted at the Sydney and Melbourne International Business Lounges.

These single-used lounge invitations are typically issued to frequent flyers holding Silver status or Qantas Points Club membership, as well as premium credit cards from Qantas and bank partners such as Westpac.

And while being sent back down to the business class lounge will put a frown on the face of many Qantas flyers, that lounges are reopening will make life easier for travellers booked on partner airlines such as Emirates and Oneworld members including Cathay Pacific (once Hong Kong eases its restrictions), Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.

That’s due to a caveat in lounge access rules which saw passengers on most Qantas partner airlines who were eligible to use Qantas’ business class lounges – either by their class of travel or frequent flyer status (such as Emirates Skywards Gold one Oneworld Sapphire) – denied entry to the Qantas First Lounges while those were recast as ‘premium lounges’.

Travellers were typically dispatched to third-party lounges or in some cases handed a credit voucher to spend at the airport’s food outlets.

In the case of Emirates, as previously and exclusively reported by Executive Traveller, the Gulf carrier doesn’t expect to open its Australian lounges until late 2022 – so at least Emirates business class and Skywards Gold members flying out of Sydney and Melbourne should now be able to visit those city’s Qantas International Business Lounges once again.

But there’s still a catch: the departure time of your flight with Emirates or a Oneworld airline must also align with the opening hours of these Qantas lounges, with Tully telling Executive Traveller those hours will in turn be shaped around Qantas’ own schedule.

This won’t have a major impact on when the business lounges open – it’ll still be three hours before the first Qantas flight of each morning – but if the last Qantas flight of the day departs long before your Emirates or Oneworld flight, you could find yourself prematurely locked out.

For example, at the time of writing the last Qantas international flight from Sydney is typically around 7.30pm (it varies from day to day), a good two hours ahead of the 9.45pm departure of Emirates’ evening flight to Dubai and Qatar Airways’ daily service to Doha.

However, Qantas advises that its lounges may remain open for later flights depending on arrangements made with each airline.

Now, about upgrading these lounges...

Putting all that aside, when will the lacklustre Qantas International Business Lounges at Sydney and Melbourne finally get an upgrade from drab to fab?

Sydney was promised a multimillion-dollar makeover in February 2018, which by the end of 2019 was to have resulted in “a completely new design… inspired by Sydney’s unique lifestyle and geography” with “at least 30 per cent more seating” to alleviate peak-hour crowding, alongside “luxury bathroom facilities” and “a new signature Neil Perry dining experience.”

“Our Business Lounge in Sydney is one of the most visited on the international network, so we look forward to upgrading the space with a completely new design and a lot more capacity,” Qantas chief Alan Joyce said at the time.

“Our customers have told us that ample space, privacy and ambience are what they value most in their lounge experience, so the overall design of the new lounge will be tailored with this in mind.”

So what happened?

The project was subsequently pushed back to 2020 with Qantas revealing to Executive Traveller it was “in ongoing discussions with Sydney Airport about the lounge redevelopment” – discussions which were rumoured to tie into the airport’s plans to open a new pier at the T1 international terminal which would not only add more arrival and departure gates but an expansive new lounge space above.

And then of course Covid happened, blasting a hole in the balance sheet of airlines around the world – and with Qantas recording a $16 revenue billion hit from Covid-19 over the past two years, a $5.67bn pre-tax loss over the same period and still saddled with $5.5 billion of debt, the cost of upgrading its Sydney and Melbourne business class lounges is understandably not at the top of Joyce’s to-do list.

Three other Qantas lounges permanently closed

And while the Sydney and Melbourne International Business Lounges are back in business, the same can’t be said for three of their less fortunate cousins.

As part of a lounge rationalisation program, Qantas has shuttered and gutted its business lounges at Perth’s T1 international terminal (to be fair, the airline stopped using T1 in 2018), along with the stylish Hong Kong lounge and the well-worn Qantas lounge at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

All Qantas flights to Tokyo will now head for the more convenient city-adjacent Haneda Airport, where it will share the lounges of Oneworld partner Japan Airlines.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 111

Does Qantas really think its strategy of deliberately running down the condition of its business lounges so that customers will fly more to gain WP and Flounge access, will be effective?

23 Aug 2011

Total posts 65

Well this should be welcome news but both the the QF J  Intl lounges in Sydney and Melbourne are pretty average. The food is lackluster and the ambience - especially the Melbourne lounge is pretty poor. I have a soft spot for QF and enjoy the onboard J and PE service but they really need to look at these lounges and give them a quick fix/soft upgrade e.g. the food and wine selection. How about a glass of champagne ha ha ha!

10 Apr 2022

Total posts 2

i have a business ticket for the 19th i access any lounge???is the emirates business lounge open??

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